Topic Archives: Occupational Outlook Handbook

Why This Counts: What Does the Future Hold for the Workforce?

You or someone you know may be deciding on a career, whether just starting out in the workforce or looking to change jobs. If so, you may have questions about potential careers. BLS employment projections and our Occupational Outlook Handbook can help answer them.

“Our team highlights the Occupational Outlook Handbook in their workshops and in their individual coaching sessions with students as a key resource for them to explore, expand, and understand all of their options. Our team also uses the information to assess job trends so we can help students prepare for the job market of the future.” — George Washington University, Center for Career Services

Even if you aren’t looking for a career change, you may be interested in a broader picture of the future of the U.S. economy and workforce. You can find this information, and much more, from the Employment Projections program.

What’s a projection and how do you make one?

A projection is an estimate of future conditions or trends based on a study of past and present trends.

Every 2 years, the Employment Projections program publishes 10-year projections of national employment by industry and occupation based on analysis of historical and current economic data. The purpose is to offer some insight into questions about the future growth or decline of industries and occupations.

We use historical and current BLS data primarily from the Current Population Survey, the Current Employment Statistics survey, and the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. You can see an overview of our six-step projections process.

BLS is working toward releasing the projections each year, rather than every 2 years.

See our video on “Understanding BLS Employment Projections.”

What are some data highlights for the 2016–26 projections?

The most recent labor force projections tell us about the impact of the aging of the population.

  • As the large baby-boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) grows older, the overall labor force participation rate is projected to be lower than in previous decades. The labor force participation rate is the share of people working or looking for work. We project the rate to be 61.0 percent in 2026, compared with 62.8 percent in 2016 and 66.2 percent in 2006. This is because older people have lower labor force participation rates than younger age groups.
  • The 55-and-older age group is projected to make up nearly one-quarter of the labor force in 2026, up from 22.4 percent in 2016 and 16.8 percent in 2006.
  • The share held by the youngest age group—ages 16 to 24—is projected to continue to decline as they focus on their education.

Percent distribution of the labor force by age in 1996, 2006, 2016, and projected 2026

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

We can view employment projections in terms of the change in the number of jobs and as a percent change. The projected percent change represents how fast an occupation or industry is projected to grow.

  • The chart below includes the top ten fastest-growing occupations from 2016 to 2026.
  • Five of the occupations are related to healthcare, which makes sense with a population that is growing older.
  • The top two fastest-growing occupations install, repair, and maintain solar panels and wind turbines. These two occupations are small in numbers but are both projected to double in size over the decade, reflecting the current interest in alternative forms of energy.
  • The remaining occupations fall into what is known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Fastest-growing occupations, projected, 2016–26

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

What other information can you get from the Employment Projections program?

BLS also provides information on the education and training path for occupations. What education do people usually need to enter an occupation? Does the occupation typically need work experience in a related occupation? Is specific on-the-job training typically needed? BLS provides this information for every detailed occupation for which we publish projections. We describe the typical path to entry in the base year of the projections. This education and training information, with the occupational projections and wages, form the basis of the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

“It [the Occupational Outlook Handbook] is a great jumping off point. I use it to go more in depth with students. We look at what the career entails, and which fields really appeal to them.” — Gail Grand, College Counselor, Westlake Village, California

What is the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook has been around for nearly 70 years, and it is a trusted (and free!) source of career information. It incorporates BLS data and lots of other information about careers, along with tools to find the information you need. Another publication, Career Outlook, is published throughout the year and provides practical information about careers for students, career counselors, jobseekers, and others planning careers.

“The Handbook has been an effective tool during our strategic planning process at the Foundation. We’ve used the data to design an investment strategy that will focus on linking opportunity youth with promising careers in the region. OOH enabled us to sync up resource allocation with program development.” — Kristopher Smith, Foundation for the Mid-South

Want to know about projections for your state or local area?

While BLS makes projections at the national level, each state makes projections for states and local areas. Find information on state projections at Projections Central.

Want more Employment Projections information?

Check out the latest news release. Head to the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. Or contact the information folks by phone, (202) 691-5700, or email.

Changing jobs or starting a new career is a big decision. Use these gold-standard BLS data to help you make smart decisions, which could help you for years to come. Don’t be a buggy whip maker when everyone is riding in a self-driving car—or a rocket ship!

