Fast-Growing Career Sectors in Washington State
Whether you are interested in community colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, trades schools, or technical schools in Washington State, you can easily uncover a training option that can help you achieve your professional goals. And this state is a great place to do so since it has a growing job market, a low unemployment rate, and higher-than-average wages.
In only one month's time—from April to May 2016—8,700 nonfarm jobs were added to the state's economy. The largest gains were in the professional services, education and health services, government, construction, and financial activities sectors. And it is projected that almost 575,000 new nonfarm jobs will be added during the decade from 2013 to 2023.1
Along with booming job growth, Washingtonians are also enjoying a declining unemployment rate. After peaking at 10.4 percent in 2009, the state's unemployment rate dropped by almost half to 5.8 percent as of May 2016. And Seattle has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.9 percent.1 As the economy continues to prosper, workers are benefiting from excellent Washington State wages as well.
The median hourly wage in 2015 was $20.28, which was over 16-percent higher than the national median wage of $17.40 per hour. Washington also has the second-highest minimum wage in the country. Minimum wage was $9.47 per hour in 2015, which was $2.22 higher than the national minimum wage. And Seattle's $15.00-per-hour minimum wage is the highest in the country. However, it is being implemented in phases and will not be in full effect until 2021.1
With great earning opportunities, a growing job market, and declining unemployment rates, you can see why the state's population is over seven million and still growing.2 But the benefits don't end there. Here are some other points to consider about Washington:
- There is no state income tax.
- Washington's gross domestic product (GDP) and personal income growth outpaced that of the whole country in 2014.1
- The state has the third-lowest electricity rates in the country as of April 2016. And a 2015 report indicated that over 75 percent of the state's energy is produced from renewable sources.3
- According to data from 2015, the violent crime rate has been declining, and it is much lower than the national rate.4
So why not take advantage of everything that Washington has to offer and begin pursuing the career that you have always wanted? With so many colleges in Washington to choose from, it is probably easier to accomplish than you might realize. And with a large number of job openings expected across many sectors, there is no shortage of professional paths to choose from. Take a moment to explore seven of the fastest-growing sectors listed below, along with some of the most high-demand jobs in Washington State.
(The job openings being cited represent the total number of yearly projected job openings for the decade from 2014 to 2024. And the average hourly wages are based on state data from 2015.1)
Washington State's healthcare industry is expecting a larger number of job openings than any other sector. An expanding workforce, along with a growing and aging population, is resulting in an increased demand for medical services. And as more people move here and call Washington home, it can only be expected that healthcare employment will remain strong.
When determining a state's outlook for healthcare, some of the key factors that are considered are the number of elderly individuals living in the state as well as the rates of chronic diseases and other health conditions. As of 2015, 14.4 percent of the state's population was over the age of 65. And in 2011, there were more than 600,000 hospitalizations across the state with an average length of stay of four days. The leading causes of hospitalization after childbirth were:5
- Digestive system disorders
- Heart disease
- Infectious and parasitic diseases
Furthermore, 27 percent of adults are obese, and 31 percent do not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. Similar numbers exist for youth in regards to the level of physical activity. About 11 percent of 10th graders are obese, and 14 percent are overweight.5 So Washington certainly has its share of health concerns. The state is going to require a variety of workers to meet the needs of its residents even though the industry is already growing strong.
Seattle, which is Washington's most populated area, is home to the largest concentration of healthcare professionals in the Pacific Northwest. One in every eight jobs in Seattle and the surrounding area is directly related to healthcare. The area has everything from biomedical research facilities to senior care homes. In fact, from 2004 to 2010, the biotech research sector grew by more than 28 percent. And as of 2010, there were 12 different hospitals in Seattle alone.6 So there is definitely a wide range of employment options to choose from.
Healthcare occupations are broken down into two categories: (1) healthcare practitioners and technicians and (2) healthcare support. The healthcare practitioners and technicians' category includes higher-level, better-paying positions that often require credentials ranging from a diploma to a doctoral degree. The healthcare support category includes occupations that typically require less post-secondary training. Check out both sub-sectors below, and explore some of the most in-demand occupations within them. You can prepare for many of these occupations at technical colleges in Washington.
Healthcare Practitioners and Technicians—7,498 projected annual job openings
- Registered nurses (RN)—2,364 openings; $38.29 per hour
- Medical and clinical lab technologists and technicians—312 openings; $32.32 per hour for technologists, $21.94 per hour for technicians
- Licensed practical nurses (LPN)—302 openings; $23.99 per hour
- Dental hygienists—234 openings; $44.54 per hour
- Pharmacy technicians—231 openings; $19.65 per hour
- Medical records and health information technicians—173 openings; $20.59 per hour
Healthcare Support—4,312 projected annual job openings
- Nursing assistants—1,050 openings; $14.37 per hour
- Medical assistants—535 openings; $17.62 per hour
- Dental assistants—486 openings; $19.79 per hour
- Massage therapists—472 openings; $24.39 per hour
- Home health aides—470 openings; $12.80 per hour
2. Business and Financial Operations
The business and finance sector is filled with many exciting and interesting opportunities for budding professionals. In fact, Washington's small businesses created over 43,000 new jobs in 2013 alone. They make up 98 percent of the businesses in the state and employ over one million people, which is a little over half of the state's workforce.7
When you decide to take a business program at a Washington technical college, you generate a number of possibilities. Career paths range from accounting to human resources. And some of the largest sub-sectors include: professional, scientific, and technical services; real estate and rental and leasing services; the retail trade; administrative support; transportation and warehousing; and accommodation and food services.
