Carpe Diem

Only one of the top 9 occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade (nursing) requires a 4-year college degree

Rank Occupation Entry-Level Education Jobs in 2010 (1,000s) Jobs in 2020 (1,000s) Increase (1,000s)
1 Registered Nurses BA 2,737.4 3,449.3 711.9
2 Retail Salespersons Less than HS 4,261.6 4,968.4 706.8
3 Home Health Aides Less than HS 1,017.7 1,723.9 706.3
4 Personal Care Aides Less than HS 861.0 1,468.0 607.0
5 Office Clerks, General High School 2,950.7 3,440.2 489.5
6 Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food Less than HS 2,682.1 3,080.1 398.0
7 Customer Service Representatives High School 2,187.3 2,525.6 338.4
8 Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers High School 1,604.8 1,934.9 330.1
9 Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand Less than HS 2,068.2 2,387.3 319.1
10 Postsecondary Teachers Doctoral 1,756.0 2,061.7 305.7
11 Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants High School 1,505.3 1,807.2 302.0
12 Childcare Workers High School 1,282.3 1,544.3 262.0
13 Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks High School 1,898.3 2,157.4 259.0
14 Cashiers Less than HS 3,362.6 3,612.8 250.2
15 Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education BA 1,476.5 1,725.3 248.8
16 Receptionists and Information Clerks High School 1,048.5 1,297.0 248.5
17 Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners Less than HS 2,310.4 2,556.8 246.4
18 Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers Less than HS 1,151.5 1,392.3 240.8
19 Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing High School 1,430.0 1,653.4 223.4
20 Construction Laborers Less than HS 998.8 1,211.2 212.4
21 Medical Secretaries High School 508.7 718.9 210.2
22 Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers High School 1,424.4 1,627.8 203.4
23 Carpenters High School 1,001.7 1,197.6 196.0
24 Waiters and Waitresses Less than HS 2,260.3 2,456.2 195.9
25 Security Guards High School 1,035.7 1,230.7 195.0
26 Teacher Assistants High School 1,288.3 1,479.3 191.1
27 Accountants and Auditors BA 1,216.9 1,407.6 190.7
28 Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses High School 752.3 920.8 168.5
29 Physicians and Surgeons Doctoral 691.0 859.3 168.3
30 Medical Assistants High School 527.6 690.4 162.9

The chart above shows the 30 occupations that are expected to experience the largest job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to employment forecasts from the BLS. Between 2010 and 2020, the BLS estimates that the total number of U.S. jobs will increase by 20.4 million, from 143 million in 2010 to 163.5 million by 2020. The number of jobs created this decade in the top 30 fastest growing occupations – 9.3 million – will represent almost half of all of the new jobs created by 2020.

What’s really interesting is that only five of the top 30 occupations expected to create the most jobs by 2020 require a college degree or more (nursing, post-secondary teachers, elementary school teachers, accountants and physicians), and ten of the fastest growing occupations don’t even require a high school diploma. Moreover, of the top nine occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade, only one (nursing) requires a 4-year college degree.

The total amount of student loan debt carried by college graduates now exceeds $1 trillion for the first time, and many college graduates are having trouble finding jobs. Given the job forecasts for this decade, perhaps this is more evidence that we’ve completely oversold the value of a 4-year college degree, at least for many of the college majors. Students graduating from college this decade with degrees in nursing, education or accounting will have great career opportunities, but many of their classmates may not be so fortunate (unless they go to medical school or get a doctoral degree).

33 thoughts on “Only one of the top 9 occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade (nursing) requires a 4-year college degree

    • One new one, it looks like chained CPI will pass and become law!

      Damn retirement recipients have been getting rich on the taxpayers back for decades since inflation has been so badly overstated.

      • I was thinking the same thing“…

        Well ron h there are worse things one can do with one’s time…

        Physically its not a demanding job, you work in the shade and maybe in air conditioning, and last but not least you get to work with things that go bang and can make big ragged holes in targets…

        Its all good or so it seems…

      • “…

        Good point hydra

        Today as thing stand right now (I checked it out this past Oct.) that isn’t to much of a problem here in Missouri between the stand and federal forms…

        Next week you could be spot on though…

  1. “Only one of the top 9 occupations expected to create the most jobs this decade (nursing) requires a 4-year college degree”.

