11.06.09

Our Guide to the 10 Best (and Worst) Careers

With unemployment over 10 percent for the first time in 26 years, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine the careers with the best—and worst—prospects.

With unemployment over 10 percent for the first time in 26 years, The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine the careers with the best—and worst—prospects. The results: the 10 high-growth and 10 worst-growth jobs out there.

For the first time since June 1983, the country faces a double-digit unemployment rate. Today’s jobless figures just buttress the fact that while the recession is technically over—Gross Domestic Product expanded in the third quarter for the first time in a year, gaining 3.5 percent—actual job growth, as is typical, is lagging behind. While for some occupations the economic outlook is only likely to get grimmer, other jobs and industries are faring well enough, and are in fact expanding.

Click Below to View Our Gallery of Hot Jobs

To try to quantify the biggest winners and losers, The Daily Beast spent the past few weeks analyzing more than 750 job fields, using three years of data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The results—the 10 high-growth and 10 worst-growth jobs, respectively—are less a specific guide for what field to go into (occupational therapist assistant seems a solid enough choice, but hardly a reason to defer law school) than a roadmap to the future of the American economy, based on the immediate past. Look at the top two jobs, oil and gas drill operator and disease researcher. One benefits from the energy boom, another from America’s aging demographics. Neither of those trends will change near-term.

The bottom of the list, meanwhile, is littered with fields contracting by the forces of manufacturing decline (millwright), outsourcing (semiconductor factory worker) and automation (telephone operator).

How did we determine our Hot/Not lists? We started by taking BLS data from 2006 through 2008, and then adjusted for the total employment and median annual wage changes available for this year, giving us numbers that are current through September 2009. Our methodology had two primary drivers: For every occupation, we measured the number of positions created and the wage growth, by percentage, since 2006. Both of those factors were weighed equally. For the hot jobs, we also eliminated occupations making less than a median annual wage of $45,000. (There’s plenty of growth for oilfield roustabouts—paging Levi Johnston— but with a typical 35-year-old earning $29,000, it’s not a field that can be legitimately included as “hot.”)

When will the jobs markets recover for American workers in a tangible way? The Daily Beast doesn’t have an answer for that one. But this list at least provides some clues as to where the jobs are today. And why.

Click Below to View Our Gallery of Not Jobs

not-jobs
Imaginechina / AP Photo

Clark Merrefield was the chief researcher for this ranking.