Top 10 In-Demand Careers

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Want to pursue an in-demand career with high-pay potential? Check out these 10 great options.

By Terence Loose

Are you thinking of going back to school to prepare for a hot career, but aren't sure what to study?

Fortunately for you, we did a little homework and looked to the U.S. Department of Labor's statistics to find 10 in-demand careers that yield high average earnings.

To get started, we used the Department of Labor's median annual wage for all occupations ($45,230) and the average job growth rate from 2010 to 2020 (14.3 percent) as our measuring standards. Any career that didn't meet at least these standards didn't make our list.

Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about 10 careers that rank above average in terms of job growth and the potential to pay.

Career #1 - Medical and Health Services Manager

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 22 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $86,400*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $147,890*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $52,730*

Are you interested in pursuing a managerial position and have a hankering for helping people get or stay healthy? A career as a medical and health services manager could be the perfect prescription.

In this type of role, you could find yourself in a hospital or a smaller health care facility like a doctor's office, managing finances, staying up-to-date on health care laws, and helping develop the quality and effectiveness of delivering health care services, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's in demand: As the baby boomer generation ages and stays active later in life, there will be an increased demand for health services, according to the Department of Labor. This, they note, will result in more physicians, patients, and procedures - and a need for more people, like medical and health services managers, to supervise them.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Education options: Although requirements vary by facility, "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration," says the Department. Other common credentials include a master's degree in health services, public health, or business administration - to name a few.


Career # 2 - Human Resources Specialist

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 21 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $54,310*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $94,700*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $29,850*

What's the most important resource any business has? That's right, its workers. And as a human resources (HR) specialist, you could help ensure these vital resources are managed correctly. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, common duties could include recognizing employment needs and favored qualifications, hiring or referring eligible applicants, and interviewing applicants.

Why it's in demand: The employment services industry - which includes employment placement agencies, temporary help services, and professional employer organizations - is projected to grow an astounding 55 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Department of Labor. About 17 percent of HR specialists work in this industry, and their demand will also be on the rise.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education options: If you want to prepare to pursue a career as a human resources specialist, keep in mind that most positions require a bachelor's degree.  "When hiring a human resources generalist, for example, most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree in human resources, business, or a related field," notes the Department.


Career # 3 - Paralegal

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 18 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $46,730*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $75,400*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $29,390*

Want to perform a lot of the same duties as a lawyer - without having to worry about several years of law school and passing the bar? If so, preparing to pursue a career as a paralegal is something to consider.

The U.S. Department of Labor says paralegals generally assist attorneys by examining the facts of a case, researching relevant laws and regulations, drafting legal documents, and helping lawyers during trials.

Why it's in demand: According to the Department of Labor, employers will try to reduce costs and enhance the effectiveness and accessibility of legal services by hiring more paralegals. Another plus?  Paralegal positions are less likely to be offshored than other legal jobs.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program.

Education options: To prepare to pursue a career as a paralegal, there are a few educational routes, including earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies, says the Department. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another area, you could choose to earn a certificate in paralegal studies.


Career # 4 - Accountant

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 16 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $62,850*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $109,870*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $39,640*

If you're a numbers person, the U.S. Department of Labor's stats on accountants will probably look pretty good to you. And so will the job description.

Accountants could do everything from helping businesses reduce costs to preparing tax returns, examining financial statements, and communicating with management about a company's finances, says the Department of Labor. As you can see, it's more than just punching a 10-key calculator.

Why it's in demand: According to the Department, an increased focus on accounting - thanks to the recent corporate scandals and financial crises - means more accountants will be needed. Stricter laws and regulations in the financial sector will also add to the demand.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Education options: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is the minimum requirement for most accountant positions, says the Department. And some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting.


Career # 5 - Kindergarten Teacher

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 18 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $49,520*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $76,900*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $32,100*

Does your perfect day include finger-painting, storytelling, and recess? Sounds like the makings of a kindergarten teacher.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, kindergarten teachers "use hands-on approaches, including props, to help students understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thinking skills."

Why it's in demand: There are a few reasons for growth in kindergarten teaching positions that the Department of Labor mentions. One is an expected decrease in the student-teacher ratio. With the number of students increasing in the coming decades, more teachers will be needed. On top of that, teaching positions will also be created as teachers retire between 2010 and 2020.

