Michigan Occupational Forecast Amplifies Value of College Degrees

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Michigan Occupational Forecast Amplifies Value of College Degrees

In Workforce Alignment by Dan Hurley August 26, 2020

Michigan’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives has again gone through the process of looking at what good paying occupations are likely to witness growth in the coming years, updating its “Hot  50” job outlook through 2028.

And once again, the report shows that if you want a good paying job in a growing field that is likely to provide a career, you need a four-year college degree.

What Do the Data Say?

Of the 50 careers listed, 38 require at least a bachelor’s degree. Just seven of the 50 are in “skilled trades.” And the jobs that require a degree tend to pay more.

Yes, we need plumbers (and pipefitters and steamfitters), an average of 1,630 a year, and they will be paid $21-38 an hour. But we will need 2,620 software developers and quality assurance testers, who normally require a bachelor’s degree – and are paid $34-53 an hour.

Yes, we need machinists, an estimated 2,880 a year, making $16 to $26 an hour. But we also need 3,190 mechanical engineers annually, earning $35-$54 an hour in jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.

Electricians don’t need a degree, and we will need 3,040 of them each year, making $22-$37 an hour. We also will need 3,510 accountants and auditors each year, with a degree, making $26-$42 an hour.

Of course we want new truckers, and the report estimates we need 7,030 a year, and they will make $16-$25 an hour. But we also need 6,620 registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees, making $30-$40 an hour.

Beyond the Numbers

The additional earnings associated with higher levels of educational attainment are certainly not all that matter. Those with college degrees have greater job security and job mobility—benefits that are especially helpful during economic downturns like we are currently experiencing. They are also more civically engaged on average, contribute more to their communities and causes, and are healthier and live longer lives.

I have never embraced the notion that everyone needs to earn a bachelor’s degree, though I do assert that everyone needs some sort of education or training beyond high school if they want to greatly improve their likelihood of achieving a middle class lifestyle. But for those who do earn a bachelor’s degree, the rewards are very high; for themselves, their families, their communities, and for our state. Data shows that even in regions with large numbers of college grads, those without a degree also tend to earn more, given the additional earnings and spending of those with higher levels of education.

Which is why we are advocating for additional support for higher education, both for students and for institutions, from our state’s policymakers. As a state, we have cut annual investment in higher education by $1 billion annually from where we were 20 years ago (after figuring in inflation). That’s $1 billion we are asking parents and students to make up, and it’s why tuition is so much higher than it was in 2000, making it harder for less affluent families to have the opportunity to get these good paying jobs.

As this latest Michigan job forecast shows, the more you learn, the more you earn, and that higher education is an investment that benefits our people – and Michigan.

Daniel J. Hurley is the Chief Executive Officer at the Michigan Association of State Universities

@Daniel_J_Hurley     @MASUmichigan