Most Competitive Careers

Some of the most competitive careers can be found in the fields of entertainment, business and medicine. Learn about a few of these competitive careers, their median salaries and education requirements.

Most Competitive Career Options

Some of the most competitive careers had fewer than 315,000 positions available in 2016 (per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and are hard for a job-seeker to get into and become established. These careers span various industries and require specific skill sets. Although there are many competitive careers, here we discuss only a handful of the most competitive career options.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Pharmacists $122,230 6%
Athletes and Sports Competitors $47,710 7%
Architectural and Engineering Managers $134,730 6%
Music Directors and Composers $50,110 6%
Dancers and Choreographers $16.85 (median hourly wage) 4%
Advertising Sales Agents $50,380 -3% (decline)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Information for the Most Competitive Careers


A career as a pharmacist requires a lot of education, and the BLS reported that there were 312,500 positions available in 2016. Competition for these jobs has risen recently due to an increase in the number of pharmacy schools, according to the BLS. These professionals fill various prescriptions for patients and direct patients on the proper use of the medication, as well as informing them of any possible side-effects of the drug or if the drug will negatively interact with other medications the patient takes. Pharmacists also provide immunizations and health screenings, supervise pharmacy technicians and communicate with insurance companies concerning medications. Pharmacists must have a license and a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, which usually takes 4 years to earn.

Athletes and Sports Competitors

Many amateur athletes dream of going pro, but only a select few can make an actual career as an athlete or sports competitor. The BLS recorded only 11,800 positions available in 2016 for these professionals, who practice and compete in their particular sport in front of spectators. Athletes and sports competitors train hard to improve their technique in the sport, learn and obey all rules and regulations of the game and work with trainers and/or coaches to identify and strengthen their weaknesses. They do not need a formal education, but they must have extensive knowledge of their sport, and they must train constantly.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

There is strong competition for jobs in architectural and engineering management, according to the BLS, because this desirable career requires at least 5 years of experience and had 180,100 positions available in 2016. These managers lead projects that aim to develop and plan new products and designs, which requires them to hire and oversee staff members. They must check the work of their staff for accuracy, coordinate the work on a particular project and manage the budget for the project. Architectural and engineering managers must have at least a bachelor's degree and plenty of work experience as an engineer or architect.

Music Directors and Composers

Music directors and composers compete for prestige and positions, and the BLS stated that there were 74,800 positions for these professionals in 2016. The BLS states that competition is especially strong for full-time positions. Music directors, or conductors, oversee rehearsals for various musical groups, audition and choose performers and practice conducting for performances. Composers write original music or rearrange existing music for bands, orchestras and other musicians to perform. Music directors and composers typically need work experience, but education requirements vary based on position and genre from no formal education to a master's degree.

Dancers and Choreographers

Dancers and choreographers only held 20,400 positions in 2016, per the BLS, and often have to audition and compete for work. The BLS describes the competition for these jobs as intense based on the large number of applicants for the much smaller number of openings. Dancers rehearse and perform complex dance movements in a wide range of styles and genres. Choreographers create these dance movements and teach the dancers how to move to the music they have chosen. Choreographers usually work as dancers first. Dancers require formal training, but they do not require any formal education.

Advertising Sales Agents

The BLS expects strong competition in jobs for advertising sales agents and reports a total of 149,900 positions available in 2016. These agents are responsible for identifying and contacting new clients to sell advertising space. Advertising sales agents explain different advertising options to their clients, discuss costs, prepare and manage all necessary paperwork and deliver advertising proofs to the client for approval. Education requirements can range from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree, and most agents undergo on-the-job training.

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