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The Fastest-Growing Job in Each State

The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.5% as of March 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in many states the jobs that are currently available and growing are not necessarily the ones that have traditionally been available. With the economy doing relatively well, SmartAsset took a look at the fastest-growing jobs in different parts of the country. 

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Study Specifics

SmartAsset used Bureau of Labor statistics to find the fastest-growing job in each state (plus Washington, D.C.). We defined fastest-growing job as the job which saw the most growth in terms of raw numbers of people employed from 2012 to 2016 in each state. For more on where we got our data and how we put it together, please read the data and methodology.

Key Findings

  • And the winner is… – The fastest-growing occupation in the country is solar photovoltaic installer. Never heard of it? These are the people who maintain, assemble and install solar panels on roofs. This occupation only requires a high school education, as much of the training occurs on the job. Nationwide solar photovoltaic installers make about $42,500, on average.
  • Personal care – Nationwide the number one fastest-growing occupation group is personal care and service occupations. Two states in our study – Utah and North Carolina – had personal care and service occupations lead in growth. In Utah the number of personal care aides jumped from 1,640 in 2012 to 6,780 in 2016, an increase of 313%. In North Carolina the number of skincare specialists grew 187%. The downside to working in personal care is that professionals in this field tend to be lower paid. The average income for skincare aides in Utah is $21,890 per year and skincare specialists in North Carolina make around $33,760 on average.
  • Income inequality – There is a stark pay difference among the fastest-growing jobs in different states. The number of recordkeepers in Nevada, for example, grew 176%, but only made an average income of $27,610 in 2016. Food and tobacco roasting, baking and drying machine operators in Georgia make an average of $27,000 per year. That job grew 340% from 2012 to 2016. On the flip side, general practitioners in Massachusetts and computer and information research scientists in Michigan earn more than six figures per year, and both jobs saw the number employed more than double.
  • Financial examiners – People who work as financial examiners ensure compliance with financial laws. This occupation was the single fastest-growing job in three different states: New Jersey, Florida and Ohio. In fact, the occupation of financial examiner grew in every single state except for two, Oklahoma and Georgia. Only one other occupation was the fastest-growing in three different states: occupational health and safety technicians.

Manufacturing Jobs

In eight states the fastest-growing jobs are in the manufacturing field. Manufacturing jobs cover a wide range of activities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics designates these as production occupations. Half of the states where production occupations grew the fastest are in the South.

Food batch maker was the fastest-growing job in Tennessee and food and tobacco roasting, baking and drying machine operator was the fastest-growing job in Georgia. In Mississippi, chemical plant operator came out on top, as did engine and other machine assemblers in Kentucky.

No state had an occupation grow as fast as machine assemblers grew in Kentucky. Their numbers swelled over 800% from 2012 to 2016. In 2012 there were about 170 engine and other machine assemblers in Kentucky, while in 2016 there were 1,560. This is a fairly well-paying job. It does not require a college degree and, at least in Kentucky, brings in an income of almost $40,000 per year.

Other parts of the country also saw growth in certain manufacturing fields. For example, sawing machine operator was the fastest-growing job in Pennsylvania, while in Montana it was coating, painting and spraying machine setters, operators and tenders. The only two fastest growing production occupations and state pairings which did not involve work with heavy machinery were hand sewers in Minnesota and medical appliance technicians in Indiana.

STEM Jobs

STEM jobs tend to be some of the most desired as they frequently offer high pay and have good growth prospects. On the national level, mathematics- and computer-related occupations (which is how the BLS officially categorizes STEM jobs) was the second-fastest-growing field.

However only one state – Michigan – saw its fastest-growing job appear in that field. In Michigan the number of computer and information research scientists grew 200% from 2012 to 2016. The occupation commands over six figures on average.

In other states, STEM jobs were the second- or third-fastest growing. For example, in Nebraska, surveying and mapping technician was the single fastest-growing job but the second-fastest was operational research analysts, a STEM job. Operational research analysts grew 250% from 2012 to 2016 in Nebraska.

