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By 2031, 72% of all jobs in the U.S. will require postsecondary education and/or training, according to a new report from the Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) at Georgetown University. 

CEW researchers project that the U.S. will have 171 million jobs in 2031, an increase of 16 million net new jobs from 2021. During that period, there will be 18.5 million job openings per year on average and 12.5 million of these openings will require at least some college education.  

The report, After Everything: Projections of Jobs, Education, and Training Requirements through 2031, includes a national overview of job projections and their educational requirements across industries, occupational clusters, and detailed occupational groups.  

The projections underscore the role postsecondary education plays in preparing the workforce of the future, despite the facts that young people increasingly doubt the value of college, and postsecondary enrollments continue to decline. 

The fastest-growing occupation and industry sectors are those whose workers are required to have the most postsecondary education and training, the report said. 

“The economy will continue to create jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less, but these jobs, in many cases, do not offer high enough earnings for the workers who hold them to achieve upward economic mobility,” the report said. “The labor force will be increasingly divided between those who have postsecondary education and those who don’t. It is becoming ever clearer that postsecondary education or training is the only path to a middle-class lifestyle for most workers.” 

In addition to the nationwide data, the state projections report also forecast job growth in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2021 through 2031. Educational requirements for these jobs will vary widely by location. For example, more than 80% of new jobs in the District of Columbia will require postsecondary education in 2031, while in Alabama and Arkansas only 60% will. 

In New Jersey, 68% of all jobs will require some postsecondary training beyond high school in 2031, the report said.  That 68% includes 16% of jobs that will require a graduate degree, 28% that will require a bachelor’s degree, 7% that will require an associate degree and 17% that will require some college or a certificate, license, certification, but no degree. New Jersey ranks among the top five states for percentage of jobs that will require a bachelor’s degree. 

The researchers also predicted which sectors of the economy would experience significant job growth. New Jersey is expected to see an 18% increase in new jobs in the healthcare sector, increasing from 402,000 jobs in 2021 to 474,000 jobs by 2031. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector will experience 13% job growth, increasing from 234,000 to 264,000 to positions. 

The national report said two major factors contribute to the increasing demand for postsecondary education and training. First, the fastest-growing industries require workers with disproportionately higher education levels compared to industries with slower growth; and second, occupations increasingly are requiring more education as tasks within occupations become more complex.  

In 2021 only 10% of jobs went to workers without a high school education while 36% went to workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. That disparity will continue to grow. In 2031, only 6% of jobs nationwide will go to workers without a high school education and 42% will go to workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Other key findings from the national report include: 

  • Between 2021 and 2031, all industries are expected to see increases in employment, but healthcare services, professional and business services, government and public education services, and leisure and hospitality services will grow the fastest. 
  • Between 2021 and 2031, employment in healthcare services is expected to increase by 20%, or more than 4.2 million net new jobs. This is far greater than any other industry, and by 2031, it will be the third largest industry in terms of jobs. 
  • By 2031, 46% of workers in blue-collar occupations will need at least some postsecondary education or training. It will be the only one of the nine occupational clusters in which fewer than half of workers will need that level of educational attainment. 
  • Automation will primarily eliminate specific tasks within jobs rather than wipe out entire jobs. The report predicts 28% of all tasks in current jobs will be at risk of automation by 2031.