The Smallest Professions in America

Print Email

Approximately 133 million people are employed in the United States as of May 2011, working in hundreds of different occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Different jobs vary in size. Some categories employ millions of Americans, while a select few count only hundreds among their ranks. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed BLS data to find the 10 jobs with the fewest people employed.

Read: The Smallest Professions in America

There are nearly 4.3 million retail salespeople in the United States, making it the biggest occupation in the country. There are more than 2.7 million nurses, 1.4 million elementary school teachers and more than 1.2 million maintenance workers. However, there are only roughly 1,000 prosthodontists and just 300 farm labor contractors in the entire country.

On the surface, a few of these jobs appear obsolete — think wood patternmakers and radio operators. Yet many of them expect to see growth — albeit small — in headcount between 2010 and 2020. Several other jobs, such as geographers, are expected to grow substantially during the decade. As a result of the small number of people in these jobs, many of these occupations experience major fluctuations. While there were 1,240 wood patternmakers in 2010, there were only 820 in 2011, a decline of about 34%.

The jobs on this list require different levels of education and training. Farm labor contractors do not need a high school diploma. However, prosthodontists generally require doctorate degrees. Similarly, the jobs on this list have a wide range of pay. Prosthodontists had a mean wage in the low six-digit figures in 2011. However, the annual pay of fabric menders, an occupation that requires minimal education, was not even $30,000.

24/7 Wall St. identified the jobs that employ the fewest people, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 Occupational Outlook Handbook data. While 2011 job-count data were available from the BLS, we opted for the 2010 data, as self-employment figures were included. We also considered the mean wages for these occupations, along with the pay at the 25th, 75th and 90th percentile in each profession. In addition, we reviewed the projected headcount growth between 2010 and 2020 from BLS National Employment Matrix to determine whether these jobs are growing or shrinking.

These are the smallest professions in America.