America's 15 Most Popular Jobs
The following is a list of jobs with little in common. Annual salaries for these jobs range from just over $18,000 to more than $110,000. Some don't require workers to graduate high school, while others require a master's degree or higher. The reason they all appear here? They are the most popular jobs in America.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following 15 jobs account for more than 25 percent of total U.S. employment. For comparison purposes, the largest job -- retail sales -- employs 4,209,500 people, or 3.2 percent of the total American work force. By contrast, there are a mere the 660 people employed as prosthodontists, 1,170 who work as geographers and 870 radio operators nationally.
So what are these mega-professions that employ so many people?
According to the BLS, the following jobs are America's most popular:
1. Retail salespeople
Perhaps a testament to consumerism, retail salespeople rank No. 1 in job popularity. Besides great communication and customer service skills, retails salespeople also have to know how to close a deal -- many of these jobs are commission-based.
Total employment: 4,209,500
Requirements: A high school diploma is preferred for entry-level positions. For those who hope to move on to retail management, a bachelor's degree is helpful.
Cashiers are responsible for working registers, monitoring cash drawers and taking payments at establishments that range from supermarkets and gas stations to retail stores and theme parks. Like retail salespeople, cashiers must have good customer-service and people skills, since they spend their day dealing with the public.
Total employment: 3,439,380
Requirements: On-the-job training
3. Office clerks
Workers spend their days filling a variety of roles in an office environment, from entering data to preparing mailings. An office clerk's duties may vary daily, according to the needs of the company.
Total employment: 2,815,240
4. Combined food preparation and service workers
This category primarily encompasses those who work in fast food establishments as counter attendants and food prep workers. Duties often include taking orders and accepting payment, filling beverage cups, assembling food items and providing customer service.
Total employment: 2,695,740
Requirements: On-the-job training. Employers look for workers with excellent customer-service skills, a neat appearance and the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.
5. Registered nurses
Total employment: 2,583,770
6. Waiters and waitresses
Total employment: 2,302,070
Requirements: There are no minimal education requirements, though many establishments prefer staff to have high school diplomas.
7. Customer service representatives
Customer service workers answer questions, provide information, fulfill customer requests and handle customer complaints. While many work in call centers, others are employed in retail stores or at banks.
Total employment: 2,195,860
Requirements: High school diploma, on the job training.
8. Material movers
Total employment: 2,135,790
Requirements: On-the-job training
Total employment: 2,090,400
Requirements: On-the-job training, ability to perform physical work for extended periods.
10. Stock clerks and order fillers
Total employment: 1,864,410
Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training, ability to perform physically strenuous work.
Secretaries (not including medical, legal and executive secretaries) provide administrative assistance to an office in the form of answering phones, greeting visitors, ordering catering services, proofreading, entering data, scanning and faxing documents, and more.
Total employment: 1,797,670
Requirements: High school diploma, though an increasing number hold an associate or bachelor's degree. Secretaries must also have good computer and communication skills.
12. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
Total employment: 1,757,870
Requirements: High school diploma, though many employers now require workers in these positions to hold an associate or bachelor's degree.
13. General managers
General managers are the top executives of establishments and organizations like restaurants, hotels, amusement parks and sports teams. They are in charge of the businesses day-to-day operations and long-term goals.
Total employment: 1,689,680
Requirements: Most hold a bachelor's or advanced-level degree.
14. Tractor-trailer truck drivers
This category only includes those drivers who operate trucks with a capacity of more than 26,001 pounds. These drivers are responsible for the timely delivery of goods along routes that may cover multiple states.
Total employment: 1,550,930
Requirements: A commercial driver's license is necessary for all drivers. Some states also require a training program.
15. Elementary school teachers
The category includes elementary school teachers except those that teach special education. Elementary school teachers are responsible for instructing students in kindergarten through fifth grade on a variety of subjects.
Total employment: 1,544,300
Requirements: Bachelor's degree, teaching certification.
* Salary information is according to the BLS, and is based on average annual salary from May 2009.
Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job seeker blog, The Work Buzz. Kaitlin spends her days researching and writing about all things career-related and trying not to inspire any of her colleagues’ “annoying co-worker” articles. She lives and works in Chicago, but hails from Connecticut and graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in journalism.