The Best Jobs in America in 2021

The right job for you

Picking a career is no easy task. It requires knowing yourself: your skills, your strengths and your goals for the future. No one intends on dedicating time and money to the proper education for a career path only to find the hours are long and stressful and the rewards minimum. Following a year of unforeseen layoffs and economic upheaval due to the global coronavirus pandemic, job seekers may have specific priorities for what they want in a career.

To help you make a better decision, U.S. News & World Report has ranked jobs using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and in-house reporting. Read more about how we rank the Best Jobs here. These top 25 jobs have some of the most sought-after qualities: high salaries, low stress levels, employment growth and strong job prospects for years to come.

Health care jobs are the most prominent in this year’s list, and jobs in the technology and business industries are also well represented. Did your dream job make the cut? Find out to see which 25 jobs top the list. You can also browse the complete rankings.

25. Cartographer

Industry: Engineering
Median Salary: $65,470
Unemployment Rate: 0.6%
Job Growth: 4.5%, or 500 new jobs by 2029

While many may think of mapmaking as a science of centuries past, cartography is very much growing in demand. Cartographers tap into both their analytical and artistic sides, collecting and analyzing geographic data and creating user-friendly maps and graphics. They often use the latest technologies to put complex sets of facts and figures into easily digestible visual representations — helping people get to where they need to be or even understand the latest election results.

Most cartographers work for local governments, helping in urban and regional planning, as well as architectural or engineering related services, according to the BLS. Employment in this field is growing as fast as all other occupations, but the increase of technology in Geographic Information Systems may increase productivity and reduce employment growth, according to the BLS.

Learn more about cartographers.

24. Financial Advisor

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $87,850
Unemployment Rate: 0.4%
Job Growth: 4.4%, or 11,600 new jobs by 2029

When you need guidance during financial uncertainty or you want to make sure you’re making the right money moves to have a secure future, financial advisors are there to help. They are dedicated to helping clients meet their financial goals through recommendations on investments, mortgages, savings, estate planning, taxes and more. Because any money decision is an important one, financial advisors must build trust with clients and listen and understand their needs.

The job can sometimes be stressful, such as during an economic downturn, and some financial advisors may work more than 40 hours a week, according to the BLS. Financial advisors usually have a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field and complete training on the job. Many pursue an advanced degree or additional licenses and certifications to attract more clients.

Learn more about financial advisors.

23. Mechanical Engineer

Industry: Engineering
Median Salary: $88,430
Unemployment Rate: 1.9%
Job Growth: 3.9%, or 12,400 new jobs by 2029

Mechanical engineers are part of the broadest engineering field, designing, testing and manufacturing various machines and devices in a wide range of industries. A mechanical engineer’s analytical problem-solving skills and ability to bring a product to fruition from start to finish can thrive anywhere from the automotive to electronics and even aerospace industries.

Those pursuing this career need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from an accredited program, where students will encounter plenty of STEM classes in their course of study. Employment is growing in this field as fast as all other occupations, but the growth rate will be different depending on the industry. The BLS says these engineers will continue to be involved particularly in auto manufacturing, and those familiar with the latest software tools and 3D printing will fare even better.

Learn more about mechanical engineers.

22. Orthotist and Prosthetist

Industry: Health care support
Median Salary: $68,410
Unemployment Rate: 0.7%
Job Growth: 16.9%, or 1,700 new jobs by 2029

Injury to or loss of a limb or other body part can greatly affect someone’s quality of life. Whether it’s someone with spina bifida who needs help walking with a brace, an athlete who needs a cast to recover from an injury or someone born without a limb, orthotists and prosthetists help such patients gain mobility. Orthotists prescribe and create braces or orthoses and manage patients who use them, while prosthetists do the same with artificial body parts or prostheses.

To get into the field, orthotists and prosthetists need to complete a master’s degree, a certification and a residency. The BLS says this job is growing in demand due to some baby boomers suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to limb loss.

Learn more about orthotists and prosthetists.

21. Physical Therapist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $89,440
Unemployment Rate: 1.6%
Job Growth: 18.2%, or 47,000 new jobs by 2029

Physical therapists rehabilitate those who are injured by helping them manage pain and improve mobility. They work one-on-one with their patients — who vary from people with fractures, amputations, cerebral palsy, neurological disorders and even sports injuries — assessing their range of motion, developing plans and goals toward recovery and using stretches, exercise and other equipment to help patients meet those goals.

They spend a lot of time on their feet, lifting and moving patients when needed, so dexterity and physical stamina are some important qualities for PTs. To become a physical therapist, a Doctor of Physical Therapy from an accredited program is required. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.

Learn more about physical therapists.

