Best Jobs

As two tough years of downsizing and disastrous economic collapse begin to fade in the rearview mirror, jobseekers can look forward to an economy on the rise, and a lagging but slowly improving job market. Here’s a look at the occupations and career paths most likely to offer abundant opportunities for growth, good pay, and stability in the years ahead.

The movement to rebuild and modernize America is gaining momentum, creating a wealth of solid job opportunities in a variety of fields and industries.

“In order to succeed in the 21st century, we’re working to improve education, expand health care, fix the infrastructure, overhaul our manufacturing industries, adopt green technologies, and continue our leadership in high-tech innovation,” says Laurence Shatkin, PhD, one of the nation’s leading occupational experts and author of 200 Best Jobs for Renewing America.

In his book, Shatkin explores six industries that are at the center of America’s shift toward a forward-looking economy: Education, Healthcare, Green Technologies, Information and Telecommunication Technologies, Infrastructure, and Advanced Manufacturing.
Green Fields

Green technologies, in particular, have generated a great deal of interest among individuals hoping to secure a solid job as the economy and American society evolves toward a promising future: An energy-independent nation relying on renewable resources and a more sustainable approach to how we build our communities and interact with planet Earth. Over the past decade, green jobs have become more than a feel-good slogan as good intentions have been replaced with legislation, training programs, government funding, business incentives, and a recognition by corporate America that there’s green in going green.
Information Technology

IT is the one field that intersects with all other industries, and the microchip and nanotechnology have been critical in enabling major advances in healthcare and environmental science, two areas with a high percentage of the hottest jobs. In fields on the cutting edge, entirely new careers sometimes spring from the latest advances. Biomedical engineering, for example, is expected to see a phenomenal 72-percent growth rate, in part because so few professionals are working in the field today.

As consumers embrace the newest technological conveniences that they suddenly can’t live without, there seems to be an ‘app’ for everything. And the public’s appetite for the latest electronic gadgets means plenty of work for the software engineers, computer technicians, and systems specialists who make such high-tech wonders a reality.
Healthcare and Medical Science

Job growth in the healthcare industry has been one of the few bright spots in the labor market over the past two years, as the sector consistently added positions when nearly every other industry was being decimated by the Great Recession. The forces behind its durability and sustained growth will become even more pronounced over the next decade, with the aging of America’s baby boomers and the high turnover of senior medical professionals approaching retirement. Passage of a national healthcare bill will also drive up demand as medical coverage becomes available to the previously uninsured.
Education and Public Service

For those interested in serving the greater good, social services workers will be in high demand, particularly in medical and public health roles. In our nation’s schools, those with training in the special-education needs of K-12 students will be in short supply. Government job openings will become plentiful over the next decade as a massive wave of retirements creates staffing shortages across the board.
No Bachelor’s Degree Needed

Many of the nation’s most in-demand jobs will be filled by people without a four-year degree, says Shatkin. “Many construction jobs that will open during the economic recovery period and beyond will be filled by people who learn through apprenticeships.

“A two-year degree, certification, or on-the-job training will be good preparation for most of the technology and healthcare jobs that our economy will create in abundance.” Among the hottest jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree are veterinary techs; medical and physical therapy assistants; social and human services assistants; environmental science, protection, and engineering technicians; preschool and CTE teachers; court reporters; and bill collectors.

Another option for those looking to enter a high-demand career without a college degree is an apprenticeship. “You don’t have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in tuition or endure basic training in a distant boot camp,” advises Shatkin. “An apprenticeship provides job training in which you can become a highly skilled worker through a combination of worksite learning and minimal classroom learning.

“An apprenticeship is sometimes called the other four-year degree,” he adds, “because it often takes four years and results in a nationally recognized credential that can open the door to income and job security as good as or better than what college graduates enjoy.” Some of the hottest apprenticeable jobs are paralegals and legal assistants, computer support specialists, construction and building inspectors, radiologic techs, police and correctional officers, nurses (LPNs and LVNs), pipe and steamfitters, plumbers, and surgical techs.

Thanks to Selena Dehne at JIST Publishing for her contributions to this article.

Dr. Laurence Shatkin’s books including, 200 Best Jobs for Renewing America, 300 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree, and 200 Best Jobs Through Apprenticeships, are available at Amazon.com, all major bookstores and from the publisher (jist.com or 800-648-JIST).


Occupation Annual Earnings Growth Rate
Accountant and Auditor $65,840 21.65%
Actuary $95,980 21.37%
Billing and Account Collector $32,180 19.34%
Biomedical Engineer $81,120 72.02%
Civil Engineer $78,560 24.27%
Commercial Pilot $75,500 18.54%
Computer Software Engr., Apps $87,900 34.01%
Computer Systems Analyst $78,830 20.31%
Cost Estimator $60,320 25.34%
Curator $51,540 22.98%
Dental Hygienist $66,950 36.14%
Environmental Engineering Tech. $44,440 30.10%
Environmental Engineer $77,970 30.62%
Environmental Protection Technician $43,180 28.91%
Environmental Scientist and Specialist $65,280 27.86%
Financial Examiner $78,180 41.16%
Firefighter $45,700 18.53%
Geoscientist $89,300 21.90%
Landscape Architect $64,000 19.68%
Licensed Practical & Vocational Nurse $40,110 20.65%
Logistician $68,600 19.55%
Medical & Public Health Social Worker $47,560 22.39%
Medical Assistant $29,060 33.90%
Meeting Planner $47,500 21.40%
Occupational Therapist $67,920 25.60%
Optometrist $105,200 24.41%
Paralegal and Legal Assistant $48,790 28.08%
Personal Financial Advisor $92,970 30.13%
Physical Therapist $74,410 30.27%
Physical Therapist Assistant $46,300 33.28%
Physician Assistant $81,610 38.99%
Preschool Teacher, except Special Ed $26,610 18.95%
Registered Nurse $65,130 22.20%
Security System Installer $38,630 24.83%
Social and Human Service Assistant $29,170 33.60%
Surgical Technologist $37,540 25.32%
Urban Planner $62,400 19.02%
Veterinarian $89,450 32.95%
Veterinary Technologist and Technician $29,850 35.77%
Vocational Ed Teacher, Postsecondary $50,870 22.90%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational data for 2008 and projected employment growth from 2008 to 2018.

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