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The best job opportunities of the future

Tim Sloan / AFP

Between 2010 and 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of pest control workers will increase by 26.1 percent.

With an unemployment rate still stuck above 8 percent 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. Many who are currently unemployed or underemployed are seeking training in different fields where the jobs are considered “hot.”

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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 diverse, consisting of both white-collar and blue-collar jobs. They also require a 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.   

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 is 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.

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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.  

These are the 10 best job opportunities of the future.

1. Actuaries

  •  Future job openings as a percent of 2010 employment:  87.1 percent
  •  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 percent, 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.

2. Glaziers

  •  Future job openings as a percent of 2010 employment: 79.7 percent
  •  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 percent 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.

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3. Statisticians

  •  Future job openings as a percent of 2010 employment: 74.5 percent
  •  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 percent of 2010 employment. The issue of high turnover is probably unrelated to salary, however, as the median annual wage for statisticians is $72,830.

4. Pest control workers

  •  Future job openings as a percent of 2010 employment: 70.9 percent
  •  New Openings, 2010 to 2020: 48,500 
  •  Median annual wage: $30,340

Pest control workers use traps, fumigants and 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 percent, 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 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.

5. Interpreters and translators

  •  Future job openings as a percent of 2010 employment: 69 percent
  •  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 percent 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 percent were self-employed in 2010.

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