The 10 Fastest-Growing Jobs in America

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Over the past 10 years, the number of nonfarm workers rose by just 5%. But despite past decade’s painful recession and the slow job growth that has followed, several occupations have more than doubled the number of workers employed.

24/7 Wall St. compared employment figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for hundreds of occupations from 2002 and 2012. Service unit operator jobs in the energy industry quadrupled in that time. The nation’s aging population and changing energy needs played major roles in driving disproportionate job growth for many of the occupations listed. These are the 10 fastest-growing jobs in America.

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Many occupations with extreme job growth in the past few years owe at least part of their growth to the changing demographics of the United States. As the baby boom generation ages, many more people need help planning for retirement. This has driven growth of personal financial advisors jobs. Similarly, the need for personal care aides has grown because more people require help in their daily lives

An aging population also has driven job growth in many occupations that are not directly related to retirement planning and care. According to BLS Chief Regional Economist Martin Kohli, “The aging of the population is one of the factors that is driving the demand for massage therapists.” An aging population “is also a factor in the demand for coaches,” Kohli said. Many coaches work as instructors for leisure sports that retirees enjoy.

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The growing Hispanic population, in conjunction with expanding international trade, are also factors behind the rising number of interpreters and translators, according to the BLS and Kohli.

But not all job growth can be explained by demographic shifts. For both petroleum engineers and service unit operators in the resource industry, the nation’s two fastest-growing jobs, growth likely is due largely to changes in the energy sector. Both the rise in oil prices, as well as the need to produce from unconventional sources, such as shale oil, have been beneficial to workers in these occupations.

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To determine the jobs with the highest percentage growth in employment, 24/7 Wall St. compared data from the BLS's Occupational Employment Statistics program for both 2002 and 2012. Only jobs with an estimated 20,000 employees or more were included. The program is intended to be a sample of the overall workforce, and estimates are subject to sampling error. The program does not count self-employed workers. Data are collected by the program over the course of several years. Only occupations that existed in both 2002 and 2012 were considered, and any occupations split-up or consolidated between these periods were excluded. Further information on each occupation came from the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.

These are the 10 fastest-growing jobs in America.


10. Skin Care Specialists
> Pct. 10-year job growth:104%
> 10-year job growth: 16,230
> Total employed: 31,810
> Median annual pay: $28,640

The number of employed skin care specialists doubled in the 10 years ending in 2012. Specialists typically work in salons and spas, although many are self-employed. Among the services they provide are skin cleanings, advice on proper skin care and removal of unwanted hair. Vocational schools usually offer cosmetology programs, which skin care specialists typically complete. States typically require a license to work in the field. New skin care services and products have driven demand for such specialists.

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9. Personal Care Aides
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 118%
> 10-year job growth: 534,190
> Total employed: 985,230
> Median annual pay: $19,910

Personal care aides are in extremely high demand as the baby boom generation ages and the number of elderly Americans rises. But while the total number of such aides doubled between 2002 and 2012, with nearly a million working in the field as of 2012, it remains a high turnover job because of the typically low pay and the high emotional toll. Even the top 10% of home care workers earned just $27,580 last year, when the median wage for employees across all occupations was $34,750.

8. Personal Financial Advisors
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 128%
> 10-year job growth: 98,460
> Total employed: 175,470
> Median annual pay: $67,520

The increased number of aging baby boomers approaching retirement and looking to manage their savings and assets has been one of the main drivers behind the growth in personal financial advisor jobs. Another key driver has been the rise in private sector retirement planning as a result of pension shortfalls. The resulting cuts to retirees' benefits mean ever more individuals turn to financial planners in order to better plan for later in life. Becoming a financial advisor usually requires a bachelor’s degree. Backgrounds in math, accounting, economics, finance and law are all considered useful. Pay for many financial planners is quite high, with the top 25% of professionals taking home at least $111,450.

