Whether you're about to graduate from high school or are a working adult looking for a career change, choosing a college major can be confusing. It's challenging to select a career path that matches up with your personal passions and still puts food on the table. Understanding some of the trends that shape the job market can help narrow your search. If you're looking for job security and growth, you'll want to focus on the industries that are adding the most new jobs in the coming decade.
Using data compiled from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and from major newspapers and magazines, we've got the information you need on the major careers and trends in the job market today. It should help you choose your career education wisely.
Five Biggest Trends Impacting the Job Market
Aging Baby Boomers: The largest demographic group in the United States is heading for retirement. Of course, this will mean something very different for many Baby Boomers than for older generations. Boomers have maintained their health and stayed in the job market longer than any other generation of citizens in our country's history.
As they grow older, Baby Boomers will require more frequent, specialized medical care. They will also want to maintain connections with careers and family for as long as possible. Therefore, expect to see continued growth in fields that cater to their wishes. The assisted living industry will continue to outpace other areas of healthcare, while growing teams of social workers will help care for less fortunate Baby Boomers.
Better Medicine: The high output of the pharmaceutical industry, combined with constant innovation in the rest of the medical field, helps us live longer, more productive lives. New treatments for previously fatal diseases require new approaches for rehabilitation. Likewise, many adults expect to work far beyond the traditional retirement age. Therefore, patients demand a new generation of physical therapists and other specialists to help prolong their quality of life.
Increased Costs of Child Care: As today's parents demand higher quality from their child care providers, the marketplace has responded with a variety of programs to help meet parents' needs. The explosive growth of pre-kindergarten educational programs call for highly trained educators who command more competitive salaries than their predecessors. Therefore, especially in major cities, the cost of caring for young children has skyrocketed. As a result, early childhood education has become a more lucrative and more stable profession than ever before. Though it has traditionally been a low-paying job, child care specialists today can expect to earn far more money today than peers who entered the field even a few years ago.
On a related note, the rising cost of child care has encouraged many parents to seek opportunities to work from home. Taking advantage of distributed work options, professions that allow parents to spend time with young children have enjoyed rapid growth. Even when those positions pay less than office jobs, the savings created by avoiding paid child care adds tremendous value for families.
Rapid Technology Growth: Despite fears that many American companies look overseas for development of new technology, the rapid advance of ideas and the need for constant upgrades assure U.S. technology professionals of consistent job security over the next ten years. Businesses of all kinds have found themselves locked into the equivalent of an arms race with their competitors. Companies must provide their teams with the best equipment and resources, or face defeat.
Likewise, continual innovation assures technology workers that new machines, cables, and other equipment will have to be installed every few years. Even Internet infrastructure, which was designed to provide nearly limitless connections, is being overhauled to accommodate a previously unimaginable number of new devices. Therefore, IT professionals who specialize in networking, installation, and support will remain in demand as more businesses rely on new technology to help them compete.
Distributed Work: The giant factories and smokestacks of a hundred years ago are fading into the pages of history books. Many of today's workers report for duty at smaller offices or manufacturing plants, connected by information networks and sophisticated shipping infrastructure.
A growing number of employees, especially specialized consultants and leaders, divide their time among multiple locations at companies or client organizations. This trend has led to the use of "hot desking," where workers report to a different workstation at the start of each shift, instead of keeping their own desk or cubicle. Many workers telecommute, allowing them to reinvest time spent commuting into more productive work or family time.
As a side effect, more workers are relocating to larger homes, farther away from city centers. Whether they want to enjoy more peaceful surroundings or they simply want to reconnect with family or friends, these shifting workers create demand for home construction, renovation, and infrastructure development.
Top Ten Jobs for the Next Decade and Beyond
1. Computer Programmer
Even though many American companies actively recruit overseas workers for programming jobs, there is still plenty of work for qualified computer specialists right here in the United States. Security breaches and concerns about potential terrorism have heightened security at many companies. Because "offshoring" computer programming work poses so many security risks, many large employers have reverted to using in-house teams of programmers who can be monitored more carefully. A degree in computer forensics would allow you to become one of the monitors.
In addition, the development of new operating systems and common code bases has allowed many more industries to develop custom software solutions. A decade ago, many companies from wildly different fields might have used the same spreadsheet program. Today, developers with unique backgrounds build specialized applications like databases, point-of-sale systems, and customer relationship networks.
2. Day Care Provider
Until recently, many day care providers struggled with low wages, high stress, and poor job security. With the explosive demand for quality child care, however, many parents are now willing to pay higher premiums to facilities with excellent reputations and strong learning programs. A professional in this industry can command an even higher salary with an early childhood special education degree.
Though some parents lament the reduced emphasis on play activities in many modern day care settings, the consumer demand creates many lucrative opportunities for child development majors who want to follow their passion while earning significant rewards.
