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100 best careers in america article - man at computer

Higher education isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap. If you or your children plan on investing that much time, money and effort to attend a higher education institution, it might be helpful to know which careers offer the best return on your higher education investment.

The Thrivent Mutual Funds 100 Best Careers in America is intended to help you decide on an educational path that will lead to a fulfilling, well-paying career in an occupation with a growing demand.

We’ve broken the 100 Best Careers list into three categories – jobs that require a four-year degree, those that require a graduate degree (masters or doctorate), and jobs that require two years of postsecondary education or less (associate’s degree, special certification, apprenticeships and other shorter-term education or training programs).

Careers listed in each section were selected and ranked based on two primary factors – median income and opportunity. While pay is important, a growing job market for a particular occupation is equally important. For instance, the median pay for aerospace engineers is over $100,000 a year, but aerospace engineering positions are projected to decline by 1,600 jobs over the next decade, so that occupation did not make the cut. On the flip side, hairdressers and stylist jobs are expected to grow by 64,000 over the next decade, but the median salary is just $23,710 a year, so that occupation was also left off the list.

The salary and job growth information cited in the following tables comes from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. You can find additional information on any of the jobs featured in the Thrivent Mutual Funds 100 Best Careers in America list by visiting that site.

1. Web Developers

2015 Median Pay: $64,970 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 148,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 27% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 39,500

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

2015 Median Pay: $68,970 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 60,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 26% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 27,600

3. Radiologic and MRI Technologists

2015 Median Pay: $58,120 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 230,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 20,700

4. Computer Support Specialists

2015 Median Pay: $51,470 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 766,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 88,800

5. Respiratory Therapists

2015 Median Pay: $57,790 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 120,700 

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,900

6. Electricians

2015 Median Pay: $51,880 per year  

Number of Jobs (2014): 628,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 14% (Much faster than average) 

Employment Change (2014-24): 85,900

7. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

2015 Median Pay: $54,880 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 52,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 22% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 11,500

8. Plumbers and pipefitters

2015 Median Pay: $50,620 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 425,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 49,100

9. Industrial Machinery Mechanics

2015 Median Pay: $48,410 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 464,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 16% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 73,400

10. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

2015 Median Pay: $50,550 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 328,200

Job Outlook (2014-24): 16% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 52,100

11. Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

2015 Median Pay: $54,520 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 41,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 40% (Much faster than average) 

Employment Change (2014-24): 16,800

12. Paralegals and Legal Assistants

2015 Median Pay: $48,810 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 279,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 21,200

13. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

2015 Median Pay: $43,170 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 719,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 108% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 117,300

14. Wind Turbine Technicians

2015 Median Pay: $51,050 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 4,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 108% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 4,800

15. Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

2015 Median Pay: $45,110 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 292,000 

Job Outlook (2014-24): 14% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 39,600

16. Firefighters

2015 Median Pay: $46,870 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 327,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 17,400

17. Carpenters

2015 Median Pay: $42,090 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 945,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 60,400

18. Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

2015 Median Pay: $42,980 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 128,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 40% (Much faster than average) 

Employment Change (2014-24): 51,400

19. Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

2015 Median Pay: $40,260 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 1,797,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 98,800

20. Surgical Technologists

2015 Median Pay: $44,330 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 99,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 15% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,700

21. Masonry Workers

2015 Median Pay: $39,640 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 252,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 15% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 37,300

22. Audio and video equipment technicians 

2015 Median Pay: $41,440 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 70,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 8,400

23. Massage Therapists

2015 Median Pay: $38,040 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 168,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 22% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 36,500

24. Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

2015 Median Pay: $37,850 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 739,900 

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 39,100

25. Dental Assistants

2015 Median Pay: $35,980 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 318,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 18% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 58,600

26. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

2015 Median Pay: $37,110 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 188,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 15% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 29,000

27. Insulation Workers

2015 Median Pay: $38,630 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 55,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 13% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 7,400

Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, December 2015

1. Software Developers

2015 Median Pay: $100,690 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 1,114,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 17% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 186,600

2. Computer and Information Systems Managers

2015 Median Pay: $131,600 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 348,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 15% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 53,700

3. Financial managers

2015 Median Pay: $117,990 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 555,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 7% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 37,700

4. Human Resources Managers

2015 Median Pay: $104,440 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 122,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,800

5. Medical and Health Services Managers

2015 Median Pay: $94,500 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 333,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 17% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 56,300

6. Computer Systems Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $85,800 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 567,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 21% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 118,600

7. Information Security Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $90,120 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 82,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 18% (Much faster than average) 

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,800

8. Actuaries

2015 Median Pay: $97,070 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 24,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 18% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 4,400

9. Management Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $81,320 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 758,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 14% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 103,400

10. Administrative Services Managers

2015 Median Pay: $86,110 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 287,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 23,500

11. Construction Managers

2015 Median Pay: $87,400 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 373,200

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 17,800

12. Civil Engineers

2015 Median Pay: $82,220 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 281,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 23,600

13. Mechanical Engineers

2015 Median Pay: $83,590 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 277,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,600

14. Biomedical Engineers

2015 Median Pay: $86,220 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 22,100

Job Outlook (2014-24): 23% (Much faster than average) 

Employment Change (2014-24): 5,100

15. Environmental Engineers

2015 Median Pay: $84,560 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 55,100

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,800

16. Financial Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $80,310 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 277,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 32,300

17. Database Administrators

2015 Median Pay: $81,710 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 120,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 11% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 13,400

18. Operations Research Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $78,630 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 91,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 30% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 27,600

19. Network and Computer Systems Administrators

2015 Median Pay: $77,810 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 382,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 30,200

