Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Jobs For Fast Growth in America

If you're stalled or burned out, these fast-growing fields (with relatively low barriers to entry) can help you earn more, get ahead and put life back into your career. 

1. Software Developer
Median pay: $82,400
Top pay: $118,000
10-year job growth: 32%
Total jobs: 380,000

The job: As technology evolves rapidly, companies continue to need developers to design, test, and debug software programs for mobile devices and apps. Since the landscape changes so often, even longtime developers frequently need to retrain and learn new programs, lowering the barriers to entry for job switchers.

How to switch: If you have a technical background, all you need are self-study courses for vendor-specific program certifications. Tech newbies should start with a programming course at a local college.

2. Physical Therapist
Median pay: $75,900
Top pay: $97,800
10-year job growth: 30%
Total jobs: 190,000

The job: Health care is a booming field, and the demand for physical therapists is increasing apace. You'll need to go back to school to learn the techniques for increasing patient mobility and decreasing pain, but the two- to three-year graduate program is still far shorter than the time it takes to become a doctor. You can do a nursing degree in that time, but pay and satisfaction are better for PTs.

3. Financial Adviser
Median pay: $93,900
Top pay: $234,000
10-year job growth: 30%
Total jobs: 70,000

The job: Boomers wrapping up their careers need guidance managing their retirement, creating demand for advisers. A financial background helps, but equally important are strong interpersonal skills.

How to switch: To become a certified financial planner, you'll probably need course work in financial topics like investing, retirement and taxes, and you must pass a 10-hour exam (go to for more information). To be fully credentialed, you'll also need three years of relevant work experience.

4. Civil Engineer
Median pay: $74,700
Top pay: $110,000
10-year job growth: 24%
Total jobs: 170,000

The job: The country's aging infrastructure won't be able to keep up with its growing population without the help of civil engineers. In this field you supervise and design bridges, highways, tunnels, and water and sewage systems. Though the industry has slowed along with the economy, the long-term growth potential is strong, says Kathy Caldwell, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

How to switch: This switch will be smoother if you've studied math or physical science. If not, coursework can take around 18 months. A two-year master's degree is recommended, but some jobs don't require it. For a license, you'll have to pass an exam and amass about four years of relevant work experience.

5. Marketing Specialist
Median pay: $52,200
Top pay: $79,400
10-year job growth: 28%
Total jobs: 90,000

The job: According to a recent survey, chief marketing officers expect marketing budgets to increase 6% from last year. That means more work for marketing specialists, a job where you can focus on areas as narrow as social media or search engine optimization, or be responsible for all aspects of promoting a product including pricing and advertising.

How to switch: Little formal training is required. You'll have an easier time getting your foot in the door if you have experience with audience engagement or creative thinking. Plus, better to stay in an industry you know. The Business Marketing Association also offers professional development courses.

6. Management Consultant
Median pay: $111,000
Top pay: $200,000
10-year job growth: 24%
Total jobs: 120,000

The job: What every business needs, particularly in the wake of the recession, is someone who can come up with ways to improve work flow and profits. That's where management consultants come in. But those interested in trying out this field need to be disciplined enough to work independently and under the pressure of strict deadlines. A willingness to travel is also important since many consultants work on site. Long hours and a little jet lag just go with the territory.

How to switch: It's strongly advised to get a few years of experience under your belt before giving management consulting a try, but there is no specific licensing required. Those with some experience in the field can get certified, which may give job seekers a competitive edge. The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers both professional development courses and a management consultant certification.

7. Information Technology Consultant
Median pay: $96,500
Top pay: $154,000
10-year job growth: 20%
Total jobs: 70,000

The job: After hoarding cash during the recession, many firms are beginning to invest in technology again, much of it focused on mobile devices and applications. To master these complex areas, many firms are enlisting the help of IT consultants, who can recommend and implement improvements to IT systems, resolve system problems and manage the installation of new software and system upgrades.

How to switch: Most IT consultants have bachelor's degrees in computer science, engineering or other related fields, but many consulting firms require an MBA.

