2.3 million high-paying, high-growth jobs: How to plan career success in the 2020s

  • Business Insider recently found 30 high-paying jobs that were poised for strong growth based on employment projections for between 2019 and 2029 and median wages in 2019.
  • The occupations at the top of our list fall into five main industries, all of which require different education, certifications, and skills.
  • The following is a look at the various paths to getting into these industries, according to career experts, an economist, and career sites.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Bianca Banuelos, who comes from a family of nurses, studied to become a certified nursing assistant while applying to nursing school at Ventura Training Institute, a vocational school in Southern California created by the registered nurse Jannet Wharton.

She was also doing research in endocrinology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles but wanted to work more with patients, so she decided to become a certified nursing assistant.

Though Banuelos initially wanted to try a job outside nursing but still within healthcare, she ultimately decided to follow in her family's footsteps. It just so happens that this occupation is one that is expected to grow faster than most jobs in the US over the next decade.

Though the pandemic is affecting employment across all industries, some industries are expected to grow over the next decade based on pre-pandemic data. If you are thinking about which kind of career you want, you may want to look at the education background and the skills you will need to succeed in industries with high-paying, high-growth occupations.

We recently ranked the top 30 jobs of the future, based on Labor Department projections for how they're set to grow over the next decade and how well they pay. You can check out the full ranking here, and in this article, we look at why these jobs are poised for strong growth and how to break into them.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, the top 30 jobs on our ranking are set to collectively add as many as 2.3 million jobs between 2019 and 2029.

These are the jobs of the future — and how to get them.

You can keep scrolling to read the full list or click on one of the links below for a specific industry. If you're interested in our methodology, look at the final section.

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  • The path into healthcare: The big picture
  • The path to healthcare: Riding the 'silver tsunami'
  • The path into healthcare: Not just doctors
  • The path into the tech industry: The big picture
  • The path into the tech industry: Emphasizing your talent
  • The path into the tech industry: Alternatives to programming degrees
  • The path into education: The big picture
  • The path into education: A growing need for more teachers
  • The path into professional services: The big picture
  • The path into professional services: Education and certifications
  • The path into professional services: Climbing up the corporate ladder
  • The path into skilled trades: The big picture
  • The path into skilled trades: The 'learn-while-you-earn' program
  • The path into skilled trades: Post-graduate data  
  • Our method

 

The path into healthcare: The big picture

Healthcare roles are expected to see the most growth among occupational groups covered by BLS over the next decade.

The agency examined projections of the percent change between 2019 and 2029 in the number of people employed. It found six of the 10 fastest-growing jobs were in healthcare, including nurse practitioners and home health aides. Overall, this industry is expected to grow by about 15%, adding 2.4 million jobs.

The following chart replicated from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the percent change in the 10 fastest-growing jobs:

The Indeed Hiring Lab economist AnnElizabeth Konkel said these projections made sense even with disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic because "people are still going to age; they are still going to need long-term care."

The path to healthcare: Riding the 'silver tsunami'

According the US Census Bureau, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old by 2030. This large increase of older people is sometimes referred to as the "silver tsunami."

In addition to a higher number of patients, the aging population could also contribute to a shortage of healthcare workers. Earl Dalton, the chief nursing officer at the healthcare-staffing company Health Carousel, told Business Insider that within healthcare there were a lot of people moving toward retirement age, which will mean a significant loss in workers. A 2017 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicted a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030.

"The same group that will be leaving healthcare will require care in one form or another, and so what that adds up to is that healthcare is an incredibly solid choice for the future because we are expected to have such incredible turnover over the next decade," Dalton said.

Dalton said the coming wave of retirement could create a knowledge gap and a loss of experienced workers, and there may need to be more people filling positions.

"All of those 'silver-tsunami' retiring people then are in the largest category of healthcare consumers, so we are expecting to see more patients needing more care simply because all of those people are moving into an age group where they are moving toward their geriatric ages," Dalton said.

The path into healthcare: Not just doctors

Job credentials in the medical field vary. Future doctors will need to attend medical school and training through residencies.

According to the medical journal JAMA Network, aspiring physicians should take science classes while working on their bachelor's degrees before moving on to medical school.

After they complete their schooling, most doctors move on to a residency and then maybe a fellowship if they are looking for a specialty, such as cardiology. Students will typically spend the final two years of the four-year degree at a teaching hospital to get practical work.

