Educational Attainment of Workers in Oregon’s Industries

by Gail Krumenauer

May 30, 2017

The Minnesota Population Center maintains public use microdata for the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which includes information on the educational attainment of workers and their industry of employment. According to the 2011-2015 five-year estimates (the most current available), one-third (33%) of Oregon workers ages 25 and older held a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Another 28 percent of employed Oregonians completed some college or earned an associate degree, while 39 percent had a high school diploma or less education.

Education Requires Higher Education

In two services industries – educational services and professional and technical services – a majority of workers earned at least a bachelor’s degree. In 2014, the largest occupations in educational services included postsecondary teachers, elementary school teachers, and secondary school teachers. All of these professions generally require a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

The industry with the second-highest share of highly educated workers was professional and technical services. The industry’s top occupations in 2014 included accountants, lawyers, legal secretaries, bookkeepers, and software developers. A bachelor’s degree is typically required for accountants and software developers. Lawyers generally must complete a professional degree (J.D.) to practice. Legal secretaries and bookkeepers generally need a postsecondary award or an associate degree.
In computer and electronic manufacturing, more than half (54%) of workers had bachelor’s or advanced degrees. The largest occupations in this industry were also more evenly balanced in terms of educational requirements in 2014. Both electrical and electronic equipment assembler and semiconductor processor jobs generally require a high school diploma, while the various engineering-related occupations concentrated in the industry generally require higher education.

Other industries with relatively high shares of highly educated workers included information (which includes software publishing and broadcast news), health care, public administration, financial activities, and social assistance.

More “Hands On” Industries Require Less Class Time

At the other end of the spectrum, the majority of the workforce in three industries earned a high school diploma or less: natural resources and mining (63%); construction (57%); and administrative and waste services (53%). In these three industries, as well as transportation and warehousing, less than one-fifth of all workers had at least a bachelor’s degree.

Industries with More Workers Ages 16 to 24

Half of all workers in leisure and hospitality and retail trade earned a high school diploma at most. The graph shows workers ages 25 and older, who we assume to have generally completed their educational pursuits. We might expect the shares of workers with less than a bachelor’s degree to jump in these two industries when we factor in workers ages 16 to 24 – and that’s true! When we also account for Oregon’s youngest workers (many of whom are presumably increasing their educational attainment), the share of the industry’s workforce with less than a bachelor’s degree rises from 80 percent to 84 percent in retail, and from 79 percent to 85 percent in leisure and hospitality.
Those in the process of completing additional education also show up in the educational services numbers. That makes sense, especially if you are, or at one time were, someone in an on-campus job while attending a college or university. As we expect, the bump in educational services workers is largely due to those with some college or associate degree education (presumably many are on their way to a bachelor’s).

More information about the American Community Survey public use microdata can be found at

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