The Best Jobs for the Next Decade

| TBS Staff


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Coming out of a rocky political and economic decade, many Americans are anxious about their job prospects.

While some may choose to purely follow their passions, and some may inherit careers and business from their families, others are left asking: What do I do next?

Those who have lost their jobs through outsourcing, layoffs, or cutbacks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are facing second — and even third — career choices, and possibly having to go back to school to get the necessary degrees. New college grads are struggling to find entry-level jobs that use their skills. Older workers are being talked into early retirement. Even those who are gainfully employed are seeking to get out of jobs that offer little in terms of salary advancement.

Some careers, however, show there is light at the end of the tunnel. Many of them reflect our fascination with, and our increasing dependence upon, technology. Some grow from the push for new, renewable energy sources, and some build further on our need for established energy sources. Others have to do with the changing demographics of our country, as the baby boomer generation continues to age. Regardless, there are plenty of available, lucrative, and rewarding career options on the table for determined American job seekers.

This list identifies and profiles jobs in a variety of industries that are not only thriving now, but are expected to grow the most throughout the next decade. We have taken our numbers from projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2019 to 2029.

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Fastest Growing Jobs for the Next Decade

true $56,230 Wind Turbine Service Technicians

Stemming from the push for renewable energy, wind turbine service technicians are in high demand, with the profession projected to grow by 61% over the next decade. That demand results in a large number of job openings for qualified individuals seeking to enter the field.

Like solar photovoltaic installers, wind turbine service technicians are in the business of installing, maintaining, and repairing renewable energy systems. Individuals in this profession must possess a detailed knowledge of wind turbine systems and their operation. Wind turbine service technicians inspect and maintain wind turbines, ensuring their successful functioning, perform routine tests, replace worn or broken parts, collect and analyze data on systems, and service underground systems that convey energy from the turbines to collection facilities.

To become a wind turbine service technician, individuals must earn a minimum of a postsecondary non-degree award, such as a certificate or diploma in wind turbine maintenance, from a college or technical school. Additionally, individuals receive on-the-job training. Wind turbine service technicians work for electrical power and utilities companies, repair services, and technical services. Some are self-employed. Those in the field may need to work odd hours to service out-of-commission turbines in remote locations and bad weather. Employment for the profession is determined by location, with most wind turbine systems being established in windy, open areas, such as California, Texas, and Iowa.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $56,230
Projected Job Outlook, 2019–2029 61%
Educational Requirements Postsecondary non-degree award, plus on-the-job training

true $117,670 Nurse Practitioners

Also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse practitioners provide advanced nursing services to a variety of patients. Similar to, though not as advanced as a doctor, nurse practitioners can act as primary or specialty care providers, assessing patient needs and prescribing care plans. The regular duties of the profession include performing physical exams, performing and analyzing tests, create care plans, prescribing and administering medication, and consulting with doctors and other medical professionals. Like doctors, nurse practitioners practice in specific areas of medicine, such as general medicine, pediatrics, or geriatrics.

Nurse practitioners must have advanced medical knowledge in order to practice, earned through a master’s degree program in at least one specialized nursing role. Additionally, individuals must earn a registered nursing license in accordance with the state board, and have passed the national certification exam. Further education can aid in specialization. Nurse practitioners may find employment in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private clinics, and residential care facilities.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $117,670
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 52%
Educational Requirements Master’s degree, plus national certification exam

See Also: The Best Online Nursing Practitioner Master’s Programs

true $46,470 Solar Photovoltaic Installers

The recent, strong global push for renewable and sustainable energy sources has resulted in a booming job market for skilled professionals in the field. Specifically, the demand for solar energy has established solar photovoltaic installers as the career field with the highest projected growth for the next decade, at an astonishing 105.3%.

Solar photovoltaic installers, to simplify a complicated job title, install solar panels and solar panel systems. Also known as PV installers, professionals in this field plan systems according to client needs, install systems on buildings, houses, in fields, and other locations, connect panels to electrical systems, trouble shoot and perform maintenance, and more.

To enter the profession, individuals typically need a higher school diploma or equivalent; most of the knowledge and skills needed are learned through on-the job training, which may last up to a year. While certification is not necessary, employers may prefer it. Individuals can earn certification through the Electronics Technicians Association International (ETA), the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), and Roof Integrated Solar Energy Inc. (RISE). Solar photovoltaic installers may be employed by plumbing or HVAC contractors, electrical contractors, utilities companies, hardware retailers, or may be self-employed.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $46,470
Projected Growth, 2019–2029 51%
Educational Requirements High school diploma or equivalent

true $60,950 Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational therapy assistants, similar to aides, perform duties that ensure occupational therapy practices run smoothly and serve patients fully. However, occupational therapy assistants have greater responsibilities in occupational therapy settings, with clinical assistance roles. The profession requires a minimum of an Associate degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program. Moreover, the profession is state regulated, and individuals must gain licensure through earning their degree, completing fieldwork, and passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.

