ah, the windy city…home of deep dish pizza and perennially dashed baseball hopes (sorry, cubs fans!). by any measure, chicago is a bustling hub in the heart of the country. and while its thriving cultural and sports scenes are vital to everyday chicagoans, chances are you’ll need a day job in case that improv career with second city doesn’t pan out. if you’re seeking a new job or a new career path, take a look at some the hottest jobs in chicago.
the tech sector
sure, chicago is considerably colder than silicon valley, but if you’re looking for a job in the tech sector, don’t count out a midwestern move. over the past 6 years, the chicago-based tech world has grown even faster than silicon valley’s. companies like google have offices there, and the city is also home to co-work spaces and business incubators that are steadily putting chicago on the tech map. business incubators are communities-within-the-community that help support talent and entrepreneurs as they develop new products and businesses. and this kind of collaborative community is one of the reasons that chicago is becoming a magnet for young tech innovators and entrepreneurs.
hot job: software developer
in an increasingly tech-friendly city, software developers are at the very heart of it all, working on software programs and apps. with a bachelor’s degree and the programming skills, software developers command a median salary of $100,000. and the demand keeps growing: the u.s. bureau of labor statistics predicts 17% overall growth by 2024.
the service sector
over the past few years, chicago has seen an unprecedented number of visitors to the city. that means soaring demand for people to fill jobs in hotels/hospitality, restaurants, bars, and other service industries. and it’s not just chicago—the united states bureau of labor statistics predicts 6% growth for hospitality-related industries by 2024.
hot job: mixologist
in chicago as anywhere else, there are plenty of places where you can drop in for a cold beer, no fuss. these days, there are also a lot of places where you can drop in for the plenty-of-fuss version: an artisanal cocktail, crafted with homemade bitters, herbs grown in a community garden, and an instagram-ready look. bartenders and mixologists are taking on the status of chefs these days, and with the fancier cocktails commanding prices in the $10-$15 range, this is not your grandpa’s suds-slinger. the average mixologist in chicago earns $22,000 before tips—and the field is expected to grow by a healthy 10% nationally by 2024, per the bureau of labor statistics.
the healthcare sector
as a nation, our health is…a growing challenge. as such, healthcare-related industries are booming just about everywhere, especially as the population ages. chicago is no exception, and it’s even being touted as one of the next big hubs for health technology. chicago is a city with world-class medical facilities (90 hospitals, six medical schools, and numerous fictional tv hospitals), as well as headquarters of major medical organizations like the american medical association, the american hospital association, the american alzheimer’s association, and the american heart association. (not to mention the walgreen’s pharmacy mothership just outside the city.)
hot job: home health aide
i mentioned chicago’s many exciting tv hospitals before, but the reality is that some of the most important healthcare jobs are considerably less flashy. home health and personal care aides fill important roles in this industry, providing daily care to seniors, the disabled, and other home-bound patients. what the job lacks in glamour and riches (the median salary is $22,920 per year, or $10.54 per hour), it makes up in stability and accessibility. you can become a home health aide without a formal degree (and with some on-the-job training). and the bureau of labor statistics predicts that the field will grow by an astonishing 38% over the next decade. if you’re trying to decide whether the healthcare career path is right for you, this job could be a good way to dip your toe in and find out.
the manufacturing/production sector
speaking of less-glamorous jobs, chicago is a leader in manufacturing. and in fact, manufacturing is chicago’s second-biggest business sector, tied heavily to its strong trade and export industries. and this has a long and storied history with its get-your-hands-dirty jobs: as far back as 1914, poet carl sandburg referred to the city as “hog butcher for the world / tool maker, stacker of wheat, / player with railroads and the nation's freight handler.”
basically, you name it, chicago has probably processed and handled it. these days, manufacturing isn’t the nationwide industry it once was, but in chicago there are some areas of the industry that continue to thrive, like food processing and production. companies like kraft, heinz, wrigley (of ballpark and chewing gum fame), sara lee, keebler, and quaker oats have maintained major operations in chicago, alongside a growing industry of small-batch food companies that are rising in popularity on the foodie tide.
hot job: truck driver
all of these foods and products need to make it from point a to point b, and that’s where a fleet of dependable drivers come in. whether local, regional, or long-haul, trucking can be a great career option for someone with a spotless driving record, an ability to find zen in the open road, and the knack for solving problems on the fly and get somewhere on schedule. with a specialized commercial driving license (cdl) and some on-the-job training, drivers make a median salary of $40,260 per year, or $19.36 per hour. according to the bureau of labor statistics, the need for drivers will continue to grow through the next decade.
whatever you want your career path to be in chicago, windy city newbie to seasoned chicagoan, you have so many options, in fields that will continue to grow and thrive. happy hunting, and go bulls!
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