You don’t need a college degree to land a high paying business job: NPR

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An FAA air traffic controller works in the air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va., In 2016. New study finds growing numbers of people without a degree are now earning more than those with a. This includes air traffic controllers, construction managers, respiratory therapists and other professions.

Cliff Owen / AP


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Cliff Owen / AP


An FAA air traffic controller works in the air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va., In 2016. New study finds growing numbers of people without a degree are now earning more than those with a. This includes air traffic controllers, construction managers, respiratory therapists and other professions.

Cliff Owen / AP

It is common knowledge at this point that the more education you have, the more money you will earn. Studies have shown that on average, a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn more than a person with an associate’s degree or a one-year certificate.

But according to new research released Thursday, there are also many exceptions.

A new study from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University finds that a growing number of unlicensed people are now earning more than those with a. The study found that during the years 2017 to 2019, on average, 16% of high school graduates, 23% of workers with college, and 28% of associates with an associate degree earned more money more than half of all workers with a bachelor’s degree.

Tony Carnevale, one of the report’s authors, says these findings support the idea that “you have to go to college” isn’t always the best advice for high school students.

“Education level matters less,” says Carnevale, who also heads the Center on Education and the Workforce. “It matters less where you go … which makes this whole experience and all of the decisions students have to make a lot more complicated.”

The new report suggests that a student’s field of study, the type of job they’re training for, and where they live may have a bigger impact on their earnings than their type of degree. “Your specific education has its value and the value varies tremendously,” Carnevale says. “That’s why someone who knows how to do air conditioning will earn more than someone who becomes a school teacher.”

And not just air conditioning – air traffic controllers, construction managers, respiratory therapists, and cardiovascular technicians all earn more or about as much as the median bachelor’s degree holder.

There are not enough school counselors to help students make informed decisions

Back in high school, Isis Harris had never imagined working as an electrician – everyone around her was so focused on college.

“College was the thing, the big thing, in high school,” recalls Harris, 44. “The friends I had there were going to college… that’s what got the excitement.”

After wandering around for more than a decade – taking college courses and doing many different jobs – Harris signed up for a course designed to allow her to try out different jobs in the construction industry. One of the activities was to wire a light bulb.

“Wiring this circuit, I did it right and the light came on and I was like, ‘This is it! The light came on for me. It was the job for me.

Now he has only a few months left to become a licensed Journeyman Electrician in Portland, Oregon. She spends her days working on a new construction site where her most recent task was to run a low voltage wire under a new floor to connect a thermostat. His hourly wage is approximately $ 80,000 for a full-time job per year.

Harris says she wished she had found this path sooner. Back in high school, “nobody ever talked about learning,” she says. “I think there has always been a misconception about trades and skilled trades and the viability of that career and how it could actually deliver the same kind of lifestyle as a bachelor’s degree. [could]. “

One thing that could help correct this misconception, according to the report’s authors, would be for schools to employ more guidance counselors to guide students through the complex web of post-secondary options.

“Mere advice to high school students to go to university is no longer enough,” write the authors. Instead, counselors should guide students through the many different paths they can take.

But guidance counselors can be hard to find: In the 2014-2015 school year, the student-to-counselor ratio was around 482: 1, according to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“There is a lack of access to college counseling,” says Jonathan Ruiz, a college counselor working with KC Scholars in the Kansas City metro area. He has attended schools where counselors are overworked, with too many students to serve. He not only says that there isn’t enough time in the day to meet students one-on-one, but there are so many other requests that hamper college and career discussions. .

“Usually we have advisers who do the planning and make sure people can graduate on time,” he says. Mental health support is often on the plate of school counselors as well.

Ruiz considers his work to increase the number of options students consider for themselves after graduation. It offers them quizzes and resources that make them reflect on the skills and experiences they have acquired and how they might turn into a career.

“A lot of students will come and say, ‘I’m here, I want to go to college because that’s what is expected of me’ or, you know, ‘That’s what I want to do, just because I heard it was the best thing for me, “says Ruiz. But just getting a degree to get a degree has caused problems in the past for her students.” They miss quite a bit. bunch of options that way. ”he says.

Of course, education isn’t the only variable that impacts income – there’s also race, age, gender, and location, among others. For example, the report’s authors write: “Women have lower median lifetime incomes than men at all levels of education. They also note: “Depending on education level, Asian and White workers earn more than Black, Latino, Hawaiian Native / Pacific Islander or Native American / Alaska Native workers.”

It’s easy to find promising careers that don’t require a degree

For students who do not have access to a career or university guidance counselor, there are a number of helpful resources for making decisions after high school. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics offers tools to help people understand the earning potential of different careers. One of these tools, the Career Outlook Handbook, sorts career options based on average salary, level of education required, and expected growth of the profession over the next 10 years.

Ryan Farrell is an economist who works on the textbook. He says when he first entered the data, he was surprised at the number of high-paying job opportunities that didn’t require a bachelor’s degree.

“People who get an associate’s degree can be a bit overlooked and there are many professions where entry-level education is required,” he says.

Even for people with only a high school diploma, Farrell says there are a number of well-paying professional jobs where workers receive on-the-job training or can learn skills through a learning.

This is how Isis Harris in Portland got her training to become an electrician, a career, she says, that helps her feel fulfilled both physically and mentally.

“You use your body, of course, because it’s physical labor. But you also have to use your mind on a daily basis,” she explains. “You can create what has to happen in this room. And at the end of the day you look back and, say, you’ve finished this apartment. Or you have completed that office space. Or you have installed this fire alarm system. And you can see every day the accomplishment of what you did the day before. “

When Harris finishes her training in December, she will be working a job that earns about $ 100,000 a year or more. The job security that comes from working in a field in demand – with a salary that allows her to support herself and her 2-year-old son – brings peace of mind.

“With a living wage or a good income, you can do financial planning,” says Harris. “You can save money. You can plan for emergencies. You can do all of those things that may not be tangible when you are living paycheck to paycheck.”


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