WASHINGTON – Montgomery County had the most-educated population in the country in 2002, with 29.2 percent of residents there holding an advanced degree, the Census reported.
That helped give Maryland the second-highest education level among residents over age 25 — the category measured by the Census. The 14.1 percent of people in the state who hold a graduate or professional degree trailed only Massachusetts, where 14.5 percent of residents over age 25 had an advanced degree.
The District of Columbia topped all states on the list, with 23.6 percent of its over-25 population holding an advanced degree, compared to 9.4 percent nationwide.
“The quality of Maryland’s workforce has been one of our . . . distinguishing factors in promoting interstate commerce,” said David S. Iannucci, executive director of economic development for Baltimore County. “We’ve been talking about it for years.”
Howard County was fourth on the list of counties, with 24.7 percent of people there holding an advanced degree, trailing Fairfax County, Va., and New York County, N.Y., according to the data from the 2002 American Community Survey, which was released March 10.
Maryland had three other counties in the top 160: Baltimore County was tied for 60th at 12.9 percent; Anne Arundel County was tied for 67th at 12.3 percent; and Prince George’s County was 136th on the list, with 9.1 percent.
In Baltimore City, 8.5 percent of residents owned an advanced degree, good for 44th on the list of cities with populations over 250,000.
Government officials and employers cited many reasons for Maryland’s high numbers. Federal agencies that are based in the state, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, employ many advanced-degree holders, while universities like Maryland and Johns Hopkins churn out graduate students and recruit workers with advanced degrees.
The state also has a burgeoning high-tech industry.
But workers with advanced degrees can be found in a wide range of occupations, including real estate, medicine, law, biotech and the financial industry in Montgomery County, said Steven A. Robins, chairman of the county chamber of commerce.
“We’re very proud of that number,” Robins said of the county ranking. “The community really does pride itself on education, so it doesn’t surprise to me that people here are educated and motivated.”
And because higher-educated people tend to have higher levels of income, the result is a positive effect on the state’s economy, said Iannucci, a former secretary of economic development for the state.
“Maryland has had the strongest economy in the Mid-Atlantic region over the last five years, and it’s the workforce that makes it possible,” he said.
John Czajkowski, president of Management Recruiters in Annapolis, said only one-third to 40 percent of the people he placed in the last year had advanced degrees. His firm finds jobs for people in Maryland and all over the world.
Even an advanced degree does not ensure a job, Czajkowski said: Companies often use advance degrees only as a way to separate potential applicants for a job.
And sometimes, an advanced degree can hurt an applicant.
“Some employers feel advanced-degree people are ‘overqualified,’ which always amuses me,” said Czajkowski, noting that some applicants leave advanced degrees off their resumes to keep from scaring potential employers away.
But Czajkowski and others believe that the current makeup of the state’s workforce, plus an increase in job specialization, will keep Maryland and its counties among the leaders in degree-holders.
“There is a trend that’s catching on: As people see the workplace getting more competitive, they see it (an advanced degree) as a way to separate themselves,” he said. “The perception is, ‘The more education and advanced degrees I get, the better chance I have.'”
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