Identify Occupations in Demand and Industries that are Trending Upward (UG)

By Rajkamal Rao  

Go Back to Our 7 Steps To Improve ROI For Undergrads

Recall from our first step that of the 381 occupations which require college degrees, not all of them are in demand. 

Some occupations which were considered solid bets just 20 years ago - like newspaper editors, reporters, correspondents - are declining in demand as the world has changed the way it consumes news turning to blogs, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and opinion sites like Reddit.  With the manufacturing industry having left the US to go to destinations such as China, Korea and Vietnam, the number of people in industrial roles - such as production managers and industrial planners - has begun to dwindle.

Other occupations are barely growing because related industries are not growing.  With the US government spending less on defense and space exploration; with increased competition from foreign companies such as Airbus and Embraer, the demand for aerospace engineers is barely growing.  After the huge financial crisis in the last decade triggered by reckless home building, there is not a lot of demand for appraisers and assessors of real estate.

We will focus on how to use world-class databases to find occupations in demand and industries that are upward-trending.  If you decide to pursue these careers and get trained accordingly, your return on investment is likely to be high.

But perhaps your interests do not necessarily align with such high octane careers.  Since you will still need a job to help pay your bills, we will show you how to find job clusters - concentrations of companies - for your desired field.  The premise is that if you go to college nearby these clusters, you will become a local candidate with specific skills.   Studies have shown that companies and organizations are more likely to offer opportunities to intern with them when you are local - and later offer you jobs after graduation. 

Finding hot careers using the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains one of the most useful and comprehensive databases for the federal government.  Called the Occupational Outlook Handbook, it is the government’s guide to career information about hundreds of occupations.  The site is packed with user-friendly drop down lists, filters, data, maps, tables, economic analyses and detailed descriptions that only the government’s huge resources can compile and maintain.  Armed with some of the country’s best labor, macro and micro economists, BLS statistics form the linchpin of the modern information-driven economy, from Wall Street to Main Street.

The homepage of the site provides an easy-to-use dropdown menu to search for occupations.  Of interest to us are two fields - the Entry Level Education and the Growth Rate.

Setting these two fields to “Bachelor’s degree” and “30 percent or faster” (the hottest careers) results in four occupations as below.  For example, computers and computer systems are everywhere and with regular stories in the press about how they are less safe now because of hacking and other attacks, it is no wonder that there is a great demand for Information Security analysts.  

Setting our filter fields to “Bachelor’s degree” and “20 to 29 percent” (the next hottest careers) results in eighteen occupations as below.  

All jobs cannot grow at breakneck speeds of 20% or higher.  The following table represents 36 occupations that are growing relatively fast, at 10% - 19%.  Remember that the US population is growing by about 1% each year, so a 10% job growth rate is still pretty impressive.

If you can imagine working in any of these professions because you are committed to go to college to learn the required skills and you feel you will enjoy your work day, you can rest assured that your career will take off and stay stable for many years to come.

Finding upward-trending industries 

It is not good enough to know if a particular career is hot.  You also need to know more about the industries which are likely to hire you into these jobs.  Then you can find specific geographic clusters of companies in these industries so that you can plan to go to college in those regions.  As we have said before, being local to opportunities gives you an advantage to network with industry leaders, cultivate mentors, and find internships and jobs.  

Knowing more about industries is important for another reason - the kind of experience you will earn.  Working as a computer systems analyst in a company that creates software (like Microsoft, Apple or Google) will prove to be a very different experience from working for a small computer operations department in a large manufacturing firm, for example.  You will likely learn more from your peers and superiors at the software company and intellectually grow faster.  But at the manufacturing firm, you could develop a niche expertise of your own and become such a valuable player in the company that your job satisfaction could be higher. 

Finding job clusters: STEM fields 

About twenty years ago, a new term was coined (STEM) to denote fields that leverage skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Careers in fields such as Chemistry, Physics/Astronomy, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geo Sciences, Life Sciences and Mathematics are all considered to belong to the STEM family of professions.

For an advanced economy as the US, it is not surprising that of the 381 careers that the ONET database lists as those requiring a college degree, over 40% of them (167 careers) are classified as STEM professions.

To maintain the country’s STEM edge, several regions in the country use federal, state, local and corporate dollars to invest in research and technology parks.  These areas invite the best companies to co-locate on a large campus and encourage their scientists and engineers to create the next life-saving drug or imaging technology. 