- Total projected annual job openings—8,174
- Accountants and auditors—1,599 openings; $35.56 per hour
- Management analysts—903 openings; $47.91 per hour
- Market research analysts and marketing specialists—789 openings; $38.31 per hour
- Human resources specialists—707 openings; $33.21 per hour
- Purchasing agents—382 openings; $33.87 per hour
3. Information and Communication Technology
Washington has a booming information and communication technology (ICT) sector. In fact, the Seattle-Tacoma corridor has experienced 45.5-percent growth in the number of tech jobs from 2001 to 2013.8 And it is projected that, going forward, the tech sector will create jobs at a faster rate than post-secondary institutions can produce qualified graduates for those new jobs.
The recent boom is partially due to the fact that the state provides an excellent climate for tech start-ups. Along with a large pool of talented workers, there are many business development centers, incubators, and accelerators that help provide the funds and resources that tech companies need to set up and grow their businesses. Additionally, large companies like Microsoft and Amazon call Washington home. And major businesses like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple have established engineering offices in the state as well.
As of 2013, there were more than 8,600 companies within the tech sector that reported total revenue of almost $37 billion. And IT companies produce a huge economic spin-off. For every new tech worker that is hired, 4.4 additional jobs are created within the greater economy—both inside and outside of the tech sector.9 So if you are passionate about technology and want to capitalize on the amazing opportunities within the ICT sector, then you might want to consider Washington State colleges that can begin preparing you for one of the careers listed below.
- Total projected annual job openings—7,936
- Software application developers—3,244 openings; $56.24 per hour
- Computer programmers—828 openings; $56.27 per hour
- Computer systems analysts—792 openings; $46.58 per hour
- Computer user support specialists—654 openings; $27.45 per hour
- Software systems developers—524 openings; $55.38 per hour
4. Personal Care and Service
The personal care and service industry is essential because it provides many of the personal support services that Washington residents seek. And as the workforce grows, the demand for personal care and service professionals typically becomes stronger. Having more people working and moving here means that more people are in need of haircuts, manicures, skincare services, personal trainers, pet care, dog trainers, and daycare providers for children. There are certainly a lot of opportunities for you to consider!
- Total projected annual job openings—6,586
- Personal care aides—1,325 openings; $12.10 per hour
- Childcare workers—988 openings; $11.61 per hour
- Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists—860 openings; $17.05 per hour
- Nail technicians—287 openings; $13.41 per hour
- Fitness trainers—258 openings; $20.04 per hour
5. Construction and Extraction
For those who are considering trade schools, Washington State is probably a good place to be due to the burgeoning construction industry. As of 2016, downtown Seattle has 65 major construction projects in progress totaling $3.5 billion. The city is expecting to open 3,000 new hotel rooms by 2018 and 7,700 new apartments by 2019. And the office building market in the Puget Sound area is the fifth-busiest in the country. As of 2016, there is 6.9 million square feet of office space under construction.10
However, the building boom is not limited to Seattle and the outlying area. Statewide, from June 2014 to 2015, private nonresidential construction grew by 16.3 percent, and private residential construction grew by 14.3 percent.1 That growth is great news for aspiring tradespeople in almost every corner of the state. Just take a look at the projections for some of the highest-growth skilled trades jobs listed below.
- Total projected annual job openings—4,643
- Carpenters—1,621 openings; $25.04 per hour
- Electricians—826 openings; $31.96 per hour
- Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters—499 openings; $22.84 per hour
- Supervisors—496 openings; $36.88 per hour
- Equipment operators—252 openings; $28.40 per hour
6. Art, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
There is a rich arts and culture scene throughout the state that includes a deep history rooted in Native American traditions. When you are surrounded by such inspiring natural beauty, it is hard not to tap into your creative talents. That's likely one of the reasons why Washington is known as the birthplace of grunge music. It has also been home to legends like Jimi Hendrix and Bing Crosby. And the state has produced a number of professional sports stars and Olympic athletes, as well as talented artists such as world-renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
In 2017 alone, more than 7,390 new creative jobs were added across the state, and the sector earned a total of $28.9 billion—nearly eight percent of the state's GDP. Much of that growth was contributed by software and Internet developers.11 In fact, from 2005 to 2014, Washington led the country in software publishing employment. And Seattle has the country's largest concentration of interactive media companies. The city has actually ranked as the world's leading region for interactive media and the most competitive for growth.12
So it's a good time for you to join this exciting industry. Whether you want to make your mark as the next great artist or media arts professional, one of the top Washington colleges can help you realize your dreams. There are numerous possibilities throughout the sector, and some of the highest-growth positions can be found below.
