March 09, 2010

AT amongst "Tomorrow's New Hottest Jobs"

by Carol Tice,

Wouldn't it be great to know which jobs will see growing demand in the future? It sure would help with planning a career change, or even with picking a college major.

Turns out, you don't need a crystal ball to find out. Every two years, researchers at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics create a new 10-year forecast detailing the specific occupations the government expects will grow and shrink over the coming decade. The 2008-2018 projections came out in December.

The new data is especially valuable because it includes the first year of the current economic downturn (2008). The new Occupational Outlook Handbook, which went up on the BLS Web site in mid-December, provides a first look at how specific jobs may recover -- or not -- over the next eight years.

Job-seekers may find the new report comforting, as BLS economists generally do expect us to pull out of our current job slump. Some broad job categories see big job growth over the next decade because they're projected from the recession-era low in 2008. An example is construction laborers, projected to add 256,000 new jobs by 2018 as the sector recovers from its current slowdown, says Dixie Sommers, assistant commissioner of occupational statistics and employment projections.

One particularly heartening piece of news involves wages: the previous fastest-growing jobs forecast showed just four of the 10 jobs had high wages. The 2018 forecast, by contrast, lists six jobs that pay more than $70,000 per year. If you're interested in health care, there's lots of opportunity for you ahead -- eight of the top 10 occupy some niche in the field.

Only three occupations appear on both the '06 and '08 top-10 fastest-growing lists -- networks systems and data communications analysts, home health aides, and personal-care aides. The other seven of the top 10 are new for '08. See these jobs listed below. Some are fairly small employment niches, but all are seeing exploding growth:

Biomedical engineer
This field's expected growth through '18 -- a whopping 72 percent -- far outstrips any other occupation. As health-care technology becomes ever more complex, demand will explode for more engineers who can combine medical knowledge with engineering principles to develop needed new medical devices and equipment. The BLS reports most have a background in another engineering specialty and additional medical training.

Financial examiner
Part of a broader trend of growth in supervisory positions, BLS foresees a 41 percent increase in demand for financial professionals who can analyze and enforce laws governing the financial and securities industries. The field is expected to add 38,000 jobs in the next decade. Most have a bachelor's degree.

Medical scientist (excluding epidemiologists)
As technology makes it possible to delve deeply into the causes of diseases, demand for medical scientists is expected to rise 40 percent. Most have a Ph.D. in a biological science.

Physician assistant
Physician assistants work under a doctor's supervision in big cities, or may be primary care providers in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Apparently, more shortages are forecast as demand is set to increase 39 percent by 2018. Most physician assistants have a two-year degree on top of a bachelor's degree.

Biochemists study living things and their chemical composition, while biophysicists study how electrical and mechanical energy impact living things. Growth is expected to exceed 37 percent. Some in this field start with a bachelor's degree, while a Ph.D. may be needed for independent research work.

Skin-care specialist
Also known as aestheticians, skin-care specialists were No. 11 last year and made it to the top 10 at No. 8 in the 2018 projections. With expected 38 percent growth, this field is one of the quickest to get into in the top 10 -- a high-school diploma or G.E.D. and a cosmetology-school certificate are all that's required.

Athletic trainer
America's love affair with sports is forecast to grow in the future, spurring a projected 37 percent increase in the need for athletic trainers to keep our athletes fit and help them recover from injuries. Trainers usually work under a doctor's supervision or in cooperation with other healthcare providers. Most have a bachelor's degree, and more than half have an advanced degree, the National Athletic Trainers Association reports.

Business writer Carol Tice is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times and other major publications. She can be reached at

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