Pennsylvania offers beautiful landscapes and is rich in American history. It’s filled with fun family activities, gorgeous Georgian-style architecture, excellent universities, and a growing job market.
If you’re considering making a move to PA or are currently looking for a job in the state, first get to know the areas with the fastest growing job markets and the most in-demand industries.
Fastest Growing Areas in PA
As a whole, Pennsylvania has grown in recent years. The population of the state grew by 0.6 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to U.S. Census data. But some areas of the state are growing more rapidly than others. Counties in the middle of PA are experiencing more growth than counties or cities on the eastern or western edges of the state.
Among the fastest growing areas in PA are:
- Cumberland County
- Centre County
- Lebanon County
- Lehigh County
- Lancaster County
Between 2010 and 2016, Cumberland County saw a population growth of nearly six percent. Centre County had a population growth of almost five percent during that same period, while Lebanon, Lehigh, and Lancaster counties saw population growth of around four percent each.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the areas that had the fastest rates of population growth in PA also had lower-than-average unemployment rates. For much of 2017, PA’s unemployment rate hovered around 5.0 percent, slightly above the national average, but it was on par with neighboring states such as Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. Take a look at the unemployment rates — as of September 2017 — for the major metropolitan areas in each of the fastest growing counties:
- Harrisburg-Carlisle: 3.8 percent (Carlisle is in Cumberland County, Harrisburg is in Dauphin County)
- State College: 3.3 percent (Centre County)
- Lebanon: 3.7 percent (Lebanon County)
- Lancaster: 3.4 percent (Lancaster County)
- Allentown: 4.6 percent (Lehigh County)
Aside from its job market, Carlisle, PA has several features and amenities that make it appealing to new residents. The town regularly gets listed on “Best Places to Live” round-ups, partly because of its highly regarded public schools, but also due to the fact that the city values the input of residents.
Carlisle is also home to many cultural institutions that make it appealing. Dickinson College is located in Carlisle, as is Penn State’s Dickinson Law School, and the Central PA Youth Ballet. The city was founded in 1751 and remains home to the second oldest military base in the country.
State College, PA
As you might know, State College, PA is home to Pennsylvania State University. But the area is more than just a college town, even though Penn State remains the largest employer in the municipality.
Sports, particularly college football, are a big draw for residents, but there are numerous other cultural events and attractions. In the summer, Arts Fest takes place in the downtown section of the city. There are also festivals in honor of the 4th of July and New Year’s.
Lebanon, PA was also founded in the 18th century, back in 1740. The city is equidistant from Harrisburg, Reading, and Lancaster. It has a branch office of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board and offers specialized job training for specific companies at the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center.
Lancaster, PA might be the heart of Amish country in the state, but it also has plenty to offer people who want to take advantage of modern technology. Job seekers can check out the branch office of PA CareerLink, located in downtown Lancaster or the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board.
Allentown, PA has an unemployment rate that’s about the same as the national average and a bit lower than the average across PA.
Allentown is a particularly good area for people seeking a career in healthcare, as two of the city’s biggest employers are healthcare entities. Warehouse jobs, hospitality jobs, and manufacturing jobs are also frequently available.
Fastest Growing Jobs in PA
When you’re considering moving to a new state, considering making a career change, or choosing a career for the first time, it helps to understand what jobs will offer the most opportunity to you now and in the near future.
If you choose a job that won’t see much growth or will have a limited number of openings when you’re looking for work, you can become frustrated or end up taking a job in an unrelated field or industry. Take a look at a few of the fastest growing jobs in PA and what you need to do to find a career in those industries:
- Interpreters and Translators
If your teachers and parents stressed the importance of learning a second — or even third — language, you’ll soon see why. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for interpreters and translators will grow faster than others. Between 2016 and 2026, they’re expected to grow by about 17 percent. In PA, that growth rate is expected to be even higher, around 35 percent.
To become a translator or interpreter, you’ll typically need to have a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to be fluent or proficient in at least two languages.
Some languages are more in-demand than others. There’s typically plenty of work for French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese translators, as well as for translators who understand Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Demand is also expected to increase for interpreters who understand American Sign Language.
- Occupational Therapy Assistants
Interpreters and translators aside, the top five fastest-growing jobs in PA are all in the healthcare industry. The one healthcare job that’s expected to have the highest rate of growth in PA over the next decade is that of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA).