Consider the Cummings Research Park, in Huntsville, Alabama, the second largest corporate research and technology enclave in the United States.  Located adjacent to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, this park hosts over 285 high-technology companies serving the U.S. Aerospace and Defense sectors, as well as scientists and entrepreneurs at the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville benefits immensely being located minutes away from Cummins.  As a small school with just 7,000 students, UAH attracted nearly $100 million in research funding for the most recent year in part because of its proximity to the park - an incredible sum of $14,000 of research money coming in for each enrolled student.  With so many opportunities to network with industry and academic leaders, finding mentors, internships and jobs is easier in a small community such as Huntsville.  UAH’s College of Business (one among many colleges on campus) says that its alumni have leveraged this environment to go on to hold key positions in large companies or federal agencies involved in science and research, including:

·         CFO at NASA-MSFC
·         President and CEO, United Space Alliance, LLC
·         CEO, Morgan Research
·         CFO, National Academy of Sciences
·         CEO, Martin Marietta Materials
·         CIO, National Institutes of Health
·         General Manager, Retail-West, Goodyear-Dunlop North America
·         VP, BAE Systems
·         VP, Sears Logistics Group

This example serves to highlight the importance of job clusters and how your ROI can improve.  Here is a list of the most vibrant science, research and technology parks in the country. 

1.       Automation Alley - Metropolitan Detroit (primarily Oakland County, Michigan)
2.      BRDG Research Park - Bio-Research and Development Growth Park - Creve Coeur, Missouri
3.      CORTEX Innovation Community (Center of Research, Technology & Entrepreneurial Exchange) - St. Louis, Missouri
4.      Cummings Research Park - Huntsville, Alabama
5.      Denver Tech Center - Denver, Colorado
6.      Dulles Technology Corridor - Northern Virginia near Washington Dulles Airport
7.      Eastside - Puget Sound
8.     Golden Corridor - Near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Northwest Suburbs
9.      Illinois Technology and Research Corridor - DuPage County, Illinois
10.  Missouri Research Park, affiliated with the University of Missouri System - St. Louis, Missouri
11.   Optics Valley - Tucson, Arizona
12.  Research Triangle - North Carolina
13.  Route 128 - Massachusetts
14.  Silicon Alley - New York City
15.   Silicon Hills - Austin, Texas and its suburbs
16.  Silicon Forest - Portland, Oregon
17.   Silicon Prairie - Metropolitan Dallas (primarily the northern region and its suburbs)
18.  Silicon Slopes - Salt Lake City, Utah including Utah County (Provo, Utah) and Summit County (Park City, Utah) and surrounding areas.
19.  Silicon Valley - San Jose, California and suburbs. San Francisco and other areas sometimes included as well.
20. Tech Coast - Southern California
21.  Tech Valley - The Capital District area of Albany, NY
22. Telecom Corridor (an area in the Silicon Prairie) - Richardson, suburb of Dallas, Texas
23. Texas Medical Center - Houston, Texas

If your interests are to pursue a STEM career, consider adding colleges in the vicinity of these parks to your college short list.  

Finding job clusters in non-STEM fields using NAICS & SIC codes 

Nearly 60% of the jobs in the US that require a college degree are not in the STEM fields.  But many people in these professions - Art Directors, Choreographers, Copy Writers, Interpreters and Translators - are self-employed.  Job clusters are less important if you plan to be self-employed.  

For those professions that are not self-employed and not-STEM, the process to find job clusters and company concentrations is a little more involved but achievable.  The best way is to illustrate with an example.

Suppose that as a high school student you have been fascinated by the freight, logistics and transportation industry.  You are the kind of person that watches trains at rail yards and collects pictures of airplanes landing or taking off.  You love an industry that transports people and goods but don’t want to be on the road like a locomotive engineer or a pilot.  Would a career as a Freight and Cargo Inspector interest you?

Your first stop would be at the ONET database in whose search box you would type “Freight” and from the occupations listed, you would click on Freight and Cargo Inspectors to generate a summary report.

A review of the entire report is promising and confirms that you may enjoy this kind of career.  The last section - Wages & Employment Trends - is important:

Median wages (2014): $33.26 hourly, $69,170 annual

Employment (2012):  26,000 employees

Projected growth (2012-2022):         Average (8% to 14%)
Projected job openings (2012-2022):  11,700
Top industries (2012):  Government, Transportation and Warehousing

The last line lists the industries that hire such professionals.  We will ignore the government as an option for now and click on “Transportation and Warehousing” to learn more about all the many related careers in this industry.  As you browse the list, you may begin to feel comfortable that this is an industry you would like to work in.

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