State of the Labor Market

These Jobs Have the Brightest Futures — and Pay Well Now

by

Healthcare jobs offer high pay and have strong prospects.

Key points:

  • The fastest-growing occupations with above-average pay are concentrated in healthcare and computer and mathematical roles, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.
  • Healthcare jobs such as occupational therapist assistant and physician assistant pay well today and are projected to grow as are titles such as information security analyst, statistician, and software developer.
  • For job seekers without a college degree, healthcare and energy are smart fields to go in to, with both sectors offering high pay and strong job growth.

Planning for the future can be daunting, particularly when it involves your career. The spectre of rapid technological change has many people concerned that their jobs may not exist in the future. However, not only are there many jobs that are set to grow quickly, but quite a few of them pay well now. And despite concerns about robots, many of these positions are in fields like healthcare which require human interaction and seem unlikely to be automated anytime soon. 

Well-paying jobs projected to grow rapidly involve healthcare and programming

A wide range of occupations will grow quickly over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two positions related to renewable energy — solar photovoltaic installer and wind turbine service technician — top the rankings, with jobs expected to grow roughly 60% from 2018 to 2028, far above the projected 5.2% growth rate for total employment. Four of the next five positions are in healthcare or social assistance, though median salaries for these occupations range drastically from $24,020 for personal care aides to $108,610 for physicians assistants.

But job seekers may not be focused primarily on growth — their first concern may be what they can earn right now. Two groups of jobs are clear high-payers today and also have bright futures: jobs related to healthcare, and those that use mathematics and computers.

Healthcare jobs and related occupations make up the majority of the 10 fastest-growing occupations that pay well now. Physician assistant and nurse practitioner both have median salaries above $100,000, and employment in both occupations is projected to grow more than 25% by 2028. 

The jobs of the future most people think of involve programming, statistics, and interacting with robots. This idea does contain grains of truth — occupations like statistician, application software developer, and information security analyst are three of the fastest-growing jobs that pay well now.

For job seekers without a college degree, healthcare and energy offer bright prospects

Many jobs with higher-than-average pay are projected to grow quickly, but only a few don’t require a four-year college degree. Wind turbine service technician, occupational therapy assistant, and physical therapist assistant are the only well-paying occupations among the 10 fastest-growing that don’t require a college degree. A bit less than 30% of occupations that don’t call for a college credential pay above the median. Among them are a number projected to grow rapidly.

For job seekers without a college degree, healthcare roles stand out for higher pay and strong growth potential. Half of the ten fastest-growing occupations are in that sector. The money might not be as good as in positions that require a four-year degree, but it’s still strong. For instance, physical therapist assistant, occupational therapy assistant, and respiratory therapist all have higher median annual pay than 64% of all occupations. 

Another group of well-paying jobs stands out for those who didn’t graduate from college. Wind turbine service technician and rotary drill operator, both related to the energy sector, have bright futures. And while both roles pay relatively well now, the growth outlook is much better for the occupation in renewable energy. Employment for wind turbine service technicians is projected to grow about 57% over the next decade compared with roughly 15% for rotary drill operators.  

There’s a future for well-paying work 

Some job seekers feel nervous about the future of their line of work, even those who may have just started their careers. International competition, and technological and structural changes may keep people up at night. But even though the job market has its challenges, some occupations — including many in healthcare and related fields — offer solid pay today and are projected to grow strongly. For job seekers hoping to maximize earnings now while securing their future, healthcare may be the place to look. 

Methodology

This analysis uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018-2028 Economic and Employment Projections. We only look at occupations with employment at or above the 10th percentile of occupations by employment to limit our analysis to jobs that are readily available today.

An occupation is considered well-paying if it is in the top half of occupations ranked by median annual wages. In 2018, the median annual wage for the occupation at the 50th percentile was $48,190.

An occupation is considered not requiring a college degree if the BLS has listed the “typical education needed for entry” for the occupation as “high school diploma or equivalent,” “associate’s degree,” “postsecondary nondegree award,” “no formal educational credential,” or “some college, no degree.”

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