With summer winding down and the job market heating up, you might be thinking about a career change before year-end. Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released the latest version of its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). It’s the go-to resource for researchers, career counselors and career changers on America’s hottest jobs. Whether you want to power your own career shift (or help your children decide on a career path or college major), odds are you’ll find what you need in it.
The OOH is available for free online or in print at your local library. Updated every two years to reflect the latest labor data, the 2016-17 edition includes information on 329 occupational profiles. Hands down, it’s the most reliable place to turn for answers to questions like: Which fields are expected to grow the most? How much do jobs pay? And what type of training do I need to get certified in a new field?
And the Crystal Ball Says…
One of the most popular OOH features is the Jobs Outlook section with employment projections, over a 10-year period, for different occupations. The new edition incorporates ones BLS released in December. I reported on them for Next Avenue, but to recap, these are the two main takeaways:
- Health care is hot. It’s projected to have both the fastest job growth of all fields and the most new jobs. By 2024, the health care and social assistance sector will account for 13.6 percent of all U.S. jobs, overtaking the state and local government and professional and business services sectors. The top three industries with the largest projected employment growth are home health care services (up 4.8 percent a year), outpatient care centers (up 4.1 percent) and offices of health practitioners other than physicians (up 3.8 percent).
- Publishing and Postal Service are not. The government foresees the biggest total job losses by 2024 at the Postal Service; in the federal non-defense government sector and at newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers.
Okay, you say, so health care is booming and publishing is floundering. Great. But what do I do with that information?
Hands down, it’s the most reliable place to turn for answers to questions like: Which fields are expected to grow the most? And how much do jobs pay?
Well, here’s where the OOH really packs a punch. It doesn’t just contain general labor prognostications. The detailed occupational profiles feature a boatload of insights that can help you more easily transition into a new job. And if you’re an older worker hoping to either shift into a new field without having to return to school or to find a more flexible retirement job, you’ll find out which occupations are your best bets.
The OOH teaches you what it’s like to work in a field, how to get started and what to expect in terms of pay, advancement and job prospects.
Inside the Occupational Outlook Handbook
Here are brief descriptions of the key sections, aside from the employment outlook which I’ve already noted:
What They Do This section explains what it’s like to work in a particular occupation, including typical job duties, equipment and technologies used. One especially helpful feature is the Alternate Job Titles subsection highlighting jobs within a given occupation. For example, the profile on fashion designers includes references to costume, footwear and accessory designers — providing a range of options you might not have considered otherwise.
Work Environment This section talks about expected working conditions, including the level of physical activity, travel requirements and typical work environments. You’ll find out whether you’d likely work outdoors, in an office or down in a dangerous mine.
Work Schedule Curious if the majority of workers in a field are employed full-time, part-time or on a seasonal basis? You’ll find out here, as well as opportunities for flexibility. That can be especially useful if your goal is to land a part-time job in retirement where you can work when you want, and maybe where you want.
Education This section lays out the educational requirements needed to get a job in the occupation. In fields where workers often come from different educational backgrounds, you’ll learn about the more typical paths for entry.
Related Work Experience In certain occupations, employers value work experience from a related occupation. For example, social workers with a health care background are often highly prized in hospitals. This OOH section will give you a better sense of how easy, or difficult, it will be to segue into this occupation, given your background and training. That’s particularly helpful for people in their 50s and 60s looking to make a shift without incurring significant training costs.
On-the-Job Training Many occupations require practical or classroom training as a supplement to, or in lieu of, formal. In addition to on-the-job training requirements, you’ll find here information about relevant apprenticeships, internships, and residency programs.
Licenses, Certifications and Registrations This section tells you about the credentials needed for employment, as well as how to earn or apply for them.
Important Qualities Every occupation typically requires a distinct mix of skills, aptitudes and personal characteristics for success. Learn about the most important characteristics of workers in the occupation that interests you, and why they are most coveted.
Advancement This section gives you a feel for how people typically move up the ranks in the field.
Pay All occupational profiles include detailed wage data. The pay information is often broken out by industry as well.
State and Area Data You’ll find links to sources for regional stats on employment, wages and projections.
Similar Occupations This section provides links to occupations with similar job duties and required skills to the one you’re reading about.
Two Final Suggestions
Let me finish with two suggestions:
If you have no clue which field to pursue, use the OOF’s Browse Occupations filter in the middle of the homepage to search by Highest Paying, Fastest Growing or Most New Jobs.
And once you’ve exhausted your research on the OOH, check out its links to associations, organizations and other institutions where you can continue to explore. You’ll also find links to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) system, another goldmine for people looking for work.
Happy job hunting!