Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment outlook for bachelor's-level occupations

| April 2018

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What’s the outlook in occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree to enter? Which of those occupations are projected to have many openings? How much do they pay? U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data can answer these questions.

This article examines selected occupations in which a bachelor's degree is typically required to enter them. It highlights wages and projected openings in these "bachelor's-level" occupations.

Projections by entry-level education

BLS makes employment projections for more than 800 occupations. As part of this analysis, BLS also determines the education that is typically needed for people entering an occupation. In every occupation, however, the education typically required for people at the entry level may differ from that of people who are already working in it.

An example is network and computer systems administrators. More than half of network and computer systems administrators ages 25 and older in 2015–16 had attained education other than a bachelor’s degree. Seeking candidates with competitive skills, most employers hiring network and computer systems administrators today require a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science. Therefore, BLS has determined that people entering this occupation typically need a bachelor’s degree.

Woman working at a computer

In all, BLS designates 174 occupations as typically requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry. Employment in these bachelor’s-level occupations is projected to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the 7-percent average projected for all occupations.

Openings by career field

This article features nine career fields in which BLS projects the most openings for bachelor's-level occupations:

Nearly all of the occupations are assigned to career fields based on the type of bachelor’s degree you might need to enter them. For example, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives who sell technical and scientific products are included in the healthcare and science field, because employers may require that these sales representatives, like workers in all occupations in this field, have a degree in healthcare or science. Management-related occupations, however, are grouped together because you typically need work experience in a related occupation, in addition to a degree, to enter them.

For each career field, the charts that follow highlight the number of openings projected to arise each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026 in the selected occupations. Most of these openings will stem from the need to replace workers who leave an occupation. But some of them are expected to be newly created jobs.

The charts also include information about 2017 median annual wages. (A median wage means that half of workers in the occupation earned more than that amount, and half earned less. These wage data exclude self-employed workers.) In 2017, the median annual wage for bachelor’s-level occupations was $72,830, nearly double the $37,690 median wage for all occupations.

Business

Workers in business occupations help organizations operate from day to day. Among the occupations in chart 1, market research analysts and marketing specialists is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 1. Business occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Market research analysts and marketing specialists

77,100 595,400 $63,230

Human resources specialists

57,600 547,800 60,350

Compliance officers(1)

25,900 288,300 67,870

Cost estimators(1)

24,400 217,900 63,110

Logisticians

15,600 148,700 74,590
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires moderate-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

In addition to typically requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry, two occupations in chart 1 require on-the-job training for workers to become competent. Wages for logisticians were highest of the occupations in the chart.

Community and social service

The work of occupations in community and social service involves helping people overcome problems or improve their lives. Fewer openings are projected to arise in these occupations than in some other fields. Of the occupations in chart 2, child, family, and school social workers is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 2. Community and social service occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Child, family, and school social workers

38,300 317,600 $44,380

Clergy(1)

29,200 243,900 47,100

Community and social service specialists, all other

14,100 100,300 41,570

Health educators

8,700 61,000 53,940

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists(2)

8,300 91,300 51,410
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires moderate-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

(2) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires short-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Workers in some of these occupations may need additional credentials, such as a license or certification. The occupations in chart 2 are among the lowest paid of the bachelor’s-level occupations; however, each still had a wage above the median wage for all occupations.

Engineering and architecture

Workers in engineering and architecture occupations use math or science to design and develop structures, products, and systems. Of the occupations in chart 3, civil engineers is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 3. Engineering and architecture occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Civil engineers

25,900 303,500 $84,770

Mechanical engineers

21,200 288,800 85,880

Industrial engineers

19,700 257,900 85,880

Electrical engineers

13,900 188,300 95,060

Architects, except landscape and naval(1)

9,700 128,800 78,470
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires an internship for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Licensing may be required for some of these workers. Wages for the occupations shown in chart 3 were higher than the median wage for bachelor’s-level occupations—and more than twice the median wage for all occupations.

Financial

Financial occupations, including those in chart 4, involve offering analysis, advice, or other help in managing money. Accountants and auditors stand out among the other occupations in chart 4 for the most projected openings annually, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 4. Financial occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Accountants and auditors

141,800 1,397,700 $69,350

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents(1)

38,000 375,700 63,780

Loan officers(1)

30,400 318,600 64,660

Financial analysts

29,000 296,100 84,300

Personal financial advisors(2)

25,500 271,900 90,640
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires moderate-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

(2) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires long-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Some financial occupations require licensing. On-the-job training, which workers receive after being hired, may be required in addition to a degree. Personal financial advisors had the highest median annual wage among occupations in chart 4.

