More than half of all graduates of West Virginia’s public colleges and universities in the last 10 years were employed in just two industries, according to a new study published by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Of the 55,675 graduates in the study who worked in the state, 27.1 percent were employed in health care, and another 23.4 percent were employed in education. The share of workers in health care has been on the rise in recent years, and is up about 1.5 percentage points from last year’s report.

“Health care is an increasingly attractive industry for the state’s college graduates,” said Eric Bowen, an economist at BBER, which operates in the WVU College of Business and Economics, and author of the report. “We expect employment in this sector to continue to rise for the foreseeable future.”

Click here to download the report.

The report is titled From Higher Education to Work in West Virginia 2011 and provides extensive analysis of the work participation and wages for graduates of the state’s public institutions of higher education during the past 10 years. The results are broken down by degree earned, area of concentration, gender and experience, among other criteria.

“This report highlights the importance of the state’s investment in higher education,” said Dr. Paul L. Hill, Chancellor, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “Such investment, especially in the state’s financial aid programs, results in a highly-educated workforce that remains in-state following graduation. Higher education institutions are to be applauded for creating a culture of community and student engagement that results in a long-term commitment to local communities and the entire state. Such commitment translates into an increasingly skilled workforce for business and industry and economic prosperity for the state.”

Though the mining sector plays an outsized role in the state’s employment overall, that sector represents a smaller employer for the state’s college graduates. The sector employs about 1.5 percent of college graduates, compared with 4.9 percent of all state workers. However, wages for college graduates are the highest in the mining sector at $65,793.

“Even as health care takes up a larger share of workers,” Bowen said, “mining remains an important industry for the state’s graduates of higher education.”

Some other highlights of the report include:

  • Of the 115,730 students who graduated in the last 10 years, 48.1 percent of them were working in West Virginia in 2011; the average annual wage of all graduates working in the state was $41,577;
  • The largest area of concentration among all West Virginia graduates in the past 10 years is business, management, and marketing with 18,434 graduates;
  • Graduates who earned associate’s degrees were the most likely to work in West Virginia after graduation, while those earning PhDs were the least likely to work in the state; and
  • Women made up more than 57 percent of the college graduates in West Virginia in the last 10 years, and were also more likely to work in the state than men.

Bowen said that keeping leading college graduates in West Virginia is important to the state’s growth and productivity.

“One of the primary ways that productivity increases is through the expansion of human capital,” said Bowen. “Colleges and universities are a key part of the infrastructure that produces human capital and, thus, retention of graduates educated in West Virginia’s public higher education institutions is a critical concern for the state.”

To read the complete BBER report or for further information on the WVU College of Business and Economics, please visit



Follow @WVUToday and the WVU College of Business and Economics at @wvucobe on Twitter.

CONTACT: Patrick Gregg; College of Business and Economics; 304.293.5131