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The Most In-Demand Jobs in an Uncertain Economy

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In a volatile economy, it pays to have a job that’s in high demand.

The February jobs report showed that unemployment remains low despite recent interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. However, whether that trend will continue remains to be seen, given recent bank collapses and the threat of more interest rate increases to contain inflation.

In this study, we examined employment and job openings trends using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to find the most in-demand roles for long-term job security — even in a tough economy.

Key Findings

  • The fastest-growing jobs with the highest employment are in health care, finance, tech, and the service industry. 
  • Of these jobs, the highest-paying are mostly tech and finance roles that require specialized skills and a bachelor’s or more advanced degree. 
  • The highest paying of the in-demand tech roles are computer and information systems managers, software developers, and information security analysts. 
  • The most in-demand jobs with the highest satisfaction rate are animal caretakers, hairdressers, and exercise trainers.
  • Of the most in-demand jobs that don’t require a college degree, the fastest growing are mostly in the service industry, such as bartenders, restaurant cooks, and supervisors of food preparation workers.

In this article, we further explore:

The Most In-Demand Jobs

BLS maintains a database of over 800 jobs in its Occupation Finder. We consulted its Employment Projections database to find the projected growth rate and projected number of new positions between 2021 and 2031 in each occupation. 

Then, we filtered for jobs projected to have a much faster than average growth rate (defined at 10.5% or above) and to add 50,000 or more new jobs between 2021 and 2031. We ended up with a list of 27 in-demand professions.

The most in-demand jobs — defined as the jobs with the highest employment in 2021 that are projected to grow the most by 2031 — are a mix of high-paying health care, tech, and finance jobs, as well as lower-paying service jobs:

The Most In-Demand High-Paying Jobs

To identify the most in-demand jobs with the most earning potential, we reordered our original list of 27 occupations according to BLS wage data. These five professions emerged as the most financially lucrative: 

  • Computer and information systems managers: Median annual wage of $159,010
  • Financial managers: Median annual wage of $131,710
  • Software developers: Median annual wage of $120,730
  • Nurse practitioners: Median annual wage of $120,680
  • Post-secondary health specialties teachers: Median annual wage of $102,720

For reference, the U.S. median annual earnings was $53,888 in 2021, according to Census Bureau data.

>>MORE: See the highest-paying jobs in the U.S.

The Most In-Demand Jobs With the Highest Satisfaction Rate

Of course, earning potential is just one way to determine whether a job is rewarding. For a different vantage point, we applied job satisfaction data from the BLS 2018 National Longitudinal Survey to our initial ranking. 

The survey asked respondents to rate their job dissatisfaction on a scale from one to four, with one defined as “like it very much” and four defined as “dislike it very much.” We averaged answers for each job across respondents. The following professions rate as the most in-demand jobs with the lowest employee dissatisfaction rate: 

  • Animal caretakers: 1.45 job dissatisfaction
  • Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists: 1.45 job dissatisfaction
  • Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors: 1.47 job dissatisfaction
  • Personal financial advisers: 1.50 job dissatisfaction
  • Management analysts: 1.51 job dissatisfaction

Of jobs on our initial list that had enough survey responses for an average job dissatisfaction score, these positions had the highest job dissatisfaction, ranked in order from most dissatisfaction to least:

  • Software developers: 1.97 job dissatisfaction
  • Financial managers: 1.81 job dissatisfaction
  • First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers: 1.67 job dissatisfaction
  • Medical assistants: 1.64 job dissatisfaction
  • Computer and information systems managers: 1.63 job dissatisfaction

The average job dissatisfaction score across all respondents in the survey was 1.69. Note: Not every job had a reported job dissatisfaction score from the 2018 survey. We filtered out job dissatisfaction scores where fewer than ten survey respondents gave a rating.

The Most In-Demand Jobs That Don’t Require a College Degree

Finally, we referenced the entry-level education requirements from BLS’s Occupation Finder to identify the most in-demand jobs that don’t require a college degree. Here are the highest-paying:

  • Industrial machinery mechanics: Median annual wage of $59,840
  • Self-enrichment teachers: Median annual wage of $43,580
  • Exercise trainers and group fitness instructors: Median annual wage of $40,700
  • Social and human service assistants: Median annual wage of $37,610
  • Medical assistants: Median annual wage of $37,190

>>MORE: 15 Surprising Jobs You Can Get Without a College Degree

Will a Tough Labor Market Impact the Most In-Demand Jobs?

While the BLS projections cover eight years or so, layoffs, particularly in the tech industry, have recently generated headlines. 

Sam Kuhn, economic data analyst at Appcast, attributes tech companies’ short-term restructuring in part to the effect of interest rate increases on tech company valuations.

But “while the current job market for tech jobs may seem gloomy, I would focus on long vs. short trends in the labor market and try to make a more data-driven choice about your future career,” says Kuhn. 

For instance, despite layoffs, the information industry has gained 435,000 jobs since April 2020, Kuhn notes. 

“The long term trend is that labor demand for tech skills like programming, math, and statistics will only grow,” he adds. “The current job market may seem tumultuous, but the long-term outcomes for many of these careers seem promising.”

