Jobs With the Youngest Workforces

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Updated on Monday, September 27, 2021

Job postings aren’t legally allowed to include an age limit — still, certain occupations do often get associated with young people, either because of physical demands or experiential or educational requirements.

As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see large shares of young workers in fast-food jobs or employed as dancers. However, it’s exercise physiology that has the highest share of employees younger than 34. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates say the entire career field of people studying exercise and its effects on the body falls in this age range.

MagnifyMoney researchers examined BLS data for nearly 600 occupations to find which jobs employ the largest shares of young workers and see how worker demographics have changed between 2011 and 2020.

Key findings

  • The job with the highest share of young workers is exercise physiology. According to MagnifyMoney’s analysis of BLS data, every exercise physiologist is younger than 34. Since 2011, the number of people working as exercise physiologists has increased by 200%.
  • Young people may need to move away from some of the jobs they traditionally do. Workers younger than 34 make up 87% of all hosts and hostesses, but these jobs have dropped 24% since 2011. Similarly, the number of waiters and waitresses — where 74% of personnel are younger than 34 — is down 33%.
  • Some jobs that have lost massive shares of personnel don’t employ many — or any — young workers anymore. For example, ship engineers and tire builders are two occupations where the BLS estimates none of the workers were younger than 34 in 2020, versus 50% and 30%, respectively, of personnel in 2011. Both of those occupations have seen job numbers fall by at least 60% in the same period.
  • Young workers flock to certain positions, bringing down the median age by as much as 10 years. The median age for couriers and messengers dropped from 47 in 2011 to 37 in 2020, while employees more than doubled.
  • Manual labor jobs like mining and some factory work have seen median age increases. Cutting workers — employees in plastic and metal manufacturing — saw the largest increase in median age (eight years) from 2011 to 2020, bringing the median to 49.

Exercise physiology attracts a young workforce

Several jobs often associated with young people, like waiters and fast-food workers, appear close to the top of the rankings for occupations with the highest percentage of employees younger than 34. However, the field of exercise physiology tops the rankings, with its entire workforce being younger than 34.

Exercise physiologists research the ways exercise impacts the body and develop rehabilitation plans for sick or injured patients. And though the field of study has been around nearly as long as Americans have been interested in exercise, the occupation has seen significant growth over the last nine years, with the number of exercise physiologist jobs growing from 2,000 in 2011 to 6,000 in 2020.

Annual median pay of $50,280 in 2020 may be helping attract young people to the field, considering that the median pay for all workers is just $41,950.

Coming in at No. 2, the 102,000 other protective service workers — jobs like lifeguarding and ski patrol — includes 90,000 younger than age 34, or 88% of the workforce. Restaurant hosts and hostesses follow closely with 87% of their employees younger than 34.

Though plenty of adults keep their bodies limber and active long into old age, youthful bodies seem to help those in careers like dancing and maintenance, where workers younger than 34 make up 86% and 75% of personnel, respectively. Restaurant waitstaffs include more than a million folks younger than 34, making up 74% of the profession.

Top 10: Occupations with the highest percentage of workers younger than 34

RankOccupation

Workers younger than 34

Total workers

% of workers younger than 34

1Exercise physiologists

6,000

6,000

100%

2Other protective service workers

90,000

102,000

88%

3Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge and coffee shop

190,000

218,000

87%

4Agricultural engineers

6,000

7,000

86%

5Dancers and choreographers

6,000

7,000

86%

6Life scientists, all other

5,000

6,000

83%

7Fast-food and counter workers

519,000

655,000

79%

8Helpers — installation, maintenance and repair workers

12,000

16,000

75%

9Waiters and waitresses

1,021,000

1,388,000

74%

10Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

44,000

60,000

73%

Young workers may feel the squeeze of shrinking industries

Folks dining at a restaurant in the U.S. would probably not be shocked to see a young adult waiting on their table, as the profession has long helped employ high school and college students in the summers or during the school year.

However, several of the job fields commonly associated with young people may be shrinking. As an example, hosts and hostesses jobs have dropped 24% from 2011 to 2020, a difference of 68,000 jobs; similarly, waiters and waitresses lost 33% of positions in that same period. The coronavirus pandemic may have played a role toward the end of this period, as plenty of restaurants closed temporarily or permanently in light of the crisis.

