In late October, The White House issued an executive order outlining the future of artificial intelligence in the U.S. in terms of security, privacy and equity. The recent explosion of AI and machine learning prompted this move by promising to revolutionize work to an extent not seen since the adoption of computers. At the same time, some jobs inevitably become obsolete and get phased out, producing further shakeups in the job market.
Of course, it’s impossible to accurately point out which industries will be subjected to the greatest change and which jobs might disappear in the near future. However, predictions can be made in regard to which jobs are more future-proof and less likely to disappear. One such prediction is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections program, which outlines how employment in all occupations and industries is expected to develop in the next 10 years.
So, starting from the BLS’s projections of jobs and companies that are expected to grow by 2032, we ranked the U.S. metros that offer the greatest opportunities for careers that are less likely to disappear. For the purposes of our study, we considered occupations and industries with employment growth above 3% (the predicted growth rate of the job market as a whole) to be future-proof. Metros were also awarded points for other indicators for job durability, such as average unemployment and educational attainment. Keep reading for the complete national list and a breakdown by metro size. Or, check out the Methodology section for more details about the data and scoring used.
Top 20 Best U.S. Metros for Durable Careers
- San Jose, Calif., outshined the competition to be named the best metro for future-proof careers in the U.S. with ample employment in high-demand jobs and accelerated innovation.
- Boulder, Colo., was the runner-up with the highest educational attainment and numerous companies in future-proof industries.
- Boasting great innovation through patent output and steady jobs, San Francisco completed the podium.
- Larger metros dominated the list of best metros for future-proof careers, recording eight of the 10 best entries.
A long-standing hub of innovation and tech, San Jose, Calif., claimed the #1 spot as the U.S. metro with the best opportunities for careers that are likely to see enduring demand. Encompassing the city of San Jose itself, as well as Silicon Valley, the metro had the largest share of future-proof jobs at 65.5%. Future-proof jobs were defined as jobs that the BLS predicts to grow in employment by at least 3% between 2022 and 2032, thereby exceeding the projected average growth rate of the job market as a whole. In this case, almost two-thirds of San Jose jobs fit into this category, influenced by its large concentration of jobs in tech.
Additionally, the metro also scored top marks in a separate metric analyzing the share taken up by the 20 projected fastest-growing jobs by 2032, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those include wind turbine service technicians, nurse practitioners, data scientists and more.
But, San Jose didn’t only shine in terms of number of durable occupations: It also earned the best score for being the foremost innovation center in the top 20 in terms of patent output with an especially strong showing in terms of tech and AI innovation and patent output.
Boulder, Colo., was the runner-up, missing the #1 spot by less than one point. Boulder’s strongest suits were its high concentration of companies operating in future-proof industries, as well as its highly educated population. Specifically, 52.8% of Boulder companies operate in industries that are projected to grow by more than 3% between 2022 and 2023, making it the only metro where that share exceeded 50%. Granted, this should come as no surprise given the metro’s robust aerospace, IT and biotech sectors.
Furthermore, as many as 68.8% of Boulder residents older than 25 possess an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher, making it the metro with the most educated workers on the list — a strong indicator for job durability and tenure.
Going back to California, San Francisco earned the third spot on our list. Here, the metro had an 8.6% share of fastest-growing occupations, as well as the second-highest number of patents granted (overtaken in both categories by only neighboring San Jose). Clearly, the Bay Area enjoys the same benefits as its southern neighbor when it comes to housing the tech capital of the world — and enjoying a large contingent of durable jobs and companies as a result.
Check out the table below to see the scores earned by all of the metros in the study. Then, navigate to the next pages using the arrow in the top right corner of the visual.
Beyond the top three finishers, Austin, Texas, landed in #4 with the second-highest share of future-proof startups out of the total. The metric analyzed how many companies operating in future-proof industries were established less than five years ago, and this figure stood at 45% in the Austin metro, thereby highlighting it as a consistently startup-friendly location. Besides its high concentration of innovators and disruptors, Austin also had the third-highest growth of future-proof jobs between 2021 and 2022, as well as the fourth-lowest average unemployment rate in the last five years. Those stats showcase positive trends for young professionals and graduates looking for a career that is likely to stay in-demand.
