If you’re enrolling in college after completing high school or are a mid-career job changer looking to retool, one of the first decisions to make is what to major in or which credentials to pursue. Career exploration helps you make that important decision and involves:

  • Self-assessing to identify career interests and personal strengths
  • Selecting a program of study or industry credential to pursue
  • Creating an action plan

Another consideration is labor market information, which includes local job postings and employment projections.  Are the number of jobs in the geographical area you are targeting for a major increasing, decreasing or staying about the same? Equally important are wages or salary including:

  • Entry level or what new workers generally start at
  • Median wage or normal pay after four or five years
  • Ten years plus or what highly experienced workers can expect to earn

Wage or salary should be a consideration of the program of study or occupation you pursue. We estimated the living wage thresholds for programs of study, and the related jobs an individual may enter after graduating, from occupational wages in Wake County. In September 2021, the threshold was $15.92/hr. Jobs with occupational wages below $15.92 were considered “low wage” jobs.  Jobs with occupational wages above that threshold were considered “living wage” jobs.  The threshold was calculated as two-thirds of the median occupational wages for all jobs in Wake County ($23.88), weighted by the number of jobs in each occupation (Brookings Institution, 2019). We update this threshold annually to reflect changing occupational wages.

There are other ways to estimate living wage thresholds in Wake County that include multiple factors in supporting a household of different sizes and family composition. You can explore living wage thresholds using this calculator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:  https://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/37183

How do you find out whether programs in higher education lead to living wage jobs in Wake County?

Here are some useful sources to help you with your research:

Career Coach


NC Careers


Career One Stop


If you need further assistance, come to a Career Lens Lab! If you’re not already working full-time or are unemployed, underemployed or facing a layoff, the registration fee will be waived. Please visit waketech.edu/careerservices and click on Explore Careers.