10 Best U.S. Industries for Employment

Which are the best industries to work in? Where are the hottest opportunities if you’re looking to start a career or considering a career change? Here's an overview of the top 10 U.S. industries with the most projected growth in employment opportunities through 2026, including the types of jobs available, required education and training, and salary information.

01
Healthcare and Social Assistance

Health care workers discuss a patient's case
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The health care service-providing industry has been consistently growing for the last 20 years and is predicted to continue to have the highest growth in employment opportunities out of all the industries in the United States. The baby boomers are entering their senior years, increasing the demand for healthcare and social assistance services.

Types of Jobs: Social service workers, home healthcare aides, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, doctors, and other healthcare specialists are typical jobs in this sector.

Education Requirements: Doctors, registered nurses, and social workers are a sample of professionals in this industry that require advanced degrees and additional professional training. There are also positions like nursing or medical aides that require a high school diploma and some non-degree training.

Salary Information: Doctors and other professionals with medical degrees can expect to make approximately $100+/hour or $210,000+ annually. Registered nurses, social workers, and psychologists make an average of $35/hour or $73,000+ per year. Nursing or medical aides, LPNs, and similar jobs are compensated at $14+/- per hour or $30,000 +/- a year.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is predicting that by 2026 there will be almost 4 million more jobs than there were in 2016, growth of almost 21%. Home healthcare services will be the fastest-growing category within the industry.

02
Construction

Construction workers compare blueprints and finished work
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The construction industry is expected to show a steady increase in job openings with 7.57 million projected available jobs by 2026.

Types of Jobs: Most construction jobs are in the physical building field and are manual labor positions: carpenters, electricians, framers, sheet rockers, equipment operators, plumbers, and welders. Management positions include titles like construction foremen, superintendents or supervisors, and field supervisors.

Education Requirements: For lower-paying, entry-level jobs, an apprenticeship, a high school degree, vocational training, or less is required. Years of experience and/or specialized training in a focused skill can qualify you for a higher-paying or supervisory position. An associate's or bachelor's degree in construction management can help candidates access a supervisor-level position.

Salary Information: Manual labor construction worker jobs are paid at an average hourly rate of about $18.70 per hour, while skilled craftsmen earn $25 hour and more. If you qualify for a supervisor position, you can earn $40 per hour or more. 

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The construction sector is predicted to grow by almost 13% with 865,000 new job openings by 2026, a drastic improvement from the almost 980,000 job decrease in the prior 10-year period. 

03
Educational Services

Teacher in classroom working with children
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The educational services sector expected to contain over 4,066,000 jobs by 2026, spurred by increasing requirements for future workers within a technologically advanced society.

Types of Jobs: Teachers, teaching assistants, tutors, special educators, counselors, speech therapists, administrators, physical plant staff, and support staff are some of the most common jobs in education.

Education Requirements: Teachers, counselors, administrators, and other professionals need a bachelor's or master’s degree. Vocational training or a high school diploma is required for support positions.

Salary Information: Mean pay for teachers at the elementary and high school level was $60,900 and $62,730 respectively, while administrators earned an average of $97,440. Teaching assistants earned an average of $26,260.  

Employment Opportunities and Growth: Educational services will experience strong growth over the next several years with over 506,500 expected new jobs by 2026, an increase of 14%.

04
Professional and Business Services

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The professional and business services industry will experience significant growth as the economy continues to transition from manufacturing to service delivery. There is a broad spectrum of jobs that fall within this industry, ranging from scientific positions to management or supportive positions.  

Types of Jobs: Under professional, scientific, and technical services you will find job listings for architects, engineers, researchers, advertising professionals, and scientists. Business, administrative and management positions include accountants, human resource managers, training managers, sales managers, financial managers, and general and operations managers. Supportive employees may work within the outdoor maintenance, janitorial and security departments, or as administrative assistants.

Education Requirements: Most professional, scientific, managerial or financial positions require college, graduate, and sometimes post-graduate school. In addition, specific professional licenses are required to become an architect, auditor, engineer, doctor, or lawyer. Supportive service jobs like clerks, janitors, security guards, or groundskeepers need only a high school diploma or less.

Salary Information: High-end technical jobs, like architects or computer coders, pay approximately $53,000+ annually. Top performing employees have the potential to earn over $100,000 with appropriate experience and skills. The professional occupations in the industry, like lawyers, earn a mean annual salary of around $148,000. Management analysts average $103,000. Basic service jobs can start at the state’s determined minimum wage or more per hour.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The BLS predicts employment will grow by almost 11%, adding 2.16 million jobs over the next 10 years.

05
Mining and Oil/Gas Extraction

Technician in boiler room at a mining operation
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Loosening of regulations, further reliance on domestic natural resources,  and discovery of mineral deposits in the U.S. are expected to fuel an expansion of job opportunities in the mining and oil/gas extraction industry.

Types of Jobs: Truck drivers, roustabouts, petroleum engineers, equipment operators, and operations managers are typical positions in the sector.

Education Requirements: Engineering and some management jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. Most trade workers will need a high school degree and receive on-the-job training. Truckers and equipment operators need commercial driver’s licenses.

