We Need to Be Preparing Our Students for These 13 Careers (Starting Now)

These important jobs are part of our future.

We all want to prepare students for careers they’ll love and thrive in. But with globalization and technological advances, is it possible to predict what the future of jobs will look like?

While some of today’s jobs will soon be replaced by automation and new careers will be created, two skills will benefit students no matter what their path looks like—specialized training and a love of learning.

“It’s not necessarily all about technology jobs,” says Nicholas Wyman, author of Job U and chief executive officer of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. “That said, regardless of any pathway, skills are going up—not down.”

The Business Roundtable reports that many trade positions, such as welders, energy service technicians, computer technicians, electricians, and mechanics, remain unfilled because workers lacked specialized skills. There are also acute shortages in STEM occupations requiring specialized training such as cybersecurity, data analytics, and financial services.

Because the workplace is evolving, it’s also important that students “learn how to learn.” In other words, students need to be able to acquire new information and evaluate it on their own, says Ed Gordon, author of Future Jobs and president of Imperial Consulting in Chicago.


“As computers take over more of the mindless work, the work that individuals are doing to do in every business sector is going to require higher-level thinking skills,” he says.

Just how teachers should advise students on career paths depends a lot on each individual kid’s educational aspirations and passions. However, there are some jobs that will have more openings and greater long-term security when compared to others. We’ve rounded up 13 that are projected to grow in the near future as well as lesson ideas to help prepare students for careers early on.

1. Skilled trades (welders, electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, plasters, plumbers, masons)

Education requirements may include high school diploma, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training and annual salary ranges from about $39,000 for welders to $53,000 for electricians. Companies surveyed for the past seven years by Manpower report this is the hardest-to-fill jobs category.

Preparation tip: Get kids involved in the maker movement so they learn the power of working with their hands! You could set up a maker station in your classroom for young kids, and for older students, you could check out Realityworks skilled trades trainings.

2. Drivers (truck, lorry, heavy goods, delivery, heavy equipment, and construction drivers)

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers can earn about $41,000 a year and a postsecondary certificate program is often required. Delivery drivers (for UPS and FedEx) make an average of $45,000 to $74,000 per year.

Preparation tip: Polish those math skills. These careers prove that math really is needed for just about every profession imaginable. These drivers need to be able to track, report, and manage their inventory. Good math skills will increase efficiency and learning.

3. Sales representatives

Positions range from those that require a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. While median annual wage is about $57,000, most jobs are commission-based which means the opportunity to earn more.

Preparation tip: Teach persuasive writing skills as well as good digital communication skills such as email writing and phone etiquette.

4. Teachers (yay!)

Who wouldn’t love their students to follow in their footsteps? In the next few years a significant number of teachers are expected to reach retirement age, which means openings will be created for new teachers. We don’t need to tell you much about this career, but salaries for K-12 positions nationwide are typically about $57,000, depending on the grade and region.

Preparation tip: Do a students as teachers lesson plan to test content knowledge and inspire future teachers.

5. Accounting and finance staff (bookkeepers, certified accountants and financial analysts)

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks can earn about $39,000 a year with some college education. The job outlook is faster than average for financial analysts who guide businesses on investments. They need a bachelor’s degree and median pay is about $82,000.

Preparation tip: Incorporate lessons in financial literacy into your classroom. Learning about money management may not only inspire a future career, it’s a critical skill for any adult to master. MyClassroomEconomy has great resources for younger students, while older kids can try to turn around using business simulation. (Check out this free webinar on business simulation here.)

6. Registered nurses

Demand is expected to grow much faster than average—by 16 percent—in the next decade. A bachelor’s degree is necessary and the annual salary is about $68,000.

Preparation tip: Take biology lessons to the next level by incorporating real simulation. Realityworks offers everything from injection simulators to infant health simulators to give your students hands-on experience.

7. Construction laborers

Construction laborers can often be trained on the job and earn at entry level, earn about $32,000.

Preparation tip: Again, we love how the maker movement is inspiring students to work with their hands. You also might want to follow this teacher’s lead and let your students work with power tools (just trust us).

8. Engineers (mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers)

This profession requires a bachelor’s degree. Median income for mechanical and civil engineers is about $84,000, while electrical engineers make about $96,000 on average.

Preparation tip: Consider starting a robotics program at your school—it’s easier than you may think and will get students excited about the power of building and coding.

9. Technicians

They’ll be needed in various fields. For serving wind turbines, technicians need some college but no degree required. Demand is projected to rise by 108 percent in the next decade and annual salary is about $37,000. In forensic science, growth of 26 percent is expected and annual salary of $57,000.

Preparation tip: Pump up your science lab experiments with real world scenerios. PBS offers an energy lab that includes videos, discussion questions, and hands-on activities about renewable energy.

10. General and operation managers

This is a high-paying career with average earnings of $99,000 a year. Bachelor’s degree and five years of experience is typically required.

Preparation tip: Operations managers have to see all the moving parts of a business. Assign everyone in your classroom jobs like supply chief and current events reporter, then let students take turns being the “manager” of all those roles for a week. For older kids, you can include the business management simulation from Realityworks.

11. Occupational therapists, assistants

This profession is expected to be one of the fastest growing in the next decade. Therapists, who need a master’s degree, help injured, ill, or disabled patients improve daily living skills. Median pay is about $82,000 a year. Occupational therapy assistants, usually have an associates degree and earn an annual salary of about $52,000.

Preparation tip: In these careers, empathy is a critical skill. Bring in guest speakers who advocate for the disabled or share this inspiring TED talk. To take it further, you can get tools from Realityworks that simulate impaired senses.

12. Physical therapists, assistants, aides

The need for physical therapists is anticipated to increase by 34 percent by 2024 and median pay is about $85,000 with a doctoral or professional degree required. Physical therapy assistants/aides will be in even higher demand and, with an associate’s degree, they can earn between $27,000-$57,000 annually.

Preparation tip: Incorporate hands-on biology labs that teach students how the parts of the body work together so they can better understand how healing works. Include biology simulators as an added bonus.

13. Statisticians

The median salary is about $81,000 in this rapidly growing field statistical methods are to collect and analyze data help solve problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields. A master’s degree is required for entry-level positions.

Preparation tip: Get your kids involved in a census at school where they collect and evaluate the real data about their student population and school community.

Every teacher wishes they could look into a crystal ball and see their students’ futures. The next best thing? Doing all you can to prepare them to find and thrive in a career they’ll love.

(NOTE: We defined these careers as reliable based on sources and reports from the following: the U.S Department of Labor, Occupations with the most job growth, 2014 and projected 2024, U.S. DOL, fastest growing occupations, and Manpower 2016/17 Talent Shortage Survey of the hardest jobs to fill in the United States.)