It’s good to be smart when selecting your job, particularly now that the task market is (slowly) improving. With the recession officially over, anyone who’s unemployed or wanting to change jobs is on the lookout for opportunities. But where, exactly, would be the jobs? Which occupations offer decent salaries, quality of life–and are likely tostick aroundfor the following decade?
Our list of 50 Best Careers answers those questions. We’ve highlighted a large number of high-opportunity professions–careers you might want to consider as you decide where you canlook foryour next paycheck. Based on job-growth projections, salary data, along with otherfactors such as job satisfaction, these occupations span a variety of industries, so you canfind the correct position for you personallyno matter what your interests.
What’s new on the listthis season? Several of our picks reflect the recent uptick in the economy, while some are long-time contenders that finally muscled their way onto the roster. With an aging baby boomer generation, healthcare continues tocreate a strong showing. All of the healthcare jobs on last year’s list have made the cut again this season, plus two new positions: massage therapist and athletic trainer. As the field of athletic training doesn’t provide theamount of positions as nursing or dental hygiene, it outranks almost all other healthcare occupations for expected job growth.
Technology positions also account fora great chunk in our top-choice careers. Computer support specialist joins the ranks this year with upward trending employment numbers. Education administrator, which ranked particularly high for job satisfaction, made it onto our lineup of social service jobs. In the business category, we added sales manager, an occupation that’s creating a comeback combined with the economy.
On our creative and service jobs list, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technician is newthis season, mainly due to its high expected job growth. Interpreter/translator, an occupation that’s increasingly in demandas a result of globalization, also made the cut.
To generate this year’s list, U.S. News considered job-growth projections in the Labor Department, estimates for 2008 to 2018, the most recent data available. We narrowed it right down to occupations which arelikely to add jobs at an above-average rate over the next decade, in addition tothose thatoffer an above-average median income. Sales manager helps make the highest median annual salary on our list, nearly $97,000. Computer software engineer, physician assistant, meteorologist and education administrator all bring in median average salaries within the mid-$80,000 range.
We also considered, where possible, data on job satisfaction, turnover, and impending retirements, which fire up openings in jobs that couldhave only slightly above-average employment growth. We talked with labor and skillfully developedas well, gathering anecdotal evidence about employment prospects and job satisfaction. We excluded careers that lack a statistically significant quantity of positions and therefore provide opportunity foronly asmall number of workers. At the appropriate interval, we favored jobs that could help diversify our list in terms of category and educational requirements, since not everyonereally wants toare employed in healthcare or go to school for six years.
Most of the jobs that were cut from the list this year showed a higher-than-average unemployment rate or shrinking employment numbers over the last few quarters. In the creative and service jobs category, funeral director, plumber, security system installer, and landscape architect got the boot. In business, we cut researching the market analyst, loan officer, and cost estimator.
Of course, nobody job is best for everyone, and all of us havetheir own ideas by whatmakes a job great. “You have to like what you’re doing or you aren’tlikely to be successful at it,” says Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365. At the same time, “if you aren’tgetting paidto do it, you aren’tgoing tolike itfor too long.”
Qualities that makea job desirable also change with the times and circumstances. Tom Smith, director from the General Social Survey, conducted through the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, expects his next set of job-satisfaction data to show that workers value stability a lot more than they did prior to the recession. “Occupations that have greater job stability perhaps have improved in the public’s evaluation,” he says.
Even while hiring accumulates, the oddscan seem daunting to job seekers. Inside a struggling economy having a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, levels of competition are stiff even for many jobs that made our list. For every job opening in September, there were about five unemployed people, according to the Labor Department. While that’s an improvement from 6.2 people for each job opening in November 2009, the most recent peak, “it’s still an extremely tough job market,” says Steve Hipple, an economist at the Labor Department. Throughout thethree yearsprior to the recession, the rate averaged 1.7 unemployed people for each job opening.
Others like John Challenger, CEO of outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, tend to be more optimistic. “The whole environment has changed,” says Challenger, who talks daily with companies which are hiring, as well asjob seekers. “(It’s) certainly not gang-busters by any means … but itfeels like springtime when compared with last year’s winter within theemployment market.”
Whether you’re out of work or your job has simply fallen out of favor, you’ll likely find an occupation on our list that best suits you. For every profession, we’ve offered a summary ofwhat you can expectat work, in addition to advice from hiring managers the ones who work in that industry about how to land one.
Here’s our listing of the 50 Best Careers of 2011–click each job for more information:
–Public relations specialist
Creative and Service Jobs:
–Film and video editor
–Heating, ac and refrigeration technician
–Physical therapist assistant
Social Service Jobs:
–Emergency management specialist
–Marriage and family therapist
–Medical and public health social worker
–Computer software engineer
–Computer support specialist
–Computer systems analyst
–Environmental engineering technician
–Environmental science technician