20. Marriage and Family Therapist

Industry: Social services
Median Salary: $49,610
Unemployment Rate: 0.8%
Job Growth: 22.3%, or 14,800 new jobs by 2029

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples and families who need help solving relationship issues. Therapists are empathetic and patient individuals who actively listen to their clients’ emotions. They help people develop healthier ways of coping through life’s difficulties, addressing self-esteem, addiction, stress and other issues.

It’s a high-stress job, but it’s one that will see significant job growth due to the rise of integrated care, a holistic health care approach in which a group of specialists work together to treat a patient’s different issues as a team, according to the BLS. In order to practice, marriage and family therapists need a master’s degree and a license.

Learn more about marriage and family therapists.

19. Occupational Therapist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $84,950
Unemployment Rate: 1.8%
Job Growth: 15.9%, or 22,700 new jobs by 2029

Occupational therapists can find jobs in many different places. These professionals aid injured or ill patients in performing everyday tasks and maintaining their independence. Some may work in schools, helping students with disabilities use wheelchairs or leg braces, and others work in patients’ homes, identifying fall hazards and changes that could be made in an elderly person’s living space to improve their everyday life, for example. Occupational therapists may treat people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy and other illnesses and disabilities.

Occupational therapists need a master’s degree and must be licensed to work.

Learn more about occupational therapists.

18. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.3%
Job Growth: 2.4%, or 100 new jobs by 2029

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dentists who specialize in surgeries of the mouth, face and jaw. They perform wisdom teeth removals and dental implants and may manage patients with head, neck or oral cancers.

For oral and maxillofacial surgeons, the schooling doesn’t stop at dental school. A doctoral or professional degree is usually required to enter the field. That means completing a competitive residency program and obtaining board certification, which needs to be renewed periodically. But all the hard work eventually pays off, as it’s one of the best-paying jobs on the Best Jobs list.

Learn more about oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

17. Financial Manager

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $129,890
Unemployment Rate: 1.4%
Job Growth: 15.5%, or 108,100 new jobs by 2029

Financial managers work closely with the top executives of a company to help them make tough financial decisions and ensure an organization is meeting its money goals. They work well with numbers and people, as they analyze finance reports and are able to verbalize findings and share ideas on how to better make a profit and cut costs.

Financial managers usually have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, economics or finance, but many pursue a master’s degree in any of these subjects as well. They also benefit from continuing their education through certifications, licensing and financial management training to keep on top of the latest economic trends.

Learn more about financial managers.

16. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Industry: Social services
Median Salary: $46,240
Unemployment Rate: 1.7%
Job Growth: 24.7%, or 79,000 new jobs by 2029

People who struggle with mental health issues or substance abuse need the targeted care of these types of counselors. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors evaluate patients with eating disorders, drug addiction, alcoholism and other mental health issues, developing treatment options to overcome those obstacles.

The educational requirements may vary for this field, but counselors working in a private practice need a master’s degree, up to 4,000 hours of clinical work, a passing grade on a state exam and continuing education after that. The BLS says the job will continue to see strong demand as states increasingly seek counseling services for drug offenders rather than jail time.

Learn more about substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.

15. Information Security Analyst

Industry: Technology
Median Salary: $99,730
Unemployment Rate: 2.7%
Job Growth: 31.2%, or 40,900 new jobs by 2029

If your personal information has never been compromised in a data breach, information security analysts are to thank. These cybersecurity experts make sure hackers and cyberattacks don’t infiltrate the information systems and networks of banks, financial institutions, health care organizations and anywhere else that uses cloud-based services.

A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related subject is necessary to enter this industry. Pursuing this career won’t guarantee you a 9-to-5 job; since cyberattacks can happen at any time, information security analysts are almost always on call. But that also means there’s high demand for these professionals as much of the internet continues to rely on cloud services. Employment in this field is growing much faster than average, according to the BLS.

Learn more about information security analysts.

14. Anesthesiologist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.3%
Job Growth: 0.5%, or 200 new jobs by 2029

Anesthesiologists are responsible for administering anesthesia to minimize pain for people undergoing major medical surgeries or procedures. They work alongside physicians and surgeons, monitoring a patient’s vitals, administering drugs and adjusting them accordingly during surgeries. These professionals work long hours in hospital operating rooms and intensive care units.

Anesthesiologists need to go through medical school, pass a licensing exam, complete a yearlong internship and a three-year residency and receive state licensure, depending on the state of practice. It’s a high-stress job, but it’s one of the best paid on the Best Jobs list this year.

Learn more about anesthesiologists or medical schools.

