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Employers increasingly look for bachelor's degrees

A dentist and her assistant prepare to clean a patient's teeth. In the past five years, there's been a 175 percent jump in the number of online job ads looking for dental lab technicians with a bachelor's degree.

In the past five years, there's been a 175 percent jump in the number of online job ads looking for dental lab technicians with a bachelor's degree. You want to buy and sell farm equipment? More ads want college grads for those jobs, too. How about cargo and freight agents? Yep, same thing there.

Every job you can imagine is advertised online these days. "We see plenty of job listings for dishwashers," says Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass. His company analyzes those ads looking for dishwashers to CEOs in order to help educators and job seekers figure out what employers want. And, it was his company that discovered the 175 percent jump in the number of dental lab technician ads seeking applicants with a bachelor's degree.

He says employers want more education, across the board, and uses the example of a purchasing manager at a company, "used to be that you'd hire somebody that had been around the plant a bunch of years, knew all the vendors and could negotiate aggressively with them."

Now, he says, that same employer wants a purchasing manager to understand enterprise resource planning systems and analyze inventory data.

Anthony Carnevale directs the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce and says this is nothing new. He says employers have been posting job ads asking for more post-secondary training for years but, "we've been underproducing people with post-secondary training for decades now."

Carnevale adds that this trend is not about a glut of educated workers flooding the market in a tough economy and employers asking for higher degrees just be cause they can. He says employers are willing to pay for more training.

"That is the proof of the pudding," says Carnevale, "employers are putting their money where their mouth is." And, he says you're not going to see those job ads go back to requiring just high school diplomas once the economy gets better so we need to work on better educating our workforce now.

About the author

Shereen Marisol Meraji is a reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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