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7. Coaches and Scouts
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 130%
> 10-year job growth: 114,080
> Total employed: 201,800
> Median annual pay: $28,360

The number of coaches and scouts rose from less than 100,000 in 2002 to more than 200,000 in 2012. Several factors have driven job growth of coaches and scouts, and the same factors are expected to continue to drive further growth. A growing number of retirees with time to participate in sports such as golf and tennis is a major source of demand for coaches. But schools and universities are actually the largest source of jobs for coaches, according to the BLS. Job growth in college sports, especially women’s sports, is expected to be a key driver of employment growth in the field going forward.

6. Human Resources Specialists
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 134%
> 10-year job growth: 225,830
> Total employed: 394,380
> Median annual pay: $55,800

Human resources specialists’ duties involve recruiting, hiring and placing workers. The number of workers employed as human resources specialist rose by more than 225,000 between 2002 and 2012. One major factor contributing to job growth -- and that is expected to continue to contribute -- is the increase of firms in the employment services industry as companies outsource human resources tasks. Most human resources roles require a bachelor’s degree, and interpersonal skills are also very valuable.

5. Massage Therapists
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 162%
> 10-year job growth: 43,880
> Total employed: 71,040
> Median annual pay: $35,970

The reason for the growth in massage therapists jobs has been a rise in the number of spas and massage clinics, according to the BLS. The Bureau also cites an increase in the nation’s elderly population as contributing to demand for massage therapists. The median salary for employed massage therapists was just under $36,000 last year, but the majority are self-employed and most work only part time. The median hourly wage for a massage therapist was $17.29 in 2012.

4. Interpreters and Translators
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 171%
> 10-year job growth: 31,720
> Total employed: 50,320
> Median annual pay: $45,430

As international trade expands and globalization continues, the need for interpreters and translators should continue to rise, according to the BLS. Already, the number of employed translators has jumped from less than 20,000 in 2002 to more than 50,000 in 2012. As the nation’s Hispanic population grows, interpreters and translators also will be needed. Translation pay varies considerably. The top-paid 10% of translators earned more than $91,800 annually last year, while the bottom 10% earned less than $23,570.

3. Music Directors and Composers
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 178%
> 10-year job growth: 15,960
> Total employed: 24,940
> Median annual pay: $47,350

It seems that Americans’ thirst for music is on the rise. This should drive job growth of music directors and composers. Another factor driving job growth for this occupation is the expected greater need for original music scores or transcriptions used in commercials and movies. In addition to musical talent and mastery of a variety of instruments, those in this occupation, especially the ones writing and conducting classical music, usually have a bachelor’s degree. About 10% of music directors and composers earned less than $21,450 annually, while the top 10% made more than $86,110, a high annual income compared with the same top 10% of other occupations on this list.

2. Petroleum Engineers
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 227%
> 10-year job growth: 25,280
> Total employed: 36,410
> Median annual pay: $130,280

Petroleum engineers are some of the highest paid workers in the nation, with a median wage that exceeded $130,000 in 2012. Their work typically involves assessing and planning drilling operations, as well as determining the equipment and methods necessary to extract oil and natural gas in the most efficient way possible. Petroleum engineers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and must pass a licensing exam and have four years of work experience to be licensed. Oil prices play a major role in determining job outlook for petroleum engineers, partially because higher prices improve incentives to explore and produce oil from newer, more challenging sources. In the past decade, oil prices have risen dramatically, possibly accounting for much of the profession's estimated 227% job growth.

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1. Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas and Mining
> Pct. 10-year job growth: 365%
> 10-year job growth: 44,870
> Total employed: 57,180
> Median annual pay: $41,970

No occupation has grown faster than service unit operators working in natural resources extraction, where the number of workers jumped from just over 12,000 in 2002 to more than 57,000 in 2012. Workers in these fields typically are responsible for overseeing and maintaining wells and other technology used in extracting natural resources. Workers are most often employed in oil and gas producing states, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and North Dakota. There are several potential reasons for the profession’s explosive job growth, including rising energy prices and the increased extraction of non-conventional fuel sources.

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