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How Black Americans Can Move From Low Wage to High Paying Jobs

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One of the major factors holding the Black community back is wage inequality. On average, white workers in the US get paid $10,000 more than Black workers. And despite Black workers making up about 13% of the US labor force, they earn only 9.6% of total salaries paid out in the US. 

Here are a few other striking statistics

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  • 43% of Black workers in the US earn less than $30,000 annually, compared to 29% of white workers. 
  • Only 3% of executives are Black. 
  • 42% of African American workers hold roles that could become obsolete by 2030, thanks to trends such as automation. Such positions include cashiers, janitors, and cooks. 

To put US wage disparity into perspective, if Black workers were compensated the same as their white counterparts and were proportionally represented in high-paying jobs, they would earn an extra $220 billion annually. Additionally, one million unemployed Black Americans would have jobs, and Black salaries would increase by 30%. 

Thanks to the racial reckoning in the wake of incidences like the George Floyd murder, there’s an ongoing push by the government and organizations to reduce the effects of racial discrimination. 

However, it might take decades for the effects of these initiatives to trickle down to every African American. 

This article will discuss what African Americans can do now to earn more

Black workers in the US are disproportionately represented in low-wage positions like waitresses and janitors. Image source: Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Upskilling and Reskilling Can Help Black Workers Move Into High-Paying Jobs

A sad fact is that Black workers are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage jobs. For example, while Black workers constitute 13% of the US labor force, 35% of nursing assistants are African American, with a median annual wage of $23,000. 

One factor that keeps Black Workers from high-paying jobs is that they don’t meet job requirements. For example, 76% of African American adults don’t have four-year degrees, automatically disqualifying them from jobs that require degrees. 

One solution to this is upskilling and reskilling, and there are several organizations helping African Americans gain in-demand skills. These include: 

Year Up 

Year Up is an organization that offers free skills-based training to equip students with in-demand skills. After students complete the training program, Year Up finds internship opportunities with big companies like Amazon and Bank of America, increasing the employability of the students. 

The organization offers other forms of support to help students get through the program. For example, they offer child care for mothers. 

They also equip students with soft skills like teamwork and public speaking. The program has had tremendous success, with 80% of its graduates finding work or enrolling in higher education. 

Below is a YouTube video showing success stories of four African Americans who successfully completed the program: 

Another solution to the wage gap problem is breaking the paper ceiling. Most Black Americans are locked out of high-wage jobs because they lack academic credentials. Yet a good number have acquired relevant skills through work experience.

Through skills-based hiring, African Americans can get jobs they’re qualified for without degrees. Opportunity@work is one of the organizations spearheading this trend. 

Black women are one of the most underrepresented groups in among executives. Image source: Christina Morillo via Pexels


The US has about 70 million adults who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STAR), including: 

  • Workforce training. 
  • Military service. 
  • Certificate programs. 
  • On-the-job learning. 
  • Community college. 
  • Bootcamps. 

A good number of STARs are skilled Black workers who can’t advance to higher-paying jobs because they lack bachelor’s degrees. 

Opportunity@work is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about STARs and connecting them to opportunities. This movement is made up of advocates, entrepreneurs, employers, and trainers who are all dedicated to breaking the paper ceiling. 

One of the organization’s solutions is Stellarworx, a marketplace that helps companies find STARs, as shown in the YouTube video below. 

Per Scholas

Per Scholas is an organization that helps people traditionally locked out of lucrative tech careers get jobs in the tech space. It equips students with tech skills and connects them to employers for free

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The organization equips students with skills in the following fields of tech: 

  • Systems support. 
  • Cybersecurity. 
  • Software engineering. 
  • Cloud technologies. 

Here’s the story of one of Per Scholas’ graduates: 

HBCU 20*20

HBCU is an acronym for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The HBCU 20*20 program offers a comprehensive solution comprising the following services:

  • Mock interviews to equip black job seekers with the skills necessary to ace interviews.
  • A job board that lists opportunities in companies that are committed to maintaining an inclusive workforce.
  • An apprenticeship program that enables Black workers to gain highly-marketable skills while getting paid.

Other organizations that provide similar services include: 

  • NPower, an organization that helps military veterans and young people from underserved communities get tech jobs. It operates in California, Maryland, Texas, Toronto, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Missouri. 
  • Project Quest. It provides individualized workforce training to equip students with in-demand skills and connect them to jobs in healthcare, IT, and advanced manufacturing
  • Merit America. This organization helps individuals build a tech career without quitting their day job. It provides in-demand skills in tech areas like Java development, data analytics, UX design, and IT support. 
  • Pursuit, an organization that helps adults with the most need and potential get their first tech jobs. 

People Also Read: Healthy Eating on a Budget: Tips for Black People to Improve their Diet

Entrepreneurship: The Outlook is Getting Better for Black Entrepreneurs 

Succeeding as a black entrepreneur in the US isn’t easy. Black businesses face all sorts of problems, from lack of capital to a disproportionate share of contracts. 

Despite the adversity, there’s a growing opportunity for black entrepreneurs. The black population continues to be underserved, and there’s high demand for products made for the black consumer

Additionally, as corporate America and the government try to tackle racial inequity, there are more funding opportunities for Black entrepreneurs

People Also Read: How to Access Capital as a Black Entrepreneur

Formerly-Incarcerated African Americans Can Receive Skills from Several Organizations 

15% of African American men have been imprisoned at one point, significantly reducing their employability. Of the Black women who have been incarcerated, 43.6% are likely to stay jobless. 

Fortunately, some organizations help formerly-incarcerated Black Americans acquire skills and get jobs. 

Homeboy Industries

Homeboy industries helps former gang members and the previously incarcerated by equipping them with skills and giving them jobs. One of the ways it does this is by offering such individuals jobs in social enterprises, where they can learn soft skills like customer service and vocational skills like solar panel installation

Anti-Recidivism Coalition

This organization helps the previously-incarcerated change and build a successful life outside prison and trains its students in the following areas: 

  • Computer-aided drafting and manufacturing. 
  • Electric vehicle maintenance. 
  • Soft skills. 
  • Financial literacy, including building credit and opening bank accounts. 
  • Project management. 

In addition to education and employment training, it provides services like:

  • Housing
  • Trauma-informed counseling
  • Case management. 
  • Mentorship. 

Other organizations and initiatives that help the formerly incarcerated get jobs include: 

  • The Fair Chance Pledge. This is a list of organizations that have pledged to give people with criminal records a fair shot at employment. 
  • Jails to Jobs. An organization that gives ex-offenders the resources they need to find jobs, including resume writing training, free clothes for interviews, and low-cost tattoo removal skills. 
  • Ban the Box States. This is a list of states that don’t include questions about conviction history in job applications. 
  • Center for Employment Opportunities. The nation’s largest reentry employment provider. 

People Also Read: 8 Black-Owned Bed and Breakfasts to Explore in the US

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Affiliate Disclosure: Some links on are affiliate links. If you click and purchase through these links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services we believe will provide value to our readers. Thank you for your support!
Timothy Mbiga
Timothy Mbiga
Timothy Mbiga is a specialist in written content with years of experience in writing and editing. He writes value-packed, engaging, and search-engine-optimized content and edits articles to ensure they communicate effectively and are easy to read. He practices a user-centered approach to content that involves understanding his audience and writing to solve their problems.


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