Click to Find the Right Education Program.

Education options: Every state requires all public kindergarten teachers to have a bachelor's degree in elementary education and to be licensed, says the Department. Some states also require candidates to major in a specific content area, such as math or science.


Career #6 - Registered Nurse

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 26 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $65,950*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $96,630*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $44,970*

If you're a people person - and you don't get squeamish at the sight of blood - a career as a registered nurse might be for you.

As a nurse, the U.S. Department of Labor says you might help perform diagnostic tests, analyze test results, give patients medications and treatments, and educate patients on how to manage their health.

Why it's in demand: According to the Department of Labor, nurses will be in demand for many reasons. This includes technological advances that will result in more health treatments, an increased importance on preventative health care, and the aging baby boomer generation requiring more health care services.

Click to Find the Right Registered Nursing Program.

Education options: There are a few paths to preparing to pursue a career as a registered nurse. Two of these options include earning an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program, according to the Department. You'll also need to pass the national nursing exam (NCLEX-RN) to get your license.


Career # 7 - Public Relations Specialist

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 23 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $53,190*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $96,880*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $30,860*

Do you like to tweet about your Facebook page while posting blogs on your website and texting friends on your cell? You may be a born public relations specialist.

After all, it's a brave new world of social media, where the U.S. Department of Labor says public relations specialists could help clients communicate effectively with the public by writing press releases and web content, designing and evaluating promotion campaigns, and working with the media. 

Why it's in demand: One factor is the increased use of social media, says the Department. More public relations specialists will be needed to manage this media outlet, which is becoming a vital communication tool between businesses and the public.

Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

Education options: The Department says that public relations specialists usually need a bachelor's degree, with employers generally wanting candidates who have studied public relations, communications, business, English, or journalism.


Career #8 - Financial Analyst

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 23 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $75,650*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $145,580*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $46,300*

Are you a Wall Street junkie? Do you love the world of finance and the energy of the stock market? You may fit nicely into the role of financial analyst.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, financial analysts generally provide vital financial functions such as determining a company's value by projecting future earnings, recommending individual investments, and reviewing economic and business trends.

Why it's in Demand: With investment portfolios becoming more multifaceted and more financial products accessible for trade, the demand will grow for financial analysts, says the Department of Labor. It also helps that up-and-coming markets around the world are providing new investment possibilities.

Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Education options: Financial analysts typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field such as finance, accounting, business administration, economics, or statistics, says the Department. Keep in mind that employers often require a master's degree in finance or business administration, too.


Career #9 - Database Administrator

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 31 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $75,190*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $116,870*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $42,360*

We live in the information age. And if there's one thing the information age has, it's data. So it's no wonder that the people who manage the data are expected to be in high demand.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, these workers could do everything from combining old databases into new ones, providing security for business's databases, and making and testing modifications to databases.

Why it's in demand: According to the Department, since future businesses will collect more and more data, they will need database administrators to organize and present data to analysts and stakeholders in an understandable method.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Education options: Database administrators generally earn a bachelor's degree in an information- or computer-related subject, says the Department. A master's in business administration - with an information systems concentration - may be preferred by firms with large databases.


Career # 10 - Dental Hygienist

2010- 2020 Job Growth: 38 percent*
Median Annual Wage: $69,280*
Average for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $94,850*
Average for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $46,020*

Do you enjoy terrorizing people with small pointy instruments? Kidding!

But if you like flossing and can work with your hands in tight spaces - like mouths - life as a dental hygienist might make you smile.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a dental hygienist might clean and take X-rays of teeth, as well as teach patients how to brush and floss properly. Basically, they help people smile brighter.

Why it's in demand: According to the Department of Labor, continued research connecting oral health to general health will increase the demand for preventive dental services and dental hygienists. Additionally, members of the large baby-boom generation will need more dental care and maintenance, since they have kept more of their original teeth than previous generations, adds the Department.

Click to Find the Right Dental Hygienist Program.

Education options: Dental hygienists generally need an associate's degree in dental hygiene, says the Department, which adds that "certificates, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees in dental hygiene are also available" but not as common. Note: specific requirements vary by state, but every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed.


*Potential job growth information is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm (visited June 12, 2012). And all average annual pay statistics are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011 (visited June 12, 2012).


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