Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education level and projected openings, 2019–29

| October 2020

Perhaps you aspire to an associate’s degree, or you’re determined to get a doctorate. Or maybe you have no plans for formal education. Whatever your goal is, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has data by education level that show which occupations are expected to have the most openings over the coming decade.

BLS makes long-term employment projections for nearly 800 detailed occupations. Each occupation is assigned to the education level that’s typically required for workers to enter. This article highlights 50 of the occupations that BLS projects to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029. These occupational openings are grouped by education level as follows:

Across all occupations, BLS projects more than 17 million openings each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029. Openings arise from two sources: when new jobs are created from employment growth and when workers leave an occupation permanently, such as to transfer to another occupation or to retire.

Keep reading to see tables showing projected openings and median annual wages at each of the education levels. (A median wage is the point at which half of workers made more than the amount, and half made less. In 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.) The tables also indicate whether workers typically need experience in a related occupation for entry and whether on-the-job training to attain competency is typically required.

No formal educational credential

BLS classifies 103 occupations as not typically needing any formal educational credential. Table 1 shows the 10 occupations in this group that are projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029.

Table 1.

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Table 1. No formal educational credential to enter:
Occupations projected to have the most openings each year, on average, 2019–29

Occupation

Occupational openings, projected 2019–29 annual average

Median annual wage, 2019

Typical work experience in a related occupation

Typical on-the-job training

Fast food and counter workers

826,600 $22,740 None Short-term

Retail salespersons

568,100 25,250 None Short-term

Cashiers

558,600 23,650 None Short-term

Waiters and waitresses

475,700 22,890 None Short-term

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

380,600 29,510 None Short-term

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

305,600 27,430 None Short-term

Cooks, restaurant

237,200 27,790 Less than 5 years Moderate-term

Maids and housekeeping cleaners

181,500 24,850 None Short-term

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

158,900 30,440 None Short-term

Construction laborers

141,100 36,860 None Short-term

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

The occupations in table 1 account for about 68 percent of all openings projected at this education level. Fast food and counter workers is projected to have more openings than any other occupation in the economy: more than 800,000 each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029. Although most of these openings are expected from the need to replace workers who leave this large occupation each year, BLS also projects many new jobs to be created.

Each of the occupations in table 1, like most at this education level, had wages below the median for all occupations. The occupations in the table may not require formal education, but they typically involve training on the job, often for 1 month or less.

High school diploma or equivalent

There are 322 occupations that typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent (such as a GED)—nearly twice as many occupations as at any other level of education. Table 2 shows occupations at the high school level that are projected to have the most openings annually, on average, from 2019 to 2029.

Table 2.

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Table 2. High school diploma or equivalent to enter:
Occupations projected to have the most openings each year, on average, 2019–29

Occupation

Occupational openings, projected 2019–29 annual average

Median annual wage, 2019

Typical work experience in a related occupation

Typical on-the-job training

Home health and personal care aides

568,800 $25,280 None Short-term

Customer service representatives

350,200 34,710 None Short-term

Office clerks, general

317,500 34,040 None Short-term

Stockers and order fillers

254,900 27,380 None Short-term

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive

195,200 37,690 None Short-term

Childcare workers

160,200 24,230 None Short-term

First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers

152,600 33,400 Less than 5 years None

Security guards

142,700 29,680 None Short-term

Maintenance and repair workers, general

139,400 39,080 None Moderate-term

Receptionists and information clerks

139,200 30,050 None Short-term

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

Projected openings in the occupations in table 2 account for about 37 percent of the total number of openings expected in occupations at this education level. With more than a half million openings expected each year, on average, over the decade, home health and personal care aides is projected to have the most openings of the occupations in table 2. Many of the openings for these aides are expected to be from newly created jobs because this is also one of the fastest growing occupations.

Although none of the occupations in this table had wages higher than the median for all occupations, more than half of the occupations at this education level did. In addition to a high school diploma or equivalent, most of the occupations in table 2 also typically require on-the-job training for workers to gain competency in their tasks.

Associate's degree; postsecondary nondegree award; and some college, no degree

Nearly 100 occupations typically require some education beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Most of these occupations typically require an associate’s degree or a postsecondary nondegree award; six typically require some college but no degree. Table 3 shows the 10 occupations at these education levels that are projected to have the largest numbers of openings each year, on average, over the decade. (See table 3.)

Table 3.

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Table 3. Associate's degree; postsecondary nondegree award; and some college, no degree to enter:
Occupations projected to have the most openings each year, on average, 2019–29

Occupation

Occupational openings, projected 2019–29 annual average

Median annual wage, 2019

Typical education needed for entry

Typical on-the-job training

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers

209,200 $45,260 Postsecondary nondegree award Short-term on-the-job training

Nursing assistants

174,000 29,660 Postsecondary nondegree award None

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

162,100 41,230 Some college, no degree Moderate-term on-the-job training

Teaching assistants, except postsecondary

140,400 27,920 Some college, no degree None

Medical assistants

92,800 34,800 Postsecondary nondegree award None

Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists

70,600 26,090 Postsecondary nondegree award None

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

61,700 42,090 Postsecondary nondegree award Short-term on-the-job training

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

58,400 47,480 Postsecondary nondegree award None

Computer user support specialists

53,600 52,270 Some college, no degree None

Preschool teachers, except special education

50,600 30,520 Associate's degree None

Note: None of the occupations in the table typically require work experience in a related occupation for entry.

