Trending Careers

If you’re considering switching careers — or are just starting to think about where to start yours — this is the list for you: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projections of the 30 fastest-growing careers. The projections, which are updated every two years, show that the total number of people employed in the United States will have increased 10 percent — by 15. 6 million — between 2006 and 2017. However, some jobs will grow at a much faster rate during that period.

Physician Assistants

Projected increase in 2017: 27 percent

Number employed in 2006: 66,000

Median pay in 2006: $74,980


Completion of a two-year physician assistant program is required before candidates are eligible to take the national license exam.

Job outlook:

As healthcare facilities, particularly in rural and inner city areas, increasingly use physician assistants to address physician shortages and save money, job demand will grow.

Physical Therapists

Projected increase in 2017: 27.1 percent

Number employed in 2006: 173,000

Median pay in 2006: $68,050


In addition to a master’s degree from an accredited physical therapy program, this profession requires a state license.

Job outlook:

The growing elderly and disabled population will push demand for physical therapy, an industry that’s constantly expanding its scope.

Manicurists And Pedicurists

Projected increase in 2017: 27.6 percent

Number employed in 2006: 78,000

Median pay in 2006: $21,280


Most personal appearance workers need to graduate from a state-licensed cosmetology school and pass a license exam. Some state require separate licensing exams specifically for manicurists and pedicurists.

Job outlook:

An increase in the number of nail salons and spas is expected to propel growth.

Environmental Science And Protection Technicians

Projected increase in 2017: 28

Number employed in 2006: 36,000

Median pay in 2006: $40,260


Requirements vary from employer to employer, but most working in the field have at least two years of specialized training, a two-year associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, or forensic science.

Job outlook:

As the professional world takes a growing interest in environmental monitoring, management, and regulatory compliance, technicians will be needed to regulate waste, clean up contamination, and collect samples to help monitor pollution levels.

Gaming And Sports Book Writers And Runners

Projected increase in 2017: 28 percent

Number employed in 2006: 18,000

Median pay in 2006: $20,850


Those interested in these careers must have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent, and excellent customer service skills. Most will receive on-the-job training.

Job outlook:

As more states legalize gambling, more casinos will be built. Gaming operations depend on workers to assist with bingo and keno games and take bets on sporting events.

Computer Software And Systems Software Engineers

Projected increase in 2017: 28.2 percent

Number employed in 2006: 350,000

Median pay in 2006:$87,250


A bachelor’s degree and experience with a variety of software and systems are a must. However, engineers are expected to continue to educate themselves in the latest technology.

Job outlook:

This occupation will grow as the demand for computer networking skills, particularly at companies, increases. The need for new Internet applications, system safety, and upgrading are a few of the specific needs this job handles.

Database Administrators

Projected increase in 2017: 28.6 percent

Number employed in 2006: 119,000

Median pay in 2006:$67,460


At least a bachelor’s degree in computer science is necessary, but a master’s in business administration, with a focus on information systems, is growing more common and desirable.

Job outlook:

As businesses continue to rely more heavily on technology there will be a demand for professionals that can create and manage databases that store information on customers, inventory, and projects.

Computer Systems Analysts

Projected increase in 2017: 29 percent

Number employed in 2006: 504,000

Median pay in 2006:$72,230


Education requirements vary throughout the industry, but most employers expect at least a bachelor’s degree. Field experience is nearly as important.

Job outlook:

Job growth in this sector won’t be as strong as it was during the ‘90s, but it will continue to increase as companies continually adopt new technology.

Dental Assistants

Projected increase in 2017: 29.2 percent

Number employed in 2006: 280,000

Median pay in 2006:$30,850


In the past, a high school diploma and on-the-job training were all that was required, but many dental assistants are now completing one- or two-year certificate or diploma programs.

Job outlook:

As dental health among older generations improves, routine preventative care is needed more than ever before. Also, younger dentists entering the field are more likely to work with assistants..

Marriage And Family Therapists

Projected increase in 2017:29.8 percent

Number employed in 2006: 25,000

Median pay in 2006:$44,700


Although education requirements may vary, as with other counselors, a master’s degree is typically necessary.

