Number of Workers With College Degrees Could Fall Short of Demand by 2018

June 15, 2010

When jobs begin to return post-recession, the number requiring a postsecondary degree could outnumber the new workers who have those degrees, according to the findings of a study being released on Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

A report on the findings estimates that, by 2018, the economy will be in full recovery and there will be 46.8 million job openings, including 13.8 million newly created jobs and 33 million previously vacated positions. Of the openings projected in 2018, the center predicts that 63 percent will require workers with at least some college education. Today, about 59 percent of jobs require some postsecondary education.

Although this is a small increase, it's concerning because it means the wage differential could grow, said Anthony P. Carnevale, the center's director. As the demand for higher-skilled workers increases, the employment prospects for those with low education levels decrease, and the wage gap between those with degrees and those without them widens, he said.

There could be 3 million fewer college graduates than the market demands by 2018, says the report, "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018."

The center found that the industries with the greatest demand for workers with at least some college education are also some of the fastest-growing industries, which include information services, professional and business services, financial services, private-education services, health-care services, and government and public-education services. Between 75 percent and 90 percent of workers in these industries have at least some college education, pointing to a high demand for college-educated workers in these fields.

The rise in use of technology and automation has made higher productivity possible with fewer employees and is expected to continue to slow the growth of some industries, such as manufacturing, that don't require a college degree for many positions.

Mr. Carnevale said two-year colleges are playing increasingly central roles in occupational training. Those institutions should receive more money to help them better serve the many low-income, working-class, and minority students they enroll and to prepare more people for jobs, he said.

"America needs more workers with college degrees, certificates, and industry certifications," Mr. Carnevale said. "If we don't address this need now, millions of jobs could go offshore."