How to Get an In-Demand Job in a Tough Market

Students searching for jobs in tech should consider broadening their search beyond employers like Google and Meta. Smaller companies are still interested in hiring top tech talent, Kuhn says.

You can also consider working in a technical role at a non-tech company. 

“Whether you go into the tech industry is not as important as the need to invest in tech skills, which are going to be more widely used across all industries,” says Liz Wilke, principal economist at Gusto.

Graduating students looking to work in tech should network to make connections at the companies where they’d like to work, she advises. Also, post projects on Github to showcase your skills to potential employers, Wilke says.

Take classes on machine learning and AI, core programming languages, and newer languages while in school, says Chris Murdock, co-founder and chief sourcing officer at IQTalent.

“Once you’re employed, always stay up to date on the new languages and trends,” he says.

Furthering your studies could bolster your chances in the labor market, given many in-demand roles require a bachelor’s or advanced degree. However, nothing is guaranteed, Kuhn says.

“Think deeply about [your] set of skills and how those match against a future career,” Kuhn says. “If you are interested in pursuing a career in data science for example, a master’s or [doctorate] is helpful, but it’s not required.” 

Online learning opportunities can be a way to gain new skills without taking on debt.

You can also pursue freelance work to boost your personal portfolio and secure a full-time role, Wilke says.

Finding the Right Job for You

Labor market trends can help you assess the level of job security that different careers could afford, but they’re just one data point among many when choosing a career.

“While forecasts can be valuable, the choice of one’s career is highly personal and is the result of hard work and determination,” says Kuhn. “Ultimately making a decision is not just about the labor market, but about striving to achieve personal goals that match a career.” 

If you’re not interested in a fast-growing, in-demand industry, “look to [invest] in cross-industry skills that will allow [you] to specialize in a function (marketer, programmer, communications/PR, etc.) rather than an industry,” Wilke says. 

Building transferable job skills can also help you change industries if you desire or the macroenvironment changes.

How to Use Forage to Land an In-Demand Job

An increasing number of college students are majoring in business, health, and computer science fields, as we explored in a previous study. These majors align with the fields of some of the most in-demand jobs, like software developers, management analysts, medical assistants, financial managers, medical and health services managers, and nurse practitioners.

Forage’s free job simulations are one way to supplement your studies with real-world experience and practice skills required for in-demand jobs. Here is a selection of Forage job simulations relevant to some of the highest-paying, most in-demand jobs.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

  • Job description: Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization.
  • Median annual wage: $159,010
  • Skills required: Project management, IT infrastructure management, network administration, computer programming
  • Forage programs: Cognizant Agile Methodology, JPMorgan Chase Agile 
working at Accenture

Accenture Project Management

Learn the benefits of and practice various project management methodologies with this free job simulation from Accenture.

Avg. Time: 5 to 6 hours

Skills you’ll build: Presentation skills, strategic analysis, communication, skills assessment

Financial Manager

  • Job description: Financial managers create financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.
  • Median annual wage: $131,710
  • Skills required: Financial analysis, financial modeling, accounting, forecasting
  • Forage programs: PwC Digital Assurance, JPMorgan Global Finance and Business Management

KPMG Career Catalyst: Tax

Step into the shoes of a KPMG tax employee and build practical tax accounting skills with this free Forage course.

Avg. Time: 3 to 4 hours

Skills you’ll build: Excel modeling, manipulating data, tax research, critical thinking, technical writing

Software Developer

Building with Cisco logo on the side

Cisco Introduction to Software Engineering

Build the technical skills you need to launch a career as a software engineer.

Avg. Time: 4.5 to 5 hours

Skills you’ll build: React, Git, networking design thinking

Information Security Analyst

NYC AIG office, working at AIG

AIG Cybersecurity

Explore a potential career in cybersecurity with this free Forage course from AIG and the New York Jobs CEO Council.

Avg. Time: 3 hours

Skills you’ll build: Vulnerability triage, security advisory, Python, solution architecture

Medical and Health Services Manager

Pfizer Molecule to Market

Explore how to build a go-to-market strategy for a new medicine with this free Forage job simulation.

Avg. Time: 4 to 6 hours

Skills you’ll build: Clinical studies, creative strategy, stakeholder management

Personal Financial Adviser

Working at JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Investment Banking

Explore a day-in-the-life as an investment banker at JPM with this free Forage job simulation.

Avg. Time: 5 hours

Skills you’ll build: Company analysis, discounted cash flow, business valuation

Management Analyst

BCG logo on building

BCG Strategy Consulting

Explore a day-in-the-life as a strategy consultant at BCG with this free Forage job simulation.

Avg. Time: 5 to 6 hours

Skills you’ll build: Market research, client communication, Excel, Powerpoint, critical thinking

Market Research Analyst

Lululemon Omnichannel Marketing

Learn how to build an integrated marketing plan with this free job simulation from Lululemon.

Avg. Time: 2 to 2.5 hours

Skills you’ll build: Market research, digital transformation, strategic thinking

For more free job simulations, check out Forage’s full course catalog.

Image credit: Depositphotos.com

Jenna Bellassai is the Lead Data Reporter at Forage. She previously was a Senior Data Scientist at Guru, where she transformed and analyzed data to improve search ranking algorithms.

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