Job outlook:

Although more and more marriages may end in divorce, this occupation is growing as it becomes more common for people to seek help in the form of therapy.

Mental Health And Substance Abuse Social Workers

Projected increase in 2017:29.9 percent

Number employed in 2006:122,000

Median pay in 2006:$37,980


A master’s degree is viewed as standard for most counselors.

Job outlook:

The justice system is increasingly assigning drug offenders to treatment programs instead of jail, fueling demand for counselors.

Mental Health Counselors

Projected increase in 2017:30 percent

Number employed in 2006:100,000

Median pay in 2006:$37,840


Requirements vary, but a master’s degree is usually necessary to be licensed as a counselor.

Job outlook:

The outlook for mental health counselors has gotten a boost from insurance companies, which are increasingly covering counselors’ costs because they’re cheaper than psychologists or psychiatrists. Also, more will be needed as states build networks to improve service for children and adolescents.

Dental Hygienists

Projected increase in 2017:30.1 percent

Number employed in 2006:167,000

Median pay in 2006:$62,430


Dental hygienists must get a state license to practice. A degree from dental hygiene school is also usually required.

Job outlook:

Dental hygienists will continue to be in demand as the population ages and care improves. Older patients are keeping their teeth longer instead of wearing dentures. Hygienists will take over more tasks that were previously performed by dentists.

Pharmacy Technicians

Projected increase in 2017:32 percent

Number employed in 2006:285,000

Median pay in 2006:$26,510


Most of the training a pharmacy technician receives is on the job. However, education, experience, certification, and customer service skills will aid someone looking to break into this field.

Job outlook:

The demand for pharmacy technicians will increase along with the elderly population. Pharmacies looking to cut costs will shift more responsibilities from pharmacists to technicians.

Physical Therapist Assistants

Projected increase in 2017:32.4 percent

Number employed in 2006:60,000

Median pay in 2006:$41,410


PTAs are required to complete an accredited, 2-year program that combines semesters of academic study and hands-on clinical experience. After completing the program, PTAs must be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association. Depending on the state of employment additional testing and licensing may be required.

Job outlook:

Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute hospital, skilled nursing, and orthopedic settings, where the elderly are most often treated. Job prospects should be especially favorable in rural areas, as many physical therapists tend to cluster in highly populated urban and suburban areas.

Gaming Surveillance Officers And Gaming Investigators

Projected increase in 2017:33.6 percent

Number employed in 2006:9,000

Median pay in 2006:$30,470


A certificate program is likely the highest level of education needed for this position. Training is often conducted in a casino-like atmosphere using surveillance equipment. Prior casino or security experience is preferred.

Job outlook:

It’s no surprise why this profession will grow through 2017; look no further than Massachusetts, which is considering building three casinos.

Social And Human Service Assistants

Projected increase in 2017:33.6 percent

Number employed in 2006:339,000

Median pay in 2006:$27,200


A bachelor’s degree is not typically required, but work experience or some further education is usually sought.

Job outlook:

Employers are increasingly relying on social and human service assistants as the elderly population grows. These assistants also work with those who are pregnant, homeless, or disabled.

Financial Analysts

Projected increase in 2017:33.8 percent

Number employed in 2006:221,000

Median pay in 2006:$77,280


Financial analysts are required to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Job outlook:

As the financial industry grows in size and complexity, so will the demand for analysts, particularly at mutual funds.

Skin Care Specialists

Projected increase in 2017:34.3 percent

Number employed in 2006:38,000

Median pay in 2006:$29,550


Training programs for skin care specialists can be found in both high schools and post-secondary vocational schools.

Job outlook:

Estheticians are the skin care specialists who will likely see the most job growth, but all parts of the industry are expected to expand as more skin treatments become available in spas and medical facilities.

Substance Abuse And Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Projected increase in 2017:34.3 percent

Number employed in 2006:83,000

Median pay in 2006:$35,950


The requirements vary from state to state, however a master’s degree is needed to be licensed as a counselor.

Job outlook:

The demand for substance abuse counselors will grow as more people voluntarily seek treatment and drug abusers are sent to treatment rather than jail.


