Washington's evolution from a logging past to a knowledge-based future is well underway, set in motion by local pioneers such as tech giant Microsoft. Today, the greater Seattle area is the commercial epicenter of the Pacific Northwest, with vibrant high tech, biotechnology and trade sectors. From Seattle to Spokane, Washington's career environment increasingly favors college graduates with the skills to manage, lead and innovate.
Living and working in Washington
Washington's economy is on the rebound after employment declines in 2009 and 2010. The State of Washington's 2011 Long-Term Economic and Labor Force Forecast predicts an annual average growth rate of 1.3 percent for the 2011 to 2030 period. Innovation in the state's diverse tech sectors and rising demand for health care are among the forces working in favor of Washington's recovery.
The State of Washington's 2011 forecast sees continued growth in professional and business services, including legal, accounting, engineering, software development, and research and development, with 2.9 percent average annual growth in the coming two decades. Manufacturing and logging are expected to continue to decline, however. Unemployment in Washington is still a relatively high 8.5 percent as of December 2011.
Life in Washington looks very different for residents west and east of the Cascades. College-level career opportunities are concentrated in western cities such as Olympia, Seattle and Tacoma. Cost of living is significantly higher than the national average in the west and much lower in the east. The ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which sets the national average at 100, ranks Seattle a high 123 and Spokane an affordable 93. Statewide, the average household income is a relatively high $56,479 and the median value of owner-occupied housing is $277,600, well above the $185,400 national average.
Earning a Washington online degree
A college degree is the ticket into Washington's knowledge economy. Washington's Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board predicts that the state economy will continue to generate good jobs, but Washingtonians will need higher levels of education and training to take advantage of new opportunities. The state's college attainment rate is on the rise; as of 2009, Washington was the 11th best educated state, with 31 percent of residents holding a bachelor's degree.
Washington online schools offer state residents a means to retool their skill set for the new economy -- no matter where in the state they live. The state of Washington has sponsored legislation and special programs to help rural residents pursue a Washington online degree.
Career prospects for graduates of Washington online schools
Graduates of Washington online schools can look forward to skilled career opportunities in high-growth industries such as health care, hospitality, information and business services. Examples include (salary and job-growth information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics):
- Aerospace engineer: Washington is the third-largest employer of aerospace engineers in the U.S., with about 6,460 jobs. Prospects are bright for aerospace research and development, according to the 2011 Economic Forecast. Average Washington salary in 2010: $95,080. Degree: B.S. in aerospace engineering.
- Software developer: Software development plays a central role in Washington's success story. Between 1990 and 2010, employment in this sector grew at an annual rate of 10.2 percent, according to the 2011 State report. Growth will persist at an annual rate of 3.3 percent over the next 20 years. Average Washington salary in 2010: $101,930 in systems; $94,350 applications. Degree: B.S. in computer science or software development.
- Registered nurse: Healthcare is the fastest growing industry sector in Washington. Average Washington salary in 2010: $73,680. Degree: Associate or bachelor's degree in nursing.
Washington online schools offer career-focused, affordable education in a state with growing opportunities for college grads. An online degree can be your start toward a rewarding future in Washington.