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of OTAs will grow by 28 percent by 2026. In PA, that growth will be closer to 33 percent. Currently, 2,350 OTAs are working in PA. By 2024, that number might grow to 3,360.
To become an OTA, you typically need to complete a two-year associate’s degree program in occupational therapy at an accredited school. In Pennsylvania, you also need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam and hold a license from the State Board of Occupational Therapy Education and Licensure.
- Physical Therapy Assistants
Job opportunities for physical therapy assistants (PTAs) are expected to increase by more than 30 percent nationwide by 2026, and by slightly more than 29 percent in PA. As a PTA, you’d work under the supervision of a physical therapist and would help patients perform specific therapy exercises.
Training to become a PTA involves completing a two-year, accredited physical therapy assistant associate’s degree program. In PA, you also need to register as a PTA.
- Nurse Practitioners
The need for nurse practitioners is expected to grow much faster than average nationally and faster than average in PA. Jobs for nurse practitioners should increase by 31 percent by 2026. In PA, the number of opportunities for nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 28 percent.
Nurse practitioners have completed additional training and education beyond that required to become an RN or an RN-BSN. Usually, nurse practitioners have a master’s degree, although some do complete Ph.D. programs or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.
In PA, you also need to receive licensure from the national and state boards to practice as a nurse practitioner.
- Physical Therapist Aides
While physical therapy assistants work directly with patients, physical therapist aides are usually responsible for tasks that don’t involve direct patient interaction. The number of job opportunities for physical therapist aides is expected to increase by 28 percent in PA over the next decade and by 29 percent nationally.
The role of physical therapist aide requires a high school diploma or GED. Additional education beyond high school is usually not required, as many aides learn on the job. No certification or licensure is needed to become an aide.
Other jobs that are expected to see considerable growth in PA over the next decade include:
- Operations Research Analysts (ORAs) (27.5 percent) – ORAs use statistics and math to help organizations solve problems. Although some ORA jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, many require a master’s degree, often in a subject such as mathematics, computer science, operations research, or engineering.
- Personal Financial Advisors (27.17 percent) – Personal financial advisors help people decide what to do with their money. The job usually requires a bachelor’s degree, as well as a period of training. Some financial advisors earn certifications or become licensed.
- Home Health Aides (26.41 percent) – Home health aides help people who have illnesses or disabilities complete daily tasks at home. The job typically requires a high school diploma or GED. Some roles also require certification.
- Physical Therapists (PTs) (25.74 percent) – PTs work with patients who have been injured or who are ill and help them perform exercises to regain mobility or ease their pain. The job requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), as well as licensure and certification.
- Helpers – Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters (24.21 percent) – Helpers typically work in various construction trades and perform a range of tasks including moving tools and cleaning up. Usually, no formal education is needed to become a helper, but some jobs require a high school diploma.
Best Places to Work in PA
Every year, Best Places to Work asks employees to complete surveys and questionnaires about their employers. The results from those surveys are then analyzed and turned into a “best places to work” list. The list is divided into two parts, small and medium employers (with less than 249 employees) and large employers (with more than 250 employees).
The companies that made it to the list are located across the state and come from a range of industries. Those industries include:
Three PA-based companies also made it to Fortune’s annual list of the top 100 companies to work for in 2017. Those three companies were:
- Sheetz: Based in Altoona, PA, Sheetz employs more than 16,000 people. In 2016, it was #97 on Fortune’s list. In 2017, it moved up to #87. Operating a chain of convenience stores, Sheetz decided to give many of its employees a raise and convert many part-time positions into full-time. In February 2017, it had nearly 4,000 open positions.
- Ikea Holding US: The U.S. headquarters for Swedish furniture giant IKEA is located in Conshohocken, PA, about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. The company employs just under 15,000 people and had 206 openings in February 2017. Ikea Holding US puts a significant emphasis on equality and diversity. Nearly half of its employees are female, and more than half are minorities.
- SAP: Like Ikea, software and information technology company SAP is based in Europe but has its U.S. headquarters in PA — in Newtown Square. The company has more than 17,000 employees and around 200 job openings as of February 2017.
What the Best Places to Work Offer Employees
Although the perks and benefits offered do vary slightly from company to company, many of the best places to work in PA offer their employees the following:
- Health insurance for full- and part-time employees.
