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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

How Does a College Degree Impact Your Working Future If You Are Blind or Have Low Vision?

If you are contemplating whether or not to further your education beyond high school by attending college or career school, it is a decision worthy of thoughtful consideration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more education leads to better prospects for earnings and employment. The following data reported by the BLS is evidence that more job opportunities are available for individuals who are blind or visually impaired who have acquired education or a degree beyond a high school diploma. Overall, the unemployment rate is higher for those individuals who have only attained a high school diploma versus those individuals who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Unemployment Rates and Educational Attainment (2016)

Educational Attainment Unemployment Rate (Percent)
Doctoral Degree 1.6
Master's Degree 2.4
Bachelor's Degree 2.7
Associate's Degree 3.6
Some College, No Degree 4.4
High School Diploma 5.2
Less Than a High School Diploma 7.4
Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.

(Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017)

Job Opportunities Requiring a Degree Are Growing Faster

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports that occupations requiring more education are projected to grow faster in all jobs through 2022. For example, jobs requiring a master’s degree for entry are projected to grow the fastest at 18.4 percent. Jobs requiring an associate's degree are the second fastest growing group of occupations and will increase by 17.6 percent (Richards & Terkanian, 2013).

A College Degree Increases Earning Potential

In addition to increased employment opportunities, blind or visually impaired individuals who obtain education beyond a high school diploma have the potential to earn more money over the course of their careers. The 2016 data from the BLS shows weekly earnings by full-time workers (35 hours per week) are positively impacted by educational attainment.

Educational Attainment and Earnings (2016)

Educational Attainment Median Weekly Earnings ($)
Doctoral Degree 1,664
Master's Degree 1,380
Bachelor's Degree 1,156
Associate's Degree 819
Some College, No Degree 756
High School Diploma 692
Less Than a High School Diploma 504
Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.

(Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017)

Attending Career School Opens Job Opportunities

If you want to further your education but spend less time in school and not as much money doing so, attending career school to learn a trade is an option that can also positively impact your future opportunities for employment as a person who is visually impaired. By 2020, 20.5 million new jobs will be created. Of the top 30 fastest growing jobs, many are apprenticeships. According to the BLS, the following apprenticeships are projected to be among the top 30 fastest-growing with increased employment opportunities by 2020 ("Top 30 Fastest-Growing Jobs," n.d.):

  • Stonemason
  • Brickmason and Blockmason
  • Plumber, Pipefitter, and Steamfitter
  • Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Worker
  • Tile and Marble Setter

Transition to College or Work

If you are interested in attending college or career school to increase your job opportunities and earning potential, utilize the Transition to College: Program Activity Guide to better understand your postsecondary options, determine the degree you need to succeed, create a plan for paying for college, and more.

There are also career opportunities for job seekers who are not college or career school bound. According to the BLS, occupations that typically require a high school diploma or equivalent are expected to add 8.8 million jobs by 2022. Although these occupations usually have lower wages, these opportunities should be considered for jobs seekers with vision loss who have a high school diploma or equivalent. If you are preparing to make this transition, review the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide to help you develop your employability skills, conduct job research and a job search, complete an online job application, and more.

References

Richards, E. & Terkanian, D. (2013). Occupational employment projections to 2022. Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/occupational-employment-projections-to-2022.htm

Top 30 fastest-growing jobs by 2020. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.bumc.bu.edu/gms/files/2012/02/Top-30-fastest.pdf

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017, April 20). Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_001.htm

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