3 Career Sectors With Promising Outlooks in Grand Rapids
With strong job growth, low unemployment, and an affordable cost of living, Grand Rapids offers numerous benefits to anyone looking to train and launch a career. In fact, in 2016, this part of Michigan had the fastest-growing economy of any major U.S. city.1 Employment in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan area grew 2.3 percent between April 2017 and April 2018 alone.2 Given Grand Rapids' strong labor market and high quality of life, it's hardly surprising that U.S. News & World Report ranked the city among the top 12 places to live in the U.S.3
Simply put, career builders can find plenty of opportunities in this part of the Midwest. Three occupational sectors with particularly good prospects in the Grand Rapids area include:
1. Health Science and Services
Grand Rapids is a major center for bioscience research. The city's Medical Mile has seen more than $2 billion worth of investment over the past 15 years and is now home to a wide array of hospitals, research centers, and other healthcare facilities that employ tens of thousands of local residents.4 And the demand will continue to grow: Employment in West Michigan hospitals alone is expected to increase by over 20 percent between 2014 and 2024. Nursing homes and residential care facilities should see 15-percent growth in jobs over that time frame.2
The following are a few examples of healthcare careers that are projected to see faster-than-average job growth in the 13 counties that make up the West Michigan Prosperity Alliance. (The percentage is the expected job growth between 2014 and 2024; the salary figures represent average annual earnings in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro area as of May 2018.)2, 5
- Physical therapist assistants—37.2 percent / $51,490
- Registered nurses—23.9 percent / $65,930
- Medical and clinical laboratory technologists—20.3 percent / $44,510
- Medical records and health information technicians—17.9 percent / $37,250
- Medical assistants—17.3 percent / $34,320
- Pharmacy technicians—12.6 percent / $31,460
Manufacturing has long been a mainstay of the Grand Rapids economy, employing roughly one in five workers.6 Thousands of companies throughout the area produce office furniture, medical devices, automotive components, aviation parts, and more. In fact, manufacturing jobs grew more than 13 percent in West Michigan between 2013 and 2017.4 And looking ahead, over 10,000 new jobs are expected to become available in this sector between 2014 and 2024.2
Check out the expected rates of growth for the following careers, along with their average annual salaries:2, 5
- CNC machine tool operators—33.7 percent / $42,800
- Industrial machinery mechanics—31.9 percent / $49,080
- Millwrights—24 percent / $54,760
- Machinists—21.4 percent / $42,030
- Engine and other machine assemblers—14.6 percent / $44,420
- Electrical and electronics drafters—14.3 percent / $56,640
- Industrial engineers—12.6 percent / $76,960
The building trades are booming in Grand Rapids. That's partly driven by the need to house more people. While the population of Michigan as a whole grew only 0.5 percent between 2011 and 2017, Grand Rapids saw growth of almost six percent.7 Construction employment in the metro area expanded by 10 percent between August 2016 and August 2017 alone, a rate that was double the overall increase for the state.8 And the opportunities should continue to emerge: Construction jobs in West Michigan are expected to expand by almost 24 percent between 2014 and 2024.2
Have a look at the projected job growth and average salaries for the following construction-related careers:2, 5
- Brickmasons and blockmasons—32.3 percent / $47,640
- Cement masons and concrete finishers—24.4 percent / $44,370
- HVAC installers and mechanics—22.8 percent / $52,740
- Electricians—21.9 percent / $51,980
- Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters—20.2 percent / $53,670
- Carpenters—18.2 percent / $40,450
Make a Change for the Better
Start moving toward a more fulfilling future. Grand Rapids trade schools and vocational colleges are ready to help you realize your ambitions. Why not begin by exploring the programs listed above? Or discover even more convenient training options by putting your zip code into the school finder below!
1 Headlight Data, "Fastest Growing Large Metro Economies of 2016 Are Grand Rapids, Orlando, Nashville; Slowest Are Oklahoma, Houston, New Orleans," website last visited on May 29, 2018.
2 Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, website last visited on May 29, 2018.
3 U.S. News & World Report, "125 Best Places to Live in the USA," website last visited on May 29, 2018.
4 The Right Place, website last visited on May 29, 2018.
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on June 20, 2019.
6 Los Angeles Times, "Grand Rapids boasts the large manufacturing sector Trump wants, but is it a model for the nation?," website last visited on May 29, 2018.
7 MLive, "Detroit's population still falling, Grand Rapids still growing, Census data shows," website last visited on June 25, 2018.
8 Grand Rapids Business Journal, "In the construction sector, G.R. = Growing Rapidly," website last visited on July 9, 2018.