Perhaps you'd like to work from home instead of at an employer’s jobsite. If so, you may be wondering: How prevalent is telework? And in which occupations might telework be an option?
In 2021, telework was available for nearly 10 percent of all workers, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS). For purposes of this survey, workers are counted as having telework available if they are allowed to complete critical job tasks from home for an agreed-upon portion of their workweek. ORS data reflect only permanent telework; temporary or ad-hoc arrangements, such as those created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, are not included.
This article looks at ORS data for clues about which occupational groups might offer the flexibility of working from home. It also highlights detailed occupations in which telework is available, along with their outlook and wages using data from the BLS Employment Projections (EP) and Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) programs, respectively.
Workers in some occupational groups are more likely than those in others to have telework available. (See chart 1.) In groups with above-average percentages of workers for whom telework is available, many tasks may be completed independently or without a supervisor present. Workers in these groups also might spend much of their time at a desk, perhaps on the computer.
Among legal occupations, lawyers had a large share of workers who were allowed to telework. Lawyers’ tasks—which include legal research, document drafting, and client contact—often are suitable for at least partial telework. Some lawyers rarely visit a courtroom, one of their worksites that usually requires in-person appearances.
The need to be at a jobsite is a major reason why some occupational groups are less likely to have a telework option. The following groups have high percentages of workers who did not have telework available in 2021.
Workers in these groups frequently interact with the public, use tools and machinery, or perform other tasks that require them to be onsite and under supervision. They may be able to do some tasks at home that are not related to their critical job function, such as completing paperwork. However, these noncritical tasks are not captured in the data because they fall outside the survey definition for telework.
If you want to work from home, focusing on occupational groups that have telework available is a step toward identifying specific occupations that may interest you. The tables that follow show selected occupations with telework available, many of which are concentrated in business and financial operations; computer and mathematical; and a few other occupational groups.
In addition to including the percentages of workers with telework available, these tables show the number of occupational openings projected each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031 and projected employment growth over the decade. Wage data show that each of the selected occupations had a median annual wage above the $45,760 median for all occupations in 2021. Most of these occupations typically require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry, and a few require related work experience.
In the business and financial operations occupations shown in table 1, workers often can do critical job tasks independently from home. These tasks might include creating reports and spreadsheets, analyzing information, or emailing clients and colleagues.
Many of the occupations in table 1 are projected to have employment growth that is at least as fast as the 5-percent average for all occupations. Of the occupations in table 1, accountants and auditors is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031.
The computer and mathematical occupations shown in table 2 may involve independent tasks such as testing and designing software or writing code and scripts, which usually are conducive to telework.
Projected employment change for the occupations in table 2 ranges from much faster than average growth to declines. Software developers, one of the fastest growing occupations in table 2, also is projected to have the most openings each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031.
A variety of other occupations allow for telework. The occupations shown in table 3 are in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media; legal; and sales and related groups. Potential at-home tasks for the occupations in this table include editing electronic drafts, creating digital layouts, or preparing media content.
Projected employment outlook is mixed for the occupations in table 3. Of the occupations shown, lawyers is projected to have the most occupational openings each year, on average, over the decade.
Learn more about the occupations mentioned in this article, and hundreds of others, in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH describes what workers do, their job outlook, their pay, and more and includes data from the Employment Projections and Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics programs.
ORS has other job-related information about physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; and cognitive and mental requirements in addition to telework availability. For more information, visit the Occupational Requirements Survey program.
ORS is among several BLS programs that collect data on telework. Other information related to workplace flexibility is available from the Business Response Survey, the American Time Use Survey, the Current Population Survey, and the National Compensation Survey programs.
Elka Torpey, "Working from home: Outlook and wages in occupations with telework," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2022.