3. Elder Care Specialist
The parents of Baby Boomers relied on large families to share the burden of caring for elderly loved ones. With fewer children to care for them, the Baby Boomers are turning, in record numbers, to professionally operated assisted living facilities. A far cry from yesterday's nursing homes, today's senior communities often integrate luxury amenities like four-star dining, golf, and live entertainment.
Despite the luxury resort setting, each facility relies on teams of qualified healthcare specialists to look after the needs of residents. With government and consumer scrutiny of elder care facilities at an all-time high, employers demand job candidates with proven skills and positive attitudes. Consider a degree in health information technology for a fast-growing job with a minimal amount of clinical work.
4. Employment Specialist
Caught between the demands of child care and elder care, more Americans have turned to employment agencies to arrange short term or flexible employment relationships. Likewise, companies that need to scale up or scale down their operations to comply with seasonal customer demand have outsourced their staffing needs to a growing number of professional agencies.
The U.S. Department of Labor identifies "employment placement specialist" as one of the fastest-growing specialties of the coming decade. For people with strong interpersonal skills and a wide range of interests, this position offers the opportunity to connect eager employers with qualified workers. Not only does this career offer significant job satisfaction, it usually pays a commission on the income of placed workers. Therefore, a busy employment specialist can earn a significant income by using her natural matchmaking talents.
5. Environmental Engineer
With the rapid growth of previously small communities all across the country, many local governments and private developers must wrestle with the challenges of rising populations. At the same time, many of our country's more established cities and towns must cope with crumbling infrastructure, such as outdated water and sewer lines or failing electrical supplies.
Environmental engineers play an important role in every community. They oversee new construction and renovation, assuring the preservation of natural resources and the safety of residents. With new, more stringent regulations on the books, many environmental engineers now work for developers and corporations that want to take a proactive approach to their business. By acting in the public interest, these companies can build strong relationships with customers while avoiding damaging fines or even prosecution.
6. Home Health Aide
Many aging Baby Boomers intend to live in their own homes for as long as possible. Likewise, many people who suffer from injuries or illness can avoid the huge expenses of a long hospital stay by recuperating at home. Both of these populations rely heavily on the work of home health aides to maintain their well being.
In many cases, home health aides are nurses who prefer to work in patients' homes instead of in the stressful environment of a hospital or an assisted living facility. Frequently, home health aides benefit from flexible scheduling and short commutes, making this a solid career choice for parents of young children. Some aides can assist licensed professionals without holding a license themselves, offering excellent opportunities to earn income while still completing their degree program.
7. Management Consultant
A growing number of companies prefer to seek outside help with specialized problems or challenges, rather than attempt to keep experts on their own staffs. As a result, consultants who build reputations for solving client problems can earn significant income by dropping in on clients around the world.
Once dominated by road warriors, the consulting arena has opened up to a variety of professionals, thanks to new networking technology. With qualifications and insight earned from years of experience and study, a consultant might work from home while helping clients all over the world.
Many professionals who have grown bored with their companies or with their careers can shake things up by setting up shop as a consultant. In fact, many consultants launch their practices while still holding down a day job or completing an advanced degree program.
8. Networking Specialist
Unlike a traditional computer programmer, who focuses on solving problems with software, a networking specialist must figure out how to keep all of the various devices in an organization connected to each other. As networking grew from an offshoot of computer engineering into its own specialty, many professionals learned how to efficiently manage a company's information flow through hidden cables and routers.
Technology continues to advance, so new and different jobs are constantly emerging. Today's networking specialist, for example, must integrate wireless devices like phones, laptops, and pagers into their data structures. Whether working for a private employer, an Internet service provider, or a government agency, networking specialists must work on-site to install and maintain highly specialized equipment. With new generations of networking hardware emerging every few years, this is a professional role that can never be delegated to overseas workers.
9. Physician's Assistant
As more Americans seek medical treatment more frequently, many doctor's offices struggle to keep up with demand. High malpractice insurance rates and the pursuit of less stressful, more lucrative careers are diverting potential doctors into other fields of study. Therefore, many medical practices rely more frequently on physician's assistants to bridge an important gap in the health care process.
Students who enjoy medicine but do not wish to pursue a full medical degree can launch careers as physician's assistants after only a few years of training. They perform tests, file reports and handle other routine tasks, freeing up doctors to spend more time diagnosing illnesses and researching cures. In some states, physician's assistants can even prescribe medication. An online physician assistant master's program can qualify you for one of these upper-level roles.
10. Social Services Coordinator
With more senior citizens applying for government benefits and many families leaving large cities for smaller towns, many government agencies and non-profit organizations seek qualified social services coordinators. These specialists assure that residents of a community can take full advantage of assistance programs. They also monitor the safety and wellness of individuals, especially young children and older adults that could become the victims of abuse, crime, or fraud. An online social work degree can qualify you for this rewarding career.
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