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Post-pandemic job outlook: What you should know about the 5 fastest-growing careers

At a glance

  • While experts are cautiously optimistic about the post-pandemic job outlook, numerous challenges exist, including weaker job growth between 2020 and 2030 (as compared to previous years), high turnover in the workplace, an aging workforce and an increase in low-wage positions.
  • Some of the fastest-growing careers that require a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree are nurse practitioner and information security analyst.
  • Job trends include continued layoffs, multiple interviews for new hires, more retirement for baby boomers and the increasing availability of remote roles.
  • Recent poll data points to the importance of skills-aligned education, especially for adults seeking a job or career change.
  • At University of Phoenix, active students enjoy career counseling to help them navigate an evolving job market.

Job outlook for growing careers

If post-pandemic times have you nostalgic for the simplicity of planning a holiday or even just a happy hour, spare a thought for the pre-pandemic economy. Oh, 2019, you era of reasonable inflation and booming jobs!

These days, the employment situation is decidedly more complicated. “Unemployment is down to a 16-month low, hourly wages have slightly increased and job growth is trending upward … but I don’t think Americans are out of the woods yet,” says Steven Starks, senior manager of career advising programs and operations at University of Phoenix.

Starks describes his attitude to the post-pandemic job outlook as “cautiously optimistic.” On the one hand, the world is opening up, remote work is a viable opportunity for more job seekers and roles are abundant.

On the other hand, well:

  • Job growth is projected to be weaker between 2020 and 2030, with the majority of new jobs replacing those lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • About a third of almost 12 million new jobs in that same time frame will be low wage, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS).
  • 88% of executives are seeing higher turnover than normal among their employees, according to a PwC survey.
  • The country’s labor force is projected to atrophy as the workforce ages, people retire and fewer young people gain employment, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

So, where does optimism come into play among these statistics? As in the stock market, where there is uncertainty in the job outlook, there is also opportunity.

What’s the forecast for the 5 fastest-growing occupations?

According to BLS, here’s where the highest-projected growth and demand between 2020-2030 will be:

Occupation Growth rate Median annual salary (2020)
Motion picture projectionist Growth rate 70% Median annual salary (2020) $27,490
Wind turbine service technician Growth rate 68% Median annual salary (2020) $56,230
Ushers, lobby attendants and ticket takers Growth rate 62% Median annual salary (2020) $25,110
Nurse practitioners Growth rate 52% Median annual salary (2020) $111,680
Solar photovoltaic installers Growth rate 52% Median annual salary (2020) $46,470

It is a somewhat deflating outlook, and it echoes what Bloomberg Businessweek reported: “About one-third of the jobs created, or 3.9 million compared with the current baseline, will be in low-wage work — a part of the economy devastated by coronavirus-linked restrictions. That covers categories that pay less than $32,000 a year, or roughly $15 an hour.”

But LinkedIn® offers a slightly different perspective. By examining current job data (including the roles with the highest year-over-year growth between April and October 2020), it identified 15 different “Jobs on the Rise” in multiple sectors. The 15 are:

Starks’ own experience with employment trends supports both BLS’ and LinkedIn’s projections. He’s seen growth, for example, in the leisure and hospitality industry as well as transportation and warehousing, food services, financial services and healthcare.

The gap between what BLS projects and what LinkedIn or Starks observes can be chalked up to the kind of data examined.

Starks explains: “The BLS data does not account for the pandemic because [its] employment projections are intended to capture structural changes in the economy whereas job-posting data from LinkedIn may be better suited for capturing cyclical fluctuations in the economy.”

What are the 5 fastest-growing careers that require a bachelor’s degree?

If BLS first found its metrics unequal to the task of distinguishing between growth and COVID-19-related growth, it was able to recalibrate. By September 2021, it had developed two other notable lists.

One of these identifies the 10 fastest-growing occupations that exclude pandemic recovery. This list includes most of its original five occupations (wind turbine service technicians, nurse practitioners and solar photovoltaic installers) but also features the following job titles:

  • Statisticians
  • Physical therapist assistants
  • Information security analysts
  • Home health and personal care aides
  • Medical and health services managers
  • Data scientists and mathematical science occupations
  • Physician assistants

It is, however, BLS’ projection of the five fastest-growing occupations (2020 to 2030) that require a bachelor’s degree or higher that perhaps best captures the future of the job market and hiring trends once the COVID-19 pandemic is well and truly over.

