By Dr. Bjorn Mercer
Program Director, Communication, Philosophy, Religion, World Languages and the Arts, American Public University
Say you are 22, just finished college and are ready to go to work, or you are 32 with a family and want to transition to a new job. What kind of job should you go for that will keep you employed for a decade or the rest of your working life? That is where Indeed’s report, The State of Opportunity, comes into play.
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What Are Opportunity Jobs?
The State of Opportunity describes what it calls opportunity jobs. There are two criteria to be an opportunity job:
1) Salary growth greater than 25.3% from 2004 to 2014
2) An average salary in 2014 higher than $57,700. The top 25 jobs are divided into several broad categories:
- Computer and information sciences: 8 jobs
- Management: 8 jobs
- Health professions: 7 jobs
- Finance: 2 jobs (one is management)
Two-thirds of the top 25 jobs are in computer and information sciences and in health professions. This is in line with national trends in which the tech sector is a huge force in the U.S. economy and drives a great deal of growth and innovation.
Many of the opportunity jobs are in health professions because of the aging Baby Boomer population, the Millennial generation starting to have children and the need for healthcare in general.
The World Functions because of Computer and Information Sciences
The world functions today because of computers and the information sciences. There are a few jobs in the U.S. that do not require a computer. The jobs listed in the Indeed report that fall into the computer and information sciences category are:
- Miscellaneous computer occupations
- Software developers, applications
- Network and computer systems administrators
- Computer and information systems manager
- Software developers, systems software
- Computer systems analysts
- Database administrators
- Operations research analysts
In relation to job security, all of these jobs have a low risk of further automation or of being replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). All of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree except operations research analyst which requires a graduate degree. Not all of these jobs have career growth, but they all have a good average salary of around $80,000 or more.
One job that does seem to be at risk is computer programmer. This job is not cited specifically in this report, but could be a component of Miscellaneous Computer Occupations. It is at risk because lower-level computer programming jobs are at risk of being replaced by AI, being coupled with other jobs or being moved offshore.
With so many opportunity jobs in technology, can you work with computers? To work in technology, it is important to be keenly interested in the field, to know and like computers, and to have the drive for detailed problem-solving. There are many degrees and certificates that prepare you for a future in STEM and computers.
Health Professions Provide a Good Opportunity for a Career
The next most common opportunity jobs are in healthcare because there is always a great need for healthcare practitioners. From birth to death, healthcare professionals assist people to be healthier and, when needed, assist with end-of-life care. The jobs from the report that fall into the health professions category are:
- Registered nurse
- Physical therapists
- Medical and health services managers
- Physician assistant
- Speech-language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
- Family and general practitioners
Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, are growing older. From 74 million in 2016, the Baby Boomer generation will slowly dwindle to 16 million by 2050. From 2016 to 2050 and beyond, this population cohort will need healthcare especially from registered nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants, occupational therapists, and family and general practitioners.
In addition to the Baby Boomer generation, the Millennials — the children born between 1981 and 1996 — will peak at around 76 million in 2036. This generation will continue to have children over the next two decades, requiring a great deal of healthcare from the opportunity jobs of registered nurse and family and general practitioners.
Healthcare Jobs Have a Low Risk of Job Security Due to Automation
All of these jobs have a low risk of job security due to automation. Family and general practitioners require a great deal of schooling plus residencies, while registered nurses require only an associate degree.
There are also associate-level degrees for physical therapists and occupational therapists that are not on this list. So there are great options for people who do not want to get a bachelor’s, master’s or professional doctorate. There are many degrees and certificates that can open the way for a career in healthcare.
Three other jobs in healthcare are physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists. They work with doctors and nurses to help patients improve, recover, and rehabilitate. They can work in hospitals, rehab centers, and clinics, or they can become traveling healthcare workers.
In addition, therapists and nurses have the option to work part-time. Although hours are not guaranteed, the hourly rate is always higher than full-time employees, meaning working part time can provide a good work-life balance, especially for working adults with children.
Management and Finance Jobs Are among the Most Available Positions
Management is the final category in the report and has the most number of jobs available. Accountant and auditor jobs have a high AI risk, require a bachelor’s degree, and have good job growth and good pay.
There has been a great deal of speculation that accountants will be replaced by AI, because it is predicted that many of the lower-level job functions will be automated by around 2030. But accounting and auditing analysts who understand the actuarial and mathematical processes will always be in demand and never fully replaced by AI.
Finally, we get to management. There will always be a need for managers, those who manage the daily performance of employees and make sure the organization hums along flawlessly.
The jobs in the report that fall into the management category are:
- Sales manager
- Miscellaneous managers
- Administrative services managers
- Medical and health services managers
- Marketing managers
- Human resources managers
- Sales engineers
- Industrial production managers
- Computer and information systems manager
- Financial managers
- Architectural and engineering managers
Most of these management jobs require specialization. To get a sales manager job, for instance, you need to excel at sales. To get a marketing manager job, you need to have experience in marketing.
Although you might not need a precise bachelor’s degree for many of these jobs, you will need some sort of degree. Some management jobs require graduate degrees. Although management can seem like a general job title, getting that position takes a great deal of prior career success.
Most Managerial Positions Have a Low Risk of Automation
In relation to job security, all of these positions have a low risk of automation except for administrative services manager. Administrative services manager — a job that includes administrative coordinator, business office manager and facilities coordinator — is at risk of automation.
According to Forbes, new AI software is taking over “administrative chores such as scheduling, budgets and reports,” freeing up manages to do more important tasks. This means that a generic job such as administrative services manager is more at risk than a financial manager, which requires a great deal of specialization just to do the basic, non-managerial job. There are many degrees and certificates that can prepare you for a career in management.
Preparing for the Future through Opportunity Jobs
Most of the top 25 jobs on Indeed’s The State of Opportunity are excellent positions that have long-term viability, are in important fields and have good salaries. But not all of them are AI-proof. Nevertheless, this is a good list to start to find a career that is in demand, will be around over the next 25 years, and will provide you with an opportunity for growth and financial security.
About the Author
Dr. Bjorn Mercer is a Program Director at American Public University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University, a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. He writes about leadership, management and why the humanities and liberal arts are critical to career success. Dr. Mercer also writes children’s music.
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