The top entry-level job for grads is telling Gen Z that college isn’t worth it
College admissions are plunging in the U.S., with anxiety over the debt burden a degree comes with— coupled with a shift in attitudes toward career paths—leading many young people to question whether it’s really worth pursuing higher education.
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Last month, a massive survey of Gen Z workers found that 40% of people aged between 16 and 26 did not believe they needed a university degree to have a successful career.
And they may be right, according to new data from global jobs site Indeed—at least, if earnings play a role in their perceptions of career success.
On Wednesday, Indeed published its top 25 entry-level jobs for those with degrees and those without degrees, ranking the roles by average annual salary and growth in demand from employers.
The top job that required a degree—that is, the role with the greatest increase in demand this year—was outside sales representative, which pays an average $60,000 a year, according to Indeed.
Outside sales reps are responsible for increasing sales and expanding the customer base of the company they work for. This can involve arranging and attending meetings with clients, sourcing leads on new customers, and producing regular sales reports, among other duties.
However, for graduates looking to maximize their post-college earnings, the highest-paying job on Indeed’s list offered double the average salary of an outside sales representative.
Entry-level C++ developers were being offered an average salary of $120,000 this year, according to Indeed’s data, providing they had a degree.
A C++ developer is a software developer who specializes in the coding language of C++. According to Indeed, job growth in this field is expected to rise as much as 32% in the coming decade.
Duties for C++ developers can include identifying coding errors, creating software or mobile apps, and project management.
View this interactive chart on Fortune.com
Without a degree
When it came to the top job for those who haven’t attended college, the position that saw the biggest year-on-year surge in demand was that of inventory manager, which pays an average salary of $59,000.
Inventory managers are responsible for making sure their company’s inventory levels are maintained so that customer demand can be met at all times. They are also tasked with preventing overstocking, which can cause storage problems and hamper the firm’s cash flow.
The highest paying entry-level role that didn’t require a degree to feature on Indeed’s list was an auto body technician, which offered an annual salary of $82,500, Indeed’s findings showed.
The role, which saw a 100% year-on-year increase in demand, involves repairing and refinishing vehicles.
View this interactive chart on Fortune.com
Indeed’s analysis was based on job postings asking for zero to three years’ experience that were advertised from September 2022 through February 2023. Demand growth was measured by comparing the number of job ads for each role to how many had been posted during the same period a year earlier.
The average annual salary for a full-time worker in the U.S. is $55,640, or about $1,070 a week, but this changes when looking at individual states. Workers in New York have the highest average incomes, bringing in $1,972 a week, according to Indeed.
Just 37.7% of Americans over the age of 25 were educated to at least the bachelor’s degree level in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The proportion of people in the U.S. who have completed a four-year degree hasn’t risen much in the past two years—and with Gen Z beginning to reach undergrad age, that stagnation may be set to continue.
With the cost of higher education and the resulting student debt remaining a turnoff for a lot of prospective students, many Gen Zers are questioning whether getting a degree is worth it.
The debt burden is especially heavy for borrowers who are nonwhite, low-income, and women, a recent study found—with some researchers suggesting that the cost of a college degree could be undoing the American dream.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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