Learning to earn

June 08, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Bev Fogtman had been working at Fort Detrick for six years doing mostly clerical work, but the Cearfoss-area woman wanted more opportunities and better pay.

So Fogtman, then 46, started taking classes at Shepherd College in 1999. She graduated on May 24.

"Once I received my bachelor of arts degree, I immediately got a raise at work," Fogtman said.

She also got a promotion to chief of administrative services in the medical division for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

With her four-year degree, Fogtman said she's on track for an annual raise of $5,000 to $10,000 a year until she reaches the cap.


A joint study between the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, generally speaking, the more education one gets the higher the average annual income.

Adults with a bachelor's degree in 2001 earned an annual average of $50,623 and those with a master's earned $63,592, according to the study.

Compare that to an average annual income of $26,795 for someone with a high school diploma and no college education.

Even some college education or a two-year associate's degree can boost income with the latter earning an average of $34,744.

"I feel it's very important that people get that education, get that degree," Fogtman said.

So she will encourage the employees she supervises to further their education as well, she said.

Fogtman is not done. She starts working toward a Master of Business Administration on Sept. 2 at Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center.

She said she hopes to retire from the federal government with an MBA she can use to start a consulting business.

"I feel that if I had my BA and my MBA I would be more marketable," Fogtman said.

Critical issue

Continuing education after high school is critical for the local work force, said Peggy Bushey, chairwoman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's Workforce Development Committee and president of Cavetown Planing Mill Co.

The biggest constraint on long-term growth in the Hagerstown area is the low level of educational attainment in the labor force, according to research by that Washington County Board of Education Chief Operating Officer Bill Blum obtained.

Less than 15 percent of the county's population ages 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree, compared to more than 24 percent nationwide, the study states. According to Census 2000, almost 9 percent of county residents 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree.'s report states that a poorly educated population attracts companies, such as call centers, looking for a low-skilled work force.

Literacy concerns

EDC Chairman Doug Wright said the commission is trying several ways to increase the county's potential work force, including the number of workers with bachelor's degrees.

EDC officials are concerned about how many county residents are illiterate and that the number of residents who don't have a high school diploma outnumber the people with a bachelor's degree, Wright said.

According to Census 2000, 20,070 Washington County residents 25 or older didn't have a high school diploma, while 7,992 residents had a bachelor's degree.

According to a 1992 State of Literacy in America study, 17 percent of Washington County's population was Level I illiterate. That translates into about a fourth-grade reading level, said Kathleen O'Connell, assistant director with Washington County Free Library.

EDC officials know many county residents with college degrees are commuting outside the county to work, Wright said. They are part of the available work pool that could choose to stay in the county if an employer was looking for college-educated workers, he said.

One of the EDC's main goals is to attract high-paying jobs to Washington County. Often, that could mean technical jobs.

High-tech companies will typically be looking for workers with college degrees, EDC Executive Director Tim Troxell said.

It's hard to say what influence the educational level of the county's residents plays in a company's decision on whether to locate in the county, Wright said. It's possible some companies don't contact the EDC for more information because they see statistics that show the scarcity of residents with college degrees or even a high school diploma, he said.

It is hoped that the coming University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center will pay off for companies looking to locate in the county and help employees with existing companies get more skills, Troxell said.

To bring in those higher-paying jobs, the county will need a more highly educated work force, said Troxell and schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

The EDC is working on that with the School Board, Hagerstown Community College and area four-year schools, Troxell said.

The Herald-Mail Articles