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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.
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|
|Rank||Occupation||Workers younger than 34||Total workers||% of workers younger than 34|
|2||Other protective service workers||90,000||102,000||88%|
|3||Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge and coffee shop||190,000||218,000||87%|
|5||Dancers and choreographers||6,000||7,000||86%|
|6||Life scientists, all other||5,000||6,000||83%|
|7||Fast-food and counter workers||519,000||655,000||79%|
|8||Helpers — installation, maintenance and repair workers||12,000||16,000||75%|
|9||Waiters and waitresses||1,021,000||1,388,000||74%|
|10||Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers||44,000||60,000||73%|
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.
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.
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|
|Rank||Job||Median age 2011||Median age 2020||Change|
|1||Couriers and messengers||47||37||-10|
|2||Information 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|
|10||Postal service mail carriers||50||47||-3|
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.
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:
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.