Most Common Occupation by Age
As we get older, job options shift — along with experience, education, and wear on our bodies.
I got my first job at 17, during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was a kitchen worker at a Chinese restaurant who washed dishes and prepped foods. It was seven days a week until closing each night.
Although I learned a lot and my chopping skills crossed over to adulthood, I am glad more options came along with age. Experience happens. For some this is through working up a ladder. Others earn an education and then enter the workforce.
As we get older, opportunities change. Let’s look at the shifts through the lense of occupation rankings by age.
If you are looking for motivation in a career switch, it’s nice to see that for every occuption there was someone in every age group with that job, with the exception of the youngest. You can see what jobs people typically switch away from here, along with the path they might take to get there. These views, coupled with the above rankings give you a good idea of getting from point A to point B.
A drawback of ranking by count is that it’s easy to miss the jobs that are more specific to each age group. The most common occupations (or the ones with the most generic title) find their way to the top regardless of the age breakdown. For example, cashiers are ranked at the top for the 16- to 20-year-old group, but there are also many cashiers in the other age groups.
On the other hand, if you look at hosts and hostesses, you see that the job is primarily young people. It’s more specific to that age group.
So here is one more view that highlights the top five occupations most specific to each age group. I calculated the percentages for each age group and occupation and then sorted by highest value.
For each age group, you see a lot of jobs that we tend to associate with people of that age. The younger groups especially. Counter attendants in cafeterias, etc. and hosts and hostesses are over half 16- to 20-year-olds. I was surprised to see miscellaneous law enforcement workers, but I believe this refers to assistant-like positions. Police, detectives, and security are their own classifications.
Again though, once you get past the younger age groups, the age distributions spread out. No occupations pass the quarter-mark for any age group.
You can read into this in a number of ways, but as I feel my age more often these days, I go with the opportunity, old-dog-new-tricks angle.
Rankings are based on data from the 5-year American Community Survey from 2016. I downladed the microdata from IPUMS, an extraction tool maintained by the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota.
I used R for analysis and data prepration. I used d3.js for the visualization. For scrolling, I used Scrollama. I also used ai2html.
This was my first experience with scrollytelling, and I had no idea what I was doing. The learning process was frustrating yet addicting. Highly recommended, if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you’re looking for “statistician” in the occupations, this dataset groups it with “mathematical science occupations”. Sorry. I am just as disappointed as you are.
Icons from the Noun Project: weights by José Manuel de Laá, cash register by iconsmind.com, stethoscope by Evan MacDonald, ballet shoes by Raz Cohen, and briefcase by Creative Stall.