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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
The job market in the U.S. is looking good. The unemployment rate has dropped below the 5% mark for the first time since 2008 and is expected to continue trending downward. But not every profession is booming.
To help you find the right job for your future, we made it our job to identify which careers are the most promising. Starting with a list of 784 popular occupations, we narrowed the choices to 10 by focusing on fields that have been adding to their ranks over the past decade and that are projected to continue expanding well into the next decade.
Pay, of course, was another important consideration for our rankings. All of the jobs on our list have annual salaries that are well above—and in many cases more than double—that of the average occupation. We also favored jobs that don't necessarily require a huge investment in education to get started. While two of our top jobs do require advanced degrees, you can break into the other eight positions with an associate's or bachelor's degree.
Take a look at 10 of the best jobs for the future.
By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor
| Updated for 2016
Unless otherwise noted, all employment data was provided by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), a labor market research firm owned by CareerBuilder. EMSI collects data from more than 90 federal, state and private sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total number of jobs listed for each occupation is for 2015. Ten-year job growth figures, both historical and projected, represent the percentage change in the total number of jobs in an occupation between the start of the period and the end of the period. Annual earnings were calculated by multiplying median hourly earnings by 2,080, the standard number of hours worked in a year by a full-time employee.
Total number of jobs: 741,137
Job growth, 2005-2015: 28.2% (All jobs: 5.3%)
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 22.7% (All jobs: 11.0%)
Median annual salary: $96,461 (All jobs: $43,430)
Typical education: Bachelor's degree
Why become an app developer? Check the palm of your hand (or maybe in the couch cushions) for the answer. The proliferation of mobile technology is driving demand for development of new applications of all kinds, from news and games to music and social sharing. Systems software developers, who create the operating systems for computers and mobile devices, are also poised for prosperity. From about 411,000 jobs currently, the workforce is projected to grow 20% by 2025. Systems software developers earn a median income of $103,083 a year.
A college degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field is a standard requirement to land most software-development jobs, but a master's degree can give you a leg up on the competition. Without a bachelor's degree, you can break into the tech field as a web developer, a role that typically requires just an associate's degree to get started and pays a median salary of about $60,000 a year. Beyond formal education, expect to keep learning throughout your career in any tech job; you need to stay on top of any new tools, computer languages and other advances.
Total number of jobs: 130,110
Job growth, 2005-2015: 30.3%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 25.7%
Median annual salary: $97,396
Typical education: Master's degree
Thanks, Obama. The growing number of newly insured people due to federal health care reform adds to the patient lists of many primary care providers. Nurse practitioners (NPs), as well as physicians, are sought to meet those increasing needs. NPs are able to provide much of the same care as doctors, including performing routine checkups and writing prescriptions, and they can work independently. Exact guidelines vary by state. NPs need to become registered nurses before pursuing their master's or doctoral degrees.
Physician's assistants (PAs) are similar to NPs in knowledge and abilities. They are trained to diagnose and treat patients and are able to write prescriptions and order tests. But unlike NPs, they work under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. (Again, specific duties and supervision requirements vary by state.) Though there are fewer PAs than NPs, with about 98,700 current PA jobs, that figure is expected to grow a rapid 28% by 2025. The median pay is $98,280 a year. To get started, you need at least two years of postgraduate study to earn a master's in this field, and you need a license to practice.
Total number of jobs: 85,177
Job growth, 2005-2015: 31.0%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 30.9%
Median annual salary: $89,558
Increasing digital dangers are pushing Uncle Sam, state and local governments and companies of all stripes to hire more white hats to beef up their information security. You can also find opportunities in hospitals and doctors' offices, where the move to keep more digital records pushes the need to protect patients' privacy.
To get started developing and implementing measures to safeguard an organization's computer network, you likely need a bachelor's degree in computer science, programming or another tech-related field. You may also need up to five years of work experience, perhaps as a network or systems administrator, to secure a management role. A master's of business administration in information systems can help you stand out in the applicant pool. Becoming a certified information systems security professional can boost your pay by 6.2%, according to Robert Half Technology.
Total number of jobs: 579,395
Job growth, 2005-2015: 24.2%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 22.5%
Median annual salary: $82,694
This is a nerd's world, and we're all benefiting from it. With the computerization of everything from phones and coffeemakers to cars and airplanes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn't rely on computers in one way or another. That puts the folks who run the computers in very high demand. Computer systems analysts ensure that organizations' technological needs are met and are constantly improving with the advancements and demands of the increasingly connected world.
A bachelor's degree in information technology (one of our best college majors for a lucrative career) or another computer-related field is typical for these workers. But you can also qualify with a liberal arts degree and techie talents you developed outside of a standard four-year program (perhaps even using free online classes).
