Vocational/Technical Careers with the Top Employment Outlook

Think you need a four-year degree to have a great employment outlook? Think again. There are many in-demand occupations out there for those who attend a vocational or trade school, or earn their associate’s degree rather than their bachelor’s degree. Here’s a look at 10 fields that, according to projections from the U.S. Department of Labor, will be among the fastest-growing vocational and technical occupations between 2006 and 2016.

Veterinary Technicians

Affluent pet owners are spending more than ever on their beloved animals, particularly for quality veterinary care. That’s helping create a new demand for veterinary technicians, who typically perform veterinary exams, take samples, run tests and assist in veterinary surgery. Job prospects for vet techs are expected to increase by 41 percent by 2016.
Median earnings: $12.88/hour.

Beauty Services

Beauty is big business in America, and as the number of spas and salons grows so does the need for aestheticians. Opportunities are especially good for skin care specialists and manicurists/pedicurists, with openings in those fields increasing by 34 and 28 percent respectively in the years ahead.
Median earnings: $12.58/hour.

Health Care Technicians, Assistants and Aides

With America’s aging population growing, the need for workers in all health care fields is at an all time high. And from physical and occupational therapy assistants to radiation therapists and cardiovascular technicians, those who work in technical or supportive roles are expected to be especially sought-after.
Median earnings: Varies widely depending on position. Technicians are generally salaried and earn more, upwards of $60,000 per year, than medical assistants and aides, who are often paid median hourly wages around $12 per hour.

Dental Hygienists

Today’s dentists increasingly rely on dental hygienists to perform routine preventative care for patients. As a result, dental hygiene ranks as one of the fastest growing occupations in the entire country, with employment in the field growing by a third over the next eight years.
Median earnings: $30.19/hour.

Environmental Sciences

Americans are thinking green in business as well as their personal lives, which is spurring all sorts of jobs related to protecting the environment. In fact, job openings for technicians who assist environmental scientists and engineers in testing and sampling will increase by 25 percent or more by 2016.
Median earnings: $18.31/hour.

Fitness and Wellness

Getting fit and losing weight is almost a national obsession there’s even a hit reality television show on the topic. With such interest in overall wellness, job openings for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors will grow 26 percent by 2016.
Median earnings: $25,910/year.

Preschool Teachers

Many states are implementing programs to improve early education and offer preschool for every child. Those initiatives, along with expected high enrollment at all education levels in the coming years, will increase employment for preschool teachers by as much as 26 percent.
Median earnings: $22,680/year.


Registered nurses make up the largest health care occupation, and there will be more than half a million new jobs for RNs by 2016. Take into account that many current nurses are approaching retirement age, and prospects are especially good for those entering the field now.
Median earnings: $57,280/year.


Divorce, bankruptcy, wills, adoptions, real estate transactions situations calling for legal services are on the rise in this country. And as law firms try to operate more efficiently, they often use paralegals for tasks traditionally handled by a lawyer, such as research and document preparation. That’s creating huge job growth in the field, with openings for paralegals increasing more than 22 percent by 2016.
Median earnings: $43,040.

Computer Specialists

Most Americans use a computer at some point during their daily life, be it at work, at school or at home. This reliance has created a niche for computer specialists who provide technical support when something goes awry. And as software becomes more complex and new technologies are introduced, computer specialists will be as in-demand as ever.
Median earnings: $41,470/year.

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