- Total projected annual job openings—3,481
- Graphic designers—360 openings; $26.83 per hour
- Media and communication equipment workers—273 openings; $30.02 per hour
- Multimedia artists and animators—181 openings; $36.92 per hour
- Producers and directors—178 openings; $32.73 per hour
- Public relations specialists—136 openings; $31.87 per hour
7. Community and Social Service
When it comes to meeting the needs of the state's residents, community and social services are just as important as healthcare services. Just consider the following statistics regarding Washington's residents as of 2018:13
- Over 22 percent are under the age of 18.
- Over 15 percent are over the age of 65.
- 11 percent live in poverty.
- 13.8 percent are foreign-born.
- 9 percent under the age of 65 are living with a disability.
The figures above highlight the number of people that are falling into the largest at-risk and in-need categories. So it makes sense that, based on 2014 numbers, 39 percent of the state's population utilized support services through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Thirty percent of those clients sought economic services, such as child support services, pregnant women assistance, and refugee assistance. The demand for other services were relatively evenly dispersed among areas related to aging and adult care, alcohol and substance abuse, children's services, developmental disabilities, juvenile rehabilitation, mental health, and vocational rehabilitation.14
If you are thinking that a compassionate and caring career path is the right option for you, then this could be a great time to start training with one of the top Washington colleges or universities. You can open yourself up to interesting possibilities related to social work or counseling and offer a helping hand to your fellow Washingtonians.
- Total projected annual job openings—2,368
- Social and human service assistants—347 openings; $14.57 per hour
- Child, family, and school social workers—286 openings; $23.52 per hour
- Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors—209 openings; $28.43 per hour
- Rehabilitation counselors—189 openings; $19.19 per hour
- Healthcare social workers—162 openings; $27.88 per hour
Additional In-Demand Occupations
Seven of the fastest-growing industries in Washington State are highlighted above. However, some occupations don't fall into those categories but are worth mentioning due to the large number of projected job openings. There are great opportunities in areas ranging from administrative support and sales to skilled trades and truck driving. Check them out and see if there is a possibility that appeals to you.
- Cooks—3,574 openings; $13.13 per hour
- General office clerks—2,373 openings; $15.83 per hour
- Customer service representatives—2,190 openings; $17.77 per hour
- Sales representatives (in wholesale and manufacturing)—2,055 openings; $39.21 per hour
- Administrative assistants—1,292 openings; $18.80 per hour
- Tractor-trailer truck drivers—1,195 openings; $21.54 per hour
- Receptionists and information clerks—1,131 openings; $15.06 per hour
- Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks—961 openings; $19.97 per hour
- Security guards—899 openings; $16.11 per hour
- Delivery truck drivers—762 openings; $17.99 per hour
- Automotive service technicians and mechanics—667 openings; $21.33 per hour
- Real estate agents—557 openings; $24.17 per hour
- Civil engineers—531 openings; $42.08 per hour
- Police officers—433 openings; $35.49 per hour
- Welders—341 openings; $22.54 per hour
- Mechanical engineers—331 openings; $44.53 per hour
- HVAC mechanics—249 openings; $27.19 per hour
Discover Your Path to Career Success Today
Whether you want to find trade schools in Seattle, technical schools in Spokane, or exceptional Washington colleges in other areas, you can begin your search right here. Today is the day to start preparing for abundant opportunities within the Evergreen State. And getting started is as simple as entering your zip code below to generate a list of schools that are offering programs near you. Don't hold yourself back from achieving your potential any longer!
1 Washington State Employment Security Department, Labor Market Info, website last visited on June 30, 2016.
2 Office of Financial Management, State of Washington 2017 Population Trends, website last visited on February 6, 2018.
3 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), website last visited on June 30, 2016.
4 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2014 Crime in the United States, website last visited on June 30, 2016.
5 Washington State Department of Health, "Health of Washington State Report," website last visited on September 25, 2017.
6 Downtown Seattle Association, Strategic Assessment Report, Positioning Downtown Seattle as a Growth Center for Healthcare Delivery, website last visited on June 12, 2017.
7 U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, Small Business Profile: Washington, website last visited on July 5, 2016.
8 Washington State Department of Commerce, Choose Washington, Information and Communication Technology, website last visited on June 30, 2016.
9 Washington Technology Industry Association, Information and Communication Technology Economic and Fiscal Impact Study, website last visited on April 27, 2017.
10 NW Construction Illustrated, Industry Statistics and Interesting Facts, website last visited on June 30, 2016.
11 Washington State Arts Commission, Creative Economy, website last visited on July 3, 2019.
12 Washington Interactive Network (WIN), Local Industry, website last visited on June 30, 2016.
13 United States Census Bureau, Washington Quick Facts, website last visited on April 23, 2019.
14 Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Client Data, website last visited on June 30, 2016.