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10 jobs poised for explosive growth (Hint: they don't pay much)

December 19, 2013: 12:45 PM ET

The job market is gradually improving, but it's still tough out there for the 11 million Americans who remain unemployed. Wouldn't it be great to just look into a crystal ball and see the jobs that will have the greatest demand for workers in the next decade?

Thankfully, the Labor Department did just that (only they used massive surveys and advanced statistics, not actual crystal balls).

Unfortunately, the news is rather depressing. Many of the jobs pay poverty-level wages. (The poverty line was $23,492 in 2012, for a family of four. Five of the 10 jobs on the list pay below that level.)

Here are the projections for the jobs with the most openings from 2012 to 2022.


1. Personal care aide

The "age wave" of baby boomers retiring is driving huge growth in jobs serving the elderly. Personal care aides, who work either in nursing homes or in their patient's houses, have long been among the fastest growing jobs. Over the next decade, they're expected to grow 49%, adding 581,000 jobs.

This is a female-dominated profession and an undervalued one as well. The median salary in 2012 was $19,910, and according to earlier estimates from the Department of Labor, about 40% of these workers rely on Medicaid and food stamps to get by. About half are minorities, many are undocumented immigrants, and a large part of the profession remains in the shadows, paid under-the-table.

"We've organized long-time care through low-wage jobs that have gone disproportionately to African American women and immigrant women of color," said Eileen Boris, Chair of the Department of Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. "It's based on the assumption that care is women's work, and you don't have to pay much for it."

registered nurse

2. Registered nurses

Another female-dominated job, but one that pays better wages. Registered nurses are expected to account for 527,000 jobs added over the decade. They earn an average of $65,500 a year.


3. Retail salesperson

Retail jobs are expected to grow about 10% over the decade, accounting for 435,000 new positions. The job often requires less than a high school diploma and pays just $21,000 a year.


4. Home health aide

The Labor Department makes a technical distinction between personal care and home health aides, simply because in some states, the health aide may also administer medications or check a client's vital signs under the direction of a nurse. That said, the jobs are otherwise very similar.

This job pays about $21,000 a year and often doesn't even require a high school diploma.

fast food

5. Food prep workers (including fast food)

Another low wage job! This one pays just $18,260 a year, and again, often doesn't even require a high school diploma.

That said, it's growing quickly, and expected to add 422,000 positions over the decade.


6. Nursing assistant

Unlike home health aides, "nursing assistant" is usually a title reserved for aides who work in a formal health care facility like a hospital or nursing home. These workers may have a bit more training, but still earn low wages, at around $24,000 a year.

The aging economy is expected to add 312,000 of these jobs over the decade.


7. Secretaries and administrative assistants

The most common job for American women remains the same as it was in 1950: Secretary (or administrative assistant). Given the Labor Department's projections, it could continue that way until at least 2022.

The economy is expected to add 308,000 jobs for secretaries and administrative assistants over the decade, and this estimate does not include those who are legal, medical or executive assistants (and tend to earn higher pay).

This job pays an average of $32,400 a year.


8. Customer service representatives

Customer service representatives are expected to add 299,000 jobs over the decade. This job paid an average salary of $31,000 in 2012.


9. Janitors and cleaners

Finally, there's a male-dominated profession on the list! But no surprise here, it also doesn't pay very well.

Janitors and cleaners (a category that doesn't include in-home maids and housekeepers) are expected to create 280,000 jobs over the decade. They earn an average of $22,000 a year.


10. Construction laborers

After the housing bubble burst, construction was the hardest hit sector in the Great Recession. Now jobs in the industry are finally starting to trickle back.

About 260,000 construction laborer jobs are expected to return this decade -- still not enough to make up for the more than 2 million construction jobs that were lost.

The average wage for a construction laborer was about $30,000 in 2012.

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About This Author
Annalyn Censky
Annalyn Kurtz
Writer, CNNMoney

Annalyn Kurtz is a senior writer at CNNMoney, where she covers America's jobs crisis, Federal Reserve policy and other economic news. Before joining the site in 2010, she served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Prague and interned at Fortune Small Business magazine. @annalynkurtz

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