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Future US Job Opportunities Fall Into 16 Clusters, Report Finds

hiring-11080102 Credit: Dreamstime.com


The current dissonance in the job market — one in which employers struggle to find qualified employees and workers struggle to find high-paying jobs — may be a harbinger of things to come.

According to a new report from The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, future job opportunities will be focused in 16 career clusters. The report findings indicate that for those with high school diplomas, there will still be job opportunities, but not enough for the number of people who will need them. Only one in three of high school-level jobs will pay wages of $35,000 or more, according to the report. In some cases, with experience, these jobs can provide wages up to $50,000.

The report, called Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School Through College Jobs, 2008-2018, also finds that it will be easier for men to obtain high- paying high school-level jobs, since those careers are found in four male-dominated career clusters: manufacturing, construction, transportation and hospitality. Of these four clusters, only jobs in manufacturing and construction still pay relatively good wages, particularly for those who obtain on-the-job-training.

The study confirms that women need postsecondary education to earn the same wages as men with only a high school diploma. For instance, whereas a man can earn $35,000 with a high school diploma in the manufacturing career cluster, a woman must obtain a postsecondary credential and work in health care to earn as much.

In many industries, the overall number of jobs will decline through 2018, but there will still be job openings available due to retirement. For example, the report finds that there will be 181,000 fewer manufacturing jobs over the coming decade, but there will be 3 million job openings in manufacturing by 2018.

Workers with bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees have the most positive outlook. Five out of six jobs available for workers with a bachelor’s degree or better pay more than $35,000 a year; the average wage is $60,000. Seventy-two percent of jobs available for workers with a bachelor’s degree or better are found in nine occupational clusters. At this education level, all career clusters are essentially accessible.

Those occupational clusters for workers with bachelor's degrees or better are:
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; finance; government and public administration; information technology; marketing, sales and service; hospitality and tourism; health science; business, management, and administration; and education and training.

The most significant finding of the report is that there's no doubt that the key to landing a job that pays a living wage is education.

"Where high school graduates find themselves limited to a handful of careers in job clusters that either are not growing or do not pay middle-class wages, college graduates can find opportunity just about anywhere," the report's authors conclude. "Although 72 percent of jobs available for workers with a bachelor’s degree or better are concentrated in nine occupational clusters, essentially every job category is accessible."

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.