Thanks to both the Great Recession and the rapidly changing career environment, lots of young people find themselves underemployed or going back to school to train for different careers. Add to this the cost of post-secondary education today and the fact that there will be very few careers available to those who only hold high school diplomas, and today’s students have to get very savvy. They will need to look carefully at the educational paths they choose and what will actually be available in the job market when they are ready to enter it.
Doing the Research
Young people need to start exploring career options in high school if they intend to make smart choices about their education and training after graduation. Several resources are available for this research:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an annual report on career forecasts, including the predicted number of jobs ten years out and the average salaries to expect.
- Online resources include lots of business journals and websites that speak to career prospects by field, along with the types of educational programs required for each career field.
Career Prospects Over the Next Decade
The list presented below is a list of possible careers divided by educational levels, so that students can see what is available based on how much additional education and/or training they may wish to pursue. The positions that are listed are those that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says will experience solid growth over the next ten years.
Jobs for Those With High School Diplomas
As expected, the list of jobs for high school graduates continues to diminish. This state of affairs is largely due to the decline in manufacturing/factory jobs that once supported a thriving middle class. Two things have occurred: technology now means that machines do the work that people used to do, and many factory jobs have gone overseas.
This admittedly small list offers some career paths that are still available for high school graduates:
- Food Service: There are still jobs in the food industry, and there will continue to be jobs. Positions in this industry beyond the waitstaff/server level often require additional training or education.
- Office/Clerical Work: Receptionists and other clerical workers will continue to be needed over the coming decade. In fact, there will probably be as many as 450,000 office/clerical work positions available over the next ten years. Moving beyond basic clerical work, however, will require some additional training.
- Domestic Care: Housekeeping jobs will continue to grow as an aging population raises the demand for care facilities. On a related note, the hotel and entertainment industries are also contributing to rising demands for housekeeping employees.
Jobs for Those With Two-Year Degrees/Vocational-Technical Training
These programs are very popular because they get young people out into the workforce very quickly, and there are several career fields in which job prospects are quite good for graduates of these programs:
- Medical Technicians: As the population ages and more people gain access to health insurance, the demand for technicians – such as lab assistants, X-ray technicians, dental hygienists, and so forth — will rise. Going into any health care field is a smart choice.
- Home Health Care and Health Care Aides: For all of the reasons mentioned above, obtaining certification in this area is a smart choice for students.
- Paralegals: Lawyers and law firms are increasingly using paralegals for many of the tasks they used to do themselves. A two-year degree in paralegal studies will increase your chances of landing a well-paying job.
- Networking/Security Systems: While many computer-related fields require a bachelor’s and beyond, these growing areas of the tech industry are open to students who earn an associate’s degree.
Jobs for Those With Bachelor’s Degrees
College is expensive, so students may want to make decisions about their majors based on the careers that will see the most growth over the next decade:
- Health Care: Registered nursing and health care management are rapidly growing fields. It is estimated that more than 700,000 registered nurses will be needed in the next decade.
- Elementary School Teachers: While there has been a surplus of teachers in all fields save for math and science for a while not, the next decade will see a need for about 167,000 new elementary school teachers.
- Technology Fields: A degree in systems analysis and software development will open up excellent career opportunities — but you probably knew that already.
- Construction Management: As the construction industry continues to recover from the recession, as many as 80,000 new jobs may open up.
- Business: Some specialized fields under the general umbrella of “business” will see great growth over the next decade, including accounting, auditing, operations management, and marketing analysis.
Jobs for Those With Advanced Degrees
The costs of advanced degree programs can be downright horrific — but here are some fields in which the heightened career prospects more than make up for those hefty tuition bills:
- Physicians and Surgeons: Once again, an aging population will have powerful positive effects on this career field.
- Lawyers: Recent times have seen a glut of lawyers on the market, but this is changing, and over the next ten years, experts actually predict a growth in the need for attorneys.
- Business: The MBA used to be a ticket to immediate employment and great career prospects. Those prospects have dimmed in recent years, even for graduates of the top business schools in the nation. However, statistics do show that, for those who are patient and who graduate from well-respected business schools, the career potential is ultimately pretty good.
Make that wise choice as you enter post-high school education and training programs. No career is worth it if you really dislike it, but you must remember to balance your passions and interests with your ability to feed yourself in the future.