College degrees are necessary in today's work force

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. - According to information from the U.S. Department of Labor, 48 of the 50 highest paying occupations require college degrees. In today's economy and that of the future, post-secondary degrees are becoming necessary for high-paying jobs. It's an incentive for college students and those considering attending college.

Jobs requiring a college degree are projected to grow faster than the average of all occupations. These categories, which accounted for 20 percent of all jobs in 2001, will account for 43 percent of projected new job growth through the year 2010. Employment in occupations that require at least a bachelor's degree is projected to grow to over 21 percent. Jobs that require an associate's degree should increase by 32 percent.

Management and legal occupations were the highest paying occupations in 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than one-fourth of the workers in those occupations earned salaries of more than $43.75 per hour. Other professional high-salary occupations in the medical field include: anesthesiologists, internists, gynecologists, obstetricians, surgeons, dentists, orthodontists, psychiatrists and pediatricians.

Jobs with the highest associated salaries are computer engineering, support specialists and software engineers; network systems analysts; database administrators; physician assistants, physical therapists, audiologists; mental health and social workers; registered nurses; elementary and secondary teachers; accountants; and auditors. Professionals in these positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree.

To make the projections, the government studies the relationships between population, labor force, and the demand for goods and services.

The economy's shift from goods-producing to service-producing industries will increase demand in finance, insurance, real estate, government, transportation, communications, and retail trade.

Professional (and related occupations) will grow the fastest and add more new jobs than any other occupational group. Most of the job growth will come from three groups within the professional category: computer and mathematical occupations, health care practitioners, and health care technical occupations; and positions in education, training, and library occupations. These positions require a college degree.

The fastest growing industry in the U.S. will be computer related services, with projected growth of 86 percent.

The population in the "baby-boomer" generation will reach retirement age in the next decade. Consequently, jobs in the geriatric health care field and those in elderly homes and hospitals will increase.

"This should give students that much more incentive to not only attend and stay in college, but to graduate and continue even further," said Chris Rencontre, education coordinator for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. "I have encountered many students who apply to colleges at the middle or end of the summer. This can be discouraging because financial aid funding might be low by then, and scholarships for that year usually have deadlines in the spring. Financial aid is one of the major obstacles for students. There are many scholarships for Native American students available, students just need to realize that they are available and to apply early."

For college students (and prospective college students), improving study habits and making extra effort to achieve high grades can guarantee a higher-paying job in the long run.

Be sure to check out Indian Country Today's Education magazine, coming in September. Learn about tribal colleges, Native studies programs, scholarships and more.