8. Database Administrator
Median pay: $86,600
Top pay: $121,000
10-year job growth: 20%
Total jobs: 120,000

The job: Demand for database administrators has been fueled recently by the growth in cloud computing. Many businesses are storing their data and applications on networks via the Internet instead of investing in servers and other infrastructure, and they are turning to database administrators to help manage their assets and keep them secure. As a database administrator, you identify the most effective ways to store a company's data, keep it safe and troubleshoot when problems crop up.

How to switch: Most database administrators have a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. If you don't have extensive undergraduate training in technology and computers, a professional credential -- such as getting Microsoft certification or an MBA with a concentration in information systems -- is a good avenue into this career.

9. Financial Analyst
Median pay: $62,600
Top pay: $91,700
10-year job growth: 20%
Total jobs: 250,000

The job: As a financial analyst, you study financial information to produce forecasts of business, industry and economic conditions and recommend investments and investment timing to companies, investment firms, or the investing public. Given fast-changing economic conditions and the use of complex securities, such as derivatives, demand is high for talented financial analysts. Banks, mutual funds and hedge funds are major employers.

How to switch: Most financial analysts have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as finance, economics, statistics, accounting or business. A valued credential is the chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation. If you're entering the sector from another industry, an MBA or a master's degree in finance or economics can pave the way.

10. Environmental Engineer
Median pay: $81,200
Top pay: $113,000
10-year job growth: 31%
Total jobs: 50,000

The job: Want to save the earth and earn good money? As an environmental engineer, you get to apply your knowledge of biology, chemistry and other natural sciences to tackle problems such as pollution, waste management and recycling. These skills are quickly becoming sought after as businesses adjust to new water and air regulations, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Green initiatives are also beginning to catch on in several industries, including automotive (hybrid vehicles) and energy (like Shell Oil's move into wind energy).

How to switch: If you have experience in a related engineering field -- such as mechanical, civil or industrial -- a master's degree in a natural science like geology may be a good stepping stone. Almost all environmental engineers have bachelor's degrees in an engineering discipline.

11. IT Business Analyst
Median pay: $83,100
Top pay: $117,000
10-year job growth: 20%
Total jobs: 130,000

The job: An IT business analyst evaluates how a company can use its technology to improve production or workflow. That may mean coming up with alternative software applications or overhauling an entire system. Demand for these skills has skyrocketed, particularly now that every company is looking for ways to cut costs while still maintaining productivity.

How to switch: Those with a degree in computer science, a background in business and knowledge of IT infrastructure should be able to command generous pay packages, particularly at smaller companies that don't have the same draw as the top tech firms.

12. Business Systems Analyst
Median pay: $78,000
Top pay: $111,000
10-year job growth: 20%
Total jobs: 80,000

The job: Like a bridge between two worlds, a business systems analyst works with both the business and technology teams to handle day-to-day business applications. As companies strive to keep up with major advances in technology or less significant software upgrades, you're the go-between when it comes to communicating those changes between departments.

How to switch: Like the job itself, getting into this field requires some expertise in a lot of areas. Employers show a preference for those with a degree in computer science, with good communication skills and experience in business, marketing or accounting. Or better yet, all of the above.

13. Software Dev. Engineer, Test
Median pay: $83,400
Top pay: $114,000
10-year job growth: 13%
Total jobs: 90,000

The job: As companies upgrade their technologies to stay competitive, there are more IT jobs available than almost any other area. Software engineers design, develop and debug many types of software from games and iPhone apps to entire operating systems, and that makes you a valuable commodity in this job market.

How to switch: It's not the easiest field to break into since most job applicants should have a degree in computer science, software engineering or mathematics as well as strong programming and coding skills. But those who fit the bill are highly sought after.

14. Systems Administrator
Median pay: $63,600
Top pay: $88,800
10-year job growth: 23%
Total jobs: 70,000

The job: It may not be the sexiest job, but companies rely heavily on systems administrators to oversee their computer networks and make sure that every component – from the computers to the network itself – is humming along. Given the corporate world's reliance on such systems, demand is high for systems administrators. With the responsibility, often comes long hours and being on call virtually all the time.

