Can You Get A Good Job Without A Bachelor’s Degree?

In our K-12 education system there is a major emphasis on measuring students’ postsecondary success based on whether or not they earn a Bachelor’s degree. In recent years we’ve witnessed a shift in the conversation to acknowledge that a Bachelor’s degree is not the only measurement of success or the only path to a good job. I think this is important as it exposes students to a wider set of alternative pathways and postsecondary options which may be a better option for some students both personally and fiscally. It also acknowledges the changing education scene in which good jobs can be obtained with non-traditional training such as coding boot camps or dual enrollment programs like P-Tech.

As students weigh their postsecondary options, it is important that we help them understand how their chosen path impacts their future. So, I was excited to come across a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce entitled ‘Good Jobs That Pay without a BA’.

This report is an excellent resource to cite when helping students assess what type of postsecondary education to pursue as it gives insight into the types of jobs available without a Bachelor’s degree along with the number of job openings and income levels of such jobs. The report summarizes data at the national level but importantly includes data for each state as well.

A few highlights from the national data in the report:

  • For those without a Bachelor’s degree, there are 30 million good jobs in the U.S. that pay well (the report defines good jobs as having median earnings of $55,000 annually).
  • Traditionally, the good jobs available to people without a Bachelor’s degree have been in manufacturing. However, the share of good jobs in blue collar industries, including manufacturing, is lower now than it was in 1991 in every state. Good jobs are now found in skilled-services industries, such as health services and financial services, which have grown in every state since 1991.
  • Increasingly, some form of education is important to obtain a good job. More good jobs go to workers with a Bachelor’s degree who now hold 55% of all good jobs. Associate’s degrees are becoming increasingly important as such degree holders are getting good jobs, while the number of these jobs held by those with a high school diploma or less is declining.

So can a student get a good job without a Bachelor’s degree? In my opinion that depends on the definition of a good job and such a definition is unique to each student. Helping a student to understand their own interests, values, and desired job characteristics along with job availability and salary data can empower them to create their own definition of what a good job is and then select the best postsecondary path for such a job. Couragion brings awareness to careers, pathways and postsecondary options across a broad spectrum. For high growth skilled-services industries, it's more than likely that students will need to pursue industry credentials and work-based learning experiences that better prepare them for the future regardless of whether the Bachelor's degree is in their line of sight today, tomorrow or never.

For those of us helping students to make such important decisions, reports such as this are critical resources. You can access the entire report here to review additional national data as well as your state’s own specific data.

Laura FarrellyComment