It’s a great time to get a job. The national unemployment rate is holding steady at 5 percent (the lowest it’s been since 2008) and in some fields jobs are opening up twice as fast as they can be filled. Healthcare is booming. Baby Boomers are in their 50s, 60s, and 70s; more Americans grapple with chronic health problems (diabetes, obesity); and as more people get health insurance, they seek more medical care. Add it all up and 19 of the top 30 fastest growing occupations are in healthcare or personal care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of course it’s not rosy everywhere—it’s not a good time to be a farmer or in manufacturing or working for the U.S. Postal service, for example.
How do economists and employment experts figure out which jobs will be the most in-demand? The BLS, which releases 10-year projections every other year, focuses on long-term trends, looking at which occupations are likely to have the most new jobs or highest turnover rates. Analysts looks at both job growth (which careers will have the biggest numbers of new jobs opening up) and rate of growth (which careers will show the biggest percentage increase in jobs). So the demand for commercial divers is expected to grow by 37 percent over the next decade, but because it’s a small field that means only 1,600 new jobs will open up, explains Emily Richards, an economist with BLS’s Office of Employment Projections.
But of course life isn’t just about work. It’s about where you live, too, and the jobs in highest demand vary from place to place. “It really depends on what industries are driving that region,” says Josh Wright, director of marketing for Economic Modeling Specialists International, a labor market data and research firm. “Think about San Jose versus Detroit. The industries driving those economies are vastly different, and that affects what type of workers you need.”
And, as with most things in life, random events can change everything. “Something like Hurricane Katrina or the BP oil spill have effects on the job market no one could foresee,” Wright says.
Here, a sampling of some of the best jobs and where to get them:
Cartographers and photogrammetrists
Oh, mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map—the need for people who gather and interpret geographic information to make maps will bloom by 30 percent by 2024. The much-faster-than-average growth is driven by the need for maps in everything from managing government lands to the ever-growing number of mobile and web-based mapping tools, says BLS’s Emily Richards. Photogrammetry (from photo meaning “light,” gram meaning “drawing,” and metry meaning “measurement”) is the science of taking measurements from photos—think aerial photos taken from a plane or satellite—and then creating maps or 3D models. Cartographers and photogrammetrists make good money: a median annual salary of $60,930 (as of May 2014). And they’re in high demand in some highly desirable areas: Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Anaheim, California.
Home health aides
You don’t need a medical degree or even a bachelor’s degree to get into a field that’s on almost every list: most job growth, fastest-growing jobs, best jobs, top jobs. Demand for home health aides will grow by 38% in the next ten years, adding more than 348,000 new jobs. Credit all those aging Baby Boomers, and our love of sweets and fattening foods (and chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity). Home health aides do exactly what the job suggests: they help people who have health issues do what they need to get through the day—from changing bandages to running errands to making meals. Home health aides work in people’s houses, in group homes, and in daycare programs. The median annual wage is $21,380. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Cleveland top the list of metro areas with the most home health aides.
Applications software developers
Application software can help people do their jobs, or it can be a game, or it could be what drives the navigation system in your car. Anything you do with a computer is an application. But “computer” these days means a lot of things: a traditional workstation, a smart phone, a toaster, a robot, a drone. There are computers embedded in everything, and every one of them run “application software.” So, it’s no surprise that the people who design and create that software are in high demand. “Often the best jobs from year to year are pretty similar,” says EMSI’s Josh Wright, and software developers routinely top most lists. BLS predicts there will be more than 135,000 new jobs in software development by 2024. While a bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level positions, the money can’t be beat: a median annual wage of $95,510. Seattle, New York City, San Jose, DC, Chicago and Boston employ the most software developers.