The 10 Hottest Jobs and the Challenge They Present to Nonprofit Service Providers

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June 15, 2014; Argus Leader

A recent article written for job search website identified the top ten occupations based on current and emerging employer demand as reported by the US Labor Department. The good news is that, between now and 2022, the Labor Department estimates these ten occupations will expand by almost 4 million jobs. The bad news is that six of the ten occupations, representing almost two-thirds of the jobs, pay minimum or near-minimum wage. Even more jarring is that nine of the ten top jobs require little or no formal education, and the tenth doesn’t require a college education.

Much of the demand for new employees comes from occupations taking care of the retiring baby boomer generation. Personal care aides, home health aides, nursing assistants, and janitors/building cleaners are included in this group. From fast food to retirement homes, as always, there is demand for food preparation and serving workers. Retail salespeople are always in demand. None of these six occupations requires a college education, though some health occupations require specialized study and a certification exam. None of these occupations has a median full-time annual salary above $25,000—about $12.50 per hour. Customer service representatives, construction laborers, and secretaries/administrative assistants all have reported median annual salaries in the $30,000-$32,500 range, or about $15.00 to $16.25 per hour.

The only top ten occupation where a college education is typically seen as a prerequisite is also the only job with a median annual salary above $32,500. Registered nurses earn a median salary of $65,470. They can have a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, or they may have a diploma from an approved nursing program.

To be sure, there are expanding fields for college-educated job seekers, as Kiplinger reported in a 2006 article listing the top-ten list for college graduates. Not surprisingly, most of these positions are in the technology and healthcare fields. Median salaries in these fields are in the $60,000–$80,000 range. Of course, the economy needs far fewer software technicians than it does servers and personal care aides.

The challenge for nonprofit service providers is positioning themselves to serve a growing cohort of individuals and families who work, yet need assistance with everything from child-care to healthcare to transportation to basic nutrition. Many of these nonprofits are organizations that employ direct service personnel in the top ten jobs categories. Some nonprofit leaders advocate for a living wage or arbitrary increases to the minimum wage to address issues affecting the working poor. However, they often also wonder whether their organizations can—or should be required to—pay higher wages to their own employees in times of scarce resources and increased demand for services.

These questions need to be faced squarely if the nonprofit sector were to see these areas as places where they may wish to provide service.—Michael Wyland

  • Anne Hays Egan

    You are absolutely right about this issue. Over the past years, many states have funded Personal Care Services, Adult Day Services and others through their state Agencies on Aging, through Medicaid Waiver programs, as well as through the state Departments of Health and/or Human Services. With Medicaid expansion in most of the states, the need for more services has increased along with funding for those services through Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. Personal Care Service small businesses have been popping up like mushrooms after a good rain. The problem is that many nonprofit agencies and county governments are not aware of how these new, large health care trends are impacting the community service infrastructure; and many are not positioned to respond to the challenges and opportunities. I’ve written a number of articles about this that are posted on my website, A significant part of my work this year has been helping local governments and nonprofit networks respond to these changes, and develop funding streams that will allow them to continue to build services and compete more effectively.

  • Lisa Brown Morton

    While I can certainly appreciate the point of this piece and the concern raised for the need for jobs paying living wages, it is also encouraging to see that opportunities could be afforded to the segment of the American workforce often neglected and under-valued.

    There are over 3 million long-term unemployed people living in the U.S. today without a financial safety net and struggling to make ends meet. Countless numbers of these individuals are desperate for work and anxious to return to any form of earning potential that will enable them to be re-engaged in the workforce and earn an income to help support their families. That said livable wages are essential to the financial health and sustainability of low-wage earners and cannot be downplayed. To the extent that nonprofits are able to pay their workers beyond minimum wage, they certainly should. Perpetuating the practice of paying the lowest wages also continues to feed into the perception that nonprofit jobs while meaningful, don’t pay well. That is a perception that we must continue to fight against not only among the lowest of earners but with jobseekers across the earning spectrum.

    It’s also important to note that the cost of a college education continues to rapidly spiral out of reach for many, many people. For those individuals without a college education (or the means to get one), the news of 4 million jobs not requiring a college degree is good news indeed!

    America needs EVERY segment of its available workforce engaged and actively employed. To the extent the unemployed and underemployed can find job opportunities among these new and emerging occupations, the better we become as a nation!