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In attempting to ascertain which career fields will expand most rapidly in the coming years, while it’s certainly possible just to guess on the basis of anecdote (“my sister got hired as a dog groomer, and the people she talked to said there are more and more jobs like that opening up”) and common sense observations (“those virtual reality games seem really cutting edge; I’ll bet there will be a lot of jobs designing those”), what’s a lot better is to do some serious research and number crunching.

This is exactly what the good people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics do as a part of their job. The Bureau’s “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition” is an excellent source of information and analysis concerning job trends.

One of its most valuable features is its detailed listings of job categories and their expected increase or decrease. These projections are made on a decade-long basis, with the most recent being for the 2008-2018 period.

As a starting point for discussion, here are the top 20 such occupational categories, and the number of jobs they are projected to add over this ten year period:

Registered nurses: 581,500


Home health aides: 460,900


Customer service representatives: 399,500


Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food: 394,300


Personal and home care aides: 375,800


Retail salespersons: 374,700


Office clerks, general: 358,700


Accountants and auditors: 279,400


Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants: 276,000


Postsecondary teachers: 256,900


Construction laborers: 255,900


Elementary school teachers, except special education: 244,200


Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer: 232,900


Landscaping and groundskeeping workers: 217,100


Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks: 212,400


Executive secretaries and administrative assistants: 204,400


Management analysts: 178,300


Computer software engineers, applications: 175,100


Receptionists and information clerks: 172,900


Carpenters: 165,400

Now let’s take a look at a few things that are striking about the expected job trends:

1. Health care jobs are on the upswing.

A whopping four of the top nine jobs on the list are in the medical field. Various others that made the top 20 overlap with the medical field. (Hospitals, medical practices, health insurance companies, etc. certainly need bookkeepers, secretaries, and receptionists and the like.) If you have any interest, any aptitude at all for working in the health care field, your prospects for employment are excellent.

2. Jobs that can’t be outsourced are more likely to increase.

Note how many of the jobs on the list require being physically present. One partial exception is number 3 on the list, “customer service representatives.” A certain percentage of those jobs can be outsourced, if we’re talking about phone and e-mail customer service. English-speakers (or alarmingly often, people who only fit in that category in the loosest sense) located anywhere in the world are now pegged to do those jobs.

But for the most part, the jobs that are increasing the fastest are those one has to be present to do. To be an in-home health care worker, to work the counter at a fast food restaurant, to do the landscaping on a piece of property, one has to be physically at that location, not merely connected in some cyber/virtual/high tech/telecommunications/computer manner from some other country or continent.

3. High tech jobs don’t fare as well as expected.

If you were to ask people on the street who’ve never seen this data what jobs they think are increasing the fastest, probably most would pick all or mostly computer and technology-related jobs—”software this,” “computer that,” “systems whatever.”

But that’s not reflected at all on the actual list. Granted, elementary school teachers, accountants, office clerks, etc. use computers and related technology as tools in their work, but you have to go all the way down to number 18, “computer software engineers, applications,” to find a truly “tech” job.

4. “Low end” jobs are increasing the most.

Of the 20 occupational categories on the list, only five typically require as much as a bachelor’s degree, and only one or at most two typically require more education than a bachelor’s degree. Zero of the 20 pay median annual full time wages of $100,000 or more. Only five pay even $50,000. Seven pay less than $25,000. So we’re talking about a lot of jobs where even people who are lucky enough to be employed will likely be doing plenty of moonlighting, need a partner also working full time, have to scrape just to get by, or multiple of the above.

This is not to say higher education isn’t still hugely advantageous for getting a “good” job, but as far as just getting a job at all in the fastest growing fields, you typically would be better off stopping at a high school or associate’s degree, and focusing on internships and on the job training.

What this last point especially underscores is that there is a big difference between jobs that are increasing and jobs that are worth seeking. The fact that a lot of Xs will be needed in the next few years is merely one of many factors to take into account in deciding one’s future. You also have to look at how much a job pays, how intrinsically interesting and fulfilling you would find it, how dangerous it is, what ethical issues it would raise for you, and on and on.

But it certainly helps to know if a given job is dying out or on the rise. And the projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are quite useful in that regard.

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Comments on: "What Are the Fastest Growing Careers?" (1)

  1. I agree, if the current demand of these position are not addressed today they will still be in demand in the future. At Genesis Staffing we are currently recruiting for health care professionals (RNs,LCSW), CPAs and IT Specialist. Every time there is a change with health care laws you need more health care professionals. In addtion, when the tax laws change then there is a demand for CPAs and so on.

    Even though the demand is there to fill these type of positions, if the colleges and curriculums are not updated coupled with certifications the search is prolonged.

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