If you review the top ranked jobs in our 2014 Jobs Rated report, you'll definitely spot an overriding trend: many of the positions are in three specific fields: healthcare, information technology and mathematics, all of which are defined as STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math).
This is not by coincidence. Each of these fields has enjoyed steadily rising employment over the past decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Consider that this job growth occurred during a major economic recession, and the figures are even more impressive.
Total healthcare industry employment last month reached almost 18 million in the U.S., with an unemployment rate of just 4%. There are more than three million more Americans working in health care than a decade ago, and the industry’s growth rate has steadily climbed in that time. Looking ahead, employment forecasters have applied these past hiring trends with certain variables for the future, and they say that the healthcare industry’s outlook in the years to come will remain bright.
Indeed, the hiring outlook for healthcare jobs is why many of these positions landed near the top of our rankings, including:
- Audiologist: 34% hiring growth by 2022
- Dental Hygienist: 33% growth
- Occupational Therapist: 29% growth
Technology’s employment numbers have also remained steady through the recession. And, like healthcare, the immediate hiring outlook is promising due to both demand and necessity. Most functions of today’s society—commerce, transportation and communication—are reliant on IT in some capacity.
Most professions to crack the top of the rankings in healthcare and IT require at least a bachelor’s degree. To be sure, there exists a growing sentiment that a college degree alone does not carry the weight it once did in the job market. Evidence supporting this concept is out there, though it depends on the field. But for STEM careers, a college degree still pays off for those interested in one of the best jobs, as ranked by our Jobs Rated report.
The BLS recommends at least a bachelor’s degree for the top-ranked IT jobs. Here are other minimum educational requirements and recommendations, according to the BLS:
Dental Hygienist: Associate degree
Occupational Therapist: Master’s degree
Dietitian: Bachelor’s degree
Physical Therapist: Doctorate
Medical Laboratory Technician: Bachelor’s degree
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Software Engineer: Bachelor’s degree
Computer Systems Analyst: Bachelor’s degree
Computer Systems Administrator: Bachelor’s degree
Mathematician: Master’s degree
Statistician: Master’s degree
Actuary: Bachelor’s degree
Economist: Master’s degree
Sol Hershkowitz, a software developer/engineer in New York, says that work experience alona may be enough to replace a college education when seeking an entry-level job in the IT industry. However, gaining work experience early in one’s career can mean taking on work pro bono in exchange for building a resume.
Of course, some college graduates with hefty student loan payments in less promising fields might consider that a small price to pay.