Is Middle Class Entry Possible Without a College Degree?

When presenting the findings of our middle class report, we were often asked whether a family can achieve a middle class lifestyle without a college education. Construction and extraction jobs were commonly mentioned as alternatives to the professional and managerial jobs that commonly require (increasingly costly) degrees. These jobs tend to pay good wages, have low barriers to entry and on-the-job training, and often have positive wage trajectories for experienced workers.

To answer this question, we gathered data on:

  • Common construction and extraction jobs, and 2017 entry and experienced wages for these jobs with faster than average projected growth
  • Occupational requirements for these high-growth jobs
  • Who occupies these jobs
  • Which of these jobs might be able to move a family into the middle class

There are 33 high-growth construction and extraction jobs that can move a Colorado family into the middle class, however, this is largely dependent on family type and both adults working.

What we found suggests some families may indeed be able to enter the middle class through jobs in the construction and extraction industries. There are several jobs with high wages, especially for experienced workers, and there are many with sizable wage growth over a career.

However, there are almost no jobs that can get a family — especially one with young children — into the upper-income range of the middle class, even when there are two adults working. This is particularly important, as our report shows those in the lower-middle- and middle-income ranges have a more difficult time affording an aspirational middle class budget.

Find our full findings below, or click here to read “Is Middle Class Entry Possible Without a College Degree? A Look at Construction & Extraction Jobs in Colorado.”