© Copyright 2002 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


High Demand Occupations in Wyoming and the U.S.: Training and Skills Required

by:  Krista L. Gerth, Economist and Deana Hauf, Economist

"A Master's degree is typically required to become a speech-language pathologist, which makes it the most education-intensive of the seven selected high demand occupations."

As high school seniors don their caps and gowns, many are looking forward to entering college or the labor force. Finding the right job and selecting a major course of study are decisions that require thought and research. Although there is no guarantee that the hot jobs of today will still be in demand tomorrow, Research and Planning (R&P) has prepared occupational projections to help individuals who want guidance selecting a career. The projections are also useful to career counselors, educators, employers, and workforce development professionals. This article outlines the education and skills necessary, training programs available, and wages paid for selected occupations that will likely be in demand in Wyoming during the coming years. Although countless jobs that do not require post-secondary education will be in high demand in the future, six of the seven occupations detailed here typically require formal education rather than on-the-job training.

Table 1 identifies some of the high demand occupations requiring a form of post-secondary education in Wyoming and the U.S. based on 1998-2008 occupational projections.1 Demand for social and human service assistants, computer support specialists, paralegal and legal assistants, medical records and health information technicians, systems analysts, construction managers, and speech-language pathologists is expected to increase by 2008. The required education ranges from moderate on-the-job training to a Master's degree.

Research has consistently shown that individuals with post-secondary education tend to earn higher wages than their less-educated counterparts.2 According to the most recent Wyoming Wage Survey,3 average hourly wages in Wyoming for the seven high-demand occupations under consideration range from $9.00 to $27.27, which are comparable to wages paid for the same jobs nationwide and in surrounding states (see Table 2). In Wyoming, the all-industry average wage in 2000 was $13.39 per hour.4


The occupational definitions and the five most important skills for the high demand occupations are drawn from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) System, which is available at < http://online.onetcenter.org/ >. O*NET, which replaces the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, offers a dynamic framework for exploring the world of work. It contains comprehensive information about job requirements and worker competencies. With O*NET, employers of all sizes and industries can access critical information that impacts their bottom line every day.

O*NET currently contains information developed by job analysts using the O*NET skill-based structure. Each skill is classified into one of the following six categories:
* Basic skills, which help with learning and rapidly acquiring more knowledge
* Social skills, used to work with people to achieve goals
* Complex problem solving skills, used to solve problems in real world settings
* Technical skills, used to design, set-up, operate, and correct problems with machines and technological systems
* Systems skills, used to understand, monitor, and improve organizations and systems
* Resource management skills, used to allocate resources efficiently.5
The seven selected high demand occupations include specific skills from each skill category.

Future O*NET data will come directly from workers and employers themselves, describing the work they do, the skills they need, and the knowledge they use on the job. Expert researchers will collect and classify this empirical information to guarantee that O*NET data are accurate, current, consistent, and comprehensive.

Job Descriptions, Wages, and Required Skills and Education for Selected High Demand Occupations

Social and Human Service Assistants work with professionals from a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, or social work, to provide client services as well as support for families. They may assist clients in identifying and obtaining available benefits and social and community services. Social and human service assistants may also help social workers with developing, organizing, and conducting programs to prevent and resolve problems relevant to substance abuse, human relationships, rehabilitation, or adult daycare.

Among the five most important skills required for social and human service assistants are two basic skills - speaking and active listening - and two social skills - social perceptiveness and service orientation. Problem identification, a complex problem solving skill, is also important (see Tables 3 and 4). Nationally, individuals in this occupation typically receive moderate on-the-job training, although some post-secondary education may be beneficial. The average hourly wage in the region ranges from $9.21 in Wyoming to $11.74 in Colorado. The U.S. average wage for social and human service assistants is $11.46 (see Table 2).

Computer Support Specialists provide technical assistance to computer system users and answer questions or resolve computer problems for clients in person, via telephone, or from a remote location. They may provide assistance concerning the use of computer hardware and software, including printing, installation, word processing, electronic mail, and operating systems.

Three of the five most important skills for computer support specialists are technical in nature, including testing, troubleshooting, and operations analysis; other required skills are instruction and problem identification (see Tables 3 and 4). Becoming a computer support specialist typically requires an Associate's degree or higher. All seven of Wyoming's community colleges offer computer-related Associate's degrees (see Table 5). In neighboring states, the average hourly wage for computer support specialists ranges from $10.87 in Utah to $19.55 in Colorado. In Wyoming, the average is $12.24, while the U.S. average is $19.08 (see Table 2).

Paralegal and Legal Assistants aid lawyers by researching legal precedent, investigating facts, or preparing legal documents. The job requires them to conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action.

Four of the five most important skills for paralegals and legal assistants are considered basic skills, including reading comprehension, writing, speaking, and critical thinking. Information gathering, a complex problem solving skill, is also important (see Tables 3 and 4). Four of Wyoming's community colleges offer Associate's degree programs for paralegals and legal assistants (see Table 5). Hourly wages in the region are lower than the U.S. average of $18.65, ranging from $13.54 (South Dakota) to $18.30 (Utah). On average, paralegals in Wyoming earn $14.24 per hour (see Table 2).

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians compile, process, and maintain medical records of hospital and clinic patients in a manner consistent with medical, administrative, ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements of the health care system. They also process, maintain, compile, and report patient information for health requirements and standards.