Other fast-growing STEM occupations include statisticians in Nevada (150% growth), actuaries in Oklahoma (133% growth) and application software developers in Georgia (86% growth).

Teaching Jobs

Teaching is traditionally a dependable occupation. Teaching-related occupations were the fastest-growing jobs in seven states. Of those seven, four – Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. – saw postsecondary teachers receive the strongest growth. In each of these states, the fastest-growing postsecondary occupation makes at least $70,000 per year.

Other teaching occupations which grew rapidly include substitute teachers in Rhode Island, library technicians in Vermont and preschool special education teachers in Connecticut. Not only is Connecticut a good state for preschool teachers, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area is one of the best for teachers of all kinds.

Teaching can be a mixed bag when it comes to compensation. Preschool special education teacher is a pretty well-paying occupation, but requires quite a lot of education. On average special education preschool teachers in Connecticut make just under $70,000 and requires a college degree. Substitute teachers and library technicians on the other hand tend to make around $30,000 and require less education.

Medical Jobs 

Like teachers, medical professionals will likely always be in demand. There are eight states where the fastest-growing job is related to health care. Two states, Colorado and Wisconsin, saw massive increases in their number of psychiatric aides. Wisconsin, in particular, saw an enormous increase. In that state, the number of psychiatric aides grew by over 500% from 2012 to 2016.

Perhaps the most interesting example of growth in the health care field is the 300% growth in family and general practitioners in Massachusetts. This is a well-paid job, paying over $200,000 per year on average. Massachusetts, and especially Boston, is world-renowned for having great hospitals and medical schools, but a 300% increase in the number of general practitioners is unusual.

Different types of nursing professions also ranked highly for growth in a few different states but did not take the first spot in any. For example, nurse midwives grew by 122% in Massachusetts and by 83% in New Mexico. One of the best nursing jobs, nurse practitioners, saw pretty good growth in a number of states as well. In Texas, which is home to two of the best cities for nurses, the number of nurse practitioners grew by 40%. Nurse practitioners in Texas make over $100,000 per year.

Phlebotomist, another healthcare occupation, was the number one growing occupation in Delaware. What exactly is a phlebotomist? For the less medically aware, a phlebotomist is the person who draws your blood for tests. Say you have an allergic reaction and you need to get a blood test, a phlebotomist would be the person helping you. The number of phlebotomists in Delaware grew 168% from 2012 to 2016. On average they make about $36,000.

Other Notable Occupations

The fastest-growing job in the state of Texas was fine artists. The number of fine artists in Texas grew by 150% from 2012 to 2016. BLS data shows that fine artists in Texas made an average of $47,050 in 2016. While that is certainly a decent amount, it’s less than they were making in 2012.

Texas is not unique in embracing creative jobs. Commercial and industrial designing occupations in Alabama are up 214% and multimedia artists and animators saw an increase of 260% in their numbers in South Carolina. In Massachusetts and Florida, fashion designing jobs increased by over 100%.

For any true crime fans who want a career solving crimes, Kansas may be a good state to check out. Forensic science technician was the fastest-growing job here, with an increase in number from around 60 in 2012 to 350 in 2016.

Finally, when you think of jobs in New York state, you may picture investment bankers or taxi drivers in New York City and perhaps farmers in upstate New York. Turns out the fastest-growing job in the state is actually sociologists. Overall the sociology profession in New York grew 450% from 2012 to 2016. Interestingly the average income for a sociologist dropped by $23,000 from $96,330 in 2012 to $73,030 in 2016.

Data & Methodology

In order to find the fastest-growing jobs in each state (plus Washington D.C.), we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, we looked at the number of employed people in each occupation in 2012 and compared it to the number of employed people in that occupation in 2016. We filtered out any occupation where the relative standard error for the estimate of the number of people employed in the occupation was greater than 20. We also filtered out occupations that were classified as “other.” We ranked each occupation in each state by the percent growth over that five-year period.

All average salary data is from the Bureau Labor Statistics and is for 2016.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/zstockphotos

Derek Miller Derek Miller studied economics at the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. As the data journalist for SmartAsset, he conducts and writes data-driven studies on a broad range of personal finance topics.

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