Opportunity Occupations Monitor

The Opportunity Occupations Monitor displays the percent of jobs across labor markets. The map below highlights varying proportions of combined Low-Skill Opportunity Occupations and Middle-Skill Opportunity Occupations across states and metro areas between 2010 and 2016. The darker purple areas represent places with a higher proportion of opportunity occupations, and therefore a better chance that a worker with less than a bachelor's degree earns a livable wage. The tool also lists specific job titles in each labor market across metro areas as well as their associated entry-level education requirements, employment numbers, annual median wage, and percent of monthly wage contributed to housing costs.

How the Monitor Works

The Opportunity Occupations Monitor displays the percent of jobs across labor markets, defined as:

  • Low-Skill Non-Opportunity Occupations: Jobs that require less than a high school degree and pay less than the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.
  • *Low-Skill Opportunity Occupations: Jobs that require less than a high school degree and pay at least the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.
  • Middle-Skill Non-Opportunity Occupations: Jobs that require a high school degree, some college, or an associate's degree and pay less than the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.
  • *Middle-Skill Opportunity Occupations: Jobs that require a high school degree, some college, or an associate's degree and pay at least the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.
  • High-Skill Low-Paying Occupations: Jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree and pay less than the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.
  • High-Skill High-Paying Occupations: Jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree and pay at least the national median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences.

*Note: On the overall map showing concentrations of opportunity occupations, low- and middle-skill opportunity occupations are added together for the percentage.

Interactive Data

  • Step 1: Select a geography—either state or metro areas—above the tool.
  • Step 2: Select a year—between 2010 and 2016—to the right of the map.
  • Step 3: Click on a specific state or metro area on the map. Alternatively, search for a state or metro area using the check boxes in the drop-down menu to the right of the map and then click on the highlighted geographic area. The labor market groups will appear below the map based on the chosen state or metro area.
  • Step 4: Click on a specific labor market group to display a list of all job titles and their associated entry-level education requirements, employment numbers, annual median wage, and percent of monthly wage contributed to housing costs. Click on arrows to the right of titles on the occupation list to sort columns by ascending or descending order.

About the Data

Data are retrieved from multiple sources:

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)Off-site link: The center team retrieved information on total employment and annual median wage by occupation between 2010 and 2016. OES data are updated annually. Note that information on some occupations in specific geographic areas is missing, so that total employment and median wage numbers do not reflect 100 percent of occupation data in a given year.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH)Off-site link: We retrieved information on entry-level education requirements by occupation. The OOH is published every two years. The 2016–17 handbook is located on the BLS website (see link above). OOH information for 2010–15 is archived and no longer available online. We retrieved that data through direct communication with BLS representatives.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)Off-site link: We retrieved the regional price parity for each metro area and state in order to adjust the OES annual median wages for cost of living differences. Note that BEA data are only available through 2015, so 2015 data were applied to 2016 OES data.

U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates, American Fact FinderOff-site link: We retrieved median monthly housing costs for each metro area. With this information combined with annual median wages, we determined whether workers in specific occupations were housing cost-burdened, meaning they pay at least 30 percent of their wages toward housing. Note that ACS data are only available through 2015, so 2015 data were applied to 2016 OES data.

More Information about Opportunity Occupations

The following papers and infographics provide in-depth analyses of opportunity occupations. Our tool transforms this research into an interactive way to understand the changing nature of opportunity occupations and to access the most up-to-date information about specific occupations across geographic areas.

Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation's Largest Metropolitan Economies
Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation's Largest Metropolitan EconomiesOff-site link

Date: September 2015

Authors: Keith WardripOff-site link (Philadelphia Fed), Kyle FeeOff-site link (Cleveland Fed), Lisa NelsonOff-site link (Cleveland Fed), and Stuart Andreason (Atlanta Fed)

About: Opportunity occupations are jobs generally accessible to workers without a bachelor's degree that pay at least the national annual median wage, adjusted for local cost of living differences. Focusing on the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, the authors identify the most prevalent opportunity occupations in these economies, highlight differences across metropolitan areas, and explore how employer preferences for education affect access to decent-paying jobs.
Infographic Adobe PDF file format | Full report Adobe PDF file format


Identifying Opportunity Occupations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware
Identifying Opportunity Occupations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and DelawareOff-site link



Author: Keith WardripOff-site link (Philadelphia Fed)

About: An extension of research from Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation's Largest Metropolitan EconomiesOff-site link, this report explores the degree to which the economies of 11 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware include opportunity occupations, or occupations characterized by above-average pay for workers without a bachelor's degree.


Identifying Opportunity Occupations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware
Uneven Opportunity: Exploring Employers' Educational Preferences for Middle-Skills Jobs  Adobe PDF file formatOff-site link

Date: January 2017

Authors: Keith WardripOff-site link (Philadelphia Fed), Stuart Andreason (Atlanta Fed), and Mels de Zeeuw (Atlanta Fed)

About: To ensure more low- and moderate-income families can enjoy pathways into prosperity, it is crucial to identify the economic opportunities available to non-college-educated or middle-skill workers. Using level of education requested by employers in online job advertisements, the authors explore why employer preferences for bachelor's degrees for the most prevalent opportunity occupations vary significantly between metropolitan areas.


Opportunity Occupations in the Southeast
Opportunity Occupations in the Southeast

Date: April 2017

Authors: Stuart Andreason (Atlanta Fed), and Mels de Zeeuw (Atlanta Fed)

About: This infographic displays the top opportunity occupations in six southeastern states in 2014, including median salary and job openings. It also shows educational attainment, unemployment, and which degrees have the highest earnings across southeastern states.

Contact Us

Photo of Stuart Andreason

Stuart Andreason

Workforce Development Director, Center for Human Capital Studies
Photo of Ashley Bozarth

Ashley Bozarth

Research Analyst II
Photo of Abram Lueders

Mels de Zeeuw

Research Analyst II