The U.S. labor market is increasingly demanding a more educated workforce. Of the 48 million job openings projected for the next eight years, 63 percent will require some postsecondary education. For many of these job openings, workers will need at least a high school diploma but not necessarily a four-year degree.
Occupations that once could sustain workers with no more than a high school diploma in a middle-class lifestyle now require individuals to have some postsecondary education, including two- and four-year degrees, certifications, and other industryrecognized credentials. This trend will continue as more industries demand specific skills and knowledge of their workers to compete effectively in a global and technology-based economy. Although more jobs today require some postsecondary education, the United States is greatly underprepared to meet this need. Only approximately 42 percent of the current workforce has an associate or higher-level degree, resulting in a potentially large skills gap. To meet future labor market demands, by 2018 the nation will have to increase the number of individuals pursuing a postsecondary degree or credential above the current level by 3 million.