Salary Information: Roustabouts earned an average of $39,850 in 2017. The average wage for the industry as a whole is $47,480. Geological and petroleum technicians earned an average of $54,190 while petroleum engineers earned an average of $132,280.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: 90,800 new jobs are forecast by 2026, representing 14.5% growth from 2016.

06
Self-Employed (Non-Agricultural)

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The American dream of individuals to work for themselves and escape bosses has always been a goal for many workers. The trend toward the use of freelance labor and the desire of aging baby boomers to remain active in the labor market is expected to spur an increase in this type of work during the next several years.

Types of Jobs: Common jobs for self-employment include driving services, writer, plumber, electrician, and other trades, consultant, doctor, lawyer, architect, psychologist, artist, web/graphic design, and elder and childcare workers.

Education Requirements: Vocational training leading to licensure is required for most trades. Professional areas like law and medicine require advanced degrees. Most other areas require little formal education, though certifications might be useful in attracting clients.

Salary Information: According to Payscale, income varies greatly among self-employed workers, given the diversity of roles and occupations in the sector. Some workers earn as little as minimum wage while professionals like lawyers, psychologists and physicians might earn $200-$300 per hour.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The BLS expects this sector to expand by over 779,000 jobs by 2026, an increase of almost 9%.

07
Leisure and Hospitality

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The leisure and hospitality sector is one of the largest sources of employment for Americans in diverse sectors like the arts, entertainment, recreation, food services, and lodging. High levels of growth are expected as automation and technology shorten weekly work schedules and increase the demand for leisure activities.

Types of Jobs: Performers, servers, resort staff, ticket takers, producers, directors, hotel workers, cooks, camp staff, restaurant/hotel managers, fitness center staff, and athletes are considered employees in this sector.

Education Requirements: A high school degree is a requirement for most entry-level jobs, with management positions usually requiring a bachelor's degree or more.

Salary Information: Many of the entry-level jobs are hourly, with pay ranging from $10-$15 an hour or $21,000-$30,000 annually. Successful actors, musicians, and singers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Fitness trainers, gaming supervisors at casinos, and other managers can earn $50,000 or more.  

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The BLS estimates the number of jobs in this sector will grow by over 1.3 million by the year 2026 or over 8%.

08
Financial Activities

Financial analyst looking at charts on computer screen
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The financial activities industry includes employment opportunities in real estate, banking, insurance, accounting, and investments. The BLS predicts significant growth due to increased retirement and financial planning by older workers, an increase in housing starts, and trends within the health insurance sector.

Types of Jobs: Most common jobs include insurance sales, customer service representatives, accountants, auditors, bank tellers, real estate sales, underwriters, financial products and services salespersons, and loan officers.

Education Requirements: Entry-level positions like customer service representative or bank teller require at least a high school degree. Accountants, financial planners, loan officers, and other higher-paying jobs in the industry require a bachelor’s degree or more.

Salary Information: Bank tellers and customer service representatives earn $12+ per hour. Salespersons in real estate and insurance generally earn $40,000 or more. Accountants average $80,000, and investment sales staff often earn $100,000 or more.  

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The BLS estimates that there will be 479,800 additional jobs in this industry by 2026 or almost 6% growth. This is a noteworthy improvement since employment opportunities declined from 2006 to 2016 after the financial crisis. 

09
Wholesale Trade

Wholesale warehouse with boxes
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The wholesale industry is made up of businesses that buy large quantities of merchandise directly from the manufacturer and then sell it to smaller companies, retail stores, or factories that will use the product to make another product. The BLS expects modest growth in this sector as the overall economy expands.

Types of Jobs: Common jobs include laborers, truck drivers, salespersons, freight handlers, customer service representatives, and clerks.

Education Requirements: A high school degree is all that is required for laborer, customer service and clerical jobs in a warehouse. Salespersons or sales engineers promoting technical or scientific products will usually have a bachelor's degree.

Salary Information: Salespersons averaged between $53,500 and $63,970 in 2017. Laborers earn an average of $30,940. Truck drivers earned from $35,610 to $42,480 depending on the sector.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: According to the BLS, there will be a growth of 325,000 jobs by 2026, an increase of over 2%.

10
Retail Trade

Retail card shop owner on phone in store
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The retail trade industry encompasses direct marketing of products to consumers through brick-and-mortar stores as well as online entities. Expansion of income will continue to fuel growth in the sector, primarily in the online component.

Types of Jobs: Common jobs in the retail industry include salespersons, customer service representatives, cashiers, buyers, pharmacy technicians, order fillers, shipping/trafficking clerks, department supervisors, store managers, and truck drivers.

Education Requirements: A high school degree is all that is required for sales, customer service, and clerical jobs. Buyers and store managers often have bachelor's degrees.

Salary Information: Retail salespersons earn an average of $23,370, and buyers earn an average of $62,120. First-line supervisors earn an average of $43,580. Sales managers earn an average of $89,380.

Employment Opportunities and Growth: The retail trade industry job pool will increase by about 412.3 jobs by 2026 or about 3%.