13. Physical Therapist Assistant

Industry: Health care support
Median Salary: $58,790
Unemployment Rate: 1.3%
Job Growth: 32.6%, or 32,200 new jobs by 2029

Physical therapist assistants work directly under physical therapists, helping patients regain mobility and manage pain after injuries and other ailments. After a physical therapist evaluates a client and creates a plan for care, assistants are usually the ones to work directly with them during therapeutic exercises and stretches. Assistants take notes on the patient’s condition to report back to the physical therapist. Physical therapists rely on these assistants to reduce the cost of their services, particularly in long-term care environments, according to the BLS.

Physical therapist assistants need an associate degree from an accredited program and a license or certification to enter the field.

Learn more about physical therapist assistants.

12. IT Manager

Industry: Technology
Median Salary: $146,360
Unemployment Rate: 1.3%
Job Growth: 10.4%, or 48,100 new jobs by 2029

Information technology managers, also called computer and information systems managers, work with a company’s leadership to direct the organization’s computer needs. They make sure a company’s hardware, software, networks and systems are securely maintained and upgraded as necessary. IT managers may oversee other tech professionals, such as software developers, analysts and computer support specialists.

A bachelor’s degree in computer or information science is necessary to become an IT manager, but many in these roles also have a Master of Business Administration.

Learn more about IT managers.

11. Orthodontist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $208,000
Unemployment Rate: 0.2%
Job Growth: 2.4%, or 200 new jobs by 2029

Orthodontists enable people to smile wider and more confidently. They fix misaligned teeth and improper bites with braces and retainers for both function and aesthetics.

Orthodontists must go through dental school, a residency program and the proper licensing requirements requested by the state. They have one of the best-paying jobs on the list, and it also comes with great work-life balance. It’s a low-stress job, since orthodontists aren’t involved in life or death situations on the job, but it’s rewarding and transforms smiles.

Learn more about orthodontists.

10. Veterinarian

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $95,460
Unemployment Rate: 0.1%
Job Growth: 15.9%, or 14,200 new jobs by 2029

Veterinarians are doctors who care for the health of man’s best friend and all of creature kind. They perform surgeries, treat wounds, vaccinate, test for diseases and euthanize animals. Vets work in animal clinics and hospitals, but may also work on farms, ranches, labs or zoos. While being around animals for a living may seem like a dream for some, the job can be emotionally stressful and physically demanding. People treat their pets like family members, so they demand top-notch care for their furry kin. Veterinarians risk being bitten, kicked or scratched and even possibly contracting diseases from the animals they treat.

Vets need to complete a veterinary program and must receive the appropriate licensing in their state.

Learn more about veterinarians.

9. Dentist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $155,600
Unemployment Rate: 0.2%
Job Growth: 2.8%, or 3,700 new jobs by 2029

Dentists are responsible for keeping your smile healthy. They perform routine cleanings, fillings, root canals, X-rays and other procedures related to oral health. They also diagnose teeth, gum and jaw issues, prescribe medications and teach patients how to care for their own teeth through brushing, flossing and proper diet.

Dentists spend four years in dental school, become licensed and pass written and clinical exams in order to practice. Employment for dentists is growing as fast as average compared to all other occupations. Job prospects for dentists are good, but the BLS notes there may be some competition for jobs due to an increase of graduates from dental programs.

Learn more about dentists.

8. Data Scientist

Industry: Technology
Median Salary: $94,280
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
Job Growth: 30.9%, or 10,300 new jobs by 2029

Data scientists are statisticians. They are inquisitive and have a knack for numbers but also combine software programming and computer learning to do their jobs. The role involves using programming languages, such as Python and R, to extract and log data. They then analyze and identify trends and patterns within that data to improve performance and productivity within a company.

The field of data science is fairly new. Data scientists typically have a bachelor’s degree in math, statistics or computer science; some schools just recently started offering data science programs. The University of Virginia, for example, just opened a school of data science in 2019, only enrolling graduate-level students. An undergraduate minor program will launch this year, and a bachelor’s degree program will soon follow.

Learn more about data scientists and data science programs.

7. Speech-Language Pathologist

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $79,120
Unemployment Rate: 0.8%
Job Growth: 24.9%, or 40,500 new jobs by 2029

Speech-language pathologists help children and adults who have difficulty speaking or swallowing. These disorders may be caused by a variety of reasons, including stroke, developmental delay, autism or Parkinson’s disease. Speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists, evaluate a patient’s ability to speak and swallow and implement treatment plans.

Speech-language pathologists need at least a graduate degree and a license to work, depending on the state. Employment in this field is growing much faster than the average occupation, according to the BLS, due to an increase in cases of dementia and strokes among the aging baby boomer population.

Learn more about speech-language pathologists.

