Even if you're still in high school, it's never too early to start thinking about your future career! Knowing what field you may want to go into will help you foster skills that will benefit you when you get to college. But which career path is right for you? Aside from your passions and skills, it’s important to consider the state of the industry you’re interested in pursuing. Will demand for roles grow? Is the pay adequate? To help you get started, here’s an overview of each of the top 10 career fields in the United States, designated based on their employment growth rate and/or higher-than-average salaries.
1. Health care
Jobs in health care never go out of style. Employment for health care occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018–2028, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is—in fact, health care professions are projected to add more jobs than any other occupational group in that time frame.
- Registered nurse
- Nurse practitioner
- Physical therapist
Jobs in health care are both rewarding and lucrative. The median annual wage for health care practitioners and technical jobs—such as registered nurses, physicians, surgeons, and dental hygienists—was $69,870 in May 2020.
Some health care professions such as nursing require only a bachelor’s degree. Other professions such as doctors and nurse practitioners require advanced degrees and additional professional training and licensing.
Related: Great Colleges and Universities for Health and Medicine in the Northeast
Do you have a passion for teaching? Education is an industry that, like health care, will always be essential. Employment for education, training, and library occupations is projected to grow 5% from 2018–2028, adding about 512,900 new jobs. Enrollment is projected to increase at both the college and university level and among public elementary and secondary schools—which means that in addition to postsecondary teachers, preschool, elementary, and secondary school teachers will be in demand.
- Teaching assistant
- Special educator
- School principal
Median pay for teachers at the elementary and high school levels was $60,940 and $62,870 respectively in May 2020. In that same time frame, school principals earned an average of $98,490.
Teachers, administrators, and other education professionals need either a bachelor's or master’s degree, depending on the position desired.
Related: Great Colleges and Universities for Education in the Midwest
3. Information technology
“Computer nerds” are definitely having the last laugh. The information technology (IT) field is huge already—and it’s only continuing to grow. Employment for computer and information technology professions is projected to grow 12% from 2018–2028—much faster than the average for all other job roles—which will add about 546,200 new jobs. With a greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data, and information security, it’s no wonder the demand for IT jobs is increasing.
- Cybersecurity analyst
- Database administrator
- Software developer
- Web developer
The median annual wage for computer and information technology roles was $91,250 in May 2020.
Educational requirements for IT professionals vary depending on the industry and work setting a student wants to pursue. For example, cybersecurity (also known as information security) analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree. Most database administrators have a bachelor’s degree, but certain industries with large databases may prefer (or even require) applicants to have a master’s degree.
Related: Great Colleges and Universities for Science and Engineering in the South
Business majors develop many valuable skills and areas of knowledge that enable them to make a significant contribution to the corporate and nonprofit worlds. Business majors can quantify a set of data, evaluate the financial impact of decisions, and use figures to back up their proposals—basically, they think in numbers. Employment for business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 7% from 2018–2028, which will add about 591,800 new jobs.
- Business operations manager
- Compliance officer
- HR manager
- Management analyst
The median annual wage for business-related roles was $72,250 in May 2020.
Many business positions require college, graduate, and sometimes postgraduate school. For some roles, specific professional licenses are also required.
Related: Great Colleges and Universities for Business in the West
Money: some have a lot, some have a little, but everyone needs to have a bank account, pay taxes, etc. Financial professionals conduct analyses and advise or assist in money management in other ways. Accountants and auditors in particular have the most projected openings (annually) from 2016–2026; over 1,392,200 accounting jobs were available in 2020.
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Financial planner
- Loan officer
The median annual wage for financial roles was $72,250 in May 2020.
Accountants, financial planners, loan officers, and other roles in finance require at least a bachelor’s degree. Some financial positions require an advanced degree and/or certifications.
Related: Colleges for the Student Who Wants to Major in Finance
6. Architecture and engineering
Architects design buildings and structures such as hospitals, houses, and more. Engineers use science and mathematics to design, build, and maintain structures and systems. About 113,300 new jobs are projected to be added to architectural and engineering fields by 2028.
- Cartographer and photogrammetrist
- Civil engineer
- Environmental engineer
The median annual wage for architecture and engineering roles was $83,160 in May 2020.
Many roles in architecture and engineering require at least a bachelor’s degree. Civil engineers, for example, typically need only a bachelor’s degree, but they’ll need a graduate degree and professional licensing to be eligible for senior positions.
Related: Great Colleges and Universities for Science and Engineering in New England
7. Advertising, promotions, and marketing
These professionals calculate the demand for products and services, generate interest among potential buyers, and much more. Employment for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is projected to grow 8% from 2018–2028, faster than the average for other professions.
- Advertising manager
- Brand manager
- Digital media director
- Promotions coordinator
Managerial positions are the most desirable in this sector, as they pay extremely well. The median annual wage for advertising and promotions managers was $133,460 in May 2020, while marketing managers made an average of $142,170.
A bachelor’s degree is required for most advertising, promotions, and marketing management positions. Some upper management roles may require a master’s degree or MBA.
Related: Great Graduate Schools With Fully Online Programs
8. Social services
Social service professions are perfect for anyone who wants to help and promote healing and wellness in other people. Employment for social service careers is expected to grow 11% from 2018–2028, considerably faster than the average for all professions. The growth is projected to add approximately 306,200 jobs.
- Marriage and family therapist
- Rehabilitation counselor
- School psychologist
- Social worker
The median annual wage for community and social service jobs was $47,520 in May 2020.
Although some social workers only need a bachelor’s degree, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree, two years of experience in a supervised clinical setting, and a license administered by the state they work in.
Related: Careers for People Who Want to Work With People
Math is hard for us...but if it’s your favorite subject, consider pursuing a career in mathematics! Overall employment for mathematicians and statisticians is projected to grow 30% from 2018–2028, much faster than all other professions. Statistical analysis is used to make informed business decisions across industries. Plus, as more people and companies conduct business online, organizations need educated mathematics professionals to analyze large amounts of data.
The median pay for mathematicians was $110,860 in May 2020, while statisticians earned around $92,270.
Some entry-level jobs in mathematics require only a bachelor’s degree, such as actuaries. Mathematicians and statisticians usually require a master’s degree in mathematics or statistics, whereas most economists require a master’s degree or PhD.
Related: The Experts' Choice: Excellent Mathematics Programs
Do you love research, exploration, and innovation? Consider a career in the sciences! Employment for life, physical, and social science professions is projected to grow 7% from 2018–2028—resulting in about 97,400 new jobs.
- Biochemist or biophysicist
- Nuclear technician
The median annual wage for these types of science occupations was $69,760 in May 2020.
The level of education required to work in the field of science depends on the branch and role pursued. Biochemists and biophysicists need a PhD, whereas epidemiologists require a master's degree, though some have a doctoral degree in Epidemiology or Medicine. Geoscientists need at least a bachelor’s degree. Nuclear technicians only need an associate degree, but some pursue a four-year degree anyway.
Related: The Experts' Choice: Unexpectedly Strong Science Programs
There you have it—the top 10 career fields in the United States right now, plus possible roles, average salaries, and education requirements! We hope all this info helps you carve out a career path that you’re excited about. Thanks to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all of this wonderful data, and best of luck in your major and college search!
If you need more help deciding what to study in college, check out our "choosing a major" tag to find more helpful articles and advice.