Best Careers for the Future: 51 Jobs for 2020 and Way Beyond!
What are the best careers for the future? How will everything change? Is it possible to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow—today? Many of us would love to have definitive answers for these questions. But, of course, nobody can say for sure what the future holds. The best we can do is make educated guesses based on past and current trends. Still, even educated guesses can help us imagine some pretty astonishing possibilities.
Here’s one thing we know: Change will keep happening. America and the rest of the world will experience social, cultural, economic, environmental, and technological changes. Some of these changes can be foreseen (such as the likely impact of climate change). But many of them can’t be predicted. New challenges may arise without any warning. And “happy accidents” may lead to positive new discoveries that solve long-standing problems.
So predicting the best jobs for the future requires understanding that all kinds of variables will interact in complex and surprising ways. Many of tomorrow’s jobs will likely result from today’s scientific and technological advances. But most jobs of the future probably don’t exist yet, and a lot of them haven’t even been imagined. In fact, according to one estimate, almost two-thirds of today’s kindergarten students will eventually have occupations that don’t currently exist.1
Of course, many of today’s occupations will continue to be part of the future, but they’ll undergo changes just like everything else. And many occupations will transform into something entirely new—or disappear altogether. It’s a lot to think about, let alone visualize. After all, many of us have a natural resistance to change and uncertainty. We might feel a little too safe or comfortable with the status quo.
That’s why it can pay to explore and imagine career possibilities like the 51 listed below. They can reveal new paths forward or suggest ways that you may want to adapt in order to prepare for the future’s most interesting or plausible scenarios. Many occupational categories are already changing and overlapping with one another, which is a process that may accelerate. But don’t let that overwhelm you. This article will show you several good career options to start considering.
Jobs That Already Exist
Many kinds of tradespeople and professionals are in high demand today and will probably continue to have great opportunities over the next few decades. Other kinds of workers are doing jobs on the leading edge of technology and cultural change. For them, opportunities aren’t widespread, but they could be very soon. The following examples represent several existing jobs that may be top careers for the future.
1. Solar Energy Technician
Like wind energy, solar power will continue to be a major part of humanity’s transition toward a clean-energy future. The cost of solar energy keeps dropping year after year, so it’s becoming much more affordable for businesses and homeowners. In cities all around the world, solar energy technicians are enjoying stable employment in a growing industry that makes a positive difference. In the U.S., about 30,000 solar technician jobs may become available over the decade from 2016 to 2026. Median yearly pay for this occupation was $39,240 in 2016.3
2. Wind Energy Technician
With climate change threatening to severely damage the world as we know it, it will become more important to move to clean energy sources. Reducing carbon and methane emissions means transitioning away from fossil fuel sources like oil, coal, and natural gas. That means wind energy will likely be a big part of the future. It’s already an industry that’s grown a lot. And it will likely grow a lot more, meaning that skilled technicians will be needed to help with the installation, maintenance, and repair of giant wind turbines. About 14,000 job openings could be generated for wind energy technicians over the decade that ends in 2026. The median salary in this field was $52,260 in 2016.3
3. Nurse Practitioner
Because of an aging and longer-living population, the health care system may have trouble keeping up with the growing influx of patients. Many regions could experience severe shortages of doctors. They’ll need more non-physician health professionals with the ability to diagnose and treat patients with various acute and chronic conditions. Registered nurses who get the right kind of advanced education at the graduate level can become nurse practitioners and help fill that void. In 2016, median yearly pay for nurse practitioners was $100,910. And between 2016 and 2026, they could benefit from about 144,000 job openings.3
4. Software Developer
Computers, robots, and mobile devices are useless without the well-engineered software that gives life to the sophisticated hardware it runs on. As the Internet grows and machines get smarter and more connected to us and to each other, the need for talented software developers will expand. Mobile app development, especially, is considered one of the best careers for 2020 and beyond. In fact, almost 1.2 million total job openings are projected to become available in the software development field between 2016 and 2026. The median yearly pay for application software developers in 2016 was $100,080.3
5. Physical Therapist
With more seniors in our communities, the need for physical therapy professionals will increase. Many seniors end up requiring some form of physical rehabilitation, pain management, mobility assistance, or therapeutic treatment as they age. From 2016 to 2026, about 177,000 jobs may become available for physical therapists. An additional 147,000 jobs could open up for physical therapist assistants. In 2016, the median salary for physical therapists was $85,400.3
6. Registered Nurse (RN)
In total, more than two million jobs are expected to become available for RNs between 2016 and 2026.3That number shouldn’t be surprising given how quickly the senior population is growing in most regions. In all likelihood, RNs will continue to be in high demand for decades to come, even if their roles change a little because of technological advances and medical breakthroughs. The median salary for RNs in 2016 was $68,450.3
