The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Investing & Retiring, Jobs

Are you familiar with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)? If so, you probably associate the BLS with either jobs and unemployment reports, or statistics quoted by politicians (sometimes incorrectly or out of context) who want to make a point. However, the BLS contains a treasure trove of other useful statistics and functions of which you are probably not aware.

For example, if you are entering college and have not decided on a professional career path, or are in the middle of a midlife career switch, you may want to consult the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The OOH is a searchable database that contains information on over 500 careers, from accountants to zoologists.

Careers may be sorted and analyzed in five categories: median pay (2016 reference), number of projected new jobs from 2014-2024, entry-level educational requirements, growth rate of the field, and the type of on-the-job training that employees in the field receive. Estimates and projections are based on results from the bi-annual Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey and adjusted to include results from the previous three years.

Special buttons are available to display the three categories that most people are interested in — the highest-paying jobs, jobs with the fastest expected growth, and careers with the most projected new jobs. One broad field dominates with most of the top spots in all three categories — medicine. As Obamacare meets our aging population, high-paying positions are available at all levels of the medical system from surgeons to physical therapists, personal care to home health aides.

However, you don’t have to be in medicine to find jobs with good pay and high demand. For example, general and operations managers are expected to add over 145,000 jobs with a median salary of $103,950 per year.

What do they do and how do I become one? Glad you asked. Simply click on the link with the occupation name, and a secondary page will show up with tabs showing what people in that profession do, their work environment, how to become an employee in that field, pay distributions, job projections, and other useful career information.

What careers should you avoid? Search by the lower end of one category if you want to rule out a profession by any criteria.

If money is your concern, there are 63 occupations that a median pay of less than $25,000 annually. Several of those categories also have a declining number of jobs, including farmworkers for crops, and fast food and short order cooks. That doesn’t mean that if you love cooking you shouldn’t go into the field — just have reasonable expectations.

Occupations can also be browsed and searched alphabetically. If you prefer to sort by groups, the home page also contains 25 occupational groups. Is math your specialty? Click on the math group and you can find more detailed information about the four occupations listed: Actuaries, Mathematicians, Operations Research Analysts, and Statisticians. What about math teachers? They would be included under the Education, Training, and Library group.

The OOH page does not have geographical data, but the OES webpage does. It contains an occupational map that you can use to look for regional differences. Drop down menus allow you to filter by category. Want to be a landscape architect? Your average wage is $59,130 in Kansas versus $73,780 in New York. Prefer to be a social worker? You could make $47,320 in Mississippi or $60,920 in Alaska.

If you are a fan of statistics, the BLS is an interesting place to browse. There are many other labor-related statistics available. Get familiar with the site and not only can you potentially find your new career choice, you can find just the fact you need to refute politicians or obnoxious Facebook “friends.” It’s great to be armed with facts.

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