Many who worked as waitstaff or hosts may have also left to seek higher-paying opportunities. The $23,740 annual median salary for waiters and waitresses might make it difficult for workers to cover their living expenses, much less save for the future. Hosts and hostesses barely make more at a median of $24,130 a year.

Jobs at theaters — which have also notably been impacted by the pandemic — have also shrunk at an alarming rate, with the number of ticket taker, usher and lobby attendant jobs dropping by 52% since 2011.

Certain workforces get smaller and older simultaneously

Some jobs that saw major workforce reductions between 2011 and 2020 have also seen reductions in young adult workers. Ship engineer jobs, for example, dropped in numbers by 63% between 2011 and 2020, or a difference of 5,000. BLS estimates that none of these engineers — who supervise ship crews and the machinery propelling the boats — were younger than 34 in 2020, but half of the workforce fell in that age threshold in 2011.

The same goes for tire builders — the people operating the machines that manufacture tires. The profession has shrunk by a whopping 90%, bringing the total number of jobs from 20,000 in 2011 to just 2,000 in 2020, with none filled by workers younger than 34. Those younger than 34 used to make up 30% of all tire builders in 2011.

Some jobs trending among younger workers while other industries grow older

Certain jobs have attracted a pool of younger workers in recent years. Couriers and messengers, who deliver messages or documents between offices, have seen their personnel more than double between 2011 and 2020, while their median age has also dropped more than any other profession with available data. The share of workers younger than 34 in this profession has grown from 22% to 49% in the same time, bringing the median age from 47 to 37.

The number of jobs for information and record clerks has dropped by 4% since 2011, but the share of workers younger than age 34 has gone up about 3 percentage points to 35% of personnel in 2020. Thus, the median age for these administrative workers has dropped by five years from 46 to 41.

Jobs that saw largest drop in median age between 2011 and 2020

RankJob

Median age 2011

Median age 2020

Change

1Couriers and messengers

47

37

-10

2Information and record clerks, all other

46

41

-5

3 (tie)Sales and related workers, all other

44

40

-4

3 (tie)Dietitians and nutritionists

48

44

-4

3 (tie)Electrical power-line installers and repairers

41

37

-4

3 (tie)Chemical engineers

43

39

-4

3 (tie)Medical and health services managers

50

46

-4

3 (tie)Chemists and materials scientists

42

39

-4

3 (tie)Nurse practitioners

47

43

-4

10Postal service mail carriers

50

47

-3

Note: Median ages and the change between them were rounded for display, but the change was calculated using figures that had one decimal.

On the contrary, cutting workers — who perform work shaping plastics and metals — have grown in median age by more than all other professions reporting. The median age for cutting workers in 2011 was 41, versus a 2020 median age of 49.

It also appears that young adults just aren’t headed to the mines like they used to be. Extraction workers — which includes coal, metal ore, oil and other mining professionals — have increased in median age by about eight years, bringing the 2020 median to 39.

Avoid money mistakes early in your career

Regardless of the field you enter and whether you stick with it, your salary will play an important role in your overall financial planning. Use these tips to maintain your savings goals while pursuing your dream job:

  • Take advantage of your youth. Time is on your side when it comes to saving money. Even if your yearly salary doesn’t leave a ton of room for saving, put what you can into a high-yield savings account or another investment vehicle where it will grow over time. “If you start investing even a small amount of money, regularly, at an early age, those dollars are going to grow and grow thanks to the power of compounding interest,” MagnifyMoney senior content director Ismat Mangla says.
  • Think long term. When you’re just starting out, it can be easy to get lured into a job that comes with a big salary but might not offer the most growth potential. Consider your options carefully to decide what makes the most sense for your long-term goals. “You want to consider a job or career that will allow you to grow, keep you interested and offer opportunities down the road,” Mangla says.
  • Know your worth. One of the most common tips to help folks save more money is increasing your income, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. No matter where you’re working, do your research to find out if your salary is on par with market standards and personal standards. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise or negotiate if you know you can be making more.

Methodology

To find the jobs with the most young Americans, MagnifyMoney researchers analyzed data for 593 occupations for which data was available. To rank the occupations, analysts looked at the percentage of people younger than 34 working in that occupation. The occupations were ranked highest to lowest based on this number.

Researchers also analyzed how median job ages have changed over time, comparing 2020 and 2011 data. All data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.