7. Health Services Manager
The health care sector may undergo more changes over the coming decades than most other industries. Every health and medical organization will need highly knowledgeable leaders and managers to help them adapt to legal, regulatory, and technological changes while still improving the quality and efficiency of the services they deliver. Health and medical services managers earned median yearly pay of $96,540 in 2016. And about 367,000 job openings may become available in this field over the decade that ends in 2026.3
8. Data Analyst
Thanks to computing advances and a cultural shift toward more tracking and measuring, the amount of data that gets collected every year grows by an astonishing amount. Organizations of every type now have the ability to gather so much detailed information that it’s becoming more and more difficult for a lot of them to figure out what it all means. They need professionals who can not only collect the data they need, but also spot patterns, identify past and current trends, and forecast future probabilities. The median salary for data analysts in May 2017 was $57,261.5
9. Digital Content Specialist
One of the major cultural revolutions that keeps getting more entrenched is the move toward more dynamic, digital, interactive, and on-demand media. Because of digital devices that keep us constantly connected to almost any kind of information or entertainment we want to consume, the need for fresh content that breaks through the noise is never-ending. Organizations in every industry are discovering that generating new digital content is becoming a major key to sustaining their effectiveness. That’s why digital content specialists—with all kinds of different job titles and abilities—are increasingly in high demand, especially with the growing popularity of remote work and freelance gigs. To prepare for this type of position, it’s smart to get training in areas like Internet marketing, writing, and multimedia and digital arts.
10. Information Security Analyst
As our modern way of life gets more intertwined with computers and dependent on information technology (IT), we all become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. So far, we’ve been lucky that criminal hackers haven’t shut down critical infrastructure on a very large scale or for an extended period of time. But that day is probably coming unless we have enough computer security specialists to help the government and essential organizations protect their networks and IT systems. Cybersecurity is a world-wide issue, and the bad guys keep getting more sophisticated in their attacks. From 2016 to 2026, about 104,000 jobs are expected to open up for information security analysts. In 2016, they earned median yearly pay of $92,600.3
11. Computer Systems Analyst
The reasons for getting an education in computer science will probably continue to multiply as information technology grows more complex and intertwined with everything in our lives. That growing complexity is why more and more organizations will likely need systems analysts going forward. Companies will need help choosing and implementing the best hardware and software, including (potentially) robots and artificially intelligent machines. From 2016 to 2026, computer systems analysts could benefit from 449,000 job openings. In 2016, the median salary in this field was $87,220.3
12. Biomedical Engineer
Professionals in this field are already starting to revolutionize the health care industry. In fact, biomedical engineering is probably one of the best careers to get into if you want your work to have a positive impact in the years ahead. After all, biomedical engineers are involved in all kinds of cutting-edge research and development. For example, many of them get to design things like sophisticated medical devices, artificial organs, bionic body parts, and biological implants. About 16,000 jobs are expected to become available in this field over the decade from 2016 to 2026. Biomedical engineers enjoyed a median salary of $85,620 in 2016.3
13. Mechanical Engineering Specialist
Do you want to help develop some of the most exciting emerging technologies? Increasingly, mechanical engineers and mechanical engineering technicians are involved in the design and testing of things like advanced robots, automation equipment, 3D-printing machines, and clean energy devices. It’s projected that, between 2016 and 2026, about 212,000 jobs could open up for engineers in this field and roughly 42,000 jobs could open up for technicians. In 2016, mechanical engineers earned median yearly pay of $84,190. The technicians who helped them made $54,480.3
14. Electronics Engineering Specialist
Like mechanical engineering pros, a lot of people in this field get to help design, test, and evaluate leading-edge technologies. As electronic circuitry and other components get smaller, more complex, and more powerful, it’s up to these professionals to figure out how to take advantage of the latest technological advances. They may help develop things like better computers, automated machinery, handheld medical devices, and navigation and communications equipment. Going forward, some of them may even get to work on things like self-driving cars. From 2016 to 2026, job openings are expected to total 51,000 for computer hardware engineers, 92,000 for other electronics engineers, and 120,000 for electronics engineering technicians. In 2016, median salaries were $115,080 for computer engineers, $99,210 for other electronics engineers, and $62,190 for technicians.3
15. Digital Rehab Counselor
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the incredible amount of digital information you consume in a day? Many people do. As more and more of our lives revolve around social media and other online activities, there’s a growing awareness that a lot of us are actually addicted to the technology we use. So one of the top jobs of the future may involve helping people “detox” from their over-consumption of digital inputs. People with counseling training will likely be the best-equipped to pursue this type of job.