Many people find their careers through a serendipitous mix of personal interest, opportunity, and chance, but some take a more strategic approach—deliberately seeking out education and training in those job sectors expected to grow. That sort of planning can pay off: While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 11.5 million jobs will be created in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026, many of these new positions will be in extremely specialized fields with rigorous qualifications.
Many of these jobs will be in STEM (science, engineering, mathematics, and technology) fields, as computers and other technological improvements continue to drive our world into the future. The U.S. has pushed to improve its STEM education in order to allow students to compete with the international market. More college students than ever are pursuing STEM degrees in order to get the training they need to get the proper qualifications. However, not all STEM fields are created equal. While some fields are growing quickly, other science-based industries are actually shrinking. Some of the fastest growing jobs don’t require a STEM degree, or a college degree at all.
With all the information out there, it can be confusing to figure out which specific industries are the best bet moving forward. Stacker sorted through the mess to rank the top 30 jobs that are expected to grow the fastest in the coming decade, based on BLS statistics and projections. Many on the list are in the medical and health field, ranging from phlebotomists to physical therapists. The energy sector is also expected to offer more employment opportunities, both in oil and gas as well as alternative sources like wind and solar. And unsurprisingly, the tech field is expected to hire many new software developers, information security experts, and other specialists. Check out this list of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S.—and see why skills, like tuning up a bike or tackling tough math problems, remain viable in today’s market.
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2016 Employment: 67,300
2026 Projected Employment: 82,900
Growth Rate: 23.2%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $69,650
Sonography is best known for imaging during pregnancy, but they’re also used for a range of diagnoses. Diagnostic medical sonographers operate this essential equipment so that doctors can make informed decisions as they evaluate medical conditions. The job requires a professional certification.
2016 Employment: 130,200
2026 Projected Employment: 160,600
Growth Rate: 23.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $58,670
Respiratory therapists are clinicians who care for people with pulmonary disease in both emergency situations and ongoing assistance for the chronically ill. A college degree and a passing score on a national board-certifying examination are required for this position.
2016 Employment: 41,400
2026 Projected Employment: 51,100
Growth Rate: 23.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $48,610
Service unit operators in the oil, gas, and mining industry are responsible for making sure oil or other natural resources are moving out smoothly from wells or mines. No formal education is required.
2016 Employment: 160,300
2026 Projected Employment: 198,100
Growth Rate: 23.5%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $39,860
Those with the passion to heal may consider a future in massage therapy, which is expected to see an increased need in the workforce. Most states require massage therapists to have a license, which typically requires a training program of 500 or more hours.
2016 Employment: 67,900
2026 Projected Employment: 84,200
Growth Rate: 24%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $69,130
A growing need for nurses means an increased need for nursing educators as well. They generally teach at colleges and universities, with education requirements ranging from an associate’s degree to a PhD.
2016 Employment: 16,700
2026 Projected Employment: 20,800
Growth Rate: 24.2%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $54,430
Another position in the oil industry, rotary drill operators use the powerful machines to remove oil, gas, or core samples. This role does not require formal education.
2016 Employment: 122,700
2026 Projected Employment: 152,600
Growth Rate: 24.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $32,710
It’s a complicated-sounding term for a straightforward but fast-growing job: phlebotomists draw blood from patients for tests and other medical uses. A post-secondary certification is usually required for this job.
2016 Employment: 50,000
2026 Projected Employment: 62,300
Growth Rate: 24.5%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $37,340
Like similar positions on the list, no formal education is required for roustabouts, an industry-specific term for those who assemble and fix oil field equipment.
2016 Employment: 7,500
2026 Projected Employment: 9,300
Growth Rate: 24.7%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $28,330
Working under the guidance of occupational therapists, OT aides work with patients to help them develop or regain daily life and work skills, often after an injury. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required for this job.
2016 Employment: 239,800
2026 Projected Employment: 299,800
Growth Rate: 25%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $85,400
Physical therapists help patients who have suffered an illness or injury to improve their mobility by determining a course of treatment. A Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and a state license are required for this job.
2016 Employment: 11,100
2026 Projected Employment: 13,900
Growth Rate: 25.7%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $48,130
The trend of opportunities in the energy industry continues. Derrick operators are tasked with running the equipment that circulates mud through oil well drill holes, and requires no formal education.
2016 Employment: 233,500
2026 Projected Employment: 294,000
Growth Rate: 25.9%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $99,360
Employed by colleges and universities, health specialties teachers are generally required to have an associate’s degree and may even need a PhD. It all depends on the specialty they’re teaching and the requirements of the state and educational institution.
2016 Employment: 1,700
2026 Projected Employment: 2,200
Growth Rate: 26.6%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $36,230
Forest fire inspectors make sure potential fire hazards are addressed. Often former firefighters, these specialists are required to have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent.
2016 Employment: 114,000
2026 Projected Employment: 145,300
Growth Rate: 27.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $79,200
Using math and analysis, operations research analysts help organizations solve problems and improve their processes. At a minimum, these analysts must have a bachelor’s degree, but many employers prefer to hire candidates at the master’s level.
