The idea of what constitutes a career is always changing; society has greatly changed throughout the last hundred years, and the ever-changing job market is a shockingly apt indicator of the differences that lie between generations.
When discussing generational changes in jobs and employment, we have to consider external factors, such as the rapidly growing cost of education and its impact on the job opportunities for Millennials. Higher costs of education in the last two decades coupled with the growing number of students pursuing unpaid internships are creating a difficult economic climate for recent graduates. Since 1995, statistics show that “out-of-state tuition and fees at public universities [has risen] 226 percent” (Mitchell). Even after considering this financial burden, the career arcs of today’s young adults are often much different from that of their predecessors. The Boston Globe finds that at The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, “the number of students accepting internships after graduation has more than doubled in the last three years.” The idea that newer generations are in more debt and entering the job market with non-paying positions is a critical one for the economic future of young adults in America today.
This being said, the seeming necessity of getting a degree is something that we take for granted, as previous generations could accomplish more with less formal education. Factory work and various manufacturing jobs that could be done without college degrees are increasingly being replaced by machinery and new technology, causing many lower-income jobs to become obsolete. “In 1970, more than a quarter of U.S. employees worked in manufacturing. By 2010, only one in 10 did” (Kenny). For Baby Boomers and all who were born before World War II, manufacturing work was always a viable option that didn’t require extensive education. However, the prevalence of these occupations began to decline, and now the number of millennials in factory jobs are few and far between. Factory jobs aren’t the only jobs decreasing due to the ubiquitous nature of technology. Occupations like accounting are being slowly replaced by more accessible (and less expensive) computer programs like TurboTax. In the course of ten years, “the number of ‘mail carriers’ in the United States fell 10 percent from 358,000 to 321,000” (Boston.com). This decline directly correlates with the rise of email, and truly exemplifies how the job market is shifting as we become more technologically advanced.
However, there hasn’t only been a decline in jobs for Millennials. There are numerous occupations that are only increasing with advances in science and medicine. According to Chmura, STEM jobs are expected to have a growth rate of 14.3%. STEM is an increasingly important field that wasn’t nearly as prominent in previous generations. Likewise, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists software development as another quickly growing field. The rise of technology is affecting not only the way that millennials operate socially, but it is also creating new industries for them to be employed by.
It is clear that much has changed in terms of viable career options between generations. Whether it is the rise of jobs in STEM fields, or the inevitable decline in manual labor, it’s safe to assume that the job market is an ever-changing climate. Although it may be inconsistent, changes in occupation between generations can teach us much about the people of these eras and what sort of work they truly value. Whether you’re talking about a baby boomer or a millennial, one thing can be said: everyone works to live, but everyone can hope for a job where they live to work, regardless of generation.
Graphics: Jessica Chang