As the name suggests, occupational therapy assistants help with therapeutic activities in occupational therapy settings, the specifics of which vary based on their specific area of practice. This can involve helping with stretching, as well as rehabilitative exercises, aiding children with developmental disabilities in socialization and coordination exercises, teaching patients to use special assistive equipment, and recording progress. Occupational therapy assistants play a vital role in administering therapeutic services to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, social service agencies, educational facilities, and more.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $60,950
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 35%
Educational Requirements Associate degree, plus national certification

true $92,270 Statisticians

Statisticians, like mathematicians, analyze and apply data in a wide variety of fields. Utilizing advanced knowledge of statistical interpretation, prediction, and mathematics, statisticians work with the government, research institutions, universities, finance and insurance companies, healthcare services, and consulting services.

Statisticians predict trends and outcomes, anticipate problems, trace problems to their source, and develop models of prediction. To perform these roles, statisticians must design experiments, surveys and polls, must apply mathematical and statistical principles, and possess creativity and critical thinking skills.

With organizations of all sorts and sizes relying on statisticians to aid in making key decisions, the field is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. To become a statistician, individuals need an advanced degree, with a master’s degree at a minimum, and a doctoral or professional degree preferred for some situations.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $92,270
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 35%
Educational Requirements Master’s degree

$27,080 Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Home health and personal care aides provide personalized, in-home assistance to individuals requiring extra help in daily activities. Though home health aides do not exclusively help senior citizens, the aging baby-boomer generation does make up a significant portion of the client base.

Home health aides serve anyone needing personal assistance at home with health related issues, including those with cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and chronic illnesses. The duties of the job may involve assistance in tasks like dressing or bathing, meal preparation and planning, checking and recording a patient’s pulse, temperature, blood sugar, changing bandages, assistance with prosthetic limbs, and more.

The job requires some knowledge of basic health and care concepts, but it does not require extensive medical knowledge. Home health aides develop the knowledge and skills they need through on-the-job training. To enter the profession, individuals must have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, special training and certification may allow home health aides to assist with home medical equipment, and some states allow home health aides to administer medication. Home health aides may find employment with private or public agencies, community centers, and adult-day care centers.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $27,080
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 34%
Educational Requirements High school diploma or equivalent, as well as on-the-job training

$59,770 Physical Therapist Assistants

Physical therapist assistants, similar too physical therapist aides, play an important role in ensuring that physical therapy practices function smoothly and effectively serve their patients. However, physical therapist assistants play a more direct, clinical role in the field, working alongside and under direct supervision of physical therapists to help patients in the process of healing and rehabilitation.

The specific duties of physical therapist assistants vary by their area of practice, which can includes massage therapy, hydrotherapy, physical rehabilitation, or other areas. Regardless, their general duties include observing and recording patient status and information, aiding patients with exercise and other therapeutic activities, some forms of treatment, like massage or stretching, using various forms of therapeutic equipment, and education patients and family members on health maintenance. Physical therapist assistants may be employed at hospitals, residential care facilities, private physical therapy offices, or through government services.

To become a physical therapist assistant, individuals must have a minimum of an Associate degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. Individuals must be licensed by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for physical therapist assistants, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require additional certification or licensure.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $59,770
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 33%
Educational Requirements Associate degree

$104,280 Medical and Health Services Managers

Healthcare is big business in the United States, which means it comes with almost as many administrative and management roles as it does actual healthcare jobs. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the industry is medical and health services managers, who are sometimes called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators.

Healthcare administrators are responsible for managing healthcare facilities, handling things like facility management, staff recruitment and training, monitoring and managing budgets, and organizing records. Essentially, they do all the paperwork. They can also serve in supervisory roles, monitoring things like efficiency and health outcomes and proposing changes for quality improvement.

Medical and health services managers usually work closely with other medical professionals, helping them stay organized. They may work for a whole medical facility or with only one department. Sometimes they work directly with patients, and other times they work more behind the scenes, managing staff or maintaining patient records.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $104,280
Projected Job Outlook, 2019–2029 32%
Educational Requirements Bachelor’s degree

$115,390 Physician Assistants

In the medical sciences, there is no shortage of demand for good help. Physician assistants can satisfy that need, with the profession projected for major growth in the next decade. Working alongside doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare workers, physician assistants perform a variety of duties in healthcare settings, such as reviewing and collecting information on the medical histories of patients, assessing treatment progress, and educating patients on care procedures. Though not doctors, physician assistants can, and often do, also perform exams, order and interpret tests, and give some forms of treatment.