6. Statistician

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $91,160
Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
Job Growth: 34.6%, or 14,800 new jobs by 2029

Statisticians work closely with numbers, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. They work in a range of industries from government to health care to education and research. For example, the Census Bureau conducted a large, nationwide collection of data in 2020 and will require statisticians to parse through that data and report its conclusions. Statisticians’ findings inform business, health care and policy decisions.

Statisticians should have a bachelor’s degree in statistics, but need a Ph.D. to conduct research or teach. This profession will see significant growth in the next few years as more data is digitally stored.

Learn more about statisticians.

5. Physician

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $206,500
Unemployment Rate: 0.3%
Job Growth: 4.3%, or 18,500 new jobs by 2029

Doctors care for patients through colds, pregnancy, heart attacks and other illnesses and conditions. Physicians examine patients, order tests, treat a variety of illnesses, prescribe medications and more, all to the betterment of a patient’s health and well-being.

Physicians attend four years of medical school, earning either a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. They also go through a residency program, which can take three to seven years to complete. It’s one of the best-paying jobs, but it’s one that comes with a lot of stress. Employment for physicians is growing as fast as other occupations, according to the BLS.

Learn more about physicians. You can also read about different types of specialists: pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, anesthesiologists, surgeons and psychiatrists.

4. Medical and Health Services Manager

Industry: Business
Median Salary: $100,980
Unemployment Rate: 1.1%
Job Growth: 31.5%, or 133,200 new jobs by 2029

Medical and health services managers run medical practices and health care service providers such as nursing homes, hospitals and clinics. They make sure everything is running smoothly and that the organization is providing the best quality care and following all regulations and laws. They manage health care practices by hiring staff, monitoring budgets and more.

A bachelor’s degree is necessary to enter the field, but employers usually prefer those with a master’s degree, according to the BLS. Because of the many responsibilities they hold, medical and health services managers often need to be on call at all times depending on where they work. This makes this profession a high-stress job.

Learn more about medical and health services managers.

3. Nurse Practitioner

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $109,820
Unemployment Rate: 1.2%
Job Growth: 52.4%, or 110,700

Nurse practitioners, also called advanced practice registered nurses, are registered nurses who have similar duties to physicians and provide both primary and specialty care. They record patients’ symptoms, perform physical exams, diagnose health problems, prescribe medications and more. NPs work closely with physicians and other health care professionals as needed. The work of an NP can be emotionally and physically demanding, as they spend much of the workday on their feet caring for patients. They may work night shifts, weekends and holidays at hospitals and health care facilities.

NPs need a master’s degree from an accredited program. Employment in this profession is growing faster than average compared to all other occupations, according to the BLS.

Learn more about nurse practitioners or nursing programs.

2. Software Developer

Industry: Technology
Median Salary: $107,510
Unemployment Rate: 1.4%
Job Growth: 21.5%, or 316,000 new jobs by 2029

Apps are ubiquitous in everyday life. From checking bank account balances, connecting with friends on social media or ordering takeout, just about everyone takes advantage of the work done by software developers.

Software developers design user-friendly computer software and smartphone applications. These professionals are creative and detail-oriented, testing and perfecting apps until they’re as seamless as possible for the best user experience. Software developers enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field and must be familiar with computer programming. The demand for new apps and software will drive the need for software developers in the years to come.

Learn more about software developers.

1. Physician Assistant

Industry: Health care
Median Salary: $112,260
Unemployment Rate: 0.7%
Job Growth: 31.3%, or 39,300 new jobs by 2029

The job of a physician assistant is very similar to that of a doctor or internist. They diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medication, help with surgeries and perform certain procedures in various areas of medicine. The biggest difference is that a PA’s specific duties and the degree of how they’re supervised by physicians vary by state, according to the BLS. In underserved communities, physician assistants may serve as the primary care providers, working in more of a collaborative role with a physician. Most PAs work in physicians’ offices, but others may work in hospitals or outpatient care centers.

Physician assistants don’t need to go to medical school like physicians, but do need a master’s degree from an accredited program. Many aspiring PAs entering those programs already have experience as registered nurses, EMTs or paramedics. Employment in this field is growing much faster than average among all occupations, according to the BLS. This is due in large part to PAs being trained more quickly while still providing many of the same services as physicians.

Learn more about physician assistants or physician assistant programs.

The Best Jobs of 2021 include:

Physician assistant.

Software developer.

Nurse practitioner.

Medical and health services manager.



Speech-language pathologist.

Data scientist.



See the full rankings.

More from U.S. News

How U.S. News Ranks the Best Jobs

25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K or More

How to Change Careers Successfully

The Best Jobs in America in 2021 originally appeared on

Update 01/12/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Related Categories:

Latest News

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up