Healthcare and science

Workers in healthcare and science occupations use a variety of disciplines to conduct research, perform tests, or provide care. Projected openings for registered nurses—more than 200,000 each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026—dwarf those in the other occupations in chart 5.

View Chart Data

Chart 5. Healthcare and science occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Registered nurses

203,700 2,955,200 $70,000

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products(1)

37,000 343,600 78,830

Environmental scientists and specialists, including health

9,500 89,500 69,400

Biological technicians

8,900 82,100 43,800

Chemists

8,600 88,300 74,740
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires moderate-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

Some healthcare occupations require a license in addition to education. Two occupations in chart 5 had a wage that was above the median for bachelor’s-level occupations; the others had wages that were higher than the median wage for all occupations.

Information technology

Workers who provide information technology (IT) services help organizations and individuals to develop and maintain computer systems, networks, or software. Of the occupations in chart 6, applications software developers is expected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 6. Information technology occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Software developers, applications

85,700 831,300 $101,790

Computer systems analysts

44,900 600,500 88,270

Software developers, systems software

32,900 425,000 107,600

Network and computer systems administrators

27,000 391,300 81,100

Computer programmers

15,500 294,900 82,240

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry or on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

In addition to having a degree, some workers may benefit from getting IT certifications. Median wages for all of the occupations in chart 6 had wages that were above the median wage for bachelor-level occupations.

Management-related

Most of the occupations in chart 7 are managers who oversee some type of work activity. From 2016 to 2026, the occupation of general and operations managers is projected to have more openings annually, on average, than any occupation in this article.

View Chart Data

Chart 7. Management-related occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

General and operations managers(1)

210,700 2,263,100 $100,410

Management analysts(2)

83,900 806,400 82,450

Financial managers(1)

56,900 580,400 125,080

Medical and health services managers(2)

36,700 352,200 98,350

Sales managers(2)

36,300 385,500 121,060
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires 5 years or more of work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(2) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires less than 5 years of work experience in a related occupation for entry.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

At the entry level, managers typically need work experience in a related occupation. The skill these workers have gained is reflected in their pay: Median wages in 2017 were among the highest of the occupations in this article.

Sports, communication, and design

Workers in sports, communication, and design occupations entertain or inform others, often in creative ways. Of the occupations in chart 8, coaches and scouts is projected to have the most openings per year, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 8. Sports, communications, and design occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Coaches and scouts

42,100 276,100 $32,270

Public relations specialists

28,200 259,600 59,300

Graphic designers

26,000 266,300 48,700

Writers and authors(1)

12,600 131,200 61,820

Interpreters and translators

7,800 68,200 47,190
Footnotes:

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry.

(1) In addition to a bachelor's degree, this occupation typically requires long-term on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

As mentioned previously, wages in these charts exclude those for self-employed workers. And some of the occupations in chart 8 had a higher percentage of self-employed workers than other bachelor’s-level occupations.

Teaching

Teachers use a variety of methods and tools for instructing students. Of the occupations in chart 9, elementary school teachers is projected to have the most openings annually, on average, from 2016 to 2026.

View Chart Data

Chart 9. Teaching occupations, selected, that typically require a bachelor's degree for entry, by projected openings, 2016–26 annual average
Occupation Occupational openings, 2016–26 annual average Employment, 2016 Median annual wage, 2017

Elementary school teachers, except special education

112,800 1,410,900 $57,160

Secondary school teachers, except special and career/technical education

79,500 1,018,700 59,170

Middle school teachers, except special and career/technical education

50,500 630,300 57,720

Kindergarten teachers, except special education

16,700 154,400 54,230

Special education teachers, kindergarten and elementary school

15,000 188,900 58,600

Note: None of these occupations typically requires work experience in a related occupation for entry or on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

To work in public schools, teachers need a license in addition to a degree. All but one occupation in chart 9, kindergarten teachers, had wages that were at least 50 percent more than the median wage for all occupations.

For more information

Learn more about what’s required to enter the occupations highlighted in this article, as well as hundreds of others, in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). For example, the How to Become One section of the OOH often describes recommended coursework, alternative paths for entering the occupation, or other steps in preparing for a career, such as completing an internship or earning a license or certification.

If this article didn’t show the occupation you’re interested in, don’t worry. Maybe the occupation you’re looking for is designated as typically requiring a level of education other than a bachelor’s degree. Or perhaps it’s a bachelor’s-level occupations projected to have some, although not as many, openings compared with the occupations featured in this article. A full list of occupational projections that includes education typically required for entry is available from the Employment Projections program.

About the Author

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at torpey.elka@bls.gov .

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Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Employment outlook for bachelor's-level occupations," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018.

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