Picking a career path is one of the first steps you’ll take as you prepare for college—and it’s a pivotal one.
Hand-in-hand with choosing the right school, your occupation should fit your talents and interests, while also offering strong earning potential. It’s important to also consider the long-term viability of your career choice. Lastly, you should focus on honing your skills and marketability wherever you land, so you’re prepared for a business and tech world that’s constantly in flux.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 essential industries expected to continue expanding in the 2020s and beyond, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . These job sectors offer great potential job growth, impressive salaries, and a healthy dose of job satisfaction. Many only require an associate degree to get hired, enabling you to start your career (or make a career change) relatively quickly, and with very little debt.
1. Computers and Technology
Businesses and individuals are always looking for skilled professionals who can manage their computers, software, programming, and networks. In fact, the computer systems design field and related services are expected to create more than 520,000 jobs by the year 2028. Impressive starting salaries and exceptional job growth make a career in technology an exceptional choice.
Software Engineers can expect a starting median salary of $74,000, with a mid-career outlook of around $102,00. Entry-level information technology analysts can start out at $60,000 or more. And professionals in Cybersecurity have a starting median salary of $75,000, with an average mid-career salary of $116,000.
Other high-growth tech specialties to consider include:
- Systems Engineering
- Computer Science
- Computer Systems Design
- Web Development
- Computer Networks
- Computer Programming
Health services is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. The demand for skilled nurses, personal care aides, and other qualified medical professionals is enormous, and isn’t slowing down. In fact, the nursing field is expected to grow 12% by 2028, with an anticipated 371,500 jobs coming on the market.
And, unlike other occupations, the medical field isn’t seriously impacted by financial downturns or poor economies—people always get sick, and they always need medical care. Another perk? Many healthcare positions can be landed with an associate degree and appropriate certifications.
A registered nurse can expect a salary of $70,000, along with substantial growth potential with further education and experience. A medical coding and billing specialist’s median salary is roughly $40,000, with advancement opportunities up to $60,000 a year and beyond.
Other in-demand career options in the healthcare field include:
- Home Health Aides
- Radiologic and MRI Technologists
- Dental Hygienists
- Medical or Nursing Assistants
- Medical Sonographers
3. Financial Services
If you are detail-oriented and adept with numbers, a job in finance is a sure bet in today’s job market. A degree in Accounting is a particularly worthy investment, as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Auditors and Personal Accounting Advisors are in astonishing demand.
Pretty much everyone who makes money, from large corporations to individual employees, need skilled professionals to manage their finances and retirement planning. Even better? A career in financial services pays in dividends—with the added bonus of fantastic job security. Over the next decade, job growth for CPAs is expected to reach 18%, while the actuarial field is projected to grow 24%. And, in the next 8 years, Financial Advisors can expect to see a whopping 41% in job growth.
A CPA’s starting salary is $53,000, with a mid-career average of $73,000. Financial Advisors make an average $101,000 per year. Statistics-focused Actuaries have an average salary of $129,000, and can make up to $300,000 yearly at their peak.
Other diverse professions in the field of financial services include:
- Financial Analyst
- Public Accountant
- Cost Estimator
- Tax Examiner
- Revenue Agent
- Managerial Accountant
4. Legal Services
A job in the legal sector is another good bet for the future. Attorneys, Paralegals, and Legal Assistants are essential, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth in legal services should increase by 5.1% in the next 8 years. Even more notable, the BLS anticipates over 16% growth for Paralegals.
With an ever-increasing need for legal services among both companies and individuals, legal professionals have their choice of exciting, rewarding careers. And, not only does work as a Paralegal pay well from the start, but it provides plentiful opportunities to gain job experience. This allows for both advancement practicing law, or transferring to another industry.
A Paralegal can expect a starting salary of approximately $45,000, with an earning potential of over $105,000. Legal Office Administrators average $90,000 or more.
Other career options in legal services include:
- Legal Specialist
- Legal Secretary
- Contract Administrator
- Office Manager
The last sector on our list of 5 fast-growing fields to consider majoring in is Marketing. If you enjoy team collaboration and are creative and quick-thinking, the fast-paced world of promotion may be a perfect fit. A Marketing degree is also extremely versatile, providing flexible skills that are coveted in nearly any industry.
Plus, job security won’t be a concern, since every business needs decisive marketers to help them reach consumers in the ever-evolving market. Job growth in this sector over the next decade is projected to be faster than average, at 6%, making Marketing an all-around no-brainer if you’re on the fence.
The median salary for a Marketing Manager is $134,780, with top earners making over $200,000 a year. A Market Research Analyst can expect to make in the ballpark of $62,230 per year, while a Public Relations Specialist nets around $59,300 yearly.
Other fast-growing occupations to consider in the Marketing sector include:
- Advertising or Promotions Manager
- Public Relations or Fundraising Manager
- Advertising Sales Agent
- Sales Manager
- Social Media Marketing Specialist
The Final Word
Still not sure where to begin selecting the right career path? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Talk with family and friends, research what interests you, and ask questions of others who love what they do. Consider both your short-term and long-term educational and professional goals. Then make sure to set an appointment with a student advisor at your chosen college to discuss your options.
Article updated June 15, 2022.