Hey, Millennials, Want to Pay Off Student Loans? Consider These Careers

Published on October 21, 2015

If you’re trying to find a career path that might actually have a decent income and a future, you may want to consider becoming a physician assistant, an actuary or statistician or an engineer. Not as keen on math and sciences? Market research, fundraising or even public relations are growing fields with good pay.

That’s according to a new report from Young Invincibles, a Washington-based group that represents the interests of young Americans, that dives into data from the labor department to attempt to identify the top jobs for millennials—the current generation of young people trying to launch their careers in a rapidly changing labor market.

To come up with its list, researchers Konrad Mugglestone and Tom Allison considered three factors. First, the occupation’s median salary, to give a sense of what occupations may pay by mid-career. Second, the occupation’s projected growth in coming years. (Ask any journalist and you can get an earful about how a career path in a shrinking industry can be tough.) Third, whether a significant number of young people are in an occupation. Being a chief executive is great, but you don’t get hired for that role at age 22.

Such information is harder to come by than it ought to be. If a small business tries to take out a loan, it would typically need to provide a business plan, with details like cash flow and expenses and a balance sheet. But if an 18-year-old wants to take out a student loan for tens of thousands of dollars, pretty much all he or she has to do is sign on the dotted line.

Mr. Mugglestone and Mr. Allison’s method produces a list with some familiar findings and some that are more surprising. Sciences, technology, engineering and math—the so-called STEM fields—have a lot of solid opportunities (No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, No. 6, No. 9 and No. 14 on their list, for example).  The aging of the U.S. population, in particular, means that a lot of health-care fields are expected to grow in coming years (No. 1, No. 10, No. 15, No. 20).

But even for students crippled by math anxiety or terrified of dissecting a frog, there’s still a range of career paths with solid prospects. Public relations, marketing and fundraising have potential (No. 6, No. 16, No. 17). Another field expected to grow is agents and business managers for artists, performers and athletes. For these professions it wouldn’t hurt to be able to use a spreadsheet, but you probably don’t need a multivariate calculus class.

All told, close to 1 million net jobs will be added in these fields, according to Labor Department projections. Many of them will be available to young people.

“I’m drawn to the diversity of the kinds of jobs here,” Mr. Allison said. “In America, for this generation, the pathway to prosperity is still diverse.”

But one inescapable conclusion is that most of these jobs will require a college degree. Some jobs classified as petroleum technicians have generally good prospects, and could be obtainable without a bachelor’s degree, but may face a tough time right now with oil in a slump. Dental hygienists need specialized training, though not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.  Elevator maintenance typically doesn’t require college, but it’s a small field that still requires a good deal of specialized knowledge.

The pathway to prosperity is diverse, but for most young people, it likely runs through college.

Josh Zumbrun – Wall Street Journal

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