How to switch: Even though a strong understanding of IT is required, there is no set path to this position. Job applicants with a relevant degree in computer science or information systems or those certified as a project management professional or Microsoft's certified systems engineer typically have an edge.

15. Employment Recruiter
Median pay: $55,400
Top pay: $88,500
10-year job growth: 28%
Total jobs: 120,000

The job: Considered the matchmakers of the employment world, recruiters work with businesses to find the best employees to hire. During the recession, hiring came to a standstill and HR departments were particularly hard hit. But as businesses begin to rebuild, these staffing departments are left short-handed, spelling opportunity for those looking to get a foot in the door.

How to switch: This is a relatively easy field to get into, but it does require a fair amount of interpersonal skills. Along with a good attitude, prospects should also be well versed in employment law, as well as federal and state regulations. A background in sales – or online dating - could give you an even bigger leg up.

16. Certified Public Accountant
Median pay: $73,800
Top pay: $124,000
10-year job growth: 22%
Total jobs: 200,000

The job: While CPAs may not command the hefty paychecks of those in other areas of finance, there's also much less volatility in this field, which means job security – and to some, that's worth more than gold in today's economy. You will need to be able to interpret financial data and ensure compliance with state and federal regulators, which means training and passing some exams.

How to switch: CPAs are licensed by their State Board of Accountancy -- no small feat. First, number crunchers must pass a four-part exam, which can take over a year to complete -- and less than half of those who sit for the exam pass every part on the first try. Before you take a stab at it, check your state's prerequisites at

17. Structural Engineer
Median pay: $78,500
Top pay: $113,000
10-year job growth: 24%
Total jobs: 70,000

The job: As a structural engineer, you'll spend the bulk of your time poring over blueprints of buildings, bridges, tunnels or other sites. But you'll also get to enjoy the great outdoors, overseeing the construction and maintenance of projects. There may not be a slew of new projects at the moment, but there is growing opportunity for engineers in the maintenance of existing buildings and infrastructure.

How to switch: Would-be engineers should have a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty, if not a master's. A solid background in math is also a must. Many engineers must also be licensed through the states where they practice and take continuing education classes to stay up to speed on the changing technologies in their field.

18. Web Developer
Median pay: $60,900
Top pay: $91,600
10-year job growth: 13%
Total jobs: 110,000

The job: Web developers design, write and organize information for websites. There's plenty of coding involved, but also a hefty amount of creativity that goes into developing a site -- and you get to do it all. Plus, with a wide range of jobs available at large and small organizations in the public and private sector, there is the opportunity to work full-time or as a consultant with a more flexible schedule.

How to switch: There's no formal academic path or licensing for web developers, although job applicants must be well versed in HTML, JavaScript and CSS to even be considered.

19. Market Research Analyst
Median pay: $64,500
Top pay: $97,400
10-year job growth: 28%
Total jobs: 60,000

The job: Competition among tech companies is heating up as firms race to discover, build and release the next big thing. As a market research analyst you'll analyze a variety of consumer data to help your company determine the potential demand and appropriate price for a product during the research and development phase. Market research analysts have helped companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google come up with their most innovative products.

How to switch: Market research analysts need a varied skill set, including strong quantitative capabilities, as well as insight into consumer behavior. If you have a strong analytical background, consider a master's degree in integrated marketing. If you need to build your quantitative chops, an advanced degree in statistics should help.

20. Staff Accountant
Median pay: $46,500
Top pay: $63,200
10-year job growth: 22%
Total jobs: 340,000

The job: As companies face increasing scrutiny over their finances and must adhere to ever-changing financial laws, demand is growing for accountants who can prepare federal, state and local tax returns and/or financial reports. While it may not be glamorous, the gig is also a stepping stone to more lucrative jobs within the accounting world.

How to switch: While some top employers prefer applicants with a master's degree in accounting, most jobs require just a bachelor's degree in the field. Many staff accountants are hired fresh out of school.

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