Go for the middle jobs
October 20, 2013 1:55 AM

Recent college grads are having trouble finding jobs related to their majors. Up to 40 percent of college graduates are working in jobs not requiring a degree. These headlines cause this employment counselor to recommend job hunters going for the middle jobs.

A middle job requires more education than high school but no bachelor’s degree. These jobs could require an associate degree, completing an apprenticeship, or getting an industry or post-secondary certification.

There is demand for workers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) sectors. The surprising thing is that many of these STEM jobs do not require bachelor’s degrees and pay as much or more.

A person can get a certificate in a number of ways. A degree-granting institution such as the Art Institute will give certificates to people taking certain courses and give certificates such as digital or Web design. A nurse may take courses to be certified as a phlebotomist or someone without other medical knowledge may become a phlebotomist. A welder may gain certification in atomic welding.

This employer appreciation of people entering the work force with middle education is not new. I was a secondary education student in the early 1960s. Walking the halls with me were engineering technology students with their slide rules (remember them) attached to their belts. I was surprised to learn that these “technical chaps” were projected to earn more after two years of schooling than education students after four.

Local public school districts are getting on the middle jobs/STEM bandwagon. Michael Choby of the Norwin School District said,” STEM learning is an answer to trends in employment growth in the region.” Western Pennsylvania school districts put a priority in preparing their students for jobs that would allow them to stay in the area and pay family-supporting wages. “STEM prepares students for fields where growth is projected such as software development, computer systems, environmental engineering, computer network architects and actuaries,” Choby said.

Some parents, some teenagers and some adult dislocated workers resist the “go for the middle job” advice. Such people place a high value on getting a college degree. They also tend to look associate degrees, certificates and apprenticeships as inferior or blue collar. The reality is that 80 percent of these jobs pay middle class salaries, without the expense of four years of college. Only a third of jobs resulting from these courses could be considered blue collar.

Georgetown University  reported that the 29 million people in “middle jobs” without a bachelor’s degree are making between $35,000 and $75,000 per year. An adult with an associate degree in engineering earned an average of $4,800 per month in 2009 compared to a bachelor’s degree in education earning $2,800. Certificate holders in engineering can earn more than those with associate degrees in business and more than bachelor’s degrees-holders in education.

Middle jobs with a bright future include computer specialist, nuclear technician, dental hygienist, radiation therapist, nuclear medicine technologist, fashion designer, aerospace engineer and operations technician, diagnostic medical sonographer, registered nurse, engineering technician, electrical engineering technician, electronic engineering technician and nanotechnology technician.

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