You might love watching reruns of Law & Order, but just because you get a kick out of watching people duke it out in a courtroom on TV doesn’t mean you should go to law school. Yet 25% of high school students choose their future career based on something they saw on TV or in a movie, according to research from CareerBuilder.
Choosing a college major or career because it seems cool can backfire. A third of full-time workers come to regret their college major, CareerBuilder found. But by the time they realize they’ve made a mistake, doing a career reset is costly and complicated. Better to pick right the first time than have to start all over again in your 20s or 30s once you realize you’re not really cut out to be (or can’t make it as) a software engineer, salesperson, or screenwriter. But how to choose?
“There is a world of opportunity open to younger workers in business, technical and creative fields,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said in a statement. To narrow down the choices, you need to consider both your own passions and the potential salary and available job opportunities, Haefner added. “The more informed you are about your options and what it takes to get to where you want to be, the better the outcome,” she said.
To help college and high school students choose their path in life, CareerBuilder ranked the top 15 best jobs for people between the ages of 19 and 24, based on the share of young workers in the field, average wage, and projected job growth. All pay about $40,000 – or more – annually, and they include jobs in tech, healthcare, and the arts. Some require a bachelor’s degree, but others you can get with just a certificate or associate degree (check out numbers 12 and 4 on our list).
First up, a career for anyone who’s always glued to their laptop screen.
15. Web developers
You wouldn’t be able to read this article if it weren’t for web developers, the people who design and create websites. It’s the perfect job for tech-savvy young people, especially since you don’t always need a bachelor’s degree to get your foot in the door. Many web developers have two-year degrees, while others are self-taught. More technical positions might require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Web developers earn an average of $34.09 an hour, or $70,907 per year. The number of jobs in this field grew by 19% between 2013 and 2017, and 8% of people in the field are younger than 24.
14. Public relations specialists
After presenters at the Oscars mistakenly handed the Best Picture statuette to the wrong film, you can bet there was a team of public relations specialists working behind the scenes at damage control. PR pros work to shape public opinion about the organizations for which they work, collaborating with journalists, managing social media, and more. Most have a bachelor’s degree in public relations, communications or a related field. Entry-level PR specialists might write press releases, field media requests, and help organize events. As you advance, you might be put in charge of managing public relations for an entire company or brand.
PR specialists earn $31.66 an hour, or $65,853 annually. The number of jobs increased by 7% over the last five years, and 9% of PR pros are under 24.
13. Sound engineering technicians
Did the band sound great at the last concert you went to? Thank the sound technician. They’re the ones responsible for maintaining and operating the sound equipment for concerts, radio shows, recording sessions, and more. Some people land a job in this field and learn while they work, while others complete non-degree training or earn an associate degree. People with experience may be able to move up to bigger jobs (say, from a small local radio station to a bigger market) or to supervisory positions, according to the BLS.
Sound engineering technicians earn $29.87 an hour, or $62,130 per year. The number of people working in this field is relative small – just over 15,000 – but the number of jobs increased by 8% from 2013 to 2017. Eleven percent of sound engineering technicians are under 24.
12. Surgical technologists
When it comes to job growth, no field may be more hot than healthcare. The U.S. added 374,000 healthcare jobs in 2016 alone, according to the BLS, and many of them don’t require a college degree. Surgical technologist – aka a scrub tech — is one. You can get a job in this fast-growing field after earning an associate degree or completing a certificate program from an accredited school.
Surgical technologists earn $22.17 an hour, equivalent to $46,114 per year. The number of jobs grew by 7% over the past five years, and 11% of people working in the field are between 19 and 24.
11. Automotive service and maintenance technicians
Given that more than half of Americans don’t know how to change their car’s oil or fix a flat tire, let alone perform more complex maintenance, it’s no wonder that the number of jobs for automotive service and maintenance technicians is growing. These car repair gurus keep vehicles humming along, and they don’t need a degree to do it. Vocational training combined with on-the-job experience gets you in the door, making this field a good choice for people who don’t think college is the right choice for them.
Automotive service technicians earn $19.65 an hour on average, or about $40,872 per year. More than 650,000 people work in this field, and the number of jobs grew by 7% in recent years. Twelve percent of automotive techs are younger than 24.
10. Electronic home entertainment equipment installers and repairers
Electronic home entertainment equipment installers and repairers install and repair home sound systems and entertainment systems. You don’t need a college degree to do this job, though you will need to complete some specialized training, usually at a community college or technical school.
Electronic home entertainment equipment installers make $19.12 per hour, or about $39,770 per year, just under the $40K threshold. The number of jobs grew by 7% from 2013 to 2017, and 13% of people in this field were 24 or younger.
