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Career Outlook article page

Education level and projected openings, 2022–32

| January 2024

Whatever your education level or goal, there are lots of occupations to consider. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can show you which ones are expected to have the most openings for new entrants.  

The charts that follow highlight selected occupations that BLS projects will have many annual average openings from 2022 to 2032, along with the source of those openings. Most openings come from the need to replace workers who leave permanently, either to exit the labor force or to transfer to a different occupation. But others are from employment growth: that is, newly created jobs.

Each chart focuses on occupations that typically require a specific education level to enter, from no formal credential to a graduate degree. Hover over a bar to see an occupation’s wage, which you can compare with the $46,310 median annual wage for all occupations, as well as the work experience typically needed for entry and the training typically required to become competent.

No formal educational credential

Nearly 5.7 million openings are projected each year, on average, in occupations that you typically can enter without having a high school diploma. Minimal employment growth is expected in these occupations overall, which explains the limited number of openings from new jobs shown in chart 1. 

Cashiers, retail salespersons, and waiters and waitresses all are projected to have employment declines that are due, in part, to the continued use of self-service technologies in stores and restaurants. But as chart 1 shows, there are still likely to be hundreds of thousands of openings each year for new entrants to replace workers who leave these large occupations.

Wages for the occupations in chart 1 ranged from $36,110 for hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers to $27,930 for fast food and counter workers.

Restaurant cooks—the occupation in chart 1 projected to have the most openings from newly created jobs—typically need work experience in a related occupation, such as food preparation workers. All the occupations in chart 1 usually require on-the-job training, which helps workers to learn the skills that they need to attain competency.

High school diploma or the equivalent

Occupations that typically require a high school diploma or the equivalent for entry have the most projected openings of any education level: 7.1 million per year, on average, over the decade. And the occupations shown in chart 2 accounted for about one-third of those total openings.

Home health and personal care aides stands out among the occupations in chart 2 for having the largest number of projected openings, averaging well over half a million each year. This occupation is projected to have more openings due to new jobs than any other occupation in the economy, as these workers are increasingly needed to help care for an aging population.

The highest paying occupation in chart 2 was general maintenance and repair workers, with a median annual wage of $44,980. The lowest paying was home health and personal care aides, with a median annual wage of $30,180.

Workers in the occupations in chart 2 generally don’t need experience to get entry-level jobs; however, they do receive on-the-job training after they are hired. An exception is first-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers, who typically work their way up from a related food service occupation and therefore may not need formal on-the-job training.

More than high school, less than a bachelor’s degree

BLS projects nearly 2 million annual average openings in occupations that typically require a postsecondary nondegree award; some college, no degree; or an associate’s degree. To enter most of the occupations in chart 3, you typically need a certificate or other postsecondary nondegree award. (None of the occupations in chart 3 typically requires an associate’s degree.)

Medical assistants is the occupation in chart 3 that’s projected to have the most openings due to employment growth, with new jobs expected to stem from greater demand for healthcare services. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to have the largest number of total openings (about 241,200 each year, on average) of the occupations in chart 3.

Heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers also had the highest median annual wage of occupations in chart 3: $49,920. Teaching assistants, except postsecondary, had the lowest median annual wage of those in the chart at $30,920.

None of the occupations in chart 3 requires experience to enter. Several of them—automotive service technicians and mechanics, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks—typically need on-the-job training to attain competency.

Bachelor’s degree

Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree are expected to have 3.3 million openings each year, on average, over the projections decade. Overall, employment in bachelor’s-level occupations is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is reflected in chart 4, which shows relatively high numbers of openings due to new jobs.

Of the occupations in chart 4, software developers is expected to have the largest number of openings from growth (41,000 each year, on average), and it had the highest median annual wage ($127,260). General and operations managers is expected to have the most openings of any bachelor’s-level occupation, with an average of about 296,300 per year. Elementary school teachers, except special education, had the lowest wage ($61,180) of the occupations in chart 4.

Two of the occupations in chart 4 typically need work experience in a related occupation to qualify for entry-level jobs: management analysts and general and operations managers. None requires formal on-the-job training to attain competency.

Graduate degree

Graduate-level occupations include those that typically require a master's, doctoral, or professional degree, such as a J.D. or M.D. Together, these occupations are projected to have slightly more than 500,000 annual average openings from 2022 to 2032. Many of the occupations in chart 5 typically require a master’s degree for entry. 

Of the occupations in chart 5, nurse practitioners is projected to have the most openings due to employment growth. Heightened demand for these workers is expected as healthcare needs rise and as people increasingly rely on nurse practitioners for preventive and primary care. Lawyers is the occupation in chart 5 that’s projected to have the most annual average openings (39,100) from any source.

Median annual wages for the occupations in chart 5 ranged from $135,740 for lawyers to $60,140 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors.

Three of the occupations in chart 5 require experience to enter. Instructional coordinators and education administrators typically need work experience in a related occupation, such as teaching. Postsecondary health specialties teachers typically must have worked in a healthcare occupation related to their instructional field. Healthcare social workers usually complete an internship to attain competency.

For more information

The charts in this article highlight a fraction of the more than 800 occupations for which BLS makes employment projections. Search for occupations by education level, wages, and other variables using the “Select occupations by” feature of the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH has information about workers in more than 300 occupational profiles, including what they do, pay, job outlook, how to become one, and more.

Additional information about education and training and occupational openings is available from the BLS Employment Projections program.

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS.

Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Education level and projected openings, 2022–32," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2024.

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