2016 Employment: 3,100
2026 Projected Employment: 3,900
Growth Rate: 28.3%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $74,120
As DNA technologies become more advanced and accessible, it’s not surprising that the need for experts in the field is increasing. Genetic counselors evaluate a family’s risk for genetic disorders, birth defects, or other inheritable conditions. In addition to board certification, they usually need a master’s degree in the genetics field.
2016 Employment: 100,000
2026 Projected Employment: 128,500
Growth Rate: 28.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $92,600
Tasked with protecting an organization’s computer systems, information security analysts usually need a bachelor’s degree, in addition to work experience in a related career.
2016 Employment: 39,300
2026 Projected Employment: 50,700
Growth Rate: 28.9%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $59,010
OTAs work under an occupational therapist to help patients develop or recover skills needed for daily work and life. Unlike occupational therapy aides, the role requires an associate’s degree from an occupational therapy assistant program.
2016 Employment: 52,000
2026 Projected Employment: 67,100
Growth Rate: 29.1%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $25,680
Physical therapist aides work with physical therapists and their assistants to help patients regain movement after injuries or illnesses. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for this job.
2016 Employment: 634,400
2026 Projected Employment: 819,000
Growth Rate: 29.1%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $31,540
Medical assistants perform a range of administrative tasks and clinical procedures in healthcare settings. While most medical assistants hold a certificate, some start their careers with just a high school diploma.
2016 Employment: 12,400
2026 Projected Employment: 16,100
Growth Rate: 29.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $27,630
The bike’s popularity with everyone from commuters to fitness buffs means the demand for bicycle mechanics remains strong. Typically, bicycle repairers have a high school diploma or the equivalent, along with relevant experience.
2016 Employment: 3,100
2026 Projected Employment: 4,000
Growth Rate: 29.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $105,810
If you have the aptitude for advanced equations, you could consider a profession in the math field. Although mathematicians typically need a master’s degree in the subject, some get into the career with just a bachelor’s degree.
2016 Employment: 831,300
2026 Projected Employment: 1,084,600
Growth Rate: 30.5%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $100,080
It’s not surprising that skilled programmers are needed to help support our increasingly digital lives and business operations. Typically, software developers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
2016 Employment: 88,300
2026 Projected Employment: 115,500
Growth Rate: 30.8%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $56,610
Like physical therapist aides, these professionals work under a physical therapist to help patients regain movement after injuries or illnesses. But the difference between an aide and an assistant is similar to their counterparts in occupational therapy—they require more advanced knowledge and training. PTAs need to have an associate’s degree from an accredited program, as well as a state license.
2016 Employment: 37,200
2026 Projected Employment: 49,600
Growth Rate: 33.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $80,500
Jobs in the realm of statistics can be found in industries ranging from finance to medicine and to the public sector. Most statisticians hold a master’s degree in the subject, although some begin their career with a bachelor’s degree.
2016 Employment: 155,500
2026 Projected Employment: 211,500
Growth Rate: 36.%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $100,910
Nurse practitioners fulfill a range of essential duties in the medical world—and in many states, they can provide “full practice care” (meaning they do not require the supervision of a doctor to care for patients). NPs are required to pass a national certification exam on top of obtaining attaining a master’s degree and a state license.
2016 Employment: 106,200
2026 Projected Employment: 145,900
Growth Rate: 37.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $101,480
Not to be confused with medical assistants, physician assistants (PAs) work with doctors and others in the medical field to examine and treat patients. A state license and a master’s degree are generally required for this position.
2016 Employment: 2,016,100
2026 Projected Employment: 2,770,100
Growth Rate: 37.4%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $21,920
Personal care aides help people with disabilities or other physical or mental challenges to perform daily activities such as dressing and bathing. Generally, these aides hold a high school diploma or the equivalent.
2016 Employment: 911,500
2026 Projected Employment: 1,337,000
Growth Rate: 46.7%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $22,600
Like personal care aides, home health aides assist people with performing daily activities—although they often include additional responsibilities, like making sure medications are being taken correctly and assisting with physical therapy treatments. Generally, these aides hold a high school diploma or the equivalent; a training program or test may be required for some positions.
2016 Employment: 5,800
2026 Projected Employment: 11,300
Growth Rate: 96.1%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $52,260
Although jobs in fossil fuels are frequent on our list, it’s the roles in clean energy that are growing the fastest. Responsible for the installation and maintenance of powerful turbines, these wind-power specialists usually pick up their trade at a technical school.
2016 Employment: 11,300
2026 Projected Employment: 23,200
Growth Rate: 105.3%
Median Annual Wage (2016): $39,240
As more individuals and business look to the sun for power, solar photovoltaic installers—the technicians involved with implementing solar energy systems—ranked highest on our list. They’re generally required to have a high school diploma; some learn their trade at a technical school while others receive training on the job.