9. Film and video editors
If you watch television or movies, you’ve benefited from the work of a film or video editor. Film editors assemble footage into a coherent sequence. The job typically requires a bachelor’s degree, and it’s one of the best-paying creative jobs out there, with top film editors earning more than six figures annually.
Film and video editing is a small but growing field. The number of jobs grew by 18% from 2013 to 2017, and there are now roughly 30,000 people working in this industry. With an average wage of $38.89 an hour, or $80,891 per year, it’s also one of the best-paying jobs for young workers. Thirteen percent of film and video editors are younger than 24.
8. Biological technicians
Science-loving college students might want to consider a career as a biological technician. This job involves helping scientists conduct lab tests and experiments. Most have a bachelor’s degree in biology or similar field, and they need hands-on lab experience to get the job. Some biological technicians move up to become full-fledged scientists after earning a master’s or Ph.D., according to the BLS.
The number of jobs for biological technicians grew 5% from 2013 to 2017. Of the roughly 76,000 people in this field, 14% are under 24, and they earn $21.77 an hour on average, or $45,282 a year.
7. Physical therapy assistants
Physical therapy assistants, or PTAs, work with physical therapists to help patients recover from injuries. To land the job, you’ll need an associate degree from an accredited program. You’ll also need to be licensed. A minority of PTAs eventually go back to school and become physical therapists, a job that requires an advanced degree, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
Jobs for physical therapy assistants increased 13% over the past five years. About 15% of the 87,000 people working in this field are younger than 24, and they earn an average wage of $26.59 per hour ($55,307 per year).
6. Camera operators
Camera operators capture images for television, film, and video. Most camera operators earn a bachelor’s degree in film or broadcasting. Roughly half of camera operators work in either the film or television industry, but others might film weddings or corporate events. Thirty percent are self-employed.
The nation’s 20,616 camera operators earn $27.85 an hour, or $57,928 per year. Jobs in this specialized field grew by 7% from 2013 to 2017, and 15% of workers are younger than 24.
5. Forensic science technicians
On shows like CSI and Forensic Files, forensic scientists solve crimes using DNA, fingerprints, and other evidence. While the real-life job might not be quite as dramatic as it is on TV, there’s a growing demand for people trained in forensic science. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a field like chemistry or biology, and you might take specific courses in forensic science, according to the BLS. In addition to being able to analyze evidence, forensic scientists need to be very detail-oriented and good communicators, since they’ll sometimes have to testify in criminal cases.
Forensic science technicians earn an average of $29.04 per hour, equivalent to a salary of $60,403. Eighteen percent of the roughly 15,000 people working in this field are under 24. The number of jobs for forensic science technicians grew by 12% from 2013 to 2017.
4. Environmental science protection technicians
You can thank environmental science protection technicians for the clean water you drink and the fresh air you breathe. These professionals monitor pollution and contamination and inspect businesses and public spaces for environmental hazards and violations. To get the job, you’ll need an associate degree or other post-secondary training in environmental health or sciences.
Environmental science protection technicians earn $22.28 per hour, or $46,342 per year. A fifth of the 35,352 people in this field are between the ages of 19 and 24, and the number of jobs grew by 7% over the past five years.
3. Adult education and literacy teachers
If you have a passion for teaching but can’t picture yourself in an elementary or high school classroom, a career as an adult education or literacy teacher might be a good fit. These educational professionals work with adult students to help them master the English language, earn a high school diploma, or acquire other basic skills. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to get a job in this field, and some people go on to earn master’s degrees in adult education or English as a second language.
People younger than 24 make up 22% of all adult education and literacy teachers. They earn $25.90 an hour on average, or $53,872 per year, and the number of jobs grew by 5% from 2013 to 2017.
2. Coaches and scouts
Sports fanatics may find success as a coach or scout. To coach at the college or professional level, you’ll probably need a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS, as well as playing experience. Scouts may have a degree in sports management or business. Younger people looking to break into the field might have part-time or summer jobs coaching at camps or youth sports programs.
Young people are well-represented among the nation’s 233,107 coaches and scouts. Twenty-two percent are 24 or younger. They earn $19.50 an hour on average, or $40,560 per year. The number of jobs grew by 7% over the past five years.
1. Social science research assistants
Social science research assistants help more senior-level scientists with surveys, data management, and preparing finding for publication. Many work in colleges and universities, others in the private sector. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to get one of these jobs.
Twenty-eight percent of social science research assistants are younger than 24. They earn $21.96 per hour, or $45,677 per year. The number of jobs grew by 5% from 2013 to 2017, to nearly 30,000.