With a total of 70.7 points, Seattle earned the fifth spot on our list. Seattle is one of the main life sciences hubs in the U.S. with the added bonus of solid health care, international trade and aerospace sectors. All of these fields provide residents with opportunities for durable employment. The metro also has the third-highest patent output on the list.
Meanwhile, although other metros didn’t score as highly on the overall list, they nevertheless stood out in certain metrics. For example, Provo, Utah, finished ninth on the overall list behind Los Angeles and ahead of San Diego. Yet, more impressive than Provo’s final ranking was the fact that 46.4% of the metro’s ecosystem of durable businesses is made up of startups established fewer than five years ago. Moreover, the metro had the lowest average unemployment between 2018 and 2022 with 2.7%.
Similarly, Las Vegas came in 19th in the overall ranking, primarily due to a low share of fast-growing jobs and lower educational attainment. Even so, the number of future-proof jobs in the Las Vegas metro grew by more than 15% year-over-year — the fastest growth out of all top 20 metros. So, while such occupations do not currently take up a large share of Vegas’ job market, that may change in the near future should this accelerated growth continue.
Generally, the greater workforces and access to funding that are characteristic of larger metros made them more likely to score well in our study. In fact, of the top 10 best metros with the best ecosystems for future-proof careers, eight had more than 1 million residents, while the remaining two — Boulder and Provo — had populations between 250,000 and 1 million. That said, mid-sized and small metro areas also present unique advantages when it comes to career development, which our study will delve into through a breakdown of the best metros for future-proof careers by population.
Top 10 Best Large Metros for Careers with Future Demand
The primary list with no population filters was dominated by large metro areas with more than 1 million residents. Consequently, San Jose naturally topped the list of large metro areas with great opportunities for careers with future demand. Up next were San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and Seattle, also mirroring the main list.
Coming in as the fifth-best large metro for durable jobs was Denver, which scored nearly 70 points in total. Interestingly, Denver scored well across the board without standing out in any of them. One of the metro’s better stats was the fact that 41% of businesses in future-proof industries were established less than five years ago. Certainly, startups such as Stack Infrastructure in IT and Strive Health in health care are testaments to the Mile High City’s unique startup culture.
Across the country, Washington, D.C. was hot on Denver’s heels, coming in as the sixth-best large metro for career durability. Despite having the second-best educational attainment in the pool of metros with more than 1 million residents, as well as the third-highest share of future-proof jobs out of the total, the D.C. metro area was dragged down by its relatively low number of patents and startup share. Still, the nation’s capital and surrounding metro area offer great opportunities for occupations that are likely to see durable demand.
On the opposite coast, the southern California duo of Los Angeles and San Diego came up next. At #7, Los Angeles was, by far, the largest metro area in the top 10 with more than 12.8 million residents. Notably, Los Angeles had two major advantages in our standings: 1) the highest share of future-proof companies out of the total (49.9%) and 2) the second-strongest durable startup ecosystem out of all large metros at the cost of lower educational attainment and higher historical unemployment. Accordingly, Los Angeles remains the economic heart of southern California with a robust and diverse economy, which presents a unique environment for future-proof employment.
Further south, San Diego at #8 earned most of its points due to its growth of future-proof employment within the metro, share of future-proof startups and patent innovation rank. Of course, it’s no surprise that San Diego accommodates a remarkable concentration of innovative companies like Qualcomm in semiconductors, Illumina in biotech and Teradata in software development. However, the local defense, trade and manufacturing sectors also shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to competitive jobs.
Lastly, the top 10 of large metros was closed out by the Raleigh-Cary, N.C., metro area in the ninth spot and Atlanta at #10. A well-established education and research hub, Raleigh naturally fared well in educational attainment and growth of future-proof jobs. At the same time, Atlanta’s top scores were in growth of future-proof jobs and share of future-proof startups.
Colorado Leads With 3 of 10 Best Mid-Sized Metros for High-Demand Jobs
Boulder’s strong showing as the runner-up in the primary national list meant that it also topped the list of metros with populations ranging from 250,000 to 1 million residents. What’s more, the metro was joined by two other Colorado locations — Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.