Percent distribution of the labor force by age
Year 16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 44 45 to 54 55 and older
1996 15.8% 25.3% 27.3% 19.7% 11.9%
2006 14.8 21.5 23.7 23.2 16.8
2016 13.3 22.3 20.6 21.3 22.5
Projected 2026 11.7 22.1 22.2 19.2 24.8
Fastest-growing occupations, projected, 2016–26
Occupation Percent change
Solar photovoltaic installers 104.9%
Wind turbine service technicians 96.3
Home health aides 47.3
Personal care aides 38.6
Physician assistants 37.3
Nurse practitioners 36.1
Statisticians 33.8
Physical therapist assistants 31.0
Software developers, applications 30.7
Mathematicians 29.7

The Griswold Family Vacation through the Lens of BLS Data

We have a guest blogger for this edition of Commissioner’s Corner. Joy Langston is a budget analyst at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. She enjoys watching classic movies when she’s not working.

As summer wraps up, let’s slow the transition into cooler weather to explore the dream American summer vacation of the Griswold family. America first met the Griswolds in the cult classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. We’ll relive their vacation through the lens of our gold-standard data. Clark Griswold, the easygoing and optimistic patriarch of the family, wants a fun vacation with his wife, Ellen, and adolescent son and daughter, Rusty and Audrey, before the kids grow up. For the past 15 years, Clark has worked as a food scientist creating “new and better food additives.” Data from the 2017 Employee Benefits Survey show that after 10 years of service, full-time workers like Clark receive on average 18 days of vacation, or almost 4 weeks.

Since he has the time, Clark decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from the Chicago suburbs to Walley World — “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park” in Southern California. Ellen agrees to the destination but wants to fly, as it will be less of a hassle. However, data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys suggest driving may not be a bad idea. The average amount a household spent on vacations was $2,076 in 2017, with $684 for transportation costs, so flying from Chicago to Southern California was likely not in the Griswolds’ budget. To jumpstart this trip, Clark ordered the new “Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon with the Rally Fun Pack” from the local car dealership. He is scammed into buying the far less appealing, but now iconic, metallic pea, wood grained trimmed station wagon instead. Nevertheless, Clark is determined to make this the best family vacation ever.

Eventually, Ellen gives in to her husband’s enthusiasm and the Griswolds embark on their adventure, but not before stopping for their first tank of gas. You may remember that Clark struggled to find the gas tank, which was ridiculously located under the hood, by the engine, on the passenger’s side. The average household spent $109 in 2017 on gas for out-of-town trips and $1,797 for all uses. In July 2018, the national average price of gas was $2.93 per gallon, according to the Consumer Price Index. Although America has traded in station wagons for SUVs, neither are gas efficient and the Griswolds probably had to fuel up frequently on the 2,460-mile drive.

The family’s first misstep includes taking the wrong exit in St. Louis, Missouri, where they lose a couple of car parts while stopping to ask for directions in a questionable neighborhood. Despite this portrayal of St. Louis, the Occupational Employment Statistics data show this metro area had about 1.4 million jobs in 2017. About 16 percent of them were in office and administrative support occupations, with an average wage of $37,720 per year. Another 10 percent of jobs were in sales and related occupations, and 7 percent were in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations.

Driving through Kansas, they stop in Dodge City to experience life in the Wild West and order drinks in a saloon. According to the Current Employment Statistics survey, stops like these, including historical sites and other historical institutions, provide an average of 69,000 jobs from May to August nationwide.

The Griswolds make it to Coolidge, Kansas, where Ellen’s cousins live. The cousins pressure Clark and Ellen into dropping off cantankerous Aunt Edna — and her equally feisty dog — at her son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the American Time Use Survey Americans spend an average of 39 minutes a day — or about 237 hours a year — socializing and communicating in person. The survey also shows that Americans spend an average 4 minutes a day caring for and helping nonhousehold adults. The Griswold family gets a concentrated dose of this social activity by adding Aunt Edna to their road trip party.

