Skip to main content

Five of the most unpopular jobs

Certain jobs face a shortage of qualified workers

By Laura Morsch

Editor's Note: has a business partnership with, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to



Enter Keyword(s):
Enter City
  More Options


Bureau of Labor Statistics
Business and Industry

Is there a severe labor shortage looming for the United States? It depends whom you ask.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a labor force of 162.3 million people by 2012. At the same time, the BLS predicts that the 2012 economy will require 165.3 million jobs to be filled.

For years, doomsayers have interpreted these statistics to mean the economy will experience a shortage of 3 million workers. But this simply isn't true, insisted Michael W. Horrigan in the February 2004 issue of the BLS' Monthly Labor Review.

Horrigan wrote that multiple job holding and statistical differences between the BLS and Current Employment Statistics surveys, not an impending labor shortage, account for the differences between the numbers.

Although the BLS says there will not be a generalized shortage, certain jobs will experience a shortage of qualified workers. Here are five that are expected to be hit particularly hard:

Registered nurse

The nursing shortage has been fairly well-publicized. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there was a shortage of 110,000 RNs in 2000, or about 6 percent of the national demand. The shortage is expected to grow to 29 percent by 2020.

What's causing this dramatic shortage? For one thing, the report states there will be an 18 percent increase in population by 2012. Plus, the aging of the baby boomers will result in a larger proportion of elderly people.

To make matters worse, after 2011 the number of nurses leaving the profession is expected to exceed the number entering it.

Nursing salaries are increasing to help boost interest. The starting salary for registered nurses was nearly $39,000 in an April 2005 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. According to the BLS, median annual salaries were $53,640 in November 2004.


In Deloitte's 2005 Skills Gap Report, 90 percent of respondents indicated a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skills production employees like machinists, who use machine tools, such as lathes, machining centers and milling machines to produce precision metal parts.

Machinists are becoming ever-more productive, but job opportunities for machinists are expected to be excellent, according to the BLS. These days, many young people are choosing to attend college or are shying away from production occupations. Thus, there are not enough new machinists to fill newly created jobs or replace experienced machinists who leave the occupation or retire.

According to the Princeton Review, the average starting salary for a machinist is $22,500. The median salary for machinists is just over $34,000, according to the BLS.


Studies have shown that librarians are expected to exit the profession en masse in coming years. The American Library Association Website quotes statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating that more than one-quarter of all librarians will reach the age of 65 by 2009. A study published in the Library Journal found that 40 percent of library directors would retire by that same year.

In addition to the librarians expected to retire within the next decade, interest in the profession is waning among younger workers, according to the BLS. The situation is particularly dire for colleges and universities, which report the greatest difficulty in hiring librarians due to lower pay.

Graduates of library programs in 2004 reported an average starting salary of more than $39,000, an increase of nearly 3 percent over the previous year. The median salary for librarians is nearly $47,000, according to the BLS.

Truck driver

Getting those eBay packages delivered might take longer by 2014. A report prepared for the American Trucking Associations by Global Insight, Inc. warns there is already a shortage of about 20,000 long-haul heavy-duty truck drivers. By 2014, the deficit is expected to reach 111,000.

The report blames slipping wages for the shortage. Trucking wages fell sharply with the onset of the recession in 2000 and have yet to recover. According to the BLS, the median salary for heavy or tractor-trailer truck drivers is $33,870.


What, no refills? Pharmacists should have no trouble finding a job in coming years. A recent report from the Pharmacy Manpower Project predicted there will be a shortage of 157,000 pharmacists by 2020. Already, the American Hospital Association reports a 7.4 percent vacancy rate for pharmacists.

The shortage can be partially attributed to the aging population and the fact that more drugs are being manufactured and advertised to the public. In fact, the number of prescriptions has increased from 2 billion to 3.2 billion in the last 10 years. That problem is expected to worsen with the new Medicare prescription drug program that began January 1, pharmacy officials told CNN in November.

To help cope, universities are opening new pharmacy programs and expanding existing ones. The high pay currently offered by pharmacist employers can't hurt, either.

The BLS reports the median salary for pharmacists is more than $87,000.

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines