That presents a challenge for employers. But it may also be an opportunity for students who are unsure about college and wonder if they can have a career without it.
"One of the things that we hope to accomplish with this work is we really need to legitimize middle skills jobs as a good, important career path for individuals," said Laila Worrell, managing director at Accenture and an author of the report. "There is a bias toward BAs and BSs." But middle skills jobs, she said, account for more than half of the U.S. jobs market.
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That said, not all middle skills jobs are alike.
For example, the report found a job in production may not offer much potential, unless it involves a high degree of skill.
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Burning Glass analyzed the middle skills jobs to determine what they call "career lifetime value," a measure based on current salaries and the potential future compensation in that worker's next two jobs, and determined the most promising careers are in technology and health care. Network administrators top the list with a career lifetime value of $82,452, followed by construction managers at $81,946, registered nurses at $81,475, physical therapy assistants at $82,161, and network support specialists at $80,051.
"You can definitely make a career in middle skills jobs," said a spokesman for Burning Glass.
Even entry-level middle skills jobs that start with low wages can lead to promising careers. For example, the report said, "little attention is paid to retail jobs—in fact, they are often reviled as low-paying jobs." But a retail sales associate, who might earn roughly $10 an hour, can develop the skills to become a retail supervisor, at nearly double that hourly pay, or a financial services sales associate for almost $31 an hour.