For lunch, they stop off at rest stop to enjoy some homemade sandwiches. The average American household spent $56 in 2017 on food prepared for out-of-town trips, and $3,365 on food away from home (including fast food establishments and full service restaurants). The Griswolds’ enjoyment is cut short when they realize there is more to their soggy baloney cheese sandwiches than they bargained for. As it turns out, Aunt Edna’s spiteful dog used the picnic basket as a bathroom during the car ride. If you’re driving with a pet and want to avoid this mishap, Kansas has more than 4,600 restaurants and eating places to choose from, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

They spend the night in one of Colorado’s 98 campgrounds in three large, smelly tents. Despite their positive attitudes the next morning, the Griswolds meet with more misfortunes, including being pulled over by a state trooper, Ellen losing her bag with the credit cards, quarrels over their dwindling cash supply, and crashing in the Arizona desert while trying to find a shortcut to the Grand Canyon. After they are rescued and towed to a service station, Clark haggles with the local mechanic, who doubles as the local sheriff, and takes the rest of Clark’s cash. The average American household spent $954 on car maintenance and repairs in 2017, although costs usually are spread throughout the year and not on vacation misadventures.

By the time they drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, Ellen and the kids are begging Clark to buy plane tickets to go back home. However, Clark’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned, and he declares this road trip a pilgrimage.

When they finally arrive at Walley World, they discover it is closed for the next two weeks for repairs. Exasperated, Clark demands the security guard open the gates and let the family into the park. After a couple rollercoaster rides, the SWAT team and owner of the park, Roy Walley, arrive. As the police put handcuffs on Clark’s family, Clark begs Roy not to press charges. Clark persuades Roy not only to drop the charges but to allow the family to stay and enjoy all the rides! Americans do love their theme parks. There were nearly 1,000 theme parks in the United States in 2017, with 87 of them in California. These parks provided 185,000 jobs nationwide. This industry increased its labor productivity 13.7 percent in 2017, as theme parks reported higher output while hours worked by employees decreased.

Over the course of their trip, the Griswolds share a number of experiences, many of which either hit a little too close to home, or we hope to never experience for ourselves. After a long and tiresome trip, we hope Ellen finally has her way and Clark doesn’t force the Griswolds to spend another two weeks driving back to Chicago, which would deplete all his vacation days! This classic summer movie shows that BLS really does have a stat for that!

Earth-friendly Careers for Earth Day 2018

Only 2 more years until we hit the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970. Here at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we track jobs, including jobs that take care of our planet. The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides career information for hundreds of occupations. The Handbook has been around for almost 70 years; the first paperback edition in 1949 cost $1.75!

In honor of Earth Day, here are six earth-friendly career paths to consider:

Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

What they do: Monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health.

  • 2017 median pay: $45,490 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Associate’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 32,840
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 12% (Faster than average)

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

What they do: Manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.Conservation scientist

  • 2017 median pay: $60,970 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 30,340
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 6% (As fast as average)

 

 

 

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

What they do: Study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems and the impact humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

  • 2017 median pay: $62,290 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 17,710
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 8% (As fast as average)

Environmental Engineers

What they do: Use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems.

  • 2017 median pay: $86,800 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 52,640
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 8% (As fast as average)

Microbiologists

What they do: Study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.Microbiologists

  • 2017 median pay: $69,960 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 21,870
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 8% (As fast as average)

 

 

 

Urban and Regional Planners

What they do: Develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.Urban planner

  • 2017 median pay: $71,490 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
  • Number of jobs in 2017: 35,310
  • Projected growth 2016–26: 13% (Faster than average)

 

 

 

You can explore hundreds of occupations using our Occupational Outlook Handbook. For a larger list of new and emerging earth-friendly or “green” jobs, visit the Department of Labor’s O*Net Resource Center.

 

Most Popular Items in the Occupational Outlook Handbook

Editor’s note: This blog was corrected on January 30, 2018. For more information, see Corrected Self-Employment Estimates for 2016–26.

Interested in becoming a detective or a veterinarian or a software developer? You are not alone. These occupations are among the most visited pages of the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, our online career information guide.

On October 24, BLS released the 2016–26 Employment Projections and incorporated these projections into updates of the Handbook, which features 325 occupational profiles. Think you know everything a doctor or a police officer does from watching reruns of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Law and Order: SVU”? Think again. The BLS profiles discuss what workers do in an occupation, the education and training needed to work in an occupation, the pay, the job outlook, and other topics.

Just over one-third of all visits to the BLS website are to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, making it our most popular product. Here is a list of the top 10 most viewed profiles over the past year.

