Baby boomers refashioned politics, changed music and continue to exert influence over the U.S. economy. Is it any wonder that many of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. owe their proliferation to aging boomers?
Between 2004 and 2014, seven of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. will be in health care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Of the top 30 fastest-growing jobs, 17 are health care-related.
"The baby boomers are fairly well off, and will be able to afford a fair amount of health care. And they're going to spend on it," says Steve Cochrane, an economist with Moody's Economy.com. Adds Cochrane, who was born in 1952, right in the middle of the population bulge: "None of the boomers is going to die."
No doctors or nurses made the list, which is compiled every two years and was last released in late 2005. But the ranks of medical assistants, dental assistants and physical therapist aides should all see growth of more than 30 percent by 2014. That's because the health care industry is "shifting responsibilities toward lower-wage, lower-skilled professions to combat escalating health care costs," says Hugo Sellert, a research manager at Monster Worldwide.
Number one on the list: Home health aides, with estimated growth of 56 percent in their numbers over the next eight years. Boomers may not be old enough to require home care yet, but many are hiring help for aging parents. "It used to be you and me took care of our parents. Now, we hire someone to do that," says Ralph Henderson, a senior vice president at staffing company Spherion. "Boomers can afford to do that because they have dual incomes."
No finance or accounting gigs made the list, which was compiled before the private equity bonanza of 2006. When BLS reviews its data later this year, its researchers may find that finance is a growing field. "If I were sending my kid to school today I would tell him to get a finance and accounting or a technology degree," says Henderson.
Technology jobs are growing rapidly. Software engineers and network systems analysts make the top 10 overall. Security fears are one factor driving the surge, says Steve Baruch, a senior vice president at staffing company Adecco.
Near the bottom of the list there are a few surprises. There will be 32 percent more college professors in 2014 than 2004, according to the BLS, and 33 percent more preschool teachers.
According to Cochrane, these jobs owe their growth to the baby boomers as well.
As the children of the youngest boomers, now moving through elementary and secondary school, graduate, demand for college professors will grow, while children of the older baby boomers are starting to have kids of their own — creating a boomlet of preschool age children, he says.
Population growth and global warming are creating new employment too. There will be about 11,000 hydrologists in 2014, up from 8,000 in 2004 — a 31.6 percent increase. Hydrologists are water experts, and their work is critical to flood control and environmental preservation efforts.
Environmental engineers will see high growth as well, as more and more companies try to go green. General Electric, with its Ecomagination campaign, and BP, with its alternative energy efforts, are just two of the large public companies using environmentally friendly policies as a selling point. "You can't go anywhere in the corporate world and not hear some discussion about being more green," says Adecco's Baruch. "There's a need for trained employees to address that issue."
The baby boomers have influenced the job market by having children, having grandchildren and having health problems — and they will also affect it by retiring. There will be 237,000 recruitment specialists in 2014, up from 182,000 in 2004.
The reason: As older employees retire, companies need to be aggressive about finding new skilled workers. "There is going to be a shortage of talent in the labor pool until the kids of the baby boomers gain the experience they can only gain over time," Cochrane says.