December 2013

Occupational employment projections to 2022


The education and training discussion in this article focuses mainly on the education category assignments for entering an occupation.7 The education categories BLS assigns to occupations are

  • Doctoral or professional degree
  • Master’s degree
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Associate’s degree
  • Postsecondary nondegree award
  • Some college, no degree
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Less than high school

Education assignments provide insight on the formal education typical of entry-level jobs in a field and how they compare with other similar occupations.

Wage data. The wage data cited in this article come from the Occupational Employment Statistics program’s May 2012 data. These data provide information on typical wages for occupations and provide a way to compare the earnings potential differences between occupations or occupational groups. In May 2012, the median annual wage for all wage and salary workers was $34,750. The median wage is the wage at which half of all workers earned more and half earned less.

Drivers of occupational growth and decline

Occupational growth and decline stem from two different factors: growth or decline of the industries in which occupations are employed, and changes in the mix of occupations employed in those industries.

Changes to industry employment. Occupations are heavily tied to the industries that employ them. When industries grow, the occupations employed in them usually grow as well. An example of this is registered nurses. About half of registered nurses were employed in private general medical and surgical hospitals in 2012. Because employment in these hospitals is projected to grow, nursing employment in this industry is likewise projected to grow. The projected employment growth rates for these hospitals and the nurses working in them from 2012 to 2022 are 15.2 percent for private general medical and surgical hospitals and 16.6 percent for registered nurses working in those hospitals.

By the same token, when an industry declines, the jobs lost will be in occupations that are within that industry. An example of this is sewing machine operators in textile product mills. The projected employment decline from 2012 to 2022 is 21.5 percent for textile product mills and 21.2 percent for sewing machine operators in textile product mills.

Changes to the mix of occupations employed in an industry. The mix of occupations within an industry changes over time, and these changes are the reason growth rates can differ between occupations in an industry and the industry itself. For example, an occupation that is increasing its share of industry employment will have a higher growth rate than the overall industry. This is the case with paralegals and legal assistants, an occupation that is expected to grow in the legal services industry. Paralegals and legal assistants are projected to handle more job responsibilities that were previously assigned to other legal support staff, causing this occupation to have expected growth that is more than twice as fast as that of the legal services industry. Legal services is projected to grow 7.9 percent, while employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 21.1 percent. The faster growth is due in part to the changing job responsibilities that will cause paralegals and legal assistants, who accounted for 17.7 percent of the legal services industry in 2012, to account for 19.9 percent of the industry in 2022.


7 For more information on the BLS education and training classification system, including definitions and data, see

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About the Author

Emily Richards

Emily Richards is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dave Terkanian

Dave Terkanian is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.