Skilled Non-College Occupations in the U.S.

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Wisconsin Center for Education Research


This article presents a new approach to the identification of relatively skilled occupations that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry. The author calls this group of occupations Skilled Non-College Occupations (SNCOs). The proposed approach relies heavily on a new skills index based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. In contrast with studies that estimate that employment in so-called middle-skill jobs in the U.S. represents one third to nearly a half of total employment, this study estimates that the combined employment of SNCOs accounted for 16.2% of all jobs in 2016. Exploratory analysis shows that SNCOs (a) represent only one in five jobs that do not require a 4-year college degree for entry; (b) encompass a wide variety of occupations and industries, even though they are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of them; (c) usually pay above average wages; (d) show a quite low correlation between wages and the skills scores; and (e) include a significant proportion of workers who are potentially underemployed in terms of their level of educational attainment.



educational attainment, skilled non-college occupations, labor market