Like doctors and surgeons, physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, and may pursue specializations, such as family care, psychiatry, emergency medicine, surgery, podiatry, and geriatric care. Physician assistants find employment in private care offices, clinics, hospitals, outpatient care facilities, residential care facilities, and educational services. Physician assistants require extensive knowledge of the medical sciences, and must have a master’s degree from an accredited program, such as a master of physical therapy. Additionally, individuals must earn licensure by passing the Physical Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Median Annual Wage 2020 $115,390
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 31%
Educational Requirements Master’s degree, plus licensure

$103,590 Information Security Analyst

Nearly every facet of society today depends on the proper functioning of complex information systems. A significant part of this is the safety and security of our information, with steady demand for information security analysts who can ensure the safety of our information.

The field requires that information security analysts have a thorough knowledge of information systems, hardware, and software, as well as current knowledge of threats to data security, and protective measures. In addition to technical knowledge, individuals must have well-developed analytical and problem-solving skills, be detail oriented, and possess a certain amount of ingenuity.

To enter the field, individuals must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, such as information systems, information assurance, or computer science. A master’s degree can provide more job opportunities, and higher salary potential. Additionally, individuals may earn optional professional certifications, including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA).

Information security analysts may find employment in a wide variety of settings, including major corporations, computer systems services, financial institutions and insurance companies, websites and tech companies, private information security assurance agencies, and more.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $103,590
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 31%
Educational Requirements Bachelor’s degree

See Also: The Best Online Schools for Information Assurance

$98,230 Data Scientists and Mathematical Science Occupations

Individuals with a love for numbers and their functions may want to consider pursuing careers as mathematicians or data scientists. Advanced knowledge and skills in mathematics can lead to lucrative, high paying jobs. Beyond crunching numbers, mathematicians play a valuable role in data analysis and prediction, solving and preventing problems for businesses as well as governments.

To enter the profession, individuals typically need a master’s degree in mathematics. Data scientists need to not only be able to understand the interplay of mathematical data, they need strong analytical skills, as well as strong communications skills in order to convey their findings to non-mathematical audiences.

The majority of mathematicians and data scientists work for the federal government, but many also work for universities and colleges, public and private research institutes, finance and insurance companies, tech companies, and technical consulting services.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $98,230
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 31%
Educational Requirements Master’s degree

See Also: The Best Online Bachelor’s in Mathematics

$47,920 Derrick Operators–Oil and Gas

Oil and gas, for the foreseeable future, continue to be major energy sources, and consequently, a major industry. Because of this, the demand for derrick operators is expected to grow.

Derrick operators manage all aspects of derricks, including erecting, operating, inspecting, and maintaining them, to ensure that oil drilling and collection goes smoothly. The job requires individuals to know the ins and outs of oil derricks, learned through on-the-job experience and training.

Derrick operators work in a wide variety of locations, and may need to travel regularly from jobsite to jobsite. Many oil derricks are stationed in remote locations, included offshore oil platforms, the Middle East, and far northern regions. Individuals in the profession typically live onsite for long periods, followed by period of extended leave.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $47,920
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 31%
Educational Requirements On-the-job training

$53,820 Rotary Drill Operators–Oil and Gas

The oil industry is massive, and big oil companies depend on the skills of rotary drill operators to harvest their product for refinement and sale. As the need for oil increases, so too does the need for qualified professionals working on the frontlines of the industry.

Rotary drill operators, like the name suggests, are trusted with the task of operating oil drills. The job includes a variety of responsibilities, such as erecting and dismantling drilling machinery, monitoring and maintaining the machines, overseeing drill rig crews, training crews, repairing the machines, and keeping records of drilling activities. While there is not a specific, formal educational background required for this profession, rotary drill operators must have thorough knowledge of their machines, strong technical aptitudes, and good critical thinking skills. Rotary drill operators enter the position after gaining experience in the field and on-the-job training.

Typically the job requires rotary drill operators to live on-site in remote drilling locations, such as offshore rigs or the Middle East, and to work long shifts, often at odd hours. The job comes with extended work periods, followed by extended break periods.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $53,820
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 27%
Educational Requirements No formal educational credential; on-the-job training

$39,420 Roustabouts–Oil and Gas

Roustabouts work alongside rotary drill operators and derrick operators to ensure that oil drilling and collection goes smoothly and safely. The duties of roustabouts typically include basic maintenance roles, such as cleaning up spilled oil, checking and tightening connections on machines and pipes, dismantling and maintaining machinery and tools, locating leaks and other problems, guiding cranes into position, moving equipment, and building foundations for derricks. While roustabouts do not operate oil drills, their job supports the successful, safe functioning of drills and job sites.

