Want a Pay Raise? Get a PhD or a Trucker’s License

The reports on wage stagnation in the United States are troubling. The share of wages as part of the G.D.P.  – 43.5 percent — slumped to an all-time low in 2012. While compensation for Wall Street executives and sports stars increases, it’s almost impossible to find an industry where wage earners are seeing a rise in income — except for truck drivers and the academic elite.

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times points out that, among other things, professors holding a PhD and dependable truck drivers are two entities that cannot be replaced by lower-cost alternatives. You can’t outsource work that depends on skills of this kind, and it’s impossible to move real materials and teach students using a computer. For the near future, these industries will see wages holding steady or rising.

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Shipping and transportation will never be out of demand until items can be teleported long distances with the press of a button. As of now, there is no technology able to pull off such a feat. When looking at the rising salaries of high-level college professors, it’s slightly more difficult to see the reason behind the growth in wages. For one thing, the proliferation of online universities would suggest there is less of a need for full-time professors. Yet online universities are limited on several counts.

For one, employers do not respect online education as they do classical university training. Therefore, the professors that draw crowds to lectures like rock stars should continue to see their stock rise. Job hunters who have in-person training at university levels are guaranteed to earn more than their peers taught online. As long as the top-shelf professors remain the only ones capable of sharing their wisdom, their wages will rise.

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Online universities have bigger problems than their overall perception. Faculty members within universities are also pushing back on efforts to expand schools’ presence in online education. The industries of higher education and trucking appear safe from the stagnant trends affecting the rest of the workforce. Anyone out of work would do well to get a license to drive a truck, or a master’s degree — as long as it’s not from an online university.

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