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Business News — How U.S. News Ranks the Best Jobs

Published on January 14, 2015

A behind-the-scenes snapshot of U.S. News’ procress for selecting and ranking the best jobs each year.

2015 US News - Best JobsChoosing an occupation is personal, and of course, there is no ideal way to determine the best job overall. Still, U.S. News’ Best Jobs rankings offer job seekers an intuitive method to compare professions based on components that matter most: salary, the number of expected openings, advancement opportunities and career fulfillment. The result of our efforts is a list of jobs ranked according to their ability to meet those employment concerns.

The Best Jobs methodology is divided into two components: how U.S. News selects jobs to profile, and how those jobs are ranked against each other.

Selecting the Jobs

To identify professions that should be included in the 2015 rankings, we started with data on jobs with the greatest hiring demand, or in other words, the highest projected number of openings from 2012 to 2022, as categorized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobs at the top of the list were then selected for the 2015 Best Jobs analysis and rankings.

Ranking the Jobs

U.S. News ranks jobs in an overall list and in six mutually exclusive, occupational industry lists: Best Business JobsBest Creative Jobs, Best Construction Jobs, Best Health Care JobsBest Social Services Jobs and Best Technology Jobs. Professions are ranked based on our calculated overall score, which combines several components into a single weighted average score between 0 and 5.

The overall score is calculated from seven component measures, and for each measure, jobs receive a score between 0 and 10. Here are the component measures and their weights in computing the overall score:

● 10-Year Growth Volume (10 percent)

● 10-Year Growth Percentage (10 percent)

● Median Salary (30 percent)

● Job Prospects (20 percent)

● Employment Rate (20 percent)

● Stress Level (5 percent)

● Work-Life Balance (5 percent)

About the Component Measures

1. 10-year growth volume. Growth volume, according to the BLS, is the total number of new jobs that should be created for an occupation in a 10-year timespan. For example, the BLS projects the United States will add 23,300 new dentist jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Why is it important?

An occupation with significant job growth is likely to have many new job opportunities in the future. This is also a crucial factor, because we use the BLS’ projected growth volume to select the jobs we’ll rank each year.

How is this score calculated?

We translate job growth volumes from a number to a score of up to 10 points. Those occupations expected to grow by 500,000 openings or more received the highest score: 10. Occupations with job growth numbers between 200,000 and 499,999 earned 8 points; between 100,000 and 199,999 earned 6 points; less than 100,000 openings earned 4 points; and any occupations for which numbers were expected to decrease received 2 points.

2. 10-year growth percentage. This is an occupation’s employment percentage growth over the course of 10 years. For example, the BLS estimate of 23,300 new dentist jobs between 2012 and 2022 equates to 15.9 percent.

Why is it important?

The 10-year growth percentage measures how rapidly an occupation is expanding. A high growth rate indicates strengthening demand for this type of worker. The BLS predicts that total employment is projected to increase 10.8 percent between 2012 and 2022. Those jobs with higher percentages are growing faster than average. Growth percentage is also important to our methodology, because the growth rate is used to select the jobs we’ll rank each year.

How is this score calculated?

We translate job growth percentages from a number to a score of up to 10 points. Occupations for which the projected growth rate increased by 30 percent or more earned the total possible 10 points; those for which growth increased between 20 and 29 percent earned 8 points; where growth increased between 10 and 19 percent, the job earned 6 points; and where growth increased by 9 percent or less, the job earned 4 points. Any occupations that saw growth decrease received 2 points.

3. Median salary. This is the median salary earned by someone employed in a given occupation, according to BLS.

Why is it important?

Most people prefer higher salaries.

How is this score calculated?

We translate median salary from a dollar amount to a numerical score using the following formula: salary score = the square root of the median salary divided by 40. We set a maximum salary score of 10 points.

4. Employment rate. The percentage of people in an occupation who are currently employed.

Why is it important?

It’s more challenging to get a job in an occupation with high unemployment.

How is this score calculated?

We translate unemployment rates, recorded for each profession, to a 10-point scale. For example, if a job’s unemployment rate is 4 percent or less, it earned the full possible 10 points; a job with unemployment between 4.1 percent and 6 percent earned 8 points; between 6.1 and 8 percent earned 6 points; between 8.1 and 10 percent earned 4 points; and those jobs with unemployment higher than 10 percent earned 2 points.

5. Future job prospects. This rating indicates the ease of landing a job in the future, based on the number of openings versus the number of job seekers. For example, the BLS predicts nurse practitioners will be in high demand, particularly in underserved inner cities and rural areas, so this job has an excellent job prospect rating. By contrast, the BLS projects there will be more students graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. Competition for open positions for lawyers will be competitive, so this occupation received a lower job prospect rating.

Why is it important?

If you want to pursue a career in which the BLS projects it will be easier to find employment over the next 10 years, aim for one with a higher job prospect rating.

How is this score calculated?

We translate the BLS “descriptive rating” to a score of up to 10 points. A job that received an “excellent” prospect rating earned 10 points; a job that has a “good” rating earned 8 points; a job with a “favorable” rating earned 6 points; and an occupation with a “keen competition” rating earned a score of 4. Jobs for which prospects weren’t identified or for which prospects varied were considered not applicable for a prospect score by U.S. News.

6. Stress level. This rating indicates the amount of day-to-day stress someone might experience while working in an occupation.

Why is it important?

The level of stress an individual feels in his or her job can lower quality of life, negatively affect health and alter someone’s opinion of the work he or she does.

How is this score calculated?

Based on interviews and extensive research, our editors assign qualitative stress-level ratings to each occupation. These ratings are intended to represent the average stress level for the occupation, and it’s important to note that stress varies significantly among individuals and their specific job circumstances.

These qualitative stress-level ratings are translated on a 10-point scale. A stress level rating of “High” translates to 2 points (the lowest score); a rating of “Above Average” translates to 4 points; a rating of “Average” translates to 6 points; “Below Average” to 8 points; and “Low” translates to 10 points (the highest score).

7. Work-life balance. This rating captures how much any profession will affect lifestyle.

Why is it important?

Finding the appropriate balance between career, ambition, health, family and leisure activities can improve job performance.

How is this score calculated?

Based on interviews and an assessment of literature, U.S. News editors assign qualitative work-life balance ratings for each occupation. Similar to stress level, it’s important to note that work-life balance may vary significantly among individuals and with specific job circumstances.

Our qualitative work-life balance ratings are translated to scores on a 10-point scale. A rating of “High” translates to 10 points (the highest score); a rating of “Above Average” translates to 8 points; a rating of “Average” translates to 6 points; a rating of “Below Average” translates to 4 points; and a rating of “Low” translates to 2 points (the lowest score).

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