Rank Profile name 2016 Employment Employment change, 2016–26 Percent employment change, 2016–26 Typical education 2016 Median Wage
1 Physicians and Surgeons 713,800 91,400 13% Doctoral or professional degree >=$208,000
2 Registered Nurses 2,955,200 438,100 15% Bachelor’s degree $68,450
3 Police and Detectives 807,000 53,400 7% High school diploma $61,600
4 Lawyers 792,500 65,000 8% Doctoral or professional degree $118,160
5 Accountants and Auditors 1,397,700 139,900 10% Bachelor’s degree $68,150
6 Software Developers 1,256,200 302,500 24% Bachelor’s degree $102,280
7 Psychologists 166,600 23,000 14% Doctoral or professional degree $75,230
8 Veterinarians 79,600 15,000 19% Doctoral or professional degree $88,770
9 Physical Therapists 239,800 67,100 28% Doctoral or professional degree $85,400
10 Military Careers 2,100,000 High school diploma
Note: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not make projections or collect wage data for military occupations. Employment is from the Defense Manpower Data Center.

These occupations have some characteristics in common.

  • Most are well known and involve contact with the public.
  • Most require college or graduate education.
  • All are high paying.
  • Most are large occupations, although not all are among the fastest growing.

Most of us have some idea what workers in these occupations do. Either we come in contact with them on a regular basis (like doctors) or we see them on TV or in the movies (like lawyers). And while there haven’t been a lot of movies made about software developers, millions of people every day use many of their products, like mobile phone apps.

Many of the most popular occupations require a lot of education. Half require a doctoral or professional degree. In contrast, fewer than one in ten occupations across the economy requires that much education. Only two occupations on the list require a high school diploma.

The top ranked occupational profile, physicians and surgeons, is among the highest paid occupations. The rest of the list includes occupations that pay well above the 2016 median wage of $37,040.

Although nearly all the top ten profiles are projected to grow faster than average (7.4 percent), only physical therapists and software developers are also among the fastest growing occupations. Other than veterinarians, all employ over 100,000 workers, and four employ more than 1 million workers each.

Not interested in becoming an accountant or a psychologist? There are over 300 more occupational profiles available for you to explore.

Put Your Writing Skills to Work

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alan Zilberman, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are countless ways for people to express themselves through the written word. Social media, blogs, comment boards, and even private diaries are a way to flex the writing muscle. Most writers are happy to offer their thoughts for free, but the sheer quantity of media outlets and demand for content creates opportunities in occupations that put writing skills to work.

Writing occupations communicate ideas and concepts through written language. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Writers and authors compose everything from novels to blog posts. They also write short stories, advertising copy, movie or TV scripts, and plays.
  • Reporters and correspondents, also known as journalists, include workers that write articles for newspapers, magazines, or Internet publications such as online only news services. They may report the news or offer their own opinions.
  • Editors plan, assign, and review everything from newspaper articles to novels. They review writing for syntax, spelling, and “bigger picture” concerns like style and storytelling.

All of these occupations are projected to have job openings in 2024, and all typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry, usually in English, journalism, or communications.

Writing occupation employment, wages, and projected job openings
Occupation 2014 Employment Percent self employed in 2014 Job openings due to growth and replacements,
2014–24
Median annual wage, 2016 Typical education needed for entry

Reporters and correspondents

49,300 14.8% 15,900 $37,820 Bachelor’s degree

Editors

117,200 13.6% 42,500 $57,210 Bachelor’s degree

Writers and authors

136,500 65.7% 26,100 $61,240 Bachelor’s degree

About two-thirds of writers and authors were self-employed in 2014, as were about 1 in 6 editors and reporters and correspondents. Most wage and salary workers in these occupations work in publishing industries, such as magazines, newspapers, or book publishers. People who write and edit for a living can often do so from their homes.

Median annual wages for these occupations ranged from $61,240 for writers and authors, to $57,210 for editors, to $37,820 for reporters and correspondents. (Wages are for May 2016. These wages do not include self-employed workers.) Wages for reporters and correspondents are much higher in metropolitan areas where many publishers are based, such as the New York and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas.

In order to get their work published, a writer or journalist typically proposes an assignment, also known as a “pitch,” to the appropriate editor. Editors are the gatekeepers for the outlets where they work; they read pitches, decide which ones are best for their readers, and approve them accordingly. Editors also take a writer’s initial draft and improve it so it is clearer and more evocative. By researching what editors want, writers can develop a portfolio of their “clips,” which will then increase their chances to build their writing careers. A newer alternative for writers and journalists to get their work published is to self-publish on the Internet, such as in a blog or in an e-book marketplace. If a blog or e-book gains enough attention or popularity, self-published writers could transition into more lucrative writing deals.

Explore all of these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.