By Kelly Nielsen
Choosing and navigating a career path today is more challenging than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our work lives in dramatic, unprecedented ways. One major feature of the job market since March 2020 has been increased volatility. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job volatility is measured by the number of people who stop a job, experience decreased hours at work or see a decrease in their earnings. Whether you are entering the workforce for the first time, returning after some time away or contemplating a career change, knowing which jobs show the greatest potential for growth and stability is key.
To help early-career professionals and career changers navigate this shifting landscape, the Center for Research and Evaluation (CR+E) at UC San Diego’s Division of Extended Studies analyzed labor market data to identify the most promising jobs as the country begins to look beyond the pandemic. Using data from the labor market data firm Emsi Burning Glass, researchers identified some of the fastest-growing, highest-paying occupations in both the San Diego region and across the country. And by focusing on occupations that are expected to add hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of jobs locally and tens to hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally, they have put together occupations that present the greatest opportunity to job seekers.
According to the Center for Research + Evaluation, the top 10 occupations in San Diego are estimated to grow between 11% and 30% over the next decade, with median hourly wages starting around $23 an hour and going as high as $58 an hour. The occupation with the greatest potential for growth in San Diego is in the healthcare field. The region is expected to add 30% more Medical and Health Services Managers by 2031. Software development and quality assurance jobs are expected to grow at a slightly lower rate (23%). These are also the highest paying occupations, with both earning around $58 an hour.
While the rate of growth is a good indicator of how much opportunity there is in a given occupation, the number of expected jobs is also important to consider. For example, although Market Research and Marketing Specialists is one of the slower-growing occupations (13%), it is expected to add over a thousand jobs this decade. A fast-growing occupation with few new jobs could mean fewer opportunities or greater barriers to entry like specialized education or more required experience. The occupation expected to add the most jobs by 2031 is Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts, while the occupation expected to add the fewest is Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians.
When we consider the rate of growth and number of jobs together, healthcare management, software development and logistics stand out as San Diego’s best opportunities going forward.
Nationally, the picture is very similar. The top occupations across the country are expected to grow at similarly high rates and with median hourly wages between $17 and $53. At the same time, there are some notable differences. For instance, the fastest-growing occupations are in data and mathematical sciences and information security analysis, neither of which make the list in San Diego. The top 10 nationally also includes occupations such as coaches and scouts; interpreters and translators; and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.
According to Center for Research + Evaluation researchers, healthcare management and software development again present some of the greatest opportunities for career development over the next decade. Medical and health services managers are expected to grow 25%, an additional 100,000 new jobs, while the country is expected to add almost 350,000 new software developers and quality assurance analysts, an increase of 23%.
Choosing the Right Path
As we continue to adjust to an economy that continues changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to know which occupations are expected to grow strongly in the years ahead.
Like healthcare management and software development, occupations such as logistics and market research are growing rapidly at both the regional and national levels. Occupations that are strong regionally and nationally may be less susceptible to local labor market disruptions, making them more resilient in the face of economic downturns or disruptions. In other words, if an occupation experiences a setback in one location, it may not struggle in other parts of the country. With the increase in remote work arrangements for many professionals since the start of the pandemic, choosing an occupation with strong national growth may be a good strategy even if you plan to search for jobs locally or have no plans to leave the area.
Understanding your opportunities to develop the skills you need is also critical. UC San Diego's Division of Extended Studies offers courses and programs carefully aligned with workforce demand, including a wide range of healthcare programs like Medical Coding, Clinical Trials Administration and Healthcare Finance, all providing key foundations for medical and health services manager occupations. The Supply Management program equips students to become leaders in logistics, distribution, sales and management. UC San Diego's division of Extended Studies also offers a wide range of data analytics and programming courses including Java, Python and Data Mining.
These are just some of the many considerations when embarking on a new career or making a career change. Others, such as interest and past experience, will play a big part in deciding which career path is the right one. Knowing which jobs have the greatest potential for opportunity is a great place to start.
Did you find this article helpful? Please let us know in the comments!