Openings Projected Across all Education Levels

by Jason Payton

October 23, 2020

It is difficult to look to the future in the midst of circumstances few of us could have ever foreseen. But as the smoke clears in Oregon, and we open up to a new sense of normal, our gaze will eventually return to the future. With the recent release of the 2019-2029 occupational projections we get a glimpse of what job opportunities are expected to open up over the next 10 years. One of the ways we try to frame occupational data is by grouping different careers together based on education and training requirements.

Is Anything Typical Anymore?

Typical entry-level education is the minimum education that would be expected for an employer to accept your résumé. In other words, if you were looking at a job posting it is the education requirement you would expect to see listed by the employer.

Of the 2.7 million job openings projected between 2019 and 2029 about 1.9 million, or 71 percent, of those job openings generally do not require an education attainment greater than a high school diploma.
Some jobs do not typically require a minimum education level or high school diploma. Many of these jobs are attractive to high-school and college students because they allow workers to gain experience and develop soft skills that will help them in the future. Some of the occupations with the most projected openings that generally do not have a minimum education requirement may include cashiers, retail sales clerks, combined food work and service positions, or waiting tables at a local restaurant. The large number of job openings in these occupations is a byproduct of workers in these careers skilling up, completing further postsecondary education, and making major career changes. If you have higher rates of people changing careers, you will have more job openings to fill.

For instance, a physician takes years of higher education and training to enter the workforce. Due to the investment in time and education they will typically stay in their career for about 34 years. By contrast, a bartender working in the food service industry may stay in their career for about six. That means in the time it takes for one physician opening to come up, there are five bartender openings to fill over the same time period. That story is generally true when we compare openings across different education levels.

There are several different reasons a job opening can become available. First, there are openings caused by industries growing over time. As businesses expand they will have a need for a larger workforce, and more employees. Industry growth accounts for about 7 percent of all openings projected over the next 10 years. The second source of job openings comes from people exiting the workforce. These folks may be retiring, or taking a step away from work to take care of a family member. Workers leaving a position because they are exiting the workforce are projected to account for about 35 percent of openings over the next 10 years. The other 58 percent of job openings are projected to come from workers choosing to make a major career change.
The source of job openings are different depending on education requirements. Like the physician, the majority of job openings in careers with a typical entry-level education of a doctoral or professional degree come from workers exiting the workforce (39%) or industry growth (19%). By contrast, industry growth accounts for about 5 percent of openings in occupations with a typical entry-level education of a high school diploma or less.

The Competitive Edge

How often is success really achieved by doing the bare minimum? If you ask anyone trying to apply for a job during hard economic times they can tell you that applying with the minimum level of education or experience rarely means getting that new job. That’s why occupational projections are also broken out by competitive education levels. The competitive education indicates what is needed to be competitive with other workers applying for the job. If the minimum education for a job opening is an associate’s degree and all the applicants have a master’s degree, you may have a hard time competing.
Occupational openings look very different when we look at competitive education. Half of all projected job openings are in occupations whose competitive education is greater than a high school diploma. Twenty-two percent of openings are in occupations with a competitive education of a bachelor’s degree or higher. Postsecondary education becomes even more important when we look at the competitive education level of more attractive careers in high-wage occupations.

High-wage occupations are those that have a median wage greater than the median wage for all occupations in a given area. For instance, an occupation across Oregon is considered to be high-wage if it has a median wage greater than $20.34 per hour. High-wage occupations account for about half of all current jobs, and about 37 percent of all projected job openings.
There are more than a million job openings projected in high-wage occupations between 2019 and 2029. More than 90 percent of job openings in high-wage occupations have a competitive education level higher than a high school diploma, and more than half require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

There are careers that pay high wages and do not require postsecondary education. For instance, many careers in the building trades have a typical and competitive education level of a high school diploma. However, many of the best paying jobs in those careers, like ironworkers or plumbers, require years of on-the-job experience or completion of a certified apprenticeship.

The competitive education levels show us that while job openings are projected for occupations requiring a range of education requirements, jobseekers looking for careers that pay relatively high wages should expect to skill up and pursue continued education in order to be competitive in the labor market.

For more information about the 2019-2029 occupational projections check out

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