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Strategies for Identifying High-Value Careers

High-value careers can be simply defined as high-demand, high-wage careers. This simple definition captures the two most essential components of desirable jobs – they are plentiful, and they pay well. Using this definition, careers can be recognized that this is only one definition among many, we believe it offers the most parsimonious definition that emphasizes the principal elements of what constitutes a high-value career.

As our economy shifts and changes, career opportunities will increase and decrease. High-demand careers can be defined as careers for which there are numerous job openings. When jobs are abundant, this indicates a high need in the economy for employees to fill those positions. To identify jobs with numerous openings, information pertaining to “annual openings” is typically reviewed.

The term “annual openings” refers to the average number of job openings projected for each year. Openings can represent expanding job opportunities, as well as jobs that open up when individuals retire or move into a different career.

Annual openings can be sorted for all occupations within a region or for occupations within specific clusters. Sorting openings for all occupations provides insight into occupations that are highest in demand, regardless of career cluster. Sorting occupations within career clusters provides insight into demand for occupations associated with particular industries.

The degree to which an occupation is growing can be an additional indicator of demand. When employment opportunities for a particular occupation are expected to increase, this can signify increased need for employees for that occupation. Information pertaining to “projected new jobs” and “growth rate” is commonly used to explore job growth.

Annual income is a significant factor to consider when evaluating viable career opportunities. Individuals in well-paying careers can meet basic needs, as well as devote financial resources to the achievement of personal goals and aspirations. High-wage careers can be defined as careers that provide an annual income that is higher than the median wage in the region of interest. When examining labor market information, data for “median wages” is most often reviewed when identifying high-wage careers.

High value careers are simply high-demand, high-wage careers. So, we just need to look at occupations that have lots of openings and pay well. Easy enough, right? Absolutely! To begin this process, a common challenge must first be recognized in that openings and wages are often at opposite extremes. In other words, jobs for which there are numerous openings do not typically pay well and vice-versa.

To account for this relationship between openings and wages, a well-planned search strategy is needed to capture occupations that are both high-demand and high-wage.

Labor market information is a powerful resource that, when effectively used, can identify high-value career destinations for students. Basic information pertaining to annual job openings, growth rates, and median wages provides valuable insight into the realities of today’s job market and future changes in workforce demand. Armed with this knowledge, policy and practice decisions can be made that more effectively and efficiently promote employment success for all students.

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