Opportunity Occupations Revisited

Research shows that college graduates have the highest earnings potential, but that doesn’t mean people who do not have a bachelor’s degree are relegated to low-wage jobs. Researchers at the Federal Reserve have identified a range of opportunity occupations, which are jobs that require less education than a four-year college degree and that pay at least the national annual median wage ($37,690 in 2017), adjusted for differences in the cost of living.

Across the 121 metro areas we examined in our 2019 report, some 22 percent of jobs qualify as opportunity employment.

Toledo tops the list with the highest share of opportunity employment, at 34 percent. Our continuing work explores local workforce trends and identifies common skills employers look for when hiring so that job seekers may be better informed of the various pathways to careers.


Video Feature | Opportunity Occupations: Joining the Workforce

Jaime Pearson

This mother of three didn’t need a four-year degree to land her job and improve her family’s life. Learn Jaime’s story.


Related research and tools

Report: Opportunity Occupations Revisited
For detailed analysis, data, and methods, download the April 2019 report that explores employment for sub-baccalaureate workers across metro areas and over time.


Tool: Opportunity Occupations Monitor
Compare opportunity occupations (how many, wage ranges, and more) in states and metros across the country with the Atlanta Fed’s
Opportunity Occupations Monitor. The tool makes it easy to map a course to career opportunities without having a four-year degree.

IconMetro fact sheets
Find the top opportunity occupations, how much they pay, and where they are in many of the nation’s largest metro areas with printable fact sheets for the 121 metro areas covered in the 2019 report.

State fact sheets

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