The past spring, the US government released its list of the top 20 occupations with the highest projected employment growth through 2026. Although several of the careers on the list require college degrees, the majority of occupations don't, leaving the choice of whether to attend a four-year program up to you if you plan to pursue one of these careers.
The decision of whether attend college is a personal choice, and should be made with your interests, goals and career plans in mind, along with feedback from your family and school counselors, says Susan O'Shaughnessy, who recently finished her 25th year as a school counselor.
“If you know for sure that the career you want to pursue doesn't require college, you may still want to visit some campuses to see if you believe you could get enrichment out of attending," she says. “However, you shouldn't feel pressure either way – pursuing your dreams may have several different avenues, and if college isn't yours, map out the path you'll follow instead. I have had many of my students forego college who have pursued very successful careers of their choosing."
While you're making these decisions, it can sometimes be helpful to see the broad array of careers that exist – after all, many of us have only heard about particular jobs because we know people in the community who have them. Although there are thousands of industries out there – and opportunities for you to even create your own niche – a peek at the government's list of swiftly-growing fields may help pique your interest.
The following were cited by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as having the biggest projected growth rates between 2016 and 2026. We've put together a few facts about each career, as well as tips on how to get there.
Ranking atop the list, this field has a 105 percent projected growth rate through 2026. The job involves installing, assembling, maintaining and sometimes repairing solar panel systems that provide clean energy to a wide variety of operations. Those in the field typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and the median pay last year was $39,490 annually (nearly $19 per hour). Those in the industry should be comfortable working outdoors as well as in small spaces like attics and crawl spaces.
Resource: The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners offers certification for those in the field and maintains a list of open positions for those seeking a job.
The government is projecting that this field will grow at a rate of 96 percent over the next eight years. The job involves installing, maintaining and repairing wind turbines, which provide renewable energy to a variety of entities. Those in the field typically have attended a technical school to learn the trade, and the median pay last year was $53,880 annually (nearly $26 per hour). Those in the industry should be comfortable working outdoors and at great heights, since many wind turbines are over 300 feet off the ground.
Resource: The Windustry organization supports clean energy derived from wind, and offers advice on programs where you can learn how to become a wind turbine technician, as well as information on certification.
Featuring a 47 percent projected growth rate through 2026, home health aides help others by assisting with their daily living activities. This can entail helping older adults, the disabled, people with chronic illnesses or anyone else that needs assistance. Those in the field typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, but gaining employment with some agencies will require a formal training program and certification. The median pay last year was $23,130 annually ($11.12 per hour). Those in the industry should be comfortable around people, entering their homes and assisting them with a wide variety of personal tasks.
Resource: The National Association of Home Care & Hospice provides information on the career, certification and training.
Some of the jobs on the Top 20 list involve advanced degrees, such as a statistician (ranked number seven) or a mathematician (ranked tenth), while a wide variety of others do not require four-year college degrees. These include bicycle repairer (no. 12 on the list) and fire inspectors (ranked 19th). Take a look at the list yourself as you consider which fields best suit your interests and skills. And remember, whether or not you plan to attend a four-year college, now is the time to map out your path to ensure that you succeed at your desired career.
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