Researchers: 30 Million Workers Skilled Enough for a 70% Raise
No college degree? Gateway jobs lead to higher-income careers
If you are among the 71 million Americans in the workforce without a four-year degree, you likely feel topped-out in terms of income and opportunity to expand your role.
Companies often allow only degree holders to transition from entry- and mid-level roles into higher paid occupations. Do those higher paying jobs actually require four years in the hallowed halls of academia? Nope.
“We found that 5 million [workers without degrees] are already in high-wage jobs, the very same jobs that many employers say you need a bachelor’s degree to do,” says Byron Auguste, CEO of nonprofit [email protected]
How’s a 70% raise sound?
Auguste recently partnered with experts at Harvard University and Cornell University on a study tracking the skills and jobs of non-degree holders. Researchers overlaid Census data with Department of Labor employment statistics to see which career paths lead to comfortable salaries, also creating a new report that traces the skills and job routes of non-degree holders.
“Thirty million are doing jobs that if you really look at their skills, they already have very similar skills to those in jobs that pay at least 50% more — it’s 70% more on average,” Auguste says. “So with a little bit of training and orientation, but mostly opportunity and access, they could do jobs that pay 70% more and beyond.”
A whopping 11 million workers are already skilled for work that would pay even more, at roughly double their current pay.
Meet your new best friend, the gateway job
Your sparkly, vibrant path to one of these financially lucrative careers will appear via a gateway job. A gateway job is the stepping-stone between a lower wage role and a higher wage career, and that transition takes place based on your skills, not your degrees (or lack thereof). It’s the opposite of a dead-end job.
A common example of a gateway job is customer service representative, a job that pays $23 per hour in the U.S. on average. It is commonly preceded by roles like receptionist, bank teller, courier, retail staffer and cashier, which average $13 to $17 per hour. After a few strong years of performance, a customer service representative can then hop into jobs like general manager, operations manager or sales representative (for a wide variety of wholesale or manufacturing fields), all of which average $25 to $26 per hour, and are available in numerous wholesale and manufacturing fields.
Choosing a gateway job held by many hundreds of thousands is pivotal: The researchers found that there are only 51 gateway jobs out there that dependably catapult workers into higher salaries, and part of the reason they’re successful is that they open up lots of job opportunities. Other common gateway jobs include project manager, sales worker supervisor, licensed nurse, teacher, telecommunications line installer, bus and truck mechanic, and tax preparer. A full list is available on page 36 of the study.
Understand that a gateway job is not your dream job. It’s strategic, and in some cases may be a step down. “It might pay more or less or the same, and might not be as satisfying, but often you have more of an opportunity to show what you can do, and to move up,” Auguste says. Here are four keys to choosing the right gateway.
Tip #1: Look for a company with both the gateway and higher-income jobs you seek. Let’s face it: Your biggest hindrance is the digital application systems that screen out your resume altogether due to lack of college degree. Log two years of high performance in a gateway job, and then walk into the office of your favorite HR staffer and say, “Please consider me for XYZ higher-level position.” If the person you’re speaking to holds a college degree and looks at you blankly, point out the near-100% overlap between your current job skills and those required for the new job.
Tip #2: Find employers that promote from within. You want a company committed to developing staffers and known for offering internal programs for credentialing and promotion. IBM is known for this.
Tip #3: Consider running your own show. If reaching a gateway role proves challenging, consider entrepreneurship, perhaps as a side gig. Once you’ve performed for clients, no one can deny your resourcefulness or skills. “One of the most common job titles for those making more than twice median wages is CEO of their business,” Auguste says. “Many, many [people without college degrees] end up starting businesses on the side.”
Tip #4: Keep your eye on your next gateway job. Gateway jobs usually appear at least twice along a career path. After a few years of boosting your company’s profits as a sales representative, the next gateway job could be advertising sales agent, which involves similar skills, but earns substantially larger paychecks. Happy climbing.