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29 million jobs starting at $35,000 don’t require college degree, report finds

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Navigating the job market without a college degree is harder than ever, but there are plenty of solid jobs in the U.S. that don’t require degrees, according to a new report.

Some 29 million “middle” jobs — those with annual salaries of more than $35,000 but that don’t require college degrees — exist in the U.S., according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

That’s 1 in 5 jobs. Of those, 11 million pay $50,000 or more a year.

Roughly half are office jobs, a third are blue-collar positions and the rest are roles in health care and technical occupations. Men have more access to such jobs than women do.

Still, job seekers without a college degree seem to be at a disadvantage, according to the report.

In the turgid economic recovery, less than half of the jobs lost in the recession have come back, and nearly all of those that did require some form of post-secondary schooling, according to Georgetown.

Even in low-skill sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, those without bachelor’s degrees were hit hardest by unemployment.

Nearly a quarter of young people with just a high school diploma are unemployed, compared with 7 percent of college graduates, according to the report. The demographic has watched wages tank 12 percent in the past decade to $19,400 a year in 2011. They hold a shrinking share of the middle class, where 74 percent had a high school diploma or less in 1970, compared with just 39 percent in 2007.

By 2020, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the country will require education and training beyond high school.

“Exposing the American workforce to global competition has placed significant pressure on low-education workers’ wages and employment,” the report said. “Many American companies have decided to ship parts of their production chains overseas to lower costs and improve profit margins.”

Lower education levels mean more difficulty improving earning power in the future, according to the report.

The study recommends that job seekers without degrees look into associates degrees, industry certifications and other forms of education and training.

The U.S. lags behind other countries in options such as apprenticeships, with just three apprentices per 1,000 employed individuals, compared with 43 in Switzerland and 40 in Germany. Nearly all American apprentices are men, and most are in the construction business.

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