Six Careers Undergoing Rapid Growth

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If you want to transition into a hot career field, check out these fast-growing jobs.

By Andrea Duchon

Getting ready to switch careers? It's probably a good idea to look before you leap. By that we mean you might want to check out whether your desired field is booming or shrinking before you decide to invest any time or money preparing for it.

A quick glance at the U.S. Department of Labor job projections from 2010 to 2020 will tell you just which careers are experiencing a growth spurt and why. But to make your life easier, we've pulled together a list of six top careers that are projected to expand by at least 30 percent and add at least 65,000 jobs by 2020.

So keep reading to learn about six fast-growing careers that will be in demand tomorrow and beyond.

Career #1: Medical Assistant

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 31 percent, or 162,900 new jobs*

If you think you might enjoy helping other people directly and you want a field that's growing quickly from 2010 through 2020, a career as a medical assistant could fit the bill.

Medical assistants record patient history, measure vital signs, give injections, and schedule patient appointments, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Along with the clinical aspect of the job, medical assistants will sometimes complete administrative tasks around the office.

Why It's Hot: There is increasing focus on preventative care and doctors are under pressure to see more patients, says Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing at Beyond.com, a career network focused on helping people grow and succeed professionally. "As a result, doctors are hiring more medical assistants so they can continue to provide good service with an increased workload."

And why is there such demand from patients?

"Many people - especially of the baby boomer age - are heading to the doctor more and more due to declining health," explains Weinlick. "Younger patients are better educated about their health and recognize the need for preventative care more than ever before, so they're also scheduling more appointments with physicians."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Education Requirements: In most states there are no formal education requirements for pursuing a career as a medical assistant, and many assistants learn through on-the-job training, says the Department of Labor. However, some medical assistants may pursue a formal education program and employers may prefer these candidates. Such programs could take about one year and lead to a certificate or diploma. Community colleges might offer two-year programs that result in an associate's degree.

Career #2: Market Research Analyst

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 41 percent, or 116,600 new jobs

Have you always had a knack for predicting trends and understanding what people want? You may want to take a look at the in-demand field of market research analysis.

As a market research analyst, you could help companies monitor and forecast marketing sales and trends, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. You might work in local, regional, or national areas to examine potential sales, measure the effectiveness of marketing programs, or present reports to clients and management.

Why It's Hot: "Companies have more information than they've ever had, and people who are able to understand and interpret data are in short supply," notes Weinlick. "Market research analysts can help transform an abundance of data into competitive advantage."

He adds that the ability to unearth simple insights from complex data sources is also in high demand, which is why we're seeing this industry skyrocket.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education Requirements: In order to pursue this career, the Department of Labor says you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field. However, many have a degree in computer science, math, or statistics. "Others have a background in business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences," says the Department, while top research analyst positions often require a master's degree.

Career #3: Cost Estimator

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 36 percent, or 67,500 new jobs*

Maybe you've always been good at figuring out budgets and unraveling problems. The in-demand field of cost estimation could be the perfect fit for your analytical mind.

Cost estimators often work in offices and visit construction sites or factory floors and estimate how much money, resources, and labor are required to complete a project or manufacture a product, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. More specifically, cost estimators may be tasked with consulting with industry experts, traveling to job sites to gather information, and reading blueprints and technical documents.

Why It's Hot: "Doing more with less is the new normal," says Weinlick. "While the economy is recovering, there is scrutiny across all sectors on cost, creating demand for estimators who can help understand and reduce expenses."

But it's not just that employers are trying to cut back on costs, says Weinlick, building in general is back on the rise, creating an increased demand for talented cost estimators. "We are entering a rebuilding era, with a need for new commercial building construction as well as continued investment in infrastructure."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Cost Estimator Program.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor says that generally a bachelor's degree in a field like construction management or building science is required to pursue a career as a construction cost estimator. For those who prefer estimating manufacturing cost, a bachelor's degree in engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, or statistics is typically needed.

The Department also says that some employers prefer candidates with backgrounds in business-related disciplines, such as accounting, finance, business, or economics. And finally, "Some highly experienced construction workers with analytical abilities may also qualify without a bachelor's degree," notes the Department.

Career #4: Dental Hygienist

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 38 percent, or 68,500 new jobs*

The medical field is growing at a red-hot pace, so it makes sense that a career as a dental hygienist is one of the top in-demand careers.

As a dental hygienist you might work directly with patients in a dentist's office by cleaning their teeth, examining for disease, or educating them on improving their oral health, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why It's Hot: "Twenty years ago, people avoided going to the doctor or dentist," says Weinlick. But times have changed. "Because we know more about maintaining our health, we're also becoming obsessed with staying healthy, and that includes our oral health. More people are going to the dentist more often, and that's spurring demand for dental hygienists."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Dental Hygiene Program.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor reports that in addition to being required to have a license, you typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene to pursue a career as a dental hygienist.

Career #5: Software Developer

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 30 percent, or 270,900 new jobs*

Do you enjoy working with computers and dreaming up interesting programs? The absolutely booming field of software development could be calling your name.

The U.S. Department of Labor says "software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs." Based on users' needs, they design, test, and develop software, then ensure everything works together to function normally. The Department of Labor also notes that software developers are in charge of the entire creation process for a program.

Why It's Hot: "Employers need software developers because there is a large increase in the demand for computer software and new applications for mobile technology as people are shifting to handheld devices and smartphones," notes Weinlick. "The demand for software developers stayed strong throughout the recent downturn, and continues to grow as we shift to a technology driven society."

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

Education Requirements: According to the Department, "software developers usually have a bachelor's degree, typically in computer science, software engineering, or a related field." And while math degrees are also acceptable, computer science degrees are the most common.

Career #6: Personal Financial Advisor

Projected Growth 2010-2020: 32 percent, or 66,400 new jobs*

If managing money is one of your strong suits, you may want to consider getting into the growing field of financial advising.

Personal financial advisors help people with taxes, investments, and insurance decisions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They may typically meet with and educate their clients on investment options and risks, and monitor their client's accounts to determine if changes need to be made. The Department of Labor says they may also research investment opportunities.

Why It's Hot: "With the unpredictability of the economy over the past few years, demand for financial advisors will grow as more people turn to them for guidance," notes Weinlick. "This is especially true of baby boomers, who are nearing retirement age and may be uncertain about what they need to do financially as they transition to a new phase in their lives."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Education Requirements: The Department reports that "personal financial advisors typically need a bachelor's degree." They also note that while a specific field of study isn't required, getting a degree in finance, economics, accounting, business, mathematics, or law is a good way to prepare for this career.

* Projected 2010-2020 job growth and openings from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition.

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