Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Best Jobs Not Behind a Desk: Updated

This is an update to a book I wrote a few years back for JIST Publishing, featuring occupations that do not chain you to a desk. If you want to avoid the Dilbert style of work, you may want to consider one of the occupations on the list that follows.

If you're a bit antsy by nature, nonsedentary work may be a better fit for your energy level, and it probably will be better for your health. Researchers have linked desk jobs to increased incidence of back pain, eyestrain, obesity, and even colon cancer. One Australian study found that men who sit at their desks for more than six hours per day were almost twice as likely to be obese as men who sit for less than 45 minutes. An American study found that women who worked at a sedentary job for 14 years gained 20 pounds more than women who worked in the least sedentary jobs.

First, let me explain how I created this list. The O*NET database, created and maintained for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rates about 1,000 occupations on the level of "general physical activity" that they require, using a scale that ranges from zero to 7. The O*NET also rates every occupation on how much sitting it requires, again using the zero-to-7 scale, so I subtracted this rating from 7 to obtain a rating for how much the occupation allows not sitting. Then I calculated the average of the two ratings--general physical activity and not sitting--and expressed this combined rating on a scale ranging from zero to 100. This is the "Activity Level" measure in the following list. Using this measure, I sorted all occupations for which I had a full set of data and eliminated those that make up the bottom half of the distribution--the 280 most sedentary occupations. The 280 remaining occupations offer at least a moderate amount of moving around.

Next, following the procedure I used in the Best Jobs series of books, I sorted these non-desk-bound occupations three times, using economic information I obtained from the BLS: annual earnings (based on May 2013 estimates), projected growth from 2010 to 2020, and projected annual openings over this same decade. Finally, I summed these three rankings to generate one overall ranking. Occupations with the best combination of economic rewards are to be found closest to the top of the list. Note that adjacent occupations often have only small differences in their overall scores, so a difference of a few places on the list usually is not very significant. Also understand that the earnings figures are national averages, and actual earnings vary by location, specialization, and other factors.

I think you'll agree that the following list covers a wide variety of occupations, with something for almost every interest except maybe the most bookish pursuits:

Rank
Occupation
Activity
Level
Annual
Earnings
Growth
2010-
20
Annual
Openings
1
Physical Therapists 65.7 $81,030
36.0%
12,370
2
Registered Nurses 54.3 $66,220
19.4%
105,260
3
Nurse Practitioners 52.9 $92,670
33.7%
5,850
4
Physician Assistants 55.7 $92,970
38.4%
4,890
5
First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers 61.4 $60,380
23.5%
18,710
6
Occupational Therapists 55.7 $76,940
29.0%
4,820
7
Physical Therapist Assistants 61.4 $53,360
41.0%
4,510
8
Electricians 72.9 $50,510
19.7%
22,460
9
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters 74.3 $50,180
21.3%
13,050
10
Radiologic Technologists 64.3 $55,200
20.8%
6,960
11
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses 61.4 $41,920
24.8%
36,310
12
Surgeons 60.0 $187,200
23.2%
2,310
13
Occupational Therapy Assistants 61.4 $55,270
42.6%
2,050
14
Carpenters 77.1 $40,500
24.2%
32,920
15
Industrial Machinery Mechanics 72.9 $47,910
18.9%
15,250
16
Respiratory Therapists 60.0 $56,290
19.1%
4,010
17
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers 71.4 $43,880
20.9%
12,370
18
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians 61.4 $53,210
30.4%
2,300
19
Brickmasons and Blockmasons 82.9 $46,610
35.5%
3,280
20
Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators 54.3 $42,540
18.9%
14,440
21
First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers 57.1 $61,220
7.8%
15,200
22
Surgical Technologists 62.9 $42,720
29.8%
3,910
23
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers 55.7 $91,920
15.8%
1,730
24
Veterinarians 62.9 $86,640
12.0%
3,100
25
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education 54.3 $50,230
13.0%
6,510
26
Structural Iron and Steel Workers 80.0 $46,520
21.8%
3,150
27
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels 61.4 $69,920
13.8%
2,130
28
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers 58.6 $56,130
5.9%
24,390
29
Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers 74.3 $64,170
8.9%
4,990
30
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers 75.7 $36,130
29.1%
5,720
31
Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining 77.1 $42,790
20.9%
3,640
32
Elevator Installers and Repairers 80.0 $78,640
24.6%
800
33
Radiation Therapists 62.9 $79,140
23.5%
840
34
Construction and Building Inspectors 61.4 $54,450
12.2%
3,670
35
Sheet Metal Workers 72.9 $43,890
15.5%
4,890
36
Insulation Workers, Mechanical 75.7 $40,500
46.7%
1,730
37
Chiropractors 67.1 $65,300
14.6%
1,520
38
Construction Laborers 77.1 $30,460
24.3%
48,910
39
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other 60.0 $48,610
17.1%
2,280
40
Painters, Construction and Maintenance 61.4 $35,390
19.8%
11,050
41
Medical Assistants 54.3 $29,610
29.0%
26,990
42
Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas 78.6 $51,570
18.6%
1,540
43
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic 54.3 $46,510
27.6%
1,350
44
Nuclear Medicine Technologists 54.3 $71,120
20.2%
720
45
Massage Therapists 65.7 $35,920
22.6%
4,410
46
Vocational Education Teachers, Postsecondary 54.3 $48,300
11.8%
3,660
47
First-Line Supervisors of Landscaping, Lawn Service, and Groundskeeping Workers 68.6 $42,570
12.7%
4,990
48
First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers 72.9 $70,040
6.3%
3,050
49
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics 65.7 $31,270
23.1%
12,060
50
Millwrights 77.1 $50,030
18.4%
1,340