With a booming high-tech industry and an aerospace sector that it shares with other Centennial State entries, Colorado Springs, Colo., brings a healthy mix of future-proof job opportunities and startups to the table, granting it fourth place. As a matter of fact, the metro had the second-best growth of future-proof jobs among all mid-sized metros (9.1%), in addition to another runner-up showing for its share of durable startups (39.5%). In particular, jobs in the aerospace and defense sector — as well as rising investments in semiconductor and solar-cell manufacturing — contributed to its strong showing. Meanwhile, up north, Fort Collins, Colo., earned sixth place with great educational attainment and unemployment.
Just west, Provo, Utah, earned a total of 69 points and landed in second in the ranking of mid-sized metros for career durability. Here, its advantages of low unemployment and high share of future-proof startups is turning it into a veritable innovation hub. To that end, the Milken Institute named it the most promising metro in terms of economic performance in 2023. With offices from top-tier tech companies like Adobe and Oracle — as well as local success stories, such as Qualtrics — the industry is giving high-demand jobs in Provo a consistent boost.
Up next, Ann Arbor, Mich., came in third with the best share of future-proof jobs out of all mid-sized metros, as well as the second-best educational attainment. A previous CommercialCafe ranking actually identified Ann Arbor as the second-best metro for tech in the Midwest, thanks to a high density of tech jobs and establishments. However, other well-performing industries besides tech also add plenty of jobs that are likely to stay in demand in Ann Arbor. More precisely, health care and biotech play a big part in the metro’s economy and are propped up by the talent output of higher education institutions — such as the University of Michigan, which is located here.
Likewise, several other mid-sized metros also showed great promise in specific metrics: Durham, N.C., had the highest share of jobs predicted to grow the most by 2032 among its fellow metro areas, contributing to its fifth-place finish. Another side of the Research Triangle innovation conglomerate in North Carolina, Durham is also home to ample employment opportunities in durable industries, such as life sciences, health care and information.
Ranking seventh among mid-sized metros, Boise, Idaho, had the highest number of patents awarded in this category, earning it maximum points. With sizable investments from companies like HP, as well as local success stories — such as networking equipment provider Cradlepoint — Boise is an often-overlooked location when it comes to potential for jobs with growing demand.
Trenton, N.J., also made the list at #8, scoring well for its growth of future-proof jobs, as well as its patent output. The metro is also one of the Northeast’s hottest areas for technology employment and investment, boasting a remarkably diverse innovation ecosystem.
Top Small U.S. Metros for Future-Proof Jobs Concentrated in Midwest & West
When thinking about places that are rife with forward-looking career paths, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only taking into account the most populous metro areas in the country. However, lower-density metros have great potential for innovation, while also offering other advantages, such as lower costs of living. So, if you’re looking for the peace and quiet of a small town, but still working toward a future-proof career, your best options are up next.
Midland, Mich., is the #1 best small-sized metro area for future-proof careers in the U.S., and peace and quiet is just what you’ll find here. The Midland metro area is home to a population of more than 80,000, but it has the highest output of patents among all of the metro areas in the less-than-250,000-residents category — a fact compounded by forward-looking initiatives such as the MidMichigan Innovation Center incubator and grants from the Midland Business Alliance. What’s more, Midland also had the best score in this population bracket for share of fastest-growing jobs at just under 10%, as well as the second-largest share of future-proof jobs and future-proof job growth. Here, the metro successfully transitioned to an advanced manufacturing-based economy, earning its top spot on our list.
Up next, Rochester, Minn., reached #2 with a combination of the highest percentage of future-proof jobs on the list, as well as a great performance in the fastest-growing jobs category and the second-best innovation rank via patents. Home to the famed Mayo Clinic, health care is among the metro’s foundational industries, and health care careers consistently rank among the fastest-growing in the U.S. While the Mayo Clinic is Rochester’s primary employer with more than 34,000 workers in a 228,000-resident metro, other health care establishments — as well as companies in other industries, like IBM — provide further opportunities here.
Similarly, two other Midwestern metros made the cut in the top 10, highlighting them as success stories in urban renewal and innovation, while simultaneously making the region the most popular for career durability in small metros: Columbia, Mo., reached the fourth spot on the list, while Ames, Iowa, scored seventh. Both entries are popular college towns with ample employment opportunities in education, leading to a higher likelihood of a durable career after graduating.
