Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Monday, August 11, 2008

3 Easy Tips for Using Job Outlook in Choosing a Career

Knowing the job outlook for careers that match your personality and interest you is critical to making a good career choice. While job salary is very important, it's not much use if there are only 50 job openings in the U.S. with that salary (think “supermodel.”) From job outlook and growth projections, you can learn how many jobs there will be in your chosen career and where they'll likely be located. But you don't need to be a math whiz to understand these numbers. Here are three easy ways to include this important information in choosing a career:

1. Choose the best, unbiased source of job outlook numbers – the U.S. Government. Shortcut your research by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for career exploration – it provides easy to read analysis and links to job outlook data for each occupation you research. The Career Key website organizes OOH occupational information by matching Holland personality type so once you match your personality to careers, you can easily access a job's outlook via our links to the OOH. Rely on original, government sources for job growth statistics because just like politicians, other sources may quote them out of context to sensationalize a point or sell an education/training program.

2. Learn what basic job growth terms mean and how they relate to one another. The OOH makes this easier because they do the analysis for you. Take, for example, the OOH entry for “Teachers – Preschool, Kindergarten, and Secondary.” Click on the heading at the top of the page called “Job Outlook.” The first sentence under “Employment change” reads:
"Employment of school teachers is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2006 and 2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, because of the size of the occupations in this group, this growth will create 479,000 additional teacher positions, more than all but a few occupations." (emphasis added)
I italicized important terms. Employment growth is how many teacher positions are being created in comparison to other jobs. Additional positions are how many total new jobs are projected for creation (in the time period 2006 to 2016). The best part is that the OOH puts it all into context. An occupation can have higher than average growth but fewer job openings nationwide overall. Employment or job growth takes on a different meaning when you consider how many jobs are being created and other factors like geography (see next tip).

3. Narrow your job outlook research to the geographic area you want to live in. Don't stop your research at just the overall job growth numbers. The number of job openings for software engineers in metropolitan Boston will be very different from those in Tuscon, Arizona. In addition to linking directly to state websites for labor market information, look again at OOH's “Job outlook” entry for teacher you'll see under “Employment Change”:
"Fast-growing States in the South and West—led by Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia—will experience the largest enrollment increases. Enrollments in the Midwest are expected to hold relatively steady, while those in the Northeast are expected to decline. Teachers who are geographically mobile and who obtain licensure in more than one subject should have a distinct advantage in finding a job."
You can link to even more useful geographic information from the OOH by clicking on “Earnings,” and going further for state information by clicking on “For the Latest Wage Information” by teacher category (i.e. preschool) that will show, among other helpful information, the top 5 states with the highest numbers of preschool teachers and the top 5 states with the highest-paid ones.

So as you can see, finding out how your career options measure up for future job growth is pretty easy: you just need to know where to find it, consider how it fits into the “big picture,” and apply it to your specific geographic location.

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