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The 10 Fastest-Growing Jobs in the U.S.

Industries That Will Expand the Most By 2020


Many Americans rejoiced at the news that the economy added nearly 250,000 jobs in January, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The economy is expected to add more than 20 million jobs by 2020, a 14.3% increase from 2010 in the number of people employed, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these jobs will be focused in a few key industries.

The health care and social assistance industry is projected to add more than 5.6 million jobs this decade, more than any other sector, largely because the population is getting older and will require more care. Meanwhile, the construction and retail industries are expected to add more than 3.5 million jobs in this time as demand for these services increases from a low point in 2010 in the aftermath of the recession.

While the overall number of people employed is expected to grow by 14.3% in this period, some professions are projected to grow at more than three times that pace. MainStreet took a look at the 10 professions expected to expand at the fastest pace, which are by and large in either the construction or health care industries and require some postsecondary education.

These positions don’t always come with the biggest paychecks, but if you’re looking for a profession with solid job prospects, these 10 are your best bet.

Photo Credit: bpsusf

10th Fastest-Growing Job: Meeting, Convention & Event Planners


This decade should be a good one for event planners: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for this occupation will grow significantly in part because there are more events and meetings in a stronger economy than a weaker one, and also because companies are becoming more globalized and need organized events to bring their employees and clients together in person. Having a college degree can make a person more competitive in this industry, but it’s not required. These professionals earned a median salary of $45,260 in 2010.

Employment in 2010: 71,600 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 102,900 workers

Increase: 43.7%

Photo Credit: Getty Images

9th Fastest-Growing Job: Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfitters


The construction industry is expected to see one of the biggest hiring increases this decade, adding roughly 1.8 million jobs by 2020. According to the BLS, much of this is due to the simple fact that employment levels hit rock bottom during the recession and really have nowhere to go but up. For pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, that means there will be more than 26,000 new jobs. These workers earned a median salary of $26,740 in 2010.

Employment in 2010: 57,900 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 84,200 workers

Increase: 45.4%

Photo Credit: Getty Images

8th Fastest-Growing Job: Physical Therapist Assistants


The BLS attributes the increase in physical therapist assistants to changes in reimbursement policies for physical therapy, combined with the fact that population is getting older and will need more care. Physical therapist assistants typically need a two-year associate’s degree and most states require them to be licensed. Still, that’s much less than is required of others in the medical profession and the median salary is about $50,000, better than most on this list.

It’s almost too good to be true: A rapidly expanding industry with limited education requirements and a good salary. Unfortunately, as the BLS notes, that means there will be plenty of competition for these positions in the years to come.

Employment in 2010: 67,400 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 98,200 workers

Increase: 45.7%

Photo Credit: Defense.gov

7th Fastest-Growing Job: Reinforcing Iron & Rebar Workers


These workers are responsible for reinforcing concrete in building projects. It may not sound like glamorous work, but it will be in high demand in the coming decade as the country embarks on infrastructure improvements. Most workers in this profession need a high school diploma and a three- to four-year apprenticeship. The median salary in 2010 was a modest $38,430.

Employment in 2010: 19,100 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 28,400 workers

Increase: 48.6%

Photo Credit: gregor_y

6th Fastest-Growing Job: Veterinary Technologists & Technicians


Americans love their pets and according to the BLS, they are increasingly willing to spend on medical care for them. That should lead to a job boom in the veterinary industry as the demand for qualified pet care continues to increase. Just how much education you need in this profession depends on the position you want. Veterinary technicians follow a two-year training program, whereas technologists pursue a four-year training program. The median salary for these workers was just shy of $30,000 in 2010.

Employment in 2010: 80,200 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 121,900 workers

Increase: 52%

Photo Credit: Michele Eve

5th Fastest-Growing Job: Carpenters


Several factors are expected to increase the demand for carpenters, including the need to build more roads and bridges and to make homes and buildings more energy efficient, not to mention the fact that older carpenters will continue to retire. There’s no single educational route one should follow to be a carpenter; some do apprenticeships and on-the-job training while others attend vocational schools. Likewise, salaries for carpenters can vary significantly by industry and region, but the median wage in 2010 was $25,760.

Employment in 2010: 46,500 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 72,400 workers

Increase: 60.1%

Photo Credit: Warm Sleepy

4th Fastest-Growing Job: Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, Tile & Marble Setters


These professionals are expected to see the biggest percentage increase of any occupation in the rapidly expanding construction industry, at least in part because it’s a smaller sector to begin with, making the gains more notable. These positions typically have lower skill requirements than most and a relatively low median wage of $27,780.

Employment in 2010: 29,400 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 47,000 workers

Increase: 60.1%

Photo Credit: frans16611

3rd Fastest-Growing Job: Biomedical Engineers


A 2009 BLS estimate projected that biomedical engineers would be the fastest-growing industry between 2008 and 2018, and while their rank may have slipped in the most recent report, those in this industry continue to have very bright career prospects. Biomedical engineers are responsible for developing everything from artificial organs to MRIs, and in the future the demand for them to come up with new and better treatments for the sick and elderly will only continue to increase. Unlike other professions on this list, biomedical engineers are generally required to have at least a college or graduate-level education, but their median salary in 2010 was also more than $80,000, so there’s certainly a big payoff.

Employment in 2010: 15,700 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 25,400 workers

Increase: 61.7%

Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

2nd Fastest-Growing Job: Home Health Aides


The health care and social assistance industry is expected to gain about 5.6 million jobs by 2020, more than any other sector in that time period, according to the BLS data. As MainStreet has reported before, much of this is due to our aging population, which boosts the demand for the kind of medical assistance provided by home health aides and the next occupation on our list.

Employment in 2010: 1,017,700 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 1,723,900 workers

Increase: 69.4%

Photo Credit: sunshinecity| The Cities With the Jobs of the Future

The Fastest-Growing Job: Personal Care Aides


The number of people employed as personal care aides is expected to nearly double this decade. While this will create hundreds of thousands of new job opportunities, the downside is that these positions tend to be low-paying ones. The median wage for personal care aides was just $19,640 in 2010, even less than the $20,560 earned by home health aides. That said, these positions usually do not require advanced education or even a high school diploma. Instead, candidates receive extensive on-the-job training, which make these jobs particularly great options for those who can’t afford higher education or those who are trying to switch careers without going back to school.

Employment in 2010: 861,000 workers

Projected Employment in 2020: 1,468,000 workers

Increase: 69.4%

Photo Credit: ulrichkarljoho

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Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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