Middle-Class Jobs and Community Colleges

By AACC Staff

More workers in high career-growth sectors require training and credentials, and colleges can help meet the demand.

Over the past 35 years, America has seen a gradual shift in its middle-class job sector. According to The New York Times, “the types of jobs that pay middle-class wages — between $40,000 and $80,000 in 2014 dollars”— have changed dramatically since the 1980s, with today’s “middle-class worker increasingly likely to work in health care or the professional-services industry.”

For our nation’s community colleges, this is great news: The occupations that have seen the most growth are precisely those that require community college training and credentials. For example, community colleges educate and train the following:

  • Registered nurses
  • Health technicians
  • Elementary school teachers
  • Sales supervisors

As community colleges seek to prepare our students for tomorrow’s jobs, paving the way to the middle class, the data confirm that we must continue to invest in the courses and the training that lead our students to these high-growth career sectors.


Jobs per 1,000 middle-class jobs
Top 20 occupations that gained share 1980 2012 Change
Registered nurses 19 39 +20
Mathematical and computer scientists 6 25 +19
Supervisors and proprietors of sales jobs 18 34 +16
Adjusters and investigators 6 22 +15
Managers and administrators 70 84 +14
Health technologists and technicians 8 21 +13
Other teachers and counselors 7 19 +12
Elementary school teachers 41 51 +9
Health therapists 3 11 +8
Accountants and auditors 15 23 +8
Health assistants 4 11 +7
Personal service occupations 3 8 +5

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Minnesota Population Center/IPUMS

Especially when we consider the skills gap our country faces — with an additional 336,600 jobs that will need to be filled by 2022, according to the Huffington Post — community colleges can play a key role in preparing skilled workers for jobs in the industries where demand is growing.

The data have confirmed what many community college leaders have known all along: Community colleges not only pave the road to the middle class but also help drive the American economy of tomorrow.


AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

You May Also Like