Over the last decade, two huge issues -- rising student loan debt and the lack of entry-level jobs – have been on a collision course. Everywhere we look, we see stories about the growing number of students who accrue debt without ever earning a degree, how America's students accrue $3,055 in student loan debt every second, and the notoriously poor job prospects for millennials.
Meanwhile, more and more jobs are being shipped overseas, including up to 3.2 million jobs to China alone since 2001.
And that’s part of the problem. In certain fields, students are racking up enormous amounts of debt to prepare for jobs that they can’t even get – at least not here.
Can Anything Replace the Value of Hard Work?
Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" echoed that sentiment last year in a segment on Fox News. According to Rowe, today’s students are receiving conflicting advice – and even bad advice – on what it takes to get ahead in today’s economy.
Cheesy slogans like "Work smart, not hard" aren’t helping, says Rowe, whose foundation – the mikeroweWORKS Foundation – aims to prepare people for jobs in the skilled trades.
Their slogan? "Work smart and hard."
But no matter what you've heard, the argument Rowe makes isn't necessarily against college; it’s against paying huge sums of money for an education that doesn’t lead anywhere. For students to get ahead, they need to invest in education and career training that can actually lead to employment – you know, jobs that are actually in demand.
"We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist," says Rowe. "That’s nuts."
Many people would agree, but the ever-increasing levels of student loan debt tell another story. This begs the question, what should students be studying?
10 Outsource-Proof Careers
When it comes to the future of employment in this country, the numbers really do speak for themselves. The truth is, if you’re looking for a career with a ton of potential that simply cannot be shipped overseas, you have a wealth of options to choose from. Even better, a lot of careers with the best potential only require a two-year degree or less, which could mean fewer loans to repay when you graduate.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we compiled this list of hot jobs that simply cannot be outsourced:
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate special imaging equipment in order to help other healthcare providers diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. And like almost all jobs in health care, jobs in this field simply cannot be shipped overseas.
The fact that this career usually only requires an associate’s degree can also mean quick entry into the workforce. Meanwhile, the future looks extremely bright for those who earn this degree now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to increase 46% nationally from 2012 to 2022 – more than four times as fast as all occupations combined. Here are some other details you should know:
- Education required: Associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate
- Median annual wage in 2014: $67,530
- Top-paying states: California ($89,870), Oregon ($85,970), and Washington D.C. ($85,140)
We all know what carpenters do; they build and construct wooden framework, buildings, partitions, and walls. And for the most part, these jobs simply cannot be outsourced beyond our borders.
To get started in this career, you may not even need a college education at all. As the BLS notes, most carpenters get started by completing an apprenticeship, learning on the job, or starting as a helper and learning the trade over time.
Because new developments are always being planned, demand for carpenters is only expected to increase over time. In fact, U.S. Department of Labor data shows that employment for carpenters is expected to increase 24% from 2012 to 2022. For a job that may result in a student loan balance of zero, carpentry has a lot to offer. Some other important stats:
- Education required: High school diploma and apprenticeship
- Median annual wage in 2014: $40,820
- Top-paying states: Hawaii ($66,880), Alaska ($66,150), New York ( $59,460)
Occupational Therapy Assistant
If you want to work in an occupational therapist’s office without spending too much time in college, you may want to consider a career as an occupational therapy assistant. These workers provide support to occupational therapists, help patients with therapeutic activities, and complete administrative tasks.
Getting started in this career usually requires an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy program. These are typically found at hospitals and community colleges, although you may occasionally find a program at a trade school.
Occupational therapy assistants are unlikely to see their work shipped overseas -- and they also enjoy excellent job prospects. According to the BLS, employment for occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase 43% nationally from 2012 to 2022. Here are some more details:
- Education required: Associate’s degree from accredited program
- Median annual wage in 2014: $56,950
- Top-paying states: Nevada ($100,260), Texas ($70,610), California ($66,580)
Can you imagine leaving the country to see your dental hygienist? Nope, neither can I. These workers simply cannot be shipped overseas since they must live and work where their patients are. In most cases, getting started in this career only requires an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, which can be completed in two years. Most dental hygienists must also be licensed, however, although the requirements vary from state to state.
Here’s even better news: Because of the demand in this field, employment for dental hygienists is expected to increase 33% nationally from 2012 to 2022. Some more stats:
- Education required: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene
- Median annual wage in 2014: $71,520
- Top-paying states: Washington D.C. ($95,570), California ($94,370), Washington ($91,370)
Mortician/Funeral Service Manager
While this career isn’t for everyone, it is one that absolutely cannot be shipped overseas under any circumstances. When people die in the United States, morticians and undertakers must be available to care for their bodies and families. Because of this fact, demand and pay remain rather high.
