For many students and families, the primary purpose of college is to get a good paying job on graduation. The reality is nobody wants to graduate and not be able to find a job that pays off their college debt while allowing a decent standard of living. A little research into the job market before applying to college could help students decide if the debt would be worth it.
One tool you should take a look at it is the Occupational Outlook Handbook at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s very easy to use while offering a wealth of information. The most valuable aspect of the tool is not the information you find from your initial search but the possibilities you discover you hadn’t previously been aware of. I’m going to give an example of what’s available by starting with the following question:
What are the fastest growing jobs at the Bachelor degree level?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook lists only two occupations for Bachelor’s degrees with growth rates of 30% or faster: Operation Research Analysts and Personal Financial Advisors. The interesting thing is that they are also in the two largest groups of projected new jobs. Operation Research Analysts are in the second largest category, 10,000-49,999. Personal Financial Advisors are in the largest, 50,000 or more.
Personal Financial Advisors do require long-term on-the-job training compared to Operation Research Analysts which require no on-the-job training. Given that both have a median pay of $75,000 or more, these are two professions students might want to investigate further.
So here’s where you can really start going down the rabbit hole. For each occupation, you can see a list of similar occupations that “share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training.” The list for Operation Research Analysts includes eight similar occupations. However, three of them require Masters Degrees.
Of the five that don’t, two of them, Industrial Engineer and Logisticians, are projected to have much slower than average growth. Furthermore, the total growth is estimated to be less than 3,000 jobs.
The other three occupations, Management Analysts, Market Research Analysts, and Software Developers, are all projected to grow much faster than average, between 14% and 19%. They are also estimated to add a greater number of jobs, from 92,300 Market Research Analysts to 186,600 Software Developers. This compares to only 27,600 for Operation Research Analysts.
What are the highest paid occupations with the most projected jobs?
Let’s try a different search, what will be the best paid occupations with the most jobs? I just select the highest median pay category, $75,000 or more, and the highest projected number of new jobs category, 50,000 or more, and see what occupations show up and their requirements. Only ten occupations make the list.
The good news is that all but two only require a Bachelor’s degree. Physical therapists and Physicians and Surgeons are two that require professional degrees.
With their presence on the list, it shouldn’t be surprising to see that Medical and Health Services Managers show up as one of the Bachelor Degree level occupations. Management analysts, General and Operations Managers, and Personal Financial Advisors also make the list.
Perhaps the least surprising is that half of the Bachelor’s degree level positions are computer related. Computer Systems Analysts, Software Developers-Applications, Software Developers-Systems Software, and Computer and Information Systems Managers make up the rest of the Bachelor level positions.
Where are these jobs?
But don’t just pay attention to the overall growth, you can also get an idea of locations. For example, California employed the most Software Developers-Applications in 2016, at 129,180, with an average pay of $120,710. Texas came in a distant second with 60,550 people employed in the occupation and an average pay of $104,910.
You can actually see the metro areas with highest level of employment and wages as well. The top two metro areas in terms of employment actually aren’t in California. New York City has the most followed by Seattle.
The current Occupational Employment and Wages statistics also lists the top industries for the occupation. Not surprisingly, Computer Systems Design and Related Services and Software Publishers were the top two industries for employment by concentration and absolute numbers. However, the industries where the occupations were the highest paid were in Audio and Video Equipment Manufacturing. Of course, we’re only talking about a total of 560 jobs here so it may not be an ideal industry to aspire to.
Don’t forget about supply
The thing to keep in mind, is that these numbers don’t talk about the potential supply for these occupations.
Let’s look at pharmacists. It’s a profession that requires an advanced degree, Pharm.D., to actually get a job. But the extra two years is considered well-worth the time and expense by many since Pharmacists are among highest paid health professionals after Physicians and Dentists.
However, BLS projects the pharmacy occupation to have slower than average growth through 2024 with only 9,100 new jobs. The total number of new graduates in 2016 was 14,556. Given that the total number of jobs was 297,100 in 2014, over a third of all pharmacists would need to be retiring by 2024 to accommodate all the graduating pharmacists through 2024.
Now there are reasons why the BLS projections could be wrong. In terms of pharmacy, the changing health care industry may result in a dramatic increase in demand for pharmacists to provide clinical services. The question is would it be enough to actually employ all the pharmacist graduating in the next five to ten years?
Obviously, the Occupational Outlook Handbook shouldn’t be used as the final authority for deciding on a major. However, it is a good place for students to start exploring potential careers. And who knows, maybe it will even get them to include the career center as one of their stops on their college tours.
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