by Teri Fritsma

You wouldn’t dream of buying a home, planning a vacation, or choosing a school without researching your options.  Why should your career be any different?  There’s plenty of reliable data to help you make informed career decisions.  Experts call this “labor market information,”  or LMI.  Here’s how you can use LMI to answer five of the most frequently asked career questions.



1:  Am I getting paid the same as others in my field?  Is the salary I’ve been offered a fair one?


There’s Minnesota and national wage data available through a program called Occupational Employment Statistics (OES).  You can find regions within Minnesota as well.  ISEEK’s salary search tool is based on OES data.  You can find salary data by occupation, like salaries for Registered Nurses or Chief Executives. Readers outside Minnesota can find their state-specific information with this cool tool.


Here’s what you can’t do with this data.  You can’t find out what the starting wage is in your occupation.  Salaries from OES are published in percentiles, and since the 10th and 25th percentiles are the “low end” wage, it’s easy to confuse this with the starting wage — but the two really are not the same thing.  Similarly, it can’t tell you what the “experienced” wage is.  


Also, OES data does a better job of telling you what the hourly wage rate is than the annual salary.  The survey is based on hourly wages.  To get annual wages, you have to multiply the hourly wage by 2080 (the number of hours in a year if you assume a full-time schedule and factor in two weeks of vacation time).   But this only works well for occupations where most people work full-time.  If many or most people in the occupation work part-time, this calculation will be incorrect.   The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses in Minnesota is $9.74, but the median annual salary isn’t $20,259 ($9.74 x 2080) because a large number of wait staff work part-time.



2. What skills do I need to be a  ___[Your occupation here]__?


O*NET is one of the best-kept secrets out there.  It’s also the most comprehensive national source of skill data for 800+ occupations.  Use this easy online tool to find the skill, knowledge, and ability requirements for your prospective career, to learn what the typical tasks are, what types of tools or technology are used on the job, and more.


What can’t you do with O*NET data?  Well, O*NET deals with the skills that are general and transferable across occupations.  So, while you can find out how much reading, writing, math, or social skill you need to be a nurse, won’t be able to find out how much experience you need at dispensing medication or drawing blood.  To use O*NET data to inform your career choices, you’ll need to think about your skills in general and transferable terms.



3. What are the high-growth fields?


Employment projections are the way to go here.  Projections are produced at the regional, state, and national levels, and by occupation or industry.  These are economists’ best guesses about how different occupations and industries will grow (or shrink) over the next ten years.  Currently, the statistics are projecting job growth to the year 2016.


Projections are probably the most misunderstood piece of LMI.  People often mistake employment projections for employment demand.  Projections really can only tell you how much your field will grow or shrink over the coming years, but high-growth careers are not always high-demand careers.  To understand what’s in demand, you need to know a lot more about the way the supply of workers matches up to the available openings — and that’s beyond what employment projections can tell you.  Employment projections don’t give you much information about the current number of openings; they’re all about future growth (or decline).



4.  What (and where) are the high-demand jobs in Minnesota?


Minnesotans are fortunate, because analysts at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development have gone beyond employment projections to offer an “Occupations in Demand” tool.  This tool combines several data sources to produce an estimate of the careers that are truly in demand.  It’s the best source of data we have to gauge demand across all 800+ careers.  The tool is updated twice a year when new data becomes available.  Regional demand lists are also available.  And, since the data is kept current, the tool reflects changes that have occurred since the start of the recession.


What can’t Occupations in Demand tell you?  OID is based on broad occupational categories, like Registered Nurse, Elementary School Teachers, or Economists.  You won’t find information on more detailed specialties (like Acute Care RNs, Art Teachers, or Environmental Economists).  Demand in your subfield could be different from demand in your broad occupational category.  To get information on your subfield, try your professional organization or union.


Note: no other states produce OID lists exactly like Minnesota’s, but other states may have similar types of analyses.  To see what’s available in your area, find your state’s LMI office.



5.  What type of education or training do I need to be a ___[your occupation here]___?


ISEEK keeps the most current, reliable, and complete list of training providers in the state of Minnesota.  If you’re interested in seeing what education or training is needed in your field, you can find out by searching for your career and then clicking on the Education and Training tab (like this one for Architects).  You’ll see general information (like the years of study you’ll need to qualify) as well as specific information (like which fields of study will likely prepare you for the career, and the Minnesota schools that offer programs in that area). 


If you already know what type of training you need, you can use ISEEK’s Education Search tool to locate educational institutions that provide training that meets your needs — whether you’re looking for a class, a certification, or a 4-year degree.

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