Two basic skills - writing and reading comprehension - are necessary in this field, as well as three complex problem solving skills - information gathering, information organization, and synthesis/reorganization (see Tables 3 and 4). Three of Wyoming's community colleges offer related Associate's degree programs (see Table 5). Hourly wages for medical records and health information technicians in Wyoming are $10.60. Wages in surrounding states range from $10.14 in Montana to $13.09 in Colorado, while the U.S. average is $11.74 per hour (see Table 2).

Systems Analysts examine science, engineering, business, and all other data processing problems for application to electronic data processing systems. They frequently evaluate user requirements, procedures, and problems to automate or improve existing systems and review computer system capabilities, workflow, and scheduling limitations. They may analyze or recommend commercially available software or supervise computer programmers.

Like computer support specialists, many of the most important skills for systems analysts are technical in nature, including programming, troubleshooting, and testing. Reading comprehension and problem identification skills are also necessary (see Tables 3 and 4). A Bachelor's degree is typically a requirement for systems analysts. The University of Wyoming offers Bachelor of Science degrees in both Computer Science and Management Information Systems.6 Regionally, the average hourly wage varies from $21.12 in Wyoming to $31.23 in Colorado, with a U.S. average of $29.43 (see Table 2).

Construction Managers plan, direct, coordinate, or budget, usually through subordinate supervisory personnel, activities concerned with the construction and maintenance of structures, facilities, and systems. They participate in the conceptual development of a construction project and oversee its organization, scheduling, and implementation.

The most important skills for construction managers come from five different skill categories. The skills include coordination, judgment and decision making, management of personnel resources, problem identification, and product inspection (see Tables 3 and 4). Although individuals have traditionally advanced to construction management positions after having substantial experience as construction craftworkers or supervisors, employers "increasingly prefer individuals who combine industry work experience with a Bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering."7 According to Dr. Charles Dolan, head of the University of Wyoming's Department of Civil Engineering, the University of Wyoming offers courses in construction contracting and economics planning for interested individuals in conjunction with its civil engineering program.8 Nationally, more than 100 colleges and universities offered Bachelor's degree programs in construction management or construction science in 2000, and around 20 colleges or universities offered similar Master's degree programs.9

Around the region, construction managers earn the highest hourly wage of the seven high demand occupations considered here. Wages range from $21.44 in Montana to $33.76 in Nebraska. Wyoming's construction managers average $27.27 per hour. The U.S. average is $30.43 (see Table 2).

Speech-Language Pathologists assess and treat persons with speech, language, voice, and fluency disorders. They may select alternative communication systems and teach their use. They may also perform research related to speech and language problems.

Four of the five most important skills for speech-language pathologists are considered basic skills, including active learning, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. Instructing, which is considered a social skill, is also very important (see Tables 3 and 4). A Master's degree is typically required to become a speech-language pathologist, which makes it the most education-intensive of the seven selected high demand occupations under consideration. The University of Wyoming's School of Health Sciences offers a Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology, which meets the academic and clinical requirements for educational certification and licensure in Wyoming.10 Nationally, speech-language pathologists earn an average of $23.31 per hour; in Wyoming, the average hourly wage is $19.43. Regional wages are between $16.65 (South Dakota) and $22.88 (Colorado) per hour (see Table 2).

Other Resources

Statewide, regional, and county wage projections for the seven high demand occupations and many other occupations are available on our website at
< http://LMI.state.wy.us/eds2000/TOC000.htm >. In addition to providing local wages, the site offers users the ability to identify the industries that employ various occupations and compare wage and employment levels in different areas of the State.

A complete publication detailing demand projections for all occupations in Wyoming will be available this summer. If you would like to receive a copy when it becomes available, call 307-473-3807.

1Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Outlook 2000: Detailed Occupational Projections and Labor Supply, October 2000. Available online at
< http://LMI.state.wy.us/outlTOC.htm >.

2For information about the wage difference in Wyoming, see Sylvia Jones' "The Effect of a College Degree on Wages: The Different Experiences of Men and Women," Wyoming Labor Force Trends, October, 2001, pp. 1-11. National data regarding the median wage earned by educational attainment is available at
< http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/income00/inctab7.html > (March 6, 2002).

3Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Wyoming Wage Survey, Published 2002, available online at
< http://LMI.state.wy.us/00oespub/toc.htm >.

4Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning, Wyoming Wage Survey.

5U.S. Department of Labor, National O*Net Consortium, "Skills Search," O*Net On-line,
< http://online.onetcenter.org/cgi-bin/gen_skills_page?2 > (February 21, 2002).

6For information about the Computer Science programs at the University of Wyoming, visit
< http://www.cs.uwyo.edu/Information/Undergraduate/UGMain.htm > (February 27, 2002).

7U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Construction Managers,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2002-2003 Edition,
< http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos005.htm > (March 4, 2002).

8Phone interview with Dr. Charles Dolan, University of Wyoming College of Engineering, February 21, 2002. Information about the University of Wyoming's civil engineering program is available at < http://wwweng.uwyo.edu/civil/ >.

9U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Construction Managers,” Occupational Outlook Handbook.

10University of Wyoming School of Health Sciences, Division of Communication Disorders, Graduate Program Brochure, Updated February 5, 2002,
< http://uwadmnweb.uwyo.edu/Comdis/gradmain.htm#GradSLP >
(February 21, 2002).


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