The Best Job Opportunities of the Future


With an unemployment rate still stuck above 8% and much talk about a mismatch between worker skills and the jobs available, many people are trying to scope out the fields that will have many job openings in the future. Many college graduates are struggling to find work and are saddled with student loan debt, prompting many colleges to shift resources to fields that are expected to be in high-demand in the future. Many who are currently unemployed or underemployed are seeking training in different fields where the jobs are considered “hot.”

This content was originally published on 24/7 Wall St. 

To find the jobs that will be in highest demand, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the occupations that will have the most job openings in this decade. The professions on this list are very diverse, consisting of both white-collar and blue-collar jobs. They also require a wide range of educational achievement. For instance, a glazier needs just a high-school diploma to break into the field, but a statistician requires a postgraduate college education. Similarly, the pay spectrum for jobs on this list is quite wide. The median pay for a pest control worker was just $30,340 in 2010. Meanwhile, the median pay for a natural science manager was $116,020.

24/7 Wall St. was primarily interested in looking at openings for occupations where people usually work full-time and without frequent turnover. Therefore, we decided to exclude occupations where the median pay in 2010 was less than $30,000, thus discounting many occupations that will see many job openings. Without this salary floor, most of the occupations on this list would be low-skilled, low-wage jobs, such as home health aides, personal care aides and food concession workers. In fact, only two jobs on this current list would have made the list if we didn’t impose the $30,000 minimum pay.

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For some professions, considerable job growth between 2010 and 2020 is the main driver behind the job openings. While there were only 41,900 glaziers as of 2010, 17,700 positions will be added by 2020, accounting for more than half of the job openings during that time. In other professions, most of the job openings are simply the result of normal turnover cycle. While there will be 18,700 job openings for statisticians, only 3,500 jobs will be added to the 25,100 people already working in the profession, with the remaining openings meant to replace existing workers.

24/7 Wall St. looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on more than 1,000 different occupations. In addition to excluding jobs with median pay below $30,000, we also chose to exclude jobs employing fewer than 20,000 people as of 2010 in order to represent jobs that will clearly provide opportunity for many individuals in the future. From there, we ranked the professions based on the number of job openings projected between 2010 and 2020 as a percentage of the 2010 headcount in that specific field. We also calculated the number and percentage of those openings due to added positions as well as replacing current employees. Finally, we considered factors such as industry, median salary and credentials of these professionals to provide context on the types of jobs likely to see many openings.

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These are the 10 best job opportunities of the future.

10. Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, Including Health > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 65.9% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 19,500 > Median annual wage: $41,380

According to the BLS, environmental science and protection technicians “monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting health.” Between 2010 and 2020, about 19,500 positions are projected to become available. The majority of these openings, roughly 12,500, are expected to address replacement needs as technicians retire or otherwise leave the profession. Other openings will be due to job growth, as the public becomes increasingly conscious of protecting the environment. Those looking for a job as a technician usually need an associate’s degree.

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9. Insulation Workers > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 67.5% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 34,700 > Median annual wage: $35,110

Insulation workers handle, install and dispose of fiberglass and foam insulation in buildings. Where asbestos is present, workers trained in removing hazardous material are used to remove the asbestos before insulators may install new insulation. Between 2010 to 2020, the BLS projects 34,700 more insulator jobs to become available. Of these projected openings, 20,300 are expected to address replacement needs as workers leave the profession due to the physical irritation caused by insulation as well as difficult working conditions. Demand for new positions is expected to come from increases in home-building as well as the need to make existing buildings more energy-efficient.

8. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 67.8% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 191,800 > Median annual wage: $60,570

Market research analysts study market conditions, as well as sales and pricing trends of products and services. Between 2010 and 2020, a projected 191,800 analyst positions will have to be filled. Of these openings, 116,600 are expected come from job growth, as demand for market data and research increases.The remaining 75,200 of openings are expected to address job turnover and attrition. Most positions for market research analysts typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, though many analyst positions require a master’s degree.

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7. Natural Science Managers > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 68% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 33,500 > Median annual wage: $116,020

Natural science managers direct and supervise research projects for biologists, physicists and chemists. Most are former scientists who have taken on management roles, and many conduct their own research as well as supervise others. The BLS projects 33,500 openings for natural science managers will have to be filled by 2020. Just 3,800 of those are projected to come from the growth of new jobs, as research and development operations are outsourced to specialized firms. The remaining 29,700 are expected to address replacement needs. Finding replacements may be difficult, as the prerequisites include at least five years work experience and a bachelor’s degree.