    Hasn’t this been the norm for many decades? Many occupations lower on the list provide far fewer jobs and are highly specialized, whereas many of those near the top don’t require as specialized or expensive an education.

    • Good job of thinking beyond the numbers.

      If the BLS had grouped all computer occupations together, then that job group would be included on the list of 30 occupations with the greatest expected growth. But the BLS provides separate job categories for database administrators, computer programmers, software developers, network administrators, information security analysts, etc. So none of those highly skilled occupations appear on this list.

      Casual readers might use this BLS list to state that:
      - college degrees are overvalued;
      - the demand in the future will be for unskilled grunt jobs;
      - all the good jobs are going overseas.

      You did not make that mistake, kleht. I applaud your analysis skills.

  2. So the biggest growth in jobs requires a high school diploma, but not a college degree. Meanwhile we’re encouraging more and more people to borrow large sums to get that college degree while allowing more and more people to drop out of high school. Only government could read its own research and pursue policies that are counter to what the research says.

  3. This is a fascinating post.

    Back when I was in high school (pre-disco era) I read some similar charts. The big demand then, and for the future, was for unskilled grunt jobs.

    Yet the teachers were telling all the kids “you can be whatever you way to be.”

    Then who would drive all the trucks and clean bedpans?

    Of course, there is a sinister truth in these numbers (for certain people anyway): No matter what, most Americans will end up in unskilled grunt jobs that do not pay much or require much creativity or thought.

    Given that reality, people should push for six weeks off a year as a Constitutional right.

  4. “…this is more evidence that we’ve completely oversold the value of a 4-year college degree…”

    Although, generally, a four-year degree is overvalued, a more educated workforce increases productivity, quality of work, and competition.

  5. Noted that most of them are low-skill, entry level jobs. Important jobs for starting out or extra money after retirement, but won’t support a person to much more than poverty level.

  6. This list contains many bad jobs – where workers are generally distrusted and despised in ways best described as Victorian, Feudal, or Southern(which now includes Michigan, sadly). These jobs generally go to workers that do not necessarily want them but have no real way to choose anything else.

    If businesses took to morale like they once did before GE dropped the Neutron Bomb on its workforce (and thus opening the gates to today’s worse conditions) we would have less care about the requirements. Someone could be proud of their work knowing that the company was on their side – without fear of retribution. Work would not be done based on evasion of a law but by how it needed to be done.

    • A lot of these jobs are entry-level service jobs, so it makes sense that they are the fastest growing. It would be a mistake to take this as a static piece of information. People may start out as a janitor or waitress, but that doesn’t mean they will forever be stuck in that.

      I mean, I started out busing tables and delivering pizzas. Now I am an economist. I’m sure you’ve done some entry-level jobs, as has Dr. Perry and President Obama and Methinks and Morganovich. Hell, Colin Powell started his career sweeping floors.

        • Not really. This tells us a great deal:

          1) We are a more service-oriented economy (as further evidenced by mfg’s share of GDP)

          2) There will be more opportunities for American youth employment (as youth make up much of the service entry level jobs, especially in Leisure & Hospitality and Retail) as well as low-skilled workers.

          3) These jobs account for only half of the BLS’ estimate of new jobs created. That means that the other half make up other types of opportunities for workers.

          What this doesn’t tell us, however, is mobility. We cannot look at these numbers and assume that everyone who takes a job as, say, a janitor will remain a janitor. He may work his way up the maintainers’ career ladder, maybe even making Department Head one day.

          Paul Krugman made an excellent point a few months ago when talking about the supposed 46% who don’t pay taxes: they are not the same people year in and year out. As people grow and acquire more skills, their pay increases. They move out of the lower-paying jobs and into higher paying ones. Sure, maybe not all do this (though lack of ambition or whatever), but most do.

          Personally, I see no problem with this chart (assuming the predictions are correct, of course). If this chart were to say that, say, highly-skilled surgeons and lawyers were the major groups, I’d say “uh-oh.” We don’t have the highly-skilled people needed to fill those jobs (yet). We’d have a large(r) skills gap going forward.