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

The occupational openings shown in the table account for about 62 percent of all openings projected in occupations that typically require an associate’s degree, postsecondary nondegree award, or some college but no degree. Heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers is projected to have the most openings of the occupations in table 3: about 209,200 each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029. The largest number of those openings is expected to be from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently rather than from new jobs due to employment growth.

Half of the occupations in table 3 had wages that were higher than the median for all occupations. On-the-job training to attain competency is typically required in a few of the occupations in the table.

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry in 169 occupations. Table 4 shows the occupations at this education level projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029.

Table 4.

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Table 4. Bachelor's degree to enter:
Occupations projected to have the most openings each year, on average, 2019–29

Occupation

Occupational openings, projected 2019–29 annual average

Median annual wage, 2019

Typical work experience

General and operations managers

204,400 $100,780 5 years or more work experience

Registered nurses

175,900 73,300 None

Software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers

131,400 107,510 None

Project management specialists and business operations specialists, all other

128,000 73,570 None

Accountants and auditors

125,700 71,550 None

Elementary school teachers, except special education

103,200 59,670 None

Management analysts

87,100 85,260 Less than 5 years work experience

Market research analysts and marketing specialists

84,200 63,790 None

Personal service managers, all other; entertainment and recreation managers, except gambling; and managers, all other

74,500 110,630 Less than 5 years work experience

Secondary school teachers, except special and career/technical education

71,100 61,660 None

Note: None of the occupations in the table typically require on-the-job training for competency.

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

About 40 percent of all openings projected in the bachelor’s-level group are in the occupations shown in table 4. General and operations managers is projected to have the most openings (204,400) annually, on average, of any occupation that typically requires a bachelor’s degree for entry. This large occupation employs workers across many industries; specific entry requirements and prospects vary.

Each of the occupations in table 4 had wages that were higher than the median for all occupations. That’s not surprising, given that nearly every occupation at this education level had higher-than-median wages. A few of the occupations in the table typically require work experience in a related occupation in addition to a bachelor’s degree, but none typically requires on-the-job training for workers to attain competency.

Master's, doctoral, and professional degrees

In 36 occupations, a master’s degree is typically required for entry; 63 occupations typically require a doctoral or professional degree. Table 5 shows the 10 occupations at these education levels that are projected to have the most openings annually, on average, from 2019 to 2029.

Table 5.

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Table 5. Master's, doctoral, and professional degree to enter:
Occupations projected to have the most openings each year, on average, 2019–29

Occupation

Occupational openings, projected 2019–29 annual average

Median annual wage, 2019

Typical education needed for entry

Typical work experience in a related occupation

Typical on-the-job training

Lawyers

39,900 $122,960 Doctoral or professional degree None None

Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors

33,100 57,040 Master's degree None None

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary

26,000 97,320 Doctoral or professional degree Less than 5 years None

Nurse practitioners

24,200 109,820 Master's degree None None

Education administrators, kindergarten through secondary

20,000 96,400 Master's degree 5 years or more None

Healthcare social workers

19,600 56,750 Master's degree None Internship/residency

Postsecondary teachers, all other

18,900 68,970 Doctoral or professional degree None None

Instructional coordinators

17,700 66,290 Master's degree 5 years or more None

Physical therapists

15,200 89,440 Doctoral or professional degree None None

Speech-language pathologists

13,700 79,120 Master's degree None Internship/residency

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

The occupational openings in table 5 account for about 46 percent of all openings projected in master’s, doctoral, and professional degree-level occupations. With 39,900 openings each year, on average, from 2019 to 2029, lawyers is projected to have more openings than any other occupation at these levels of education. Most of those openings are expected to be from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Wages for each of the occupations in table 5 were higher than the median for all occupations. In fact, of the 99 occupations at these education levels, only rehabilitation counselors ($35,950)—not shown in the table—had a wage below the median. High wages are more common in occupations that typically require many years of school and experience or training, as the ones in table 5 do, than in occupations that have few requirements.

For more information

Learn more about the occupations in this article and hundreds of others in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH has lots of detail, including what workers do and their pay, job outlook, and typical education requirements.

The BLS Employment Projections program has additional information on education and training, as well as occupational openings. For example, Table 5.4 shows the typical entry-level education and training assignments for all occupations, according to BLS, and Table 5.3 shows workers’ educational attainment within occupations based on data from the American Community Survey.

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, "Education level and projected openings, 2019–29," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2020.

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