6. Optometrists > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 68.4% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 23,400 > Median annual wage: $94,990

The number of optometry jobs is expected to grow from the 34,200 jobs in 2010 to 45,500 jobs in 2020, an increase of 33.1%. The BLS projects 23,400 job openings will have to be filled, with 11,300, or just under half, to job growth. The other 12,100 openings, representing 35.4% of the current headcount, will arise due to replacement needs. But you better like school if you want one of these optometry jobs. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree, optometrists must earn a doctorate in optometry, which takes an additional four years. The median pay of $94,990 is the 36th highest of all professions, but it is far smaller than the pay of physicians. The median pay for doctors in primary care was $202,392, while the pay for those in medical specialties was $356,885.

5. Interpreters and Translators > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 69% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 40,300 > Median annual wage: $43,300

Becoming an interpreter or translator is not easy, usually requiring a bachelor’s degree, and above all else, fluency in English and at least one other language. Additionally, work experience is critical as many employers will only hire interpreters and translators with past work history. Some 40,300 openings for interpreters and translators are expected to become available between 2010 and 2020 as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse and international trade expands. Though roughly 24,600 of these openings will come from new growth, the remaining 15,700 positions, roughly equal to 27% of the 2010 workforce, will be needed to replace previous workers. Many established interpreters and translators also have the option of working for themselves, as 22.9% were self-employed in 2010.

4. Pest Control Workers > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 70.9% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 48,500 > Median annual wage: $30,340

Pest control workers use traps, fumigants and various other methods to remove rats, roaches, bedbugs and other unwanted creatures from buildings. Between 2010 and 2020, the BLS estimates that the number of pest control workers will increase by 26.1%, as “population growth, particularly in the South, where pests are more common, should result in more buildings that will require additional pest management.” However, while there are projected to be 48,500 openings between 2010 and 2020, 30,600 of these will address replacements needs as workers leave the industry. Among possible reasons for such high turnover: work schedules that often include weekend and evening hours and an increased likelihood of injury and illness due to exposure to pest control chemicals.

3. Statisticians > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 74.5% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 18,700 > Median annual wage: $72,830

Statisticians work in virtually every field that requires the collection, aggregation and analysis of large amounts of data. In 2010, there were roughly 25,100 statisticians employed in the U.S. By 2020, the number of statisticians is projected to increase by roughly 3,500, as statistical analysis becomes a more commonly used tool in decision-making. However, between 2010 and 2020, 15,200 positions will be filled just to meet replacement needs — a figure that is equal to roughly 75% of 2010 employment. The issue of high turnover is probably unrelated to salary, however, as the median annual wage for statisticians is $72,830.

2. Glaziers > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 79.7% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 33,400 > Median annual wage: $36,640

Glaziers, the BLS explains, “install glass in windows, skylights, storefronts, and display cases to create distinctive designs or reduce the need for artificial lighting.” The number of job openings for glaziers between 2010 and 2020 is projected to reach 33,400, or 80% of the total number of glaziers employed in 2010. Of these openings, roughly 17,700 can be attributed to job growth as glass is increasingly used in construction and glass windows become more energy efficient. However, another 15,700 job openings will be needed simply to replace former glaziers, as the occupation remains exceptionally physically demanding and has a particularly high rate of injury due to cuts from glass and tools as well as from falls.

1. Actuaries > Future job openings as a pct. of 2010 employment: 87.1% > New openings, 2010 to 2020: 18,900 > Median annual wage: $87,650

An actuary analyzes the financial costs of risk for individuals and organizations, using a combination of statistics and financial theory to make projections. While there were only 21,700 actuaries in the U.S. as of 2010, there will be 18,900 new job openings in this field by the end of the decade. However, only 5,800 of those new openings, or slightly less than 31%, will be derived from job growth. The other 13,100 actuary openings will be available to replace those leaving the field, meaning more than six of 10 actuaries won’t remain in the field during the decade. Once a person graduates from college and finishes actuarial exams, he or she can expect to make a decent income. The median annual pay of $87,650 is better than accountants and auditors, whose median income is $61,690, and budget analysts, whose median income is $68,200.