Are the best jobs in North Carolina also the best jobs in the US?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Jamie Vaughn

Every year lists detailing the best jobs in America are released by groups such as Glassdoor, Indeed and U.S. News and World Report.  These lists have similar methodologies which include some combination of open opportunities – are people being hired to do the job – and salaries – the higher the better.  These lists rate occupations from a national perspective, but the question I have is whether the best occupational opportunities in North Carolina mirror the best jobs in the nation.  

Every two years, LEAD generates a Star Jobs report that details the top occupational prospects in North Carolina.  This is not a “best jobs in North Carolina” list and does not assign a ranking to every occupation, but it clusters occupations in a group based on wages, growth rate and total openings for the next nine years with Five-stars as the top rating and One-star as the lowest.  

To see how the highest rated jobs in North Carolina compare with the “Best jobs in the US”, I compared the 2019 lists mentioned above (Top 50 Glassdoor, Top 25 from Indeed and Top 50 from U.S. News and World Report) to the NC Star Jobs ratings.

In 2019, LEAD gave 79 Occupations a Five-star rating.  Of those 79 occupations, 51 (65%) appeared on one of the three lists.  Occupations identified as Five-star jobs in North Carolina that did not appear on the three “Best Jobs” lists ranged across multiple career groupings, including Education, Health Services, Manufacturing and Financial Services.  These occupations included Pharmacists, Technical Writers, Business Teachers, Loan Officers, Nursing Instructors and Industrial Engineering.

Looking at the three national lists, the occupations ranked as the “Top Jobs in America” leaned heavily towards occupations in STEM related careers like Information Technology and Health Care as well as careers in Construction and Marketing.  The careers that were listed as “Top Jobs in the US” but not given high star ratings in North Carolina were mainly careers that are highly specialized, require high levels of education and have relatively few opportunities – Actuary, Political Scientist, Mathematician & Anesthesiologist – or occupations that North Carolina doesn’t track such as Agile Coach, Data Scientist, and Solutions Architect.


The goal of this comparison was to see how occupational opportunities for North Carolina residents stack up against the best opportunities for the country as a whole.   After comparing the data there is a strong correlation between the two lists and supports the idea that North Carolina’s job market possesses many opportunities in occupations recognized nationally.  

It seems that many of the differences between the ratings is due to differences in methodology.  Occupations that appear in the national rankings that are not rated highly – or not rated at all – in North Carolina are occupations that are highly concentrated in the state such as Orthodontists, Political Scientist and Mathematicians.  These occupations were not assigned a rating in North Carolina’s Star Jobs because there is not enough data to make a determination on a star rating; in 2026 there are projected to be 215 Orthodontists, 22 Political Scientists and 41 Mathematicians throughout NC; not because they are not seen as good occupations for consideration.

Occupations that are assigned as Five-star jobs but do not appear in the national rankings represents specializations within the North Carolina market in addition to the difference in methodology between the rankings.   Many of NC’s Five-star jobs with lower salaries – Social Workers, Electrical Power-Line Installers & Repairers, Loan Officers & Computer User Support Specialists – were not included in the national rankings. All three of the national rankings placed significant weight on salaries in their rankings systems. When the list was trimmed to the top 50, or 25 in the case of Indeed, high growth, high opportunity occupations with modest wages did not make the cut.