Specifically, employment for funeral service managers is expected to increase 13% from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, jobs for all funeral service occupations are expected to surge 12%. Considering the fact that only an associate’s degree is required to work in this field in most states, the future of mortuary science looks bright. Here are some other relevant statistics:
- Education required: Associates degree in mortuary science in most states
- Median annual wage in 2014: $54,370
- Top-paying states: Massachusetts ($82,780), New Jersey ($79,830), Rhode Island ($78,220)
Brickmasons & Blockmasons
Another construction career that isn’t going anywhere is masonry. Thanks to the fact that this industry cannot be outsourced, brickmasons and blockmasons enjoy relatively high pay and excellent job prospects. In most cases, you can get started in this career with a one- to two-year apprenticeship. However, some brickmasons and blockmasons complete one- to two-year masonry programs at trade or technical schools.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for these workers are expected to increase 36% nationally from 2012 to 2022. Since more people generally means more houses, hospitals, and schools, brickmasons and blockmasons will remain in demand as the population grows.
- Education required: Apprenticeship or trade school program
- Median annual wage in 2014: $47,650
- Top-paying states: Massachusetts ($77,630), Illinois ($70,910), New York ($65,460)
Medical Equipment Repairers
Advances in medical technology bring new types of equipment into the field of healthcare all the time. Further, various types of high-tech equipment and machinery require trained Americans to work on them - a fact that makes jobs in this field relatively safe from outsourcing.
Most of the time, getting started in this field requires an associate’s degree in biomedical technology or engineering. However, depending on the specialization, candidates may need a bachelor’s degree.
Still, the job prospects and pay in this field are rather attractive. According to the most recent BLS data, employment for medical equipment repairers is expected to increase 30% nationally from 2012 to 2022. Some more details:
- Education required: Associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree
- Median annual wage in 2014: $45,660
- Top-paying states: Alaska ($69,280), Oregon ($58,650), Delaware ($58,540)
Petroleum engineers design and develop plans that help bring oil to the Earth’s surface. In some cases, that can mean traveling for work. However, oil extraction jobs in the U.S. and in our coastal waters cannot typically be shipped overseas.
Because of the degree of skill required for this career, pay is high and demand is spectacular. As the BLS notes, employment for these workers is expected to increase 26% from 2012 to 2022. It’s also fairly easy to figure out how to get started – in most cases, petroleum engineers begin their careers with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field.
- Education required: Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering
- Median annual wage in 2014: $130,050
- Top paying states: Texas ($158,770), Virginia ($156,390), New Jersey ($155,450)
Civil engineers plan, organize, and supervise large construction projects including bridges, airports, dams, and tunnels. And because of the nature of this work, their jobs simply cannot be shipped overseas. To get started in this field, candidates need to earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. However, a master’s degree may be required for advanced or supervisory positions.
Because big construction projects are ongoing, demand in this field remains high. As the BLS notes, employment for civil engineers is expected to increase 20% nationally from 2012 to 2022, adding 53,700 jobs over the decade.
- Education required: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering
- Median annual wage in 2014: $82,050
- Top-paying states: Alaska ($107,600), Texas ($100,330), California ($99,580)
Although plumbers may not have the most glamorous job in the world, they do have one of the most stable. And since the work they do can only take place in our own buildings and homes, their jobs must remain here in the good ol’ US of A.
Even better, a career in plumbing could be yours in a shorter amount of time than you think. According to the BLS, most plumbers get their start by completing an apprenticeship or finishing a one- or two-year plumbing program at a trade or technical school.
Since population growth should fuel the expansion of our infrastructure and new developments, employment in this field is expected to surge. Specifically, employment for plumbers is expected to increase 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. Here are some more details you should know:
- Education required: Apprenticeship or one- or two-year program at trade school
- Median annual wage in 2014: $50,660
- Top-paying states: Oregon ($72,440), Illinois ($71,810), Massachusetts ($71,270)
Choosing a Job That Can't Be Shipped Overseas
When you’re choosing a college major or career path, there is definitely more to consider beyond just college costs and employment statistics. Not only should you find a career with real potential, but it needs to be something you won’t hate doing for the next 30 years. Because, no matter what, 30 years is a long time. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a job you hate.
Still, you should at least take a look at the numbers. And you never know – you might find that careers you never even considered have a lot more potential than you ever realized. Your new career may not seem like your dream job at first, but if it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be called "work."
Meanwhile, you should always run the numbers before you pursue a college degree. Ask yourself if your starting salary will be enough to justify the cost of your degree. If the answer is no, you should at least consider a technical or vocational education. With the right training, you may be able to work smart and hard while also enjoying a job that cannot be shipped overseas – no matter what.
Do you agree with this list? Do you worry that your job will be outsourced one day?