Total number of jobs: 218,841
Job growth, 2005-2015: 31.4%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 25.9%
Median annual salary: $82,275
Typical education: Doctoral degree
Aging baby boomers are a boon for those working in physical therapy. Many more workers will be needed in this field to care for victims of heart attacks and strokes and to lead them through rehabilitation. And with ongoing advances in medicine, more people will survive such traumas and need rehabilitative services. You'll need a license to go along with your doctorate.
For similar reasons, demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow at a 21.9% clip over the next decade. While physical therapists focus on rehabilitation of major motor functions, occupational therapists help ill or disabled patients develop or recover the ability to independently perform daily tasks, such as dressing or feeding themselves. Occupational therapists typically need a master's degree to get started and earn a median income of $78,806 a year.
Total number of jobs: 522,438
Job growth, 2005-2015: 28.0%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 28.2%
Median annual salary: $62,226
Big data is giving a big boost to this profession. Market research analysts help companies navigate an increasingly competitive business landscape by crunching numbers and studying market conditions and consumer behavior. With their analyses, they can develop effective marketing strategies, which may include setting appropriate prices and choosing advantageous store locations.
While a bachelor's degree can get you into this business, a master's degree—in marketing research or a related field, such as statistics or math—can help you secure a top position. Work experience or a strong background in statistical and data analysis will give you an added advantage.
Total number of jobs: 63,449
Job growth, 2005-2015: 38.7%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 33.6%
Median annual salary: $68,886
Typical education: Associate's degree
Afraid of going under the knife? Noninvasive procedures to check out your insides are not only more popular with patients, the lower costs and relative simplicity also make them better options for insurers. And with advancing technology, they can be applied in more cases and used in more places, such as doctors' offices and medical labs outside of hospitals.
Sonographers operate special imaging equipment to peer inside patients and assist physicians in assessing medical conditions. You can get an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography to get into this field. Having certifications in more than one specialty, such as in fetal echocardiography or musculoskeletal sonography, can make you a more attractive job candidate. Learn more from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Total number of jobs: 206,709
Job growth, 2005-2015: 21.1%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 21.8%
Median annual salary: $74,169
People in the oral health field have a great deal to smile about. In addition to growing demand for dental hygienists, the numbers of dentists and dental assistants are also expected to increase—by 12.7% and 16.0%, respectively, over the next 10 years.
The median salary for a dental hygienist, who typically cleans teeth, takes x-rays and educates patients on proper care, is about double that of an assistant. (A dental assistant’s duties may include prepping patients for treatment and sterilizing equipment.) And the path to get started as a hygienist is much less costly than that of a dentist. You usually need an associate's degree in dental hygiene, which typically takes three years to complete. You also have to get a license to practice. Requirements vary by state. Learn more from the American Dental Hygienists' Association.
Total number of jobs: 94,739
Job growth, 2005-2015: 24.3%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 23.2%
Median annual salary: $78,070
Businesses are under constant pressure to do things better, faster and cheaper. Enter the operations research analyst. These pros help firms increase efficiency, lower costs and boost profits, using mathematical and analytical methods. And with advancing technology allowing companies to collect more data about their businesses and customers, the need is greater for people who can make sense (and dollars) of it all.
You can land an entry-level operations research analyst position with a bachelor's degree in a technical or quantitative field, such as engineering, analytics or math. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master's degree.
Total number of jobs: 333,428
Job growth, 2005-2015: 20.1%
Projected job growth, 2015-2025: 17.5%
Median annual salary: $93,338
The aging population demands an increase in medical services, as well as people to manage those services. Health services managers may oversee the functions of an entire medical practice or facility—as a nursing home administrator, for example—or a specific department, as a clinical manager for, say, surgery or physical therapy. Health information managers work specifically on maintaining patient records and keeping them secure, an increasingly demanding task with the shift to digital.
A bachelor's in health administration is the ticket to this profession, but a master's in health services, long-term-care administration or public health is also common among these workers. You may need to be licensed to run certain types of facilities, such as a nursing home, for which all states require licensure, or an assisted-living facility. Check with your state's department of health for details.
Health Services Manager
Information Security Analyst
Computer Systems Analyst
Community Service Manager
Kiplinger updates many of its rankings annually. Above is last year's list of 10 of the best jobs for the future. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on data available at the time of publishing, differences in how the data was gathered, changes in data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow the pool of candidates.
Market Research Analyst
Information Security Analyst
Health Specialty Professor
Personal Financial Adviser
Computer Network Administrator
Construction Equipment Operator
Personal Financial Adviser
Physical Therapist's Assistant
Systems Software Developer
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