“Good” Jobs Are Back – But Not Every Candidate Qualifies

Posted By Terri Williams on October 21, 2015 at 2:51 pm
“Good” Jobs Are Back – But Not Every Candidate Qualifies

The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 10% in October 2009 to 5.3% today. An average of 250,000 jobs were added each month in 2014, and more jobs continue to be added monthly. But according to a recent study by Georgetown University, most of the “good” jobs – to the tune of 97% – are reserved for those with a college degree.

The study defines a “good job” as an occupation paying at least $53,000, which is 25% above the median annual wage. The study notes that good jobs generally include health insurance and retirement benefits. Georgetown’s researchers sort jobs into three categories: good jobs, medium wage jobs, and low wage jobs.

Table 1 shows the breakdown of the 6.6 million new jobs added to the economy during the recovery (2010 through 2014):

Table 1

Number of new jobs Percentage of new jobs
Good jobs 2.9 million jobs 44%
Medium wage jobs 1.9 million jobs 29%
Low wage jobs 1.8 million jobs 28%


The study disputes the prevailing belief that most new jobs are in the low wage bracket, and the authors argue that sorting wages by industry, as is commonly done, produces inaccurate results.

For example, home health care is usually thought of as a low-wage industry, but it also includes highly-paid registered nurses and physical therapists. Restaurant and food workers are also classified as low wage earners, but accountants, auditors and other employees who can earn good wages also work in this industry.

Table 2 shows the average annual wages for each of the three job categories, as well as the percentage of workers in each group that work full time and receive employer-provided healthcare and an employer-provided retirement plan.

Table 2

Average Annual Earnings Full-time workers Workers with employer-provided healthcare Workers with employer-provided retirement plan
Good jobs More than $53,000 85% 68% 61%
Medium wage jobs $32,000 – $53,000 80% 54% 46%
Low-wage jobs Less than $32,000 62% 33% 25%


Table 3 breaks down the employment change for certain high wage industries between 2010 and 2014.

Table 3

Field  Jobs Added
Managerial and professional office 1,781,000
STEM 881,000
Healthcare professional and technical 445,000
Sales and office support 124,000
Community services and the arts 13,000
Food and personal services 4,000
Blue collar -71,000
Education -184,800


So – why are so many of these jobs restricted to college degree-holders? GoodCall obtained observations from two experts.

According to Dr. Don Mroz, President of Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut, “There is no doubt that a college education opens the door to more job opportunities, and it has been shown that college graduates earn more and have a lower unemployment rate – and often have a better quality of life – than those who do not graduate from college.”

Dr. Mroz says we are no longer in a time when high school diplomas are enough. “No matter the industry, companies are looking for professionals with both technical and soft skills, all of which are developed through higher education. College degrees help individuals, as graduates are shown to know how to plan, work hard, and most importantly, have the discipline to make it through a degree program.”

However, Hans Hanson of Total College Advisory and MyCollegeLogic says good jobs are not just for college graduates. Rather, they are for “qualified” college graduates. He explains, “Qualified college graduates are the ones who did a lot more than just take classes. They are the ones who got involved in the academic community of the college. They studied interdisciplinary degree programs, combining studies from other degree programs into their own to build a wide range of knowledge.”

Hanson says these students may have participated in study abroad programs to expand their cultural intelligence, or in campus research projects that developed their educational awareness. And he says they probably began job-shadowing early in college and took advantage of internships to gain on-the-job exposure and experience. “Only in the college setting can you build a range of knowledge, expand cultural intelligence, develop educational awareness, and receive job training sufficient enough to land $50,000-plus jobs as a 22- or 23-year old,” says Hanson.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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