Projected increase in 2017:27.6 percent

Number employed in 2006:78,000

Median pay in 2006:$81,490


Veterinarians must complete a four-year post-grad program to receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. That’s no easy task — admission to veterinary school is competitive. Before practicing, veterinarians must also be licensed by the state.

Job outlook:

Pet owners are increasingly seeking nontraditional services, such as preventative dental care. Advances in the field are also allowing veterinarians to offer procedures common for humans, including hip replacement, blood transfusions, and cancer treatment, creating a need for more professionals.

Medical Assistants

Projected increase in 2017:35.4 percent

Number employed in 2006:417,000

Median pay in 2006:$26,290


A one-year certificate or two-year associate’s degree program is often required, but medical assistants also receive on-the-job training specific from their employer.

Job outlook:

The medical industry is expected to expand because of technological advances and the growing elderly population. As the healthcare industry expands, more practices and clinics requiring large support staffs are opening.

Theatrical And Performance Makeup Artists

Projected increase in 2017:39.8 percent

Number employed in 2006:2,000

Median pay in 2006:$36,730


A high school diploma or GED may be required depending on the employer. There are also schools that specialize in makeup artist training, but this is not required.

Job outlook:

While this occupation is growing by a large percentage, its still a relatively small profession and the number of people interested in this field will still far exceed the number of available positions.

Personal Financial Advisers

Projected increase in 2017:41 percent

Number employed in 2006:176,000

Median pay in 2006:$66,120


The minimum requirement for a financial adviser is a bachelor’s degree. However, it’s a field in which workers frequently attend training courses to keep up with changes in the industry.

Job outlook:

Although this is expected to be one of the top 10 fastest-growing occupations, competition for new jobs is expected to be tough. Again, this industry’s growth can be attributed in large part to the millions of baby boomers who will soon retire.

Veterinary Technologists And Technicians

Projected increase in 2017:41 percent

Number employed in 2006:71,000

Median pay in 2006:$27,750


There are two educational tracks available to people entering the veterinary field: a two-year associate’s degree from an accredited community college veterinary technician program, or a four-year bachelor’s degree from one of about 16 colleges in the country that offer programs.

Job outlook:

Pet owners are increasingly thinking of Tabby or Spot as members of the family, creating a boom in this industry. Pet owners are becoming more affluent, and the number of pets is growing, boosting demand for specialized veterinary services.

Computer Applications Software Engineers

Projected increase in 2017:44.6 percent

Number employed in 2006:507,000

Median pay in 2006:$82,000


Requirements may vary from job to job, but in 2006, eight in 10 workers held at least a bachelor’s degree. Knowledge and experience with a variety of computer systems is also a major plus.

Job outlook:

This industry will grow as computer networking grows, and businesses seek to become more efficient using emerging technology.

Home Health Aides

Projected increase in 2017:48.7 percent

Number employed in 2006:787,000

Median pay in 2006:$20,100


Home health aides are not required to have a high school diploma; they receive most of their training on the job from experienced aides or nurses. Classroom training, lectures, and workshops may be required depending on employer.

Job outlook:

While personal and home care aides provide mostly housekeeping and routine services, home health aides provide more extensive healthcare than family and friends can manage. A growing demand for home services among the elderly and the pressure to contain costs by moving patients home sooner will make home health aides one of the fastest growing aide professions. A possible downside, however, is that most employers only hire on-call hourly workers and do not offer benefits.

Personal And Home Care Aides

Projected increase in 2017:50.6 percent

Number employed in 2006:767,000

Median pay in 2006:$18,180


Some states only require on-the-job training; other states may require formal training that can be completed at community colleges, vocational schools, home healthcare agencies, and elder care programs.

Job outlook:

Rapid job growth is expected because of the projected rise in the number of elderly people, who are increasingly relying on home care.

Network Systems And Data Communications Analyst

Projected increase in 2017:53.4 percent

Number employed in 2006:262,000

Median pay in 2006:$67,460


Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree, although some only require a two-year degree. Employers also place a high value on relevant work experience.

Job outlook:

This profession will grow because, as businesses implement more and newer technology, more professionals will be needed to monitor efficiency and set up networks.