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8 Hot Jobs to Land in 2013 and Beyond

Unemployment figures in the U.S. continue to dip. As of February, 7.7 percent, or 12 million people, were out of work. Those are still a lot of slots to fill.

And while work is still hard to come by, some jobs are easier to land than others -- that is, if you have the right skill set and education.

Many of the fast-growing careers are in the health care field, says Laurence Shatkin, co-author of "Best Jobs for the 21st Century."

"The major trends are the aging of the population and improved technology that have created remedies for various medical conditions," Shatkin says. Add to these trends the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, where more people have access to health care, and you have an expanding market for health care workers.

Jobs in the business sector are also on the upswing as the economy slowly recovers, says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. Sarikas warns that hiring managers are still skittish: "Hiring will be deliberate and cautious."

Here are the eight of the fastest-growing careers for 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. These jobs are expected to continue their upward trajectory into 2020. Average salaries, expected growth and minimum education requirements are from the BLS.

1. Biomedical engineer
Expected growth (2010-2020): 62 percent
Average annual salary: $81,540
Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

If you have an aptitude for engineering, enjoy being in a health care environment and have a yen to engineer body parts, you might consider a career in biomedical engineering, a field that is booming because of the leaps in medical technology.

"We are now finding ways to engineer replacement parts for our bodies … such as artificial hearts, retinas, knees and hip joints," Shatkin says. "The technology to do this has arrived, and people are getting older and need these replacements."

Shatkin says that while engineering replacement body parts is a fast-growing field, it is growing from a small base. According to the BLS, there were 15,700 biomedical engineers employed in 2010. That's expected to increase by 9,700 jobs by 2020.

"It is a small field, but there is a lot of opportunity for those who have these skills," Shatkin says.

Biomedical engineers can work in a variety of industries including hospitals, universities, research facilities, manufacturing, teaching and government regulatory agencies.

2. Veterinary technologist or technician
Expected growth (2010-2020): 52 percent
Average annual salary: $29,710
Minimum education: Associate degree (technicians); bachelor's degree (technologists)

As more people treat their pets as members of the family, their furry friends are also receiving the benefits of advanced human health care.

"Blood tests typically part of human testing, such as those that look at liver and kidney functioning, (are) becoming routine for older pets," Shatkin says.

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform the bulk of this kind of lab work from taking blood, urine and stool samples to analyzing the results. They also work closely with the veterinarian to restrain animals and assist in surgery.

Add to that a growing pet population, and you have a growth opportunity for this kind of work: Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 52 percent from 2010 to 2020, with even better opportunities in rural areas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that while technicians require a two-year degree, veterinarians prefer a four-year degree for technologists who perform increasingly complex medical procedures on animals.

3. Meeting, convention and event planner
Expected growth (2010-2020): 44 percent
Average annual salary: $45,260
Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

If you are good at the details of arranging parties, meetings and vacations, you may have an aptitude for a promising career as a meeting, convention or event planner.

These professionals handle all the behind-the-scenes work of a successful meeting, event or convention, including choosing the meeting location, arranging transportation and making sure the event falls within a client's budget.

"While the Internet provides other means for business people to meet, such as through Skype, they are also discovering there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings," Shatkin says. "Now that business is bouncing back, meetings are also bouncing back."

While employers prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree, you also will need related work experience in hospitality management, catering or event planning.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual salary of about $45,000, Brad Bebell, spokesman for Meeting Professionals International, a trade association in Dallas, says that its members average $85,000 per year, with those in the travel industry averaging more than $100,000 per year.

"We're (also) seeing a proliferation of degree programs across the country. Hospitality schools are offering majors in meeting and event planning, not just minors or classes," Bebell says.

4. Diagnostic medical sonographer
Expected growth (2010-2020): 44 percent
Average annual salary: $64,380
Minimum education: Associate degree

Diagnostic medical sonographers use high-tech sound-wave equipment in procedures such as ultrasound, sonogram or echocardiogram to look inside the body.

"Sonography is increasingly being used in the place of X-rays and other procedures because of its lower health risk to the patient. And it's less costly," Shatkin says.

Contributing to the 44 percent growth of this field are the aging baby boomer population and the increased use of this equipment outside of the hospital setting, such as in doctors' offices and diagnostic laboratories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The path toward a sonographer career includes an associate or bachelor's degree. There are also one-year certificate programs available for those already in the health care field, such as nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says employers prefer a degree or certificate from an accredited institute or hospital program.

Also, those sonographers with more than one specialty have better job prospects, the bureau reports.

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