- Sick days — some, such as SAP and Ikea Holding US, offer sick days for part-time employees. SAP also offers unlimited sick days.
- On-site fitness centers.
- Telecommuting or opportunity for remote work.
- College tuition reimbursement — Ikea, SAP, and Sheetz all offer this.
- Domestic partner benefits.
- Job sharing — two people work a part-time schedule, essentially doing the work of one full-time person.
- On-site medical care facility.
- Paid time off for volunteering.
PA Industries That Are Hiring
Just as some jobs are expected to grow over the next decade, some industries are expected to grow overall, as well. You’re likely to see more and more opportunities in the following industries in PA in the coming years:
|Healthcare and Social Assistance. Given that four out of the top five fastest-growing jobs in PA are in the healthcare industry, it should be little surprise that the healthcare and social assistance field is expected to have the greatest amount of growth over the next 10 years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than two million healthcare jobs will be added by 2026.|
|Information Services. The information services industry includes software development, hardware development, and other fields related to the sharing of information. While some areas of the industry are expected to decline in the coming years, such as newspaper and other print-based publishing, companies dealing with information technology are expected to grow.|
|Mining. With fracking on the rise, oil and gas extraction are expected to help make the mining industry one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. and in PA.|
|Professional and Business Services. The professional and business service industry is expected to see considerable growth in computer systems design, consulting, and office administrative services over the next 10 years.|
|Transportation and Warehousing. As people continue to shop online, warehousing and storage needs will increase. The BLS estimates more than 195,700 warehousing and storage jobs will be added by 2026.|
PA Cost of Living and Salaries
The cost of living varies dramatically across Pennsylvania. The priciest places to live are all located in the Philadelphia metro area, including Yeadon, West Chester, and Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the least expensive places to live in PA are generally located in Western PA. The cheapest places to live in the state include Pittsburgh, Munhall, West Mifflin, Elizabeth, and Erie.
For example, the median home price in Munhall, PA (the cheapest place to live in the state) is $79,900. The median household income in Munhall is $44,075, and unemployment hovers around 5.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the median home price across PA is $164,900, and the median home price across the U.S. is $175,700. The median household income in PA is $53,115, and the median income nationwide is $53,482.
Generally speaking, PA’s cost of living is lower than its neighboring states. The cost of living index for the entire U.S. is 100. Any state with an index over 100 has a higher cost of living than the country’s average.
The cost of living index of PA is 102. For comparison, in Virginia, that index is 107. In Delaware, the index is 110.8.
How Pennsylvania Taxes Compare to Neighboring States
Not only does PA have a growing job market, but it also has lower income taxes compared to its neighbors.
If you work and live in PA, you’ll pay a tax rate of 3.07 percent, no matter how much income you earn. In Delaware, income is taxed based on how much you make, with tax rates ranging from 2.2 percent to 6.06 percent. For example, if you earned $65,000 in a year, you’d pay $1,995.50 in taxes in PA and $3,034 in taxes in Delaware.
Other neighboring states, such as New Jersey and Maryland, also have income tax based on the amount you earn. For that reason, if your income is above a certain amount, you’ll end up paying less if you live and work in Pennsylvania.
PA also offers better sales and use tax rates than its neighboring states — except Delaware, which has no sales tax. Across PA, the sales tax is six percent. Some counties or municipalities, such as Philadelphia, collect an additional amount, making the sales tax seven or eight percent in those cities. In New Jersey, the sales tax is 6.625 percent.
But not everything you purchase in PA is taxed. You don’t pay tax on most groceries or candy, most types of clothing, residential fuels, prescriptions, or textbooks.
Interested in Working in PA? PSECU is Hiring!
Looking for work in PA? Explore career options at PSECU. We’re a full-service credit union with more than 430,000 members and $5 billion in assets. PSECU understands the importance of work-life balance and offers our employees several benefits to help them achieve that, including:
- Medical/prescription drug coverage
- Dental and vision coverage
- Generous paid time off (PTO)
- 100 percent company-funded pension plan
- 401(k) plan, plus match
- On-site fitness center and classes (available at the Harrisburg Headquarters location only)
- On-site daycare (available at the Harrisburg Headquarters location only)
- Tuition assistance
Please visit our Careers page to check out our list of open positions and find out more about working at PSECU.