The hottest fields of the next decade and beyond

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Wondering where the jobs will be in coming years? These industries will be the next big thing from 2018-2025.

By Terence Loose

If you're thinking of going back to school to help you find a new, more lucrative, and in-demand career when you graduate, it might be a good idea to know where market demand will be in the coming decade.

That was the idea behind the recent study "Where the Hot Jobs Will Be 2018-2025" by the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Their study, released in September 2013, highlighted about a dozen fields that will be heating up during those years. These are fields that any prospective college student should know about.

So we interviewed the company's CEO, John Challenger, matched some of his predictions with the authoritative U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and came up with valuable information on the most in-demand fields for the near future.

Field #1: Big Data

Big Data is the term used to describe the enormous amount of data that companies are accumulating thanks to advanced computer technology, says Challenger. They've been collecting information on customer and population habits, trends, preferences, and other key subjects for a decade or more, he says.

Now it's time to cash in, but that takes experts such as database administrators. These techies manage companies' databases, ensuring data is organized and ready to use, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They might do things like merge old databases into new ones, create custom databases to meet company needs, and test modifications, says the Department.

"The vast amount of big data has to be organized, sorted, and managed. That's where the skills of a database administrator come in, and they are and will be in high demand," says Challenger.

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

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 31 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $77,080. The top 10 percent of database administrators makes $118,720, while the lowest 10 percent makes $42,930.

Education Requirements: Most database administrators have a bachelor's degree in management information systems or a computer-related field, says the Department of Labor.

Field #2: Physical Therapy

With an aging population thanks to the baby boomer generation retiring and wanting to stay active well into their golden years, Challenger says the field of physical therapy will be in great demand. The baby boomers, along with people of all ages, will need these professionals to help them recover after everything from sports injuries to medical procedures, he says.

That's why one career he predicts as in-demand in the future is physical therapy assistant. Working under the guidance of a physical therapist, physical therapy assistants help patients recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries to regain movement and manage pain, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

The personal nature of the job is what will make it hot in the future, says Challenger, as it is least likely to be replaced by technology or moved offshore. "People need people to help them with their injuries, and they have to be hands-on," he adds.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistant Program.

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 46 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $52,160. The top 10 percent of physical therapy assistants makes $72,720, while the lowest 10 percent makes $32,420.

Education Requirements: Most states require physical therapy assistants to complete an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist program, says the Department of Labor.

Field #3: Medical Technicians

Medical technicians offer an answer to cutting down costs and freeing up doctors and nurses to spend more time with patients, says Challenger. These health care professionals often run sophisticated diagnostic machines to complete MRIs, ultrasounds, and echocardiograms instead of using more invasive equipment.

One growing medical technician career is diagnostic medical sonographer. These medical technicians use sensitive imaging equipment that directs sound waves into patients' bodies to assess and diagnose various medical conditions, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

"These are not simple, easy-to-use machines," says Challenger. "As technology grows more complex we need more people who are trained in using [them]." He adds that these machines will only be used more frequently as technology advances, which will drive demand for these technicians.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program.

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 44 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $65,860. The top 10 percent of diagnostic medical sonographers makes $91,070, while the lowest 10 percent makes $44,990.

Education Requirements: The U.S. Department of Labor says that diagnostic medical sonographers need either an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Many employers also require candidates to have professional certification.

Field #4: Teachers

Because the teaching workforce is one of the nation's oldest in terms of age, says Challenger, there will be many openings due to retirement over the next decade. This will add to the job growth in this area and put certain positions in education in demand.

One such career is elementary school teacher. We all know how important good elementary teachers are for the development of young minds. As the U.S. Department of Labor says, these educators prepare young students for their academic career by teaching them the basics, like math and reading. As professions go, that's pretty noble.

"We're always going to need elementary school teachers, so they will not only be in demand, but they will never be off-shored or replaced by machines," says Challenger. "It's local, and it's personal. That's why teachers will be in demand for a long time," he adds.

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

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 17 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $53,400. The top 10 percent of elementary school teachers makes $83,160, while the lowest 10 percent makes $35,630.

Education Requirements: Every state requires public elementary school teachers to have a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a license, says the Department of Labor. Private school teachers do not have the same requirements, but the Department says that most private schools seek teachers with a bachelor's in elementary education.

Field #5: Sales & Marketing

Here's a fact that every entrepreneur knows: You could have the greatest product since the iPhone, but if you don't have a team able to get it noticed by the right consumers, you may as well have invented a new buggy whip. Sales and marketing are crucial now and are only getting more important with the proliferation of social media, says Challenger.

So he says one career vital to businesses in the future will be market research analyst. These professionals study market data to inform companies about what products customers want and how much they'll pay for them, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Companies are collecting a lot of information on customer habits, and that's where these professionals step in, explains Challenger. "In addition to managing the data, analyzing it is vital to making better business decisions. That's why market research analysts will be in demand," he says.

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

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 41 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $60,300. The top 10 percent of market research analysts makes $113,500, while the lowest 10 percent makes $33,280.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor says that market research analysts usually need a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field. Many people in these positions have degrees in statistics, computer science, or math, while others have a background in business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences, notes the Department.

Field #6: Research and Development

In business, there's a saying: If you're not moving forward, you're dying. And the way you move forward, says Challenger, is through research and development. But because of advancing technology, he says product development will not only be more important than ever but is already moving faster than ever.

So, he says one among many in-demand R&D careers for the future is mechanical engineer. These are the pros who research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, such as tools, engines, and machines, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They develop and test prototypes and oversee manufacturing as well.

"With technology and development advancing so fast, bringing on scientists and engineers - like mechanical engineers - to design new products is crucial to long-term company survival. Companies invest in their future through their R&D people, and that will only be more important in the future," says Challenger.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Projected Growth 2010 to 2020:* 9 percent

Median Annual Salary:** $80,580. The top 10 percent of mechanical engineers makes $121,530, while the lowest 10 percent makes $52,030.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor says that nearly all mechanical engineering positions require a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

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

** All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.

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