According to the American Nurses Association, you need to take the standardized National Council Licensure Examination to become a licensed nurse.

Not all healthcare jobs with bright futures ahead of them require a college degree. The minimum entry education requirement for licensed practical and vocational nurses, one of the jobs among our top 30, is a postsecondary nondegree award. Home health aides and personal-care aides, which together make up one of the fastest-growing occupational groups according to the BLS projections, need only a high-school diploma or its equivalent.

"Most of the setup in healthcare starts with technical jobs and then works its way up, depending on your commitment to formal education, into higher-level jobs," Dalton said. For instance, he said you could be a radiology technician and then move up to become a radiologist.

Like many occupations and industries right now, the healthcare sector has seen major job losses in the pandemic. A New York Times article from May reported healthcare lost more than 1 million jobs in April. The article said this was different from other recessions, where this occupation group wasn't affected as much.

Konkel said these job losses had to do with budget cuts, office closures, fewer people going to routine checkups, and delays in elective surgeries. Right before the pandemic started, Konkel said healthcare was experiencing what the labor market was going through in general: a tightening of talent.

Software developers working at a computer.Maskot/Getty Images

The path into the tech industry: The big picture

The tech industry has been growing for years and is a key part of the US economy. According to a Wall Street Journal article in 2019, information-technology jobs grew even outside Silicon Valley. Artificial intelligence alone is predicted to add trillions to the world economy by 2030, according to a pre-pandemic article by Forbes.

Unlike healthcare, where the educational path is fairly rigid, getting a job in the tech field is more open-ended, according to the career expert Amanda Augustine of TopResume.

The path into the tech industry: Emphasizing your talent

In a survey by TopResume of 200 US hiring managers and recruiters, a job candidate's potential and experience were the most important, more than their educational background.

"When it really comes to tech, it is all about what are the skills you can display, how can you show that you are good at programming," Augustine told Business Insider. "So there's a lot of places where you can pick up those skills and start working on them even if you didn't go to school for that."

Augustine also recommends online courses like those on Codecademy and General Assembly to develop entry-level skills. She also suggests joining coding competitions and working on projects that will demonstrate your skills to prospective employers.

"The most impressive résumés are the ones that provide evidence or proof of whatever claims you're making about yourself," Augustine said.

The path into the tech industry: Alternatives to programming degrees

Microsoft doesn't require a college degree for all entry-level positions so that the company can "recruit from a broader talent base," which "ultimately builds a more diverse workforce at the company," Business Insider previously reported.

People can also take boot camps to enhance their skill set or as an alternative to majoring in computer science. In a 2017 survey by Indeed of 1,000 human-resources managers and technical recruiters, the majority of respondents said they believed boot-camp graduates were just as prepared as computer-science graduates.

Business Insider's Lisa Eadicicco reported that though companies like Google offer alternatives to traditional college backgrounds for jobs, career experts say a four-year degree may still be important to have and is a more reliable path into the industry.

Bladensburg Elementary School on August 19, 2013, in Bladensburg, Maryland.Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The path into education: The big picture

Similar to healthcare, education jobs usually have certain certifications that you need before working in the industry. In our ranking of the best jobs of the future, elementary-school teachers and postsecondary teachers of health specialties were high up on the list of jobs with bright futures.

The requirements to get in this field vary across the US and even within some states, where different paths are available to aspiring teachers. For instance, in New Jersey you can get a Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing if you have completed a teacher-prep program but do not have a New Jersey standard teaching certificate or "two years of full-time teaching under a valid out-of-state instructional certificate." You can get a Certificate of Eligibility if you have not completed this program but have completed other basic requirements.

There are also some alternative prep programs for becoming a teacher, but you still need to pass state exams and typically need a bachelor's degree, even if it is not in education. For instance, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing's website provides guides for the different ways to become an elementary-school teacher. One way is through the Peace Corps, and another is the district internship program.

Minimum educational requirements vary depending on the kind of teacher you would like to be, according to BLS. Preschool teachers typically need an associate degree at the minimum. Postsecondary teachers, like college professors, typically need a doctorate or professional degree. Other teachers, like elementary-school, special-education, and substitute teachers, require at least a bachelor's degree.