To become a roustabout, individuals need only receive on-the-job training. The profession is physically demanding, and often requires prolonged period of work, in remote locations, extended hours. However, periods of work are followed by extended break periods.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $39,420
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 25%
Educational Requirements No formal educational credential; on-the-job training

$80,480 Speech-Language Pathologists

As the name suggests, speech-language pathologists — also called speech therapists — are medical professionals who work with people who are struggling with speech and language difficulties. They frequently work with children, though many also work with adults. Their clients include people with disorders like Parkinson's disease, cleft palates, hearing loss, or autism. They also work with swallowing disorders.

Speech-language pathologists can assess, diagnose, and treat communication difficulties through individualized treatment plans, which usually include some combination of therapy and physical exercises. They also work with parents to help them understand how to communicate with their children.

It's common for speech-language pathologists to work either in private practice, where they also have to handle administrative tasks, or for schools, where they work with individuals and groups to improve communication skills. Some speech therapists specialize in specific age groups or disorders.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $80,480
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 25%
Educational Requirements Master’s degree

$86,200 Operations Research Analysts

In a perfect world, everything would go perfectly, and without any challenges or difficulty. The world, however, is not perfect, and that is where operations research analysts come in. Businesses, corporations, and governments all rely on operations research analysts to assess and solve logistical problems.

Operations research analysts combine analytical, communication, critical thinking, mathematical, and problem-solving skills in order to metaphorically (and sometimes literally) keep all of the trains running on time. The job includes gathering and analyzing data, running simulations and creating predictive models, creating memos and reports, utilizing databases, and advising managers and executives on the best courses of action.

The majority of operations research analysts work for financial institution or insurance companies, but plenty others work for professional or technical services companies, management companies, manufacturers, and the federal government, specifically in the Department of Defense. To enter the profession, individuals must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which can be earned in a variety of areas, including operations research, business, analytics, management, or computer science. However, some employers may prefer a baster’s degree.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $86,200
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 25%
Educational Requirements Bachelor’s degree

See Also: The Best Online Business Degrees

$47,660 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Unlike their social worker or psychologist counterparts, substance abuse counselors don't always need an extensive education to start a career. Those who choose to work with organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous can often get started with just a bachelor's degree, using their own experiences to help others overcome substance abuse.

However, many states do require behavioral disorder and mental health counselor's to have at least a master's degree and to gain state licensure, so it's important to check local regulations before pursuing a career.

Depending on specialty, these counselors work with different populations to help them overcome mental and emotional barriers and live more fulfilling, healthy lives. They do this through one-on-one counseling sessions or group therapy, often through private practice or in clinical settings.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $47,660
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 25%
Educational Requirements Bachelor’s degree

$42,150 Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists

Every year, acres upon acres of forest are lost due to wildfires, particularly in the American west. Along with this is the loss of human and animal habitation and life. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists work to understand, prevent, predict, and quickly halt these destructive forces of nature. They must assess at-risk areas to anticipate emergency situations, utilizing data from current conditions, as well as records, must have extensive knowledge of public safety issues, communications, and regulations, and must be able to remain calm under severe pressure.

This career follows the occurrence of fires. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists find the highest levels of employment (and highest rate of pay) in the areas most at risk. To enter the field, individuals must have a high school diploma at a minimum, though a bachelor’s degree, in areas such as fire science, is highly preferred.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $42,150
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 24%
Educational Requirements Minimum of high school diploma; a bachelor’s degree in fire science or related field is preferred

$27,250 Restaurant Cooks

For every restaurant that succeeds, there are at least a half-dozen cooks working behind the scenes, making all of that delicious food and ensuring customer satisfaction. Cooks usually work under the direction of a head chef, who selects the recipes and sets the menu for cooks to follow. From there, cooks are responsible for preparing ingredients, measuring and mixing them, frying or grilling as necessary, then arranging the food to be delivered to the customer. They also ensure that work areas are properly cleaned and equipment is maintained.

Many cooks attend culinary school, though this is not always necessary; it is also common for them to learn on the job. They need a food handler's permit. Rules for obtaining a food handler's permit vary by state and municipality, so be sure to check local regulations if you're interested in this career.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $27,250
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 23%
Educational Requirements On-the-job training; some attend culinary school

$26,080 Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers are professional animal handlers, tasked with training and looking after nonfarm animals in a variety of settings. This includes people who work at dog or cat daycares, animal trainers, animal shelter employees, employees at cat or dog bathing facilities, and zookeepers. Note that zookeepers have highly specialized skills and work with exotic animals, which means they often need a bachelor's degree or higher to qualify for work.

Responsibilities for animal care and service workers include feeding animals, training them, cleaning their spaces, recording their diets and physical conditions, exercising them, and attending to their hygiene, like clipping nails or cutting hair. Experienced animal caretakers may also work at veterinary offices as vet assistants. Some trainers and groomers may have their own businesses, though it is common for them to work within larger organizations or facilities.

Median Annual Wage 2020 $26,080
Projected Job Growth, 2019–2029 23%
Educational Requirements High school diploma or equivalent

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