MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Half of all graduates from West Virginia's public colleges and universities who remain in the state were employed in two industries -- health care and education, a study found.
Published by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the study found that of the 115,730 college graduates from the previous 10 years, 48 percent were working in West Virginia in 2011. And among those who chose to remain in the state, 27 percent work in the health-care industry and 23 percent were employed in education.
Those with associate's degrees were the most likely to work in West Virginia, while graduates earning PhDs were the least likely, the study found.
The number of new graduates who found jobs in West Virginia increased every year, from 4,005 in 2001 to 7,988 in 2010.
"One of the primary ways that productivity increases is through the expansion of human capital," said WVU economist Eric Bowen, the report's author. "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."
Bowen said employment in health care is expected to continue rising in the foreseeable future.
While only about 1.5 percent of the college graduates were employed in mining, their wages were the highest in the study at average of nearly $66,000.
Average wages for all graduates working in the state was $41,577. The study said 38 percent of the graduates who worked in West Virginia were in Cabell, Kanawha and Monongalia counties. Counties with the highest average wages among graduates were Boone at $48,219 and Clay at $40,599. The lowest wages were found in Tucker County at $22,956.
Among all graduates working in or out of state, the study found the largest area of concentration was business, management and marketing.
Women composed more than 57 percent of the college graduates and also were more likely to work in the state than men.
"This report highlights the importance of the state's investment in higher education," said Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul L. Hill. "Such investment, especially in the state's financial aid programs, results in a highly educated work force that remains in-state following graduation.