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Winter 2009-10 Vol. 53, Number 4

Occupational employment


When choosing a career, jobseekers often want to know which occupations offer the best prospects. Generally, occupations that have rapid job growth, many new jobs, or many job openings—and good wages—promise better opportunities.

This section shows how employment in particular occupations is projected to change over the 2008–18 decade. Many of the charts that follow show which occupations or occupational groups are expected to grow fastest (highest percent growth) or gain the most jobs (highest numeric growth).

Employment growth for all workers is projected to average about 10 percent between 2008 and 2018. This average is shown as a dotted vertical line in the chart shown here.

But when it comes to employment prospects, job growth tells only part of the story. Job openings for workers also come from the need to replace workers who retire or leave an occupation permanently for other reasons. Some charts show which occupations are expected to have the most openings for workers who are entering the occupation for the first time. These charts show projected openings both from job growth and from replacement needs (the need to replace workers who leave).

Growth by occupational group

Most charts in this section focus on detailed occupations. To better illustrate general employment trends, however, five charts at the beginning of the section show employment growth in broad groups of similar occupations.

The following are descriptions of 10 broad occupational groups in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), a system used by the Federal Government to classify workers into occupational categories.

The groups are listed in the same order used in the SOC:

  • Management, business, and financial occupations. Many of these workers direct the activities of business, government, and other organizations and perform tasks related to finance and business. Examples include school administrators, financial managers, accountants, and food service managers.
  • Professional and related occupations. These workers are in education, healthcare, science, information technology, the arts, and a variety of other jobs. Examples are physical therapists, engineering technicians, lawyers, writers, interior designers, and computer software engineers.
  • Service occupations. This group includes workers who assist the public. Police, cooks, home health aides, flight attendants, child care workers, and cosmetologists are examples.
  • Sales and related occupations. Workers in this group are involved in the sale of goods and services, both to businesses and to consumers. Examples include cashiers, insurance sales agents, retail salespersons, telemarketers, and real estate agents.
  • Office and administrative support occupations. Workers in this group prepare and file documents, interact with the public, and gather and distribute goods and information. Examples include secretaries, stock clerks, mail carriers, computer operators, and receptionists.
  • Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations. Workers in this group tend and harvest renewable resources. Examples include farmworkers, fishing vessel captains, and logging equipment operators. Workers who manage farms or ranches are counted in the management occupations group rather than in this group.
  • Construction and extraction occupations. This group includes workers in construction and building trades, such as carpenters and electricians. It also includes occupations in oil and gas extraction and mining, such as roustabouts and mining machine operators.
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations. Workers in this group install and maintain all types of equipment. They include avionics technicians, automotive service technicians and mechanics, computer repairers, industrial machinery mechanics, and millwrights.
  • Production occupations. Most people in these occupations work as assemblers or machine operators, primarily in manufacturing industries. Examples include computer-controlled machine tool operators, machinists, textile occupations, power plant operators, and chemical equipment operators.
  • Transportation and material moving occupations. Workers in these occupations move people or materials. They include airline pilots, truck drivers, locomotive engineers, and parking lot attendants.
Classification by postsecondary education and training obtained

As an aid to jobseekers and counselors, some charts focus on occupations that have similar education and training requirements. For each occupation they analyze, BLS economists choose the education and training category that is most significant for workers in that occupation—either the category that is most common among workers currently in the occupation or the category that gives new workers the best chance of qualifying for a job. In nearly all occupations, however, workers have a variety of educational backgrounds.

Each occupation is assigned to one of several education and training categories, ranging from a doctoral degree to short-term on-the-job training. Definitions for the postsecondary education and training categories accompany the relevant charts.


Wages include hourly, weekly, or annual pay that people receive for the work that they do. Sales commissions, tips, and production bonuses also are part of wages, but overtime and nonproduction bonuses are not.

For individual occupations, most charts include 2008 median annual wage data from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. The median wage is the point at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than the amount, and half earned less. In May 2008, the median annual wage for all workers was $32,390.

The highest median annual wages among the occupations in a given chart are in boldface type. For occupations with a median annual wage of more than $166,400, a specific wage figure is not given because the OES survey does not publish wage data above this amount. In these cases, the charts show that the median wage was greater than or equal to (≥) $166,400.

Wages in these charts are for wage and salary workers only. Self-employed workers are not included in these measurements.

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Last Updated: February 17, 2010