This research brief uses nationally representative data from the 2012/17 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/17) to examine post-college transitions of US undergraduates into the skilled technical workforce (STW), defined here as workers in a collection of occupations that require significant levels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree for entry. Thus far, empirical research on the STW has been limited by a dearth of data; however, based on newly available data from BPS:12/17, the findings in this report indicate that STW employment provides workers with above-median salaries, more equitable wages, a variety of benefits, and clear career paths. STW jobs attract diverse populations, especially those from underrepresented groups (e.g., Hispanics, individuals from low-income backgrounds, and those whose parents do not have college education). US community colleges and sub-baccalaureate programs play a large role in developing the STW.
Entering the skilled technical workforce after college
By Xianglei Chen, Susan Rotermund.
April 2020 Open Access Peer Reviewed
- By 2017, about 6 years after college entry, 58 percent of 2011–12 beginning postsecondary students were working and not in school and, among these workers, 9 percent held skilled technical workforce (STW) jobs that required high-level technical expertise but not a bachelor’s degree.
- Seventeen percent of male workers in the cohort held STW jobs compared with 4 percent of female workers.
- Compared with workers in skilled professional workforce (SPW) jobs, which require high-level technical expertise and a bachelor’s degree, proportionally more workers in STW jobs were Hispanic, from low-income backgrounds, and had parents who did not have college education.
- The median salary for workers in STW jobs was $35,900, which was higher than the median salary for all workers ($28,000) and for those in nontechnical jobs ($25,000). STW workers’ salaries did not vary with socioeconomic indicators like family income and parental education.
- Compared with workers in nontechnical jobs (75 percent of the study sample), STW workers were more likely to be offered a variety of workforce benefits, to work in jobs related to their college majors or in their career paths, and to be satisfied with their jobs.
Chen, X., & Rotermund, S. (2020). Entering the skilled technical workforce after college. RTI Press. RTI Press Publication No. RB-0024-2004 https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2020.rb.0024.2004
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