On the West Coast, Bend, Ore., took the third spot with the second-highest share of durable startups in the small metro ranking and a good showing in most other indicators. It’s worth noting that tourism forms the basis of Bend’s economy as it’s known as a destination for hiking and other outdoor sports. Still, health care and manufacturing also contributed to the metro’s rank. Then, Corvallis, Ore., was the state’s second entry, reaching #6 on the list — thanks, in no small part, to an educational attainment of 63% (the highest of all small metro areas).
Other metro areas scored well in different metrics: At #5, St. George, Utah, stood out for the fact that 43.3% of all future-proof businesses in the metro were established within the last five years, underscoring it as a small-town innovation incubator.
Meanwhile, Idaho Falls, Idaho, had the highest growth of future-proof employment — 9.3% between 2021 and 2022 — contributing to its eighth-place finish. The metro is home to a large number of health care companies, which forms its employment baseline.
Finally, the largest share of future-proof businesses could be found in Cheyenne, Wyo., which closed out the list at #10. Here, 48.6% of businesses operate in future-proof industries, such as health care and professional services.
Behind the Ranking: Fastest-Growing Jobs by 2032, Based on BLS Projections
In its employment projections, the Bureau of Labor Statistics aims to accurately predict employment growth by occupation in the next 10 years. Metros could earn points in our ranking by having a larger share of jobs predicted to grow by more than the baseline national employment growth of 3%. However, we also created a separate indicator awarding points to the metros that concentrated the 20 fastest-growing jobs by 2032, as predicted by the BLS:
As fossil fuels are gradually phased out in favor of renewable energy, the number of wind turbine technicians is expected to grow by almost 45% in the next decade, making it the fastest-growing occupation nationally. As such, employment in this occupation would exceed 16,200 from its current level of 11,200, making it an in-demand (though highly specialized) career. Another clean energy-related job — solar photovoltaic installer — is the 15th-fastest growing.
The second-place job is far more commonplace. At #2, there are currently more than 266,000 nurse practitioners — denoting nurses with advanced education and training — and their numbers are predicted to increase to almost 385,000 by 2032. This and other jobs in health care (like epidemiologists and physician assistants) will also likely see increased demand due to their unlikelihood of being replaced by artificial intelligence, but also in response to rising health needs of residents.
Other fast-growing fields include those in data processing (like data scientists and statisticians) and information technology.
We ranked the U.S. metro areas with the greatest potential for future-proof careers that are less likely to be replaced by AI. Metros could earn up to 100 points based on their performance across eight metrics:
- Percentage of future-proof jobs (up to 15 points) — the share of a metro’s population currently employed in a future-proof job. Future-proof jobs were defined as jobs projected to grow by more than 3% in number of employees between 2022 and 2032, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections. The 3% break point was chosen because the BLS predicts the overall number of workers in the U.S. to grow by approximately 3% in the same period. Data source: BLS.
- Growth of future-proof jobs (up to 15 points) — the percentage growth of the number of future-proof jobs in the metro between 2021 and 2022. Data source: BLS.
- Percentage of fastest-growing jobs (up to 10 points) — the share of a metro’s population currently employed in one of the 20 occupations projected by the BLS to grow the most between 2022 and 2032. These 20 occupations are outlined in the previous section of the article. Data source: BLS.
- Percentage of future-proof companies (up to 15 points) — the share of companies operating in future-proof industries out of a metro’s total number of companies. Future-proof industries were defined as industries projected by the BLS to grow 3% or more in number of employees between 2022 and 2032. The 3% break point was chosen because the BLS predicts the overall number of workers in the U.S. to grow by approximately 3% in the same period. Data source: Business Dynamics Statistics.
- Percentage of startups out of future-proof companies (up to 15 points) — the share of new companies (established up to 5 years ago) out of a metro’s total number of companies operating in future-proof industries. Data source: Business Dynamics Statistics.
- Innovation hub rank (up to 10 points) — based on the number of patents granted between 2018 and 2022 to local companies. Each metro was awarded a score between zero and 10 points directly proportional to its place in this ranking. Data source: United States Patent and Trademark Office.
- Educational attainment (up to 10 points) — the percentage of a metro’s population aged 25 and older with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or higher. Data source: U.S. Census Bureau.
- Historical unemployment rate (up to 10 points, inversely proportional) — a metro’s average monthly unemployment rate between 2018 and 2022. Data source: BLS.