For immediate release

Contact: Rachel Brown, Media Relations, 215-574-3840

Philadelphia, PA — Is a bachelor’s degree necessary to get a decent-paying job?  It depends on where you live. A new report jointly released today by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta finds that place matters when it comes to the level of education that employers seek in job candidates.

The study investigates the level of education preferred by employers for four opportunity occupations — jobs that pay at least the national annual median wage and that historically have not required a four-year college education. The research finds that for comparable jobs, employers are more likely to ask for a bachelor’s degree if they are located in the Northeast or based in a job market with:

  • a relatively larger pool of recent college graduates;
  • higher wages; or
  • a population over 2.5 million.

These findings hold for all occupations, but the effects are magnified in most cases for the four opportunity occupations analyzed: computer user support specialists, registered nurses, retail sales supervisors, and executive secretaries.

The research analyzed data from nearly 27 million online job advertisements and from the metro areas in which they were posted to develop models predicting the likelihood that each individual job ad will request a bachelor’s degree or higher. The study period covers the years 2011 through 2014.

Understanding the drivers of regional differences in employers’ educational preferences helps workers and job training providers better understand the credentials needed to gain access to opportunity occupations.

“Jobs that ask for more education take longer to fill, and workers with college degrees typically earn higher wages,” said Keith Wardrip, research manager in the Philadelphia Fed’s Community Development Studies and Education Department. “If employers can find the skills they need in less educated workers, it’s a win-win for job seekers and businesses.”

This analysis follows research published in 2015 by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta that identified the availability of opportunity occupations in the nation’s largest metro areas.

The community development function within the Federal Reserve promotes fair and informed access to financial markets for communities and individuals, recognizing the particular needs of underserved populations. It does so by convening stakeholders to collaborate on community and economic development initiatives, conducting and sharing applied research, and identifying emerging issues.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia helps formulate and implement monetary policy, supervises banks and bank and savings and loan holding companies, and provides financial services to depository institutions and the federal government. It is one of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that, together with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the Federal Reserve System. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank serves eastern and central Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.