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State and local government jobs more likely than private sector to require postsecondary education

January 03, 2022

State and local government had higher shares of occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry than the private sector in May 2020. Occupations typically requiring postsecondary education for entry made up 63.5 percent of state government employment and 61.1 percent of local government employment, compared with 35.0 percent of private sector employment. The largest postsecondary education category, occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry, made up 34.1 percent of employment in state government and 38.9 percent in local government, but only 20.9 percent in the private sector.

Percent distribution of employment by typical entry-level educational requirement in the private sector, state government, and local government, May 2020
Typical entry-level educational requirement Private sector State government Local government

No formal educational credential

25.3% 4.1% 10.2%

High school diploma or equivalent

39.8 32.5 28.7

Some college, no degree

2.0 1.9 8.1

Postsecondary nondegree award

6.5 3.6 5.3

Associate's degree

2.4 2.6 1.4

Bachelor's degree

20.9 34.1 38.9

Master's degree

1.2 5.9 4.6

Doctoral or professional degree

2.1 15.4 2.7

Annual mean wages for all occupations combined were $9,980 higher in state government and $1,980 higher in local government than in the private sector. The higher average wages in state and local government are due largely to differences in the occupational mix. Although state and local government had higher shares of occupations that typically require postsecondary education for entry, they also had lower average wages for occupations typically requiring an associate’s degree or higher. For example, occupations typically requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry paid an average of $27,340 less in state government and $30,570 less in local government than in the private sector.

Annual mean wages in the private sector, state government, and local government, by typical entry-level educational requirement, May 2020
Typical entry-level educational requirement Private sector State government Local government

All occupations

$55,250 $65,230 $57,230

Doctoral or professional degree

148,390 96,460 104,610

Master's degree

86,390 79,460 84,830

Bachelor's degree

97,450 70,110 66,880

Associate's degree

59,960 54,070 58,420

Postsecondary nondegree award

44,730 48,190 52,630

Some college, no degree

44,970 51,050 33,250

High school diploma or equivalent

44,800 49,150 50,310

No formal educational credential

30,410 33,810 33,240

These wage differences reflect differences in the mix of occupations within each education category, as well as differences in wages for individual occupations. For example, postsecondary teachers made up most of state and local government employment among occupations typically requiring a doctoral or professional degree for entry, compared with about 17 percent of private sector employment in this education category. Dentists, physicians, and surgeons, which are among the highest paying occupations overall, made up over 27 percent of private sector employment in this education category, compared with about 4 percent in state government and 8 percent in local government.

These data are from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. The typical entry-level educational requirements are assigned to each occupation by the Employment Projections program. To learn more, see Occupational Employment and Wages in State and Local Government. May 2020 survey estimates do not fully reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, see the Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, State and local government jobs more likely than private sector to require postsecondary education at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/state-and-local-government-jobs-more-likely-than-private-sector-to-require-postsecondary-education.htm (visited July 04, 2022).

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