• September 2, 2015

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

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."


1. tgroleau - June 15, 2010 at 09:20 am

I've been hearing about an imminent college-graduate labor shortage since the mid-90s and it hasn't materialized yet. In fact I considered doing my dissertation on HR strategies to mitigate the upcoming flood of baby-boomer retirements and the subsequent labor shortage. I'm glad I choose a different topic.

Maybe this time it's different and the shortage will be real, but I doubt it. Just last weekend I was at a 60th birthday party. Many of the guests were 56-61 years old and NONE of them talked about plans to retire. On the contrary, some talked of working "until they died" because they can't afford to retire. A couple are even returning to school to finish bachelors or masters degrees.

2. jsacasa - June 15, 2010 at 09:51 am

It would be more beneficial for our economy to do a better job in helping the 1,300,000 high school students who drop out of school to complete their high school studies.

3. educationfrontlines - June 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Readers of the new report should be careful to distinguish between "college degree" and "some postsecondary education."
Quotes in the above summary, as well as the title of the piece, use the terms interchangeably. There is a big and important difference. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment Projections up to 2016, and presented in the "Chronicle of Higher Education"(May 22, 2009 A17), about 80 percent of U.S. jobs will not require a bachelor or higher college degree.

On-the-job-training of one month or less: 34.3%
On-the-job-training up to a year: 17.6%
On-the-job-training for more than a year: 7.3%
Related work experience: 9.6%
Vocational certificate at postsecondary level: 5.4%
Associate degree: 4.2%

Bachelor degree: 13.0%
Bachelor degree and work experience: 4.3%
Professional degree: 1.4%
Doctoral degree: 1.5%

This new report projects two more years into an uncertain future compared to the Labor Department summary. But with a gross enrolment rate of 86% (OECD), the U.S. should continue to ask the opposite question: "Are too many students going to college?"

John Richard Schrock

4. stratus_7 - June 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

There is a major disconnect here in the numbers of both reports. Or at least the reading of the numbers. Somebody needs to clear this up. It would be a great help to those of us in the business of training and teaching to know exactly what we are facing, and whether it is indeed true "that too many students are going to college."

Renee Jones
Elliott Jones & Associates

5. physicsprof - June 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

There is one possibility here that nothing needs to be cleaned up and that both reports belong to a trash can.

6. fizmath - June 15, 2010 at 01:39 pm

So, we must wait until 2018 for a full recovery?

7. msandford - June 15, 2010 at 04:22 pm

Of those jobs that "require" some postsecondary education, how many require it simply because employers feel they can get someone with that qualification easily? Take a look at any online classifieds site and you'll see a lot of positions that demand a BA despite the fact that the work can be done by anyone with half a brain and enough work ethic to show up every day.

Case in point, my partner's current position requires some very basic computer, math and organizational skills and in the past was done by people with college experience. When he applied, they were asking for bachelor's degree simply because they could, and because it shrunk down the potential applicant pool. I suspect that if a shortage as reported really does occur, the job marketplace will simply adjust to better reflect the real needs of positions. The BA/BS is already too close to becoming the de facto HS diploma as far as entry-level jobs go.

8. strypes97 - June 16, 2010 at 03:13 pm

Funny...I was hearing this all the way up until the recession. Not a peep of this anywhere until now, and I don't believe it anymore. Dick Bolles makes a convincing argument in his book The Career Counselor's Handbook (chapter 13) that these kinds of numbers are all inflated. I understand that Baby Boomers are retiring, but msandford, I think, makes a good point about what employers ask for vs. what they are willing to accept as the economy changes.

9. greeneyeshade - June 16, 2010 at 03:48 pm

fizmath, that was the first thing that struck me. The article didn't say that's when the recovery would start, but even if the eonomy starts picking up speed in 2012 as projected by many now, that the economy would not have hit some other tripwire by 2018 seems a stretch.

10. mohammadqayoumi - June 18, 2010 at 03:04 pm

There is no doubt that the U.S. education system is facing unprecedented challenges. Our challenge will not be in 2018, but rather today. More than ever, college and universities need to motivate and interest students into the STEM fields and have students understand the high paying jobs of today and the future continue to grow in these disciplines.

As the report indicated, “STEM, is the sixth-largest cluster and will also provide the sixth-largest share of job openings in the economy over the next decade. While these occupations are not large in number, they generate the technological changes that shape all other occupations.”

The unmet growth in the demand for graduates in the STEM fields has outstripped the ability of our traditional education system to meet these growing workforce needs. Businesses within the U.S. are continuing to outsource jobs, especially in technical fields to meet workforce demands. This loss in workforce, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math or STEM for short, may portend a loss in global competitiveness and at the same time decline in U.S. economy leading to a downward spiral in GDP.

To be successful, college and universities need an educational delivery system that is both scalable and financially feasible. A STEM Virtual Campus is a robust educational delivery system that meets both criteria. By using the very technology the young people use daily, such as smart phones, the STEM virtual campus brings educational opportunities and access to students in the context of their culture. This should increase their motivation for learning due to its obvious relevance, and assist in their preparation through the use of different interactive teaching methodologies. The virtual campus can also increase our capacity for educational delivery and distance learning due to scalability, because it doesn't need physical space for learning and is not limited by class size, lab seats, or timing. Students can literally engage online "anytime, anywhere, at their own pace" so many more can achieve the learning needed.

Mohammad H. Qayoumi, President
California State University, East Bay

11. arrive2__net - July 10, 2010 at 06:37 pm

The report is at : http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/FullReport.pdf

It has some interesting revelations, including that having access to a computer on the job correlates to higher wages, so apparently tech skills still have that big edge. I think a larger percentage of modern college grads, regardless of major, are likely to have experience with using technology in a demanding task, compare to those with little or no college.

The minimum job requirements of a job at the time of a hire may not reflect the employers full expectation ... if they expect the employee to grow in the job. This expectation might give employers a reason to hire a college grad even if a lower education-level worker may have the minimum skills required. Minimum job performance may not be what the employer wants, college grads may bring higher productivity.

The report mentions that workers with higher education-level also tend to received more professional training on the job, which implies that employers are more likely to hire the more educated worker if the nature of the job is that the employee has to continue learning ... as they grow in the job, and as technology and competition develops over time. It seems to me that, in the future, jobs that require continuous learning will become more prevalent, and perhaps that will make the demand for college grads more prevalent.

Bernard Schuster

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