The path into education: A growing need for more teachers

As the US population continues to grow, there will be more children entering school and more teachers needed. A blog post by the Economic Policy Institute said employment in local public education in the US hasn't been able to keep up with student enrollment since the Great Recession.

"As of early 2020, public employment in elementary and secondary schools had yet to recover the level it had reached prior to the losses of the Great Recession," Elise Gould, a senior economist at EPI, wrote in the post. "Furthermore, employment levels in the public education system have failed to keep up with growth in public-school enrollment since 2008."

The following chart illustrates the slow recovery in the number of people employed in local education jobs over time. Current employment amid the pandemic is below the level of employment during the Great Recession. In the years following the recession, employment continued to drop before gradually increasing. 

Professional-services jobs, such as management positions, are some of the high-paying, fast-growing jobs.filadendron/Getty Images

The path into professional services: The big picture

Outside the growing healthcare and tech industries, we found there were some other occupations poised for robust growth.

Accountants and auditors, lawyers, and various management positions all appeared near the top of our list of jobs with bright futures. These jobs are typically high-paying.

The path into professional services: Education and certifications

These jobs usually require a bachelor's degree, typically in subjects like accounting or finance. If you want to become a  certified public accountant, you also need to take the Uniform CPA Examination.

After completing an undergraduate degree, aspiring lawyers typically take the Law School Admission Test to get into law school. To practice law, they also need to pass the bar exam. According to US News & World Report, some schools offer pre-law majors, which include social science and humanities courses, but this is not a requirement to get into law school.

"The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline," the American Bar Association wrote on its website.

The path into professional services: Climbing up the corporate ladder

If you want to move up in your career to a management position, Augustine of TopResume said it would be a good to develop nontechnical skills. These include being a strong communicator, leading others, and thinking about the bigger picture instead of just individual tasks.

She also advises that you find ways in your current position to practice these management and interpersonal skills. Augustine, for instance, suggests seeing if you can help a new hire with training or assist in organizing events in or outside the company to help hone these skills.

An apprentice electrician with an electrician at Brigham and Women's Hospital emergency department in Boston on March 2.David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

The path into skilled trades: The big picture

Electricians and construction managers are both expected to have employment growth of 8% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the overall US average. However, other trades like plumbing and carpentry aren't expected to grow as much over the next decade. The pay for skilled trades vary — electricians made an average of $60,370 a year, while construction mangers made an average of $105,000 based on May 2019 BLS data — but some workers make about or above the average US annual salary.

These occupations seem poised for healthy growth where there is a demand for new homes and infrastructure. As the population ages, and these workers get closer to retirement, there will be a need for younger workers to fill these positions. The Washington Post reported in 2018 that there was a skill shortage in these trades.

The path into skilled trades: The 'learn-while-you-earn' program

Unlike other industries mentioned previously, electricians and similar trades have apprenticeships as the typical on-the-job training, and workers need only a high-school diploma or equivalent at the minimum.

Apprenticeships allow you to get the experience you need through hands-on training, or "an employer-driven, 'learn-while-you-earn' model," according to the Department of Labor. According to 4,600 reported salaries on Indeed, apprentice electricians make nearly $18 per hour.

"It often takes more to get through an apprenticeship than a four year degree but it almost guarantees you high wages and employment," Anthony Carnevale, the director and research professor of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, told Glassdoor in a blog post.

The path into skilled trades: Post-graduate data  

"The average starting wage is $70,000, and 94% of apprentices will remain employed nine months afterward," the Department of Labor's website says in regard overall apprenticeship programs.

After a successful apprenticeship, the person receives a "nationally-recognized credential" that shows they are qualified for the job, according to the Department of Labor. Licenses vary not only at the state level but also within states, so it is important to check which kind of schooling and assessments are required to get your license.

Going to a trade school or community college may also be an option to help you learn the skills you will need during your apprenticeship.

Our method

To find jobs that are both high-paying and expected to grow over the next decade, we used the number of job openings between 2019 and 2029 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent employment projections, along with each occupation's median annual wage from 2019. We then ranked our list based on the geometric mean for each occupation using these two metrics.

It is important to note that the data used in the most recent projections is based on historical data before the pandemic. That means the pandemic's negative influence on employment is not reflected in these projections and our calculations.

Projections also don't always come true, especially when taking into account a recession and other factors that contribute to growth. This is seen in BLS's evaluations of its previous reports.

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