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Recovery from Recession: Comparing States

The nation's recovery from the Great Recession is proving to be uneven, with some states still stuck in the downturn and others bouncing back. I used figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released only two weeks ago to see how states compared. The maps below show what I found.

I created two maps, one that looks at the increase in average wage across occupations and the other that looks at the increase in total workforce size:


The outstanding state obviously is North Dakota, where the petroleum boom is lifting both wages and employment by high percentage figures (11.2 percent and 13.8 percent).

Some states show very difference performances on the two maps. For example, Colorado's workforce increased by a healthy 5.3 percent, but its average wage increased by only 1.2 percent. In other words, most of the jobs it gained were low-wage jobs. (Three Sunbelt states--California, Arizona, and Florida--experienced similar lopsided gains.) By contrast, West Virginia's workforce expanded by only 1.3 percent, but its wages gained by a substantial 3.8 percent. Perhaps the small size and low population density of this state contributed to this phenomenon (and similar results in Vermont); to expand the workforce even by a small amount, employers had to jack up wages more than was necessary in more crowded states.

My state, New Jersey, bears the shame of posting less than 2 percent gains on both measures. We Garden Staters share this dubious distinction with New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

New Wage Figures Reveal Trends of the Past Two Years


The BLS has just released the May 2013 estimates for wages in 800+ occupations. I thought it would be interesting to see which occupations showed the greatest and smallest increases in pay compared to previous years.

I decided that the best way to smooth out errors and focus on large trends would be to look at groups of occupations rather than detailed occupations and to look at the difference over two years rather than one year.

Here’s what I found:


Occupational Group
May 2011
May  2013
Change
Healthcare Support Occupations
$25,140
$26,080
3.7%
Computer and Mathematical Occupations
$75,080
$77,860
3.7%
Architecture and Engineering Occupations
$72,070
$74,530
3.4%
Business and Financial Operations Occupations
$61,700
$63,800
3.4%
Management Occupations
$92,880
$95,600
2.9%
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
$59,570
$61,120
2.6%
Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
$59,330
$60,860
2.6%
Office and Administrative Support Occupations
$31,250
$32,010
2.4%
Community and Social Service Occupations
$39,880
$40,810
2.3%
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
$43,640
$44,610
2.2%
Construction and Extraction Occupations
$39,820
$40,670
2.1%
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
$40,600
$41,440
2.1%
Production Occupations
$30,670
$31,250
1.9%
All Occupations
$34,460
$35,080
1.8%
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
$22,620
$22,970
1.5%
Personal Care and Service Occupations
$20,730
$21,010
1.4%
Sales and Related Occupations
$24,840
$25,160
1.3%
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
$28,760
$29,100
1.2%
Legal Occupations
$75,470
$76,100
0.8%
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
$18,900
$19,020
0.6%
Education, Training, and Library Occupations
$46,060
$46,140
0.2%
Protective Service Occupations
$36,740
$36,770
0.1%
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations
$19,460
$19,380
-0.4%
Teachers, Postsecondary
$64,592
$62,920
-2.6%


Perhaps the most powerful takeaway from this table is that wages are growing fastest among the STEM occupations—science, technology, engineering, and math.

Some occupations that will account for numerous job openings—notably the Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations; the Personal Care and Service Occupations; and the Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations—have experience slower-than-average wage growth. Yesterday’s Senate defeat of the bill to raise the minimum wage—a disgraceful defiance of overwhelming popular support—only reinforces this trend.

It’s interesting to note that three groups of blue-collar occupations have experienced slightly faster-than-average wage growth: Construction and Extraction Occupations; Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations; and Production Occupations. These occupations require higher levels of skill than the wage-stagnant occupations in the previous paragraph. Production Occupations, in particular, have seen increased skill requirements as the low-skill workers in this field have been replaced by either robots or offshore workers.

Yes, but what about Postsecondary Teachers? Surely they require high levels of skill, not to mention high-level educational credentials, yet their wages actually lost ground over this two-year period. This downturn in annual wages reflects the fact that colleges and universities are increasingly using adjunct teachers. These temporary or part-time workers are paid on a different scale from tenured or permanent faculty.