Woman suspended on rope by climbing wall. Metaphor for Research the five highs that lead to the best career choice.

The 5 “highs” that can change your life. How to get your best career fit.

College comes with a price: uncomfortably high student loans. Before taking the loan, confirm that your degree measures up. The best career best fits your dreams. Consider the 5 “highs” that make a huge difference to working in your field, high demand, high knowledge, high satisfaction, high meaning, and high pay — enough to pay your loans and make a life for yourself.

The 5 “Highs” that can Change Your Life.

Occupational employment is expected to increase by 7.4 percent between 2016 and 2026. All occupational groups are expected to add jobs over the projections decade except for the production occupations group, which is projected to decline by 4.1 percent. See      www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_101.htm.” — Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2017.

I argued in a previous post that no matter what your major, the best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to learn transferable skills. After that, your future is decided by your learning & work ethic. And by your program/career choice.

Develop a list of potential fields that interest you. The website mynextmove.org can help you explore your options.

Then, consider the five highs to narrow your career choices:

  1. High demand – does the career field have high projected demand? That ensures opportunity for employment.
  2. High knowledge – does the career field require knowledge and skills that will challenge you, and reduce the competition for an opening? Does it require a degree or some certification? Do you want high challenge?
  3. High satisfaction – does the career field fit your interest? Do the people in it report high satisfaction?
  4. High meaning — do people in the career field report that their occupation provides high meaning?
  5. High pay – a judgement on your part determines how high the pay, as you have loans, life, and dreams to consider, but knowing that the field will cover your expectations.

How to Get Your Best Career Fit

Healthcare support occupations (23.2 percent) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (15.2 percent) are projected to be among the fastest growing occupational groups during the 2016–26 projections decade. These two occupational groups–which account for 14 of the 30 fastest growing occupations from 2016 to 2026–are projected to contribute about one-fifth of all new jobs by 2026.” — Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2017.

You make the choice of your career field. Make your list of potential career fields, then research each one. Make your list into a table with the field, pros, cons, demand, challenge, satisfaction, and pay. As you research, fill in the columns. The “code” is the SOC code that will link the resources together.

A table for making career decision with field, code, pros, cons, outlook, preparation, pay, meaning and satisfaction columns.

Research Sources

Several other occupational groups are projected to experience faster than average employment growth, including personal care and service occupations (18.2 percent), community and social service occupations (13.5 percent), and computer and mathematical occupations (13.5 percent).

Of the 30 fastest growing detailed occupations, 19 typically require some level of postsecondary education for entry. See www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_103.htm.

Employment in 654 detailed occupations is projected to grow, while employment in 163 detailed occupations is projected to decline. See www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_102.htm.” — Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2017.

Start with a wide perspective by looking at all career fields. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook, possibly the US’s most widely read source on career information.

The list of the tables I use most follows. Start with table 1.1 to get the high level overview. Use Table 1.7 to drill down to more detailed levels.

For skilled Excel users, I recommend downloading all occupational tables in a single file (XLSX) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics so that you can search, sort, and highlight.

PayScale.com has a ranking of 454 jobs that includes pay, demand, meaning and satisfaction. There are no codes, so search by title.

For your final list, read more about each occupational area in the Occupational Outlook Handbook or onetonline.org and fill in your impressions.

Next Steps

No single combination of the five highs works for all of us. Some of us want money and security above meaning and knowledge.  Others want meaning and satisfaction. For each of the highs, decide what high enough is for you, and which highs matter most, then number them 1 to 5.

Look at the sweet spot and consider all 5 highs (in your order) as well as your impressions.

You will invest considerable time and money into your choices, so research them more deeply. Volunteer, intern, or at least interview people in the field for their impressions. Learn all you can about them.

Then go for it!

A venn diagram shows the sweet spot of intersecting "highs": high demand, pay, meaning, knowledge, and satisfaction.

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I wrote this post in response to the December 5, 2017 update from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released new employment projections for 2016 – 2026, along with updated industry employment data. This information is now included within O*NET OnLineMy Next MoveMi Próximo Paso, and My Next Move for Veterans. Importantly, this allows for the update of the Bright Outlook feature included within the O*NET sites. The Bright Outlook feature helps clients target careers where new job opportunities are likely in the future. The “Browse by Industry” searches within the O*NET sites were also updated to reflect more current employment patterns.”