Seven top careers in 2014

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These seven careers are really heating up in 2014 and beyond.

By Terence Loose

Is your career fizzling out rather than heating up? Has it got you looking for a career with a bright - and growing - future to replace it? Well, despite what you might think, finding the careers that will be hot next year, and beyond, isn't pure guesswork.

That's why we asked experts where the jobs would be in 2014 and beyond in a broad range of industries. Then we cross-referenced that information with the U.S. Department of Labor statistics on growth projections from 2010 to 2020.

So read on for seven exciting careers that have a bright future in 2014 and beyond.

Hot Career #1: Public Relations Specialist
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 23%*

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If Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter hasn't driven home the fact that marketing and public relations (PR) is going to be supremely important in the future, maybe you need a smarter smart phone. And one career that will be key for companies in the future is PR specialist.

"In the fast-paced, all-access world of social media, the difference between a record quarter and a bad one for a company can come down to good or bad public relations. So they will be in high demand," says Phil Dunn, president of Synapse Services Co, a web technologies and marketing company.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

That's because, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, PR specialists help their clients communicate effectively with the public (can you say Tweet?) and shape and maintain their clients' public images.

Education Options: Public relations specialists usually need a bachelor's degree, says the Department of Labor. They add that employers typically want applicants who have studied public relations, journalism, communications, English, or business.

Hot Career #2: Database Administrator
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 31%*

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Two words explain why this career will be hot in the future: Big Data. Big Data refers to the enormous amount of information that companies have been collecting from customers and the public regarding buying habits, demographics, product trends - you name it.

"Big Data will be the focus for the next decade," says Charley Polachi, a partner with Polachi Access Executive Search and someone who's been finding talent for top tech firms for 30 years. Businesses need skilled computer specialists such as database administrators to organize and secure the immense amount of data they've been collecting so they can analyze it and profit from it, he says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right IT and Information Systems Program.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, database administrators do everything from organize and store data to ensure its availability to authorized users, while keeping it secure from unauthorized ones.

Education Options: These professionals usually have a bachelor's degree in an information- or computer-related subject, says the Department of Labor.

Hot Career #3: Petroleum Engineer
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 17%*

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Someday we may figure out how to move away from oil and gas and move toward other, cleaner energy sources. But that's not going to be 2014, or anytime soon after that. So petroleum engineers will be in demand in the foreseeable future, says Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and writer of About.com's Guide to Human Resources.

"If you're a petroleum engineer, your starting salary says it all: often, it's around $90,000. This is one career that is hot now, and will be for a while," says Heathfield. She says that's because of simple market forces: The population is growing, more fuel is needed, and fossil fuel reserves are being depleted. That means these engineers will be needed to figure out ways to locate and extract a diminishing resource.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Just as Heathfield said, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, petroleum engineers develop ways to extract oil and gas from buried deposits, or find new ways to tap old wells.

Education Options: The Department of Labor says petroleum engineers are required to have a bachelor's degree in engineering, preferably in petroleum engineering.

Hot Career #4: Software Developer
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 30%*

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If you haven't noticed, it's a bold new world out there, one in which technology and computer software play an increasingly important role. And one in which software developers are more and more important. But don't take our word for it.

"Computer technology has changed every sector of society. Many people now carry in their cell phone a computational device that serves as a communications center, Internet access point, entertainment system, and more," says Hal Stern, dean of University of California, Irvine's Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. That's why, he says, tech experts such as software developers will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Software developers analyze users' needs and then design, test, and develop computer programs and applications to meet those needs, says the U.S. Department of Labor. To do this, they might collaborate with other software developers or programmers.

Education Options: The Department of Labor says software developers typically have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Math degrees are also acceptable.

Hot Career #5: Medical and Health Services Manager
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 22%*

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Despite the computer glitches and the partisan divide associated with the Affordable Care Act, one thing is for certain, says Heathfield: The health care industry is a job creator. And it's also one that has to be managed, she says.

"No matter what happens with Obamacare, most Americans agree that we have to reform health care, and that means management. So I think health care administration will be a very good field for growth and jobs," says Heathfield.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Health services managers, also called health care executives or administrators, strive to improve the efficiency and quality of medical services, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They add that these professionals might manage entire facilities, or specialize in certain areas of health care.

Education Options: The Department f Labor says health services managers usually need at least a bachelor's degree in health administration. Master's degrees are also common in fields such as health services, business administration, public health, public administration, or long-term care administration.

Hot Career #6: Elementary School Teacher
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 17%*

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Sure, we could have a vote tomorrow that repeals the mandate that all children need to get at least an elementary education. But, frankly, that's as likely as kids craving spinach. But that's just one reason the job of elementary school teacher is a good bet to be in demand.

"Other reasons are the fact that this happens to be one of the 'oldest' workforces, so a lot of retirements will open up many positions," says Heathfield. She adds that enrollment is predicted to increase, meaning more students, and consequently, more teachers will be needed.

Next step: Click to Find the Right K-12 Education Program.

Elementary school teachers prepare the next generation for their academic life by teaching them basic concepts such as math and reading, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They add that these teachers also mentor students in building social skills and developing study skills.

Education Options: Every state requires elementary school teachers to hold a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and certification, if they want to teach in the public school system, says the Department of Labor. And although the private school system does not require these, the Department says private schools usually seek candidates with a bachelor's degree in elementary education as well.

Hot Career #7: Personal Financial Advisor
Projected Growth 2010-2020: 32%*

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Let's face it: If you're like most people, a big part of your day, week, even life, is taken up by managing money. So it's no wonder that when it comes to the big financial decisions - retirement, kids' college education savings, insurance needs - people often turn to personal financial advisors.

"Like so many industries, the aging baby boomers will really drive the demand for people like financial personal advisors," says Heathfield. She says that because this large segment of our population is entering retirement or planning for their coming retirement, personal financial advisors will be very busy.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

The U.S. Department of Labor says personal financial advisors help people make important financial decisions regarding investments, taxes, insurance. They meet with and educate their clients on these financial instruments and help them plan for things such as retirement and other big life events, says the Department of Labor.

Education Options: The Department says that personal financial advisors usually need a bachelor's degree. And though employers usually don't specify a major, finance, economics, accounting, business, mathematics, or law are good preparation for this career, says the Department.

*Projected job growth rates from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition.

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