          What this chart shows is this: The service sector is growing. As it expands, the highly-skilled people grow, and they will need support staff.

          I don’t have any evidence to support this, but I bet if we were to look at BLS studies like this from the past, we’d see similar numbers: support staff growing the fastest. This just makes sense to me. Let’s assume that one doctor needs 3 assistants: a nurse, a secretary, and a janitor. For every doctor job created, there would be 3 other jobs created of less skill. Is this a bad thing? Nah.

  7. Are projections for job growth very valid?

    In 1992, how many website developers did the BLS project would be needed in 2002?

    In 2002, how many oil and gas derrick and rotary drill operators did the BLS project would be needed in the U,S. in 2012?

    In the midle of the real estate boom in 2006, do you think the BLS may have overstated the requirement for real estate agents in 2016?

    Obviously, some job growth is highly predicitble. We know how many children were born the past ten years, so predicting the future reuirement for educators is fairly simple. We can project the future number of nursing home patients, so predicting the number of nursing aides and orderlies is not so difficult.

    On the other hand, does the BLS really know how many retail cashiers will be displaced by self-service checkouts over the next decade?

  8. i’m not quite sure this is the right way to look at it.

    if we put together a list of the BEST 30 jobs, i suspect pretty much all would require a degree.

    you get a degree to get into a more interesting and better paying field with more career potential, not to find the most plentiful jobs.

    my understanding is that the gap in pay (especially 10 years on) between those with degrees and those without continues to widen.

    that does not invalidate the argument that too many people are getting degrees.

    if 30% of jobs are great jobs and 50% of people get degrees to chase them, that does still leave a gap. if you are a 50th percentile guy, just getting a degree does not ensure anything but the money you spent on it.

    to a certain extent this obsession with college degrees seems like cargo cult thinking. i suspect that when 15% of people got degrees, they all tended to be in the top 20-25% for intelligence and work ethic. just getting a degree does not put you in that group.

    • morganovich, everyone’s idea of “best” is different (pay, hours and flexibility, working conditions, education needed, union or non-union . . .). Some students know what they want, and some don’t. I advise students at a career college now in certificate, associate degree or bachelor degree and program choices. Here’s a neat BLS Handbook where you can search some choices of best.

  9. As noted above, all the computer related specialties are splattered across multiple categories, depressing the ranking of high-tech computing employment.
    But what’s more significant and disturbing is that, while Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides show the greatest gross and percentage gains in numbers, the wages are depressingly low ($19.6K and $20.6K, respectively).

    Undoubtedly, secure employment after high school at this wage scale is preferable to earning the same amount and owing a boatload for your LGBT-studies degree, but it’s hardly the road to the middle class.

    Think I’ll fire up Netflix and watch some reruns of “Raising Hope.”

    • I’m not so disturbed by those wages, Mike. Employers have no choice but to pay people what they are worth. The alternative to low wages is offshoring and automation.

      I’ve known many folks who, starting careers as full timne workers in low wage jobs, eventually acquired skills which increased their value to employers. I think such workers can reach the middle class. Perhaps not in California and Massachusetts. But the median wages being quoted are the wages paid in Indiana and North Carolina. The middle class wage level for a two worker household is not too much higher than $20K.

  10. As they say, it doesn’t matter how many jobs there are as long as there’s at least one. I’d prefer to focus on jobs that actually pay a living wage.

    There’s nothing on that list with less than a BS that meets such criteria.

  11. I like to see a HS grad that can make accurate change as a cashier or waitress. Or a HS grad that can read a square to figure out the pitch of a roof as a carpenter. LPN (#28) require a AA degree, not HS. Post Secondary Educator starts at MA and not a Doctorate. Most of the list that indicates a HS level of education really requires an additional 2 years at a trade school or additional training beyond HS. This list is BS (and that is not a Bachelor of Science).

    • I noticed that too. Most of the admin or clerical jobs require at least an AA now, and some require BA’s depending on the company. I know my company would never hire an Admin Mrg (#22) with only a diploma, especially considering I am one of the only ones out of dozens of admin people that only has an AA.

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