Total Employment Estimate: 22,554
Median Annual Wage Estimate: $48,442
Job Growth since 2006: 25.2%
Wage Growth since 2006: 26.0%
Analysis: Drill, baby, drill! It’s not a political slogan—it’s an employment strategy. Until scientists efficiently tame greener forces of nature, the world will continue to be powered by people extracting oil and gas from the ground. Skyrocketing fuel prices over the past few years have created a huge job boom in the energy sector. Drill operators lead the drill crew, ensuring that the big pump can get the black gold. Most of the training for drill operators is accrued through years of experience. Even though this is a typical union job, the unionization rate in the oil and gas industry has gone from about 25 percent in 1997 to 20 percent in 2007. While still triple the overall private sector, the decline is expected to continue. “I don’t see any indication why that would really change in any industry,” says Richard Hurd, a Cornell labor professor.