20. Architects

2015 Median Pay: $76,100 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 112,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 7% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 7,800

21. Registered Nurses

2015 Median Pay: $67,490 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 2,751,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 16% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 439,300

22. Accountants and Auditors

2015 Median Pay: $67,190 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 1,332,700 

Job Outlook (2014-24): 11% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 142,400

23. Technical Writers

2015 Median Pay: $70,240 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 52,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 5,300

24. Environmental Scientists and Specialists

2015 Median Pay: $67,460 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 94,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 11% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,200

25. Market Research Analysts

2015 Median Pay: $62,150 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 495,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 19% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 92,300

26. Loan Officers

2015 Median Pay: $63,430 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 303,200

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 24,500

27. Social and Community Service Managers

2015 Median Pay: $63,530 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 138,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 13,200

28. High School Teachers

2015 Median Pay: $57,200 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 961,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 55,900

29. Cost Estimators

2015 Median Pay: $60,390 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 213,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 18,700

30. Special Education Teachers – Middle School and High School

2015 Median Pay: $56,800 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 227,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 13,400 

31. Special Education Teachers – Elementary and Kindergarten

2015 Median Pay: $56,800 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 198,100

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 12,500

32. Dietitians and Nutritionists

2015 Median Pay: $57,910 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 66,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 16% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 11,000

33. Training and Development Specialists

2015 Median Pay: $58,210 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 252,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 7% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 18,900

34. Elementary School Teachers

2015 Median Pay: $54,890 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 1,358,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 78,300

35. Human Resources Specialists

2015 Median Pay: $58,350 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 482,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 5% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 22,000

36. Middle School Teachers

2015 Median Pay: $55,860 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 627,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 36,800

37. Public Relations Specialists

2015 Median Pay: $56,770 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 240,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,900

38. Kindergarten Teachers

2015 Median Pay: $54,550 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 159,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,500

39. Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators

2015 Median Pay: $55,740 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 58,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 11% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,400

40. Career and Technical Education Teachers

2015 Median Pay: $52,800 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 231,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 4% (Slower than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,200

41. Fund Raisers

2015 Median Pay: $52,970

Number of Jobs (2014): 73,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,900

42. Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate

2015 Median Pay: $51,860 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 85,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,800

43. Social Workers

2015 Median Pay: $45,900 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 649,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 12% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 74,800

44. Vocational Education Teachers, postsecondary 

2015 Median Pay: $49,470

Number of Jobs (2014): 138,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 7% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,100

45. Interpreters and Translators

2015 Median Pay: $44,190 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 61,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 29% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 17,500

46. Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

2015 Median Pay: $46,840 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 100,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,900

47. Athletic Trainers

2015 Median Pay: $44,670 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 25,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 21% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 5,400

48. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

2015 Median Pay: $39,980 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 94,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 22% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 21,200

Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, December 2015

1. Anesthesiologists

2015 Median Pay: $443,859

Number of Jobs (2014): 33,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 21% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 7,100

2. Surgeons

2015 Median Pay: $395,456 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 46,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 20% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,100

3. Family and general practitioners

2015 Median Pay: $221,419 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 139,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,300

4. Dentists

2015 Median Pay: $158,310 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 151,500

Job Outlook (2014-24): 18% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 26,700

5. Lawyers

2015 Median Pay: $115,820 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 778,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 43,800

6. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

2015 Median Pay: $104,740 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 170,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 31% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 53,400

7. Optometrists

2015 Median Pay: $103,900 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 40,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 27% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 11,000

8. Physician Assistants

2015 Median Pay: $98,180 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 94,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 30% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 28,700

9. Health specialties teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $90,840 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 210,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 19% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 40,000

10. Engineering teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $95,060 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 46,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 13% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,000

11. Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals and Administrators

2015 Median Pay: $90,410

Number of Jobs (2014): 240,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 6% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 14,000

12. Physical Therapists

2015 Median Pay: $84,020 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 210,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 34% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 71,800

13. Postsecondary Education Administrators

2015 Median Pay: $88,580 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 175,100

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 15,200

14. Veterinarians

2015 Median Pay: $88,490 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 78,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 6,900

15. Occupational Therapists

2015 Median Pay: $80,150 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 114,600

Job Outlook (2014-24): 27% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 30,400

16. Medical Scientists

2015 Median Pay: $82,240 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 107,900

Job Outlook (2014-24): 8% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,000

17. Statisticians

2015 Median Pay: $80,110 per year 

Number of Jobs (2014): 30,000

Job Outlook (2014-24): 34% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,100

18. Speech-Language Pathologists

2015 Median Pay: $73,410 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 135,400

Job Outlook (2014-24): 21% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 28,900

19. Biological science teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $75,320 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 64,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 16% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,400

20. Business teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $75,370 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 106,800

Job Outlook (2014-24): 9% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 9,400

21. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists

2015 Median Pay: $70,580 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 155,300

Job Outlook (2014-24): 20% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 30,500

22. Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $67,480 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 81,800 

Job Outlook (2014-24): 19% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 13,200

23. Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary

2015 Median Pay: $65,340 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 120,700

Job Outlook (2014-24): 11% (Faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 13,000

24. Chiropractors

2015 Median Pay: $64,440 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 45,200

Job Outlook (2014-24): 17% (Much faster than average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 7,900

25. Instructional Coordinators

2015 Median Pay: $62,270 per year

Number of Jobs (2014): 151,100

Job Outlook (2014-24): 7% (As fast as average)

Employment Change (2014-24): 10,500

Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, December 2015

 
 
Willow Gerhard, Executive Assistant, Thrivent Mutual Funds, contributed to this list.
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