High school freshmen who are starting to think about a career path would do well to focus on the medical field or computer and math jobs.
Those occupations will grow the fastest in Pinellas County between now and 2026 — the year that most of today’s high school freshman will graduate from college.
The employment data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity generally backs the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that have been the focus of educators and employers.
Physician assistant is the fastest-growing job in the county, with employment expected to jump 40.5 percent and a total of 361 job openings by 2026.
Here are the top 10 jobs with the highest projected percentage growth.
There’s also high demand for management jobs, said Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development.
“We have three Fortune 500 companies here and lots of smaller privately held companies headquartered here, and a lot of manufacturing, compared to the rest of the state,” Meidel said. “Those types of careers, people in administration, management, human resources, legal, accounting and finance, that you would find in a corporate headquarters are considerably higher here than in other places.”
In contrast, declines in the number of jobs are projected in postal service workers, some productions jobs such as electronic equipment assemblers and printing workers, and media jobs including reporters and editors.
The projections help local schools prepare students for the workforce of the future, Meidel said.
Related data about median hourly wages at jobs allow economic developers to focus on recruiting high-wage employers to the area.
Eight of the 10 highest-paying jobs also are in healthcare.
All of the highest-paying healthcare jobs require a substantial investment in education, with a master’s degree or higher.
While other healthcare jobs require less education, they also pay less. For example the median hourly wage for home health aides in 2017 was $10.69. The job requires postsecondary vocational training
But with an aging population, healthcare provides an excellent career path, Meidel said. “It’s the best career ladder you can find. You can work your way up with a constant growth path,” he said.
The median hourly wage for all of Pinellas County in 2017 was $16.70 an hour. Eight of the 10 occupations that will add the most jobs in terms of actual numbers, not percentages, pay less than that.
But Meidel said there is no bad job.
“All of our employers are crying for people with soft skills, people who can talk to others, communicate verbally in writing, show up for work and get along with teammates. Those soft skills are typically taught in retailers and in hospitality. They have a place in the bigger scheme of the economy,” Meidel said. “When kids start at a fast food place or a retail store, they are learning what they need to be employable and then they can get education and go on from there.”
See the full projections for Pinellas County employment data here.