These are:

Occupation Growth Median annual salary (2020)
Nurse practitioners Growth 52% Median annual salary (2020) $111,680
Agents and business managers for artists, performers and athletes Growth 46% Median annual salary (2020) $75,420
Statisticians Growth 35% Median annual salary (2020) $92,270
Information security analysts Growth 33% Median annual salary (2020) $103,590
Film and video editors Growth 33% Median annual salary (2020) $67,250

Beyond the job: 6 post-pandemic trends to expect

It’s one thing to anticipate which careers will boom in the coming years. It’s another to understand how those careers might evolve.

Consider, for example, your current job. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, what was your response? How did your job change, not just in terms of where you worked but also how you worked? How did your employer’s expectations shift? How did yours?

As it turns out, COVID-19 has changed not just what we do but how we do it. Here are the latest career predictions for both employers and workers in 2021, as defined by Forbes.

  1. It’s a remote world. We just click in it. The work-from-home movement is no longer a movement but a way of life. This is good news for any worker who’s not a millennial or GenZ, generations that tend to equate their social life with their work life and prefer, apparently, having one.
  2. No one likes virtual meetings. While there are ways to make the virtual experience more palatable, the general consensus seems to be that the best way to counteract screen fatigue is to stay offline when the workday is done.
  3. The layoffs aren’t over. Companies big and little are looking to cut down on expenses, and the jobs aren’t coming back as fast as you might think. (That might also translate to more closures among restaurants, retailers and small businesses.)
  4. Changing careers can be good (and sometimes necessary). Learning new skills, going to graduate school or simply finishing college will become more common as people get used to changing course. (Or, to borrow that dreaded word of the pandemic, “pivot.”)
  5. Interviews feel more like trials. Remember when you could get a job after two rounds of interviews? That was 20 years ago. These days, Forbes notes, three to eight interviews are the norm.
  6. Boomers are checking out. Whether they got pushed into retirement or chose it of their own volition, 2 million more Boomers left the workplace in the third quarter of 2020. This is a trend, Forbes says, not an exception. It also has consequences. According to a recent report by ProQuest (which was reported on by The Wall Street Journal), “Healthcare, engineering and IT struggle to replace senior management as millions of Baby Boomers retire. Meanwhile, retail and hospitality, who rely on younger workers, are desperate for employees.”

How to prepare for change

Deciding whether a career or job change is in your future requires some degree of introspection, Starks notes.

“Before you invest time, money and energy into a career change, reflect on what you really want out of your career,” he says. “Your job is so much more than a paycheck. It takes up a significant portion of your life, so you need to think about your interests, values, lifestyle preferences and the type of people and company culture you want to be around.”

For many people, the COVID outbreak precipitated a new awareness around what really matters, and what they really wanted out of their careers. It's no longer enough to do what's expected, earn a wage and go home. Nowadays, people are openly seeking fulfillment from their careers, even if it's in an altogether different sector.

If your next move, be it an industry change or a job change, requires additional education, you’re not alone. According to a recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by University of Phoenix, 92% of adult learners believe higher education is a pathway to success.

But not all education is created equal. According to that same poll, 82% of adult learners think higher education needs to focus more on career support and preparedness, and 81% think schools should focus more on teaching transferrable career skills across professions or industries. Read the full results of the survey in this press release: https://www.phoenix.edu/blog/press-release/adult-learners-more-likely-to-enroll-at-universities-that-emphasize-career-preparedness/.

For many, community colleges (and the universities that actively partner with them) provide this pathway. University of Phoenix, for example, not only accepts eligible transfer credits from community colleges. It also offers the following to prepare its students for the modern workforce, no matter which trends are in play:

  • Skills-aligned degree programs that show students exactly what they’re learning so that they can apply it in real-time and in their future careers
  • Professional development courses in digital marketing, healthcare, education and IT
  • Online certificate programs for continued education
  • Career Services for Life® (for both students and alumni) to navigate a constantly evolving job market

Additional career resources

In addition to the soul searching necessary for determining the career path that will bring you both fulfillment and a fulfilling paycheck, it’s important to do the research.

Starks recommends reviewing job details, educational requirements and projected growth on the BLS website as well as talking to “at least three people in the career field you’re exploring.”

When it’s time to begin the active search process, use the downloadable resources below, which cover the two pillars of any job search: writing an effective resumé and writing a cover letter. 

To all of this, Starks adds one more piece of advice: “Whatever you do, don’t expect a quick and easy path.”

It may involve research, additional education and networking. It may involve looking at the global picture, local demand and how you fit into things. (Or what you need educationally to fit in.) 

But, with a little bit of luck and a lot of due diligence, that may just help you weather the next economic storm.

If it’s time to upskill, explore University of Phoenix’s skills-aligned degree programs and professional development courses.