Skip to:
  1. Main navigation
  2. Main content
  3. Footer

Opportunity Occupations

A Way Ahead for People without a College Degree

People with bachelor's degrees typically earn better wages and experience higher employment rates than workers who do not. Yet, more than two-thirds of US adults currently do not have a college degree. Since 2015, the Cleveland Fed, in partnership with Atlanta and Philadelphia Feds, has been exploring these trends by identifying occupations that pay above the national annual median wage (adjusted for regional price differences) and are generally accessible to those without a four-year college degree. We refer to these occupations as "opportunity occupations" and the total amount of employment associated with them as "opportunity employment."

Our earlier work examined how the level of opportunity employment varied across metro areas. Our subsequent work investigated how much education employers require for registered nurses, one of the most prevalent opportunity occupations identified. In 2019, we continued our partnership with the Philadelphia Fed and explored the factors that help explain the differences we observe in opportunity employment across the largest metros in United States. Our continuing work will explore and identify common skill sets employers look for when hiring so that job seekers may be better informed of career pathways.

Occupational Mobility Explorer

Explore opportunities to transfer skills from one occupation to a similar — but higher-paying — occupation in the same labor market with the Occupational Mobility Explorer.