It’s never too early to explore career options. Going to a children’s museum to play farmer, astronaut, fireman, or teacher is a great way to start. However, as a teenager, you might resist attending that family outing (while secretly wishing you could go with your friends).
So, before completing any career assessments or having informal conversations with industry professionals, take a few moments to research the career data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And ask yourself a question: what would you enjoy doing for 2,000+ hours a year?
There are around 300 occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree for employment. So, you’ll have plenty of options to consider. There are only 14 declining occupations that require a 4-year degree including computer programmers, reporters and editors.
The good news is that there are over 100 occupations with an excellent future based on percentage job growth. So, among the first things to consider when researching your career options are median salary (after 10 years on the job, the average is $77,000), number of annual job openings (it varies between 300 and 200,000) and the required time to earn your degree (4-11 years).
Ultimately, your goal is to earn a degree in a growing occupation that will provide a competitive salary, challenge you, and allow you to contribute to society. And you should have fun too!
A bachelor’s degree takes four-years or less to complete. There are 56 bachelor’s degrees that are considered to be growing faster than average. This means that the occupation has a projected growth between 10% - 37% over the next decade.
With a median salary of $100,080 per year, applications software development is the fourth fastest growing career. At 30.5%, it has the largest projected growth for graduates with a bachelor’s degree.
There are over 85,000 projected job openings per year for applications software developers, second only to registered nurses. Job titles may include Computer Applications Developer / Engineer, Database Developer, or Software Applications Architect / Designer / Engineer.
Information security analysts has a projected growth of 28.4% and Operations research analysts is projected to have the third largest growth at 27.4%
Low but steady growth is projected for 13 occupations including civil engineers (10.6%), technical writers (10.9%), software developers, systems software (10.8%), and financial analysts (10.8%).
In reviewing the data from all 800+ occupations (including those that don’t require a college degree) the one thing that stood out to me was the number of declining professions that require a master’s degree. Zero. Depending on the occupation, you’d only need an extra year or two in graduate school to secure a better job outlook. More education provides more options.
If you think you might be interested in pursuing a graduate degree, know that the top three occupations projected to grow over the next decade might be good fits for those who enjoy math and science.
Nurse practitioners have been among the fastest growing occupations for the past six years. Currently, the projected growth is 36% over the next decade. Nurse practitioners have 14,000 annual job openings and enjoy a median salary of over $101,000.
Surpassing them with a 37.4% projected growth are physician assistants. They may work as an assistant in anesthesiology, family practice, pediatrics or radiology. This health science occupation also has a median salary of $101,000 with about 11,000 annual job openings.
For those who enjoy playing with numbers and formulas, you might enjoy becoming a statistician. Statisticians work in government research, biology labs, large corporations, with environmentalists, and in professional sports. This career has a projected growth of 33.4% (about 4,000 jobs a year) and median salary of $81,000.
Low but steady growth is projected for urban and regional planners (12.8%) and school counselors (11.3%).
DOCTORAL / PROFESSIONAL
The health professions that require the most education (up to 7 additional years after earning your bachelor’s) and have the greatest growth projection are postsecondary health specialties professors in clinical sciences, dentistry, neurology, physical therapy (25.9% growth), physical therapists (25%), postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers (24%), and audiologists (20.4%).
Even though additional education (consider the cost!) is required, the top five fastest growing occupations have a median salary of $84,000. Students need to research all of their options to determine how much and how long they are willing to learn.
Pharmacists have a 5.6% projected career growth. The three occupations with the lowest projected growth are appointed or elected positions as judges.
Now that you’ve considered these numbers, pray about your higher calling, complete a reliable career assessment, and start researching your top three career options using O*Net OnLine and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to discover a career that is right for you.
(And its okay if you want to visit the children's museum.)
Autumn A. Arnett (Education Dive) points out some changes to the Department of Education (DOE) data that I believe could reshape the success rates (and those treasured rankings) in higher education.
She writes that “many institutions hide poor outcomes for lower income students by enrolling fewer of these students and lumping their graduation and retention data in with that of more affluent students, who are naturally better prepared to succeed on campus. However, with more students coming from lower income backgrounds than ever before, shedding light on how well schools are or aren't serving them could be a critical first step to actually ensuring their success, which is critical to meeting national security and workforce demands.”
Reporting this new data could elevate Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) as affordable examples of college success. In 2014-2015, there were around 700 MSIs (14% of all colleges) that enrolled 4.8 million students (28% of all undergrads).
Arnett continues, “Though often the lowest resourced institutions and traditionally raked over the coals for their often dismal graduation rates, data has shown that when controlled for the same population — that is largely Pell grant recipients and students of color — these institutions actually do a better job of retaining and graduating these students. And they're doing it with less money, which could serve as a lesson for the industry as a whole as it continues to struggle with declining public support against the reality that these students are more expensive to educate.”
Reporting this new data could slow the annual 4.0-4.5% rise in college tuition. Some students are paying a quarter of a million dollars to earn a four-year bachelor’s of science in biology. This makes sense when you equate the quality higher education with higher costs. As students (and their parents) compare the cost with the outcomes, they will begin to attend more affordable schools. In the long run, this may help drive costs down.
Reporting this new data could help prospective college freshman understand that “where you go is not who you’ll be” as Frank Bruni shared. This is echoed in the Gallup-Purdue University survey that shows the learning and living experiences in college impacted their future more than the type of institution they attended. The data will allow parents to consider all outcomes (full-time, part-time, transfer, Pell grant recipients…) to inform their decisions.
Generation Z students understand the need for higher education. And they do not want to pay for what they don't need. They are not as concerned with athletic programs and dorm life and are more concerned about earning a degree.
In Pulling Back the Curtain (ACE and CPRS), they show that minority serving institutions have better than average outcomes. Consider the completion rate (students who completed their degree at their starting institution within 6 years) for public full time students. (NOTE: MSIs have received federal recognition between 1965 and 2008.)
The report rightly states that their "analysis cannot directly speak to the quality of education offered by these institutions (PBTC, p8)" but it looks like these MSIs are producing college graduates! That is one HUGE step in the right direction.
Eventually, this new data will improve conversations with college-bound students and their parents and help them make better decisions about continuing their education.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.