Like much of the U.S., Maine has been spurred by recent economic woes to reassess its job market, a move that is reshaping the Pine Tree State's economy, workforce and education demands. Now more than ever, getting an education past high school is important to keep up with the changing needs of employers.
In Maine, Change Spells Opportunity
Maine's economy has traditionally been driven by agriculture, shipbuilding, fishing and tourism, but that appears to be changing. In a 2010 statement on Maine's growing economy, John Dorrer, director of Maine's Center for Workforce Research and Information, noted that foreign competition, technology innovation and business restructuring have contributed to "dynamic work environments and changing labor markets," adding that "some industries are declining and shedding jobs while new industries are emerging and creating new employment opportunities". Training for a high-growth field can help Maine residents secure their economic future. According to a 2011 report from the Maine Futures Institute, a division of the Maine Department of Labor (DOL), the industries projected to grow the most between 2008 and 2018 are health and education services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. The report also noted tremendous opportunity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Online Education Can Help Maine Workers Keep Up
According to a report by the Maine DOL, 2009 unemployment rates were significantly lower among the better educated--a trend that will likely only become more pronounced, as demand for college-educated workers is expected to outpace educational attainment in the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 percent of Maine residents between the ages of 25 and 34 held college degrees in 2008. Meanwhile, a report published by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce projects that 59 percent of Maine jobs will require a college degree by 2018. That means that in order to keep up with future demand, more workers than ever before must pursue higher education.
One of the major obstacles to post-secondary education in the sprawling state is college accessibility, and online schools offer a good solution. In a 2011 report by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, researchers Anthony Picciano and Jeff Seaman noted that for a rural state like Maine, online schools are "not simply an attractive alternative to face-to-face instruction, but increasingly [are] becoming a lifeline to basic quality education." This is because Maine online schools offer a unique blend of accessibility and flexibility.
The Scoop on Maine's Online Degree Programs
Maine online degree options continue to grow, both in scope and credibility, and are available in virtually any discipline. Most programs allow students to attend class whenever and wherever they can, an important consideration for students who must work to offset their education expenses, or who have young children or other responsibilities. Some online programs, however, may require limited face-to-face instruction or labs, particularly in hands-on disciplines like nursing or engineering. As with campus-based programs, it pays to research a number of online schools before choosing the one that best suits your lifestyle and goals.
In-demand Degrees Offer a Competitive Edge
While earning a degree in nearly any subject can bolster your earning and advancement potential, entering an in-demand discipline may carry you even further. The Maine DOL projects that the following occupations should be among Maine's fastest growing careers between 2008 and 2018. We've also included each career's education requirements and 2009 mean annual wage in Maine, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Biomedical engineer. A bachelor's degree or beyond is recommended. Average salary: $73,360.
- Network systems and data communications analyst. A bachelor's degree or beyond is preferred, but may not be required. Average salary: $67,720.
- Financial examiner. A bachelor's degree or beyond is a must. Average salary: $64,280.
- Physician's assistant. An associate degree is a minimum requirement, but employers increasingly prefer bachelor's or master's degrees. Average salary: $85,950.
In a state where an increasing proportion of jobs require higher educational achievement, Maine online schools offer workers the tools to compete.