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Best Jobs for the Future 2015

Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor, Kiplinger.com


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As baby boomers retire, their mass exodus from the labor market presents younger generations with greater employment opportunities. But not every profession is booming.

So we put ourselves to work to identify some of the country's most promising careers. Starting with a list of 784 popular occupations, we narrowed the choices to 10 by focusing on fields that not only have been adding to their ranks over the past decade but also are projected to continue to expand well into the next decade. In addition to long-term trends, we favored jobs with strong hiring demand in recent months.

Pay, of course, was another important factor. All of the jobs on our list have annual salaries that are well above--and in some cases more than double--that of the average occupation. And you don't have to stay in school forever to get hired. Most of the jobs require just an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Take a look at 10 of the best jobs for the future.

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Speech-Language Pathologist


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Total number of jobs: 134,677

Job growth, 2004-2014: 19.5% (All jobs: 5.2%)

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 18.9% (All jobs: 11.1%)

Median annual salary: $70,512 (All jobs: $41,683)

Typical education: Master's degree

The health care industry, in general, continues to be an attractive field. "A big theme affecting the job market is the aging population," says Joshua Wright, of Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), a labor market research firm. "Serving the baby boomers as they grow older will drive a lot of health care needs."

Speech therapists, specifically, are needed to treat the growing number of patients whose language has been affected by health conditions associated with aging, such as hearing loss or stroke. Greater attention to treating children with language disorders, such as stuttering, also drives demand for these professionals, about half of whom are employed by schools, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition to having a master's degree, a speech-language pathologist usually needs to be licensed by his or her state. Check with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for more information.

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Community Service Manager


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Total number of jobs: 143,332

Job growth, 2004-2014: 24.7%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 19.7%

Median annual salary: $60,528

Typical education: Bachelor's degree

Though this job is not technically in the health care field, it still benefits from treating the aging population. As boomers increasingly lean on social services, such as adult day care and meal-delivery programs, managers of such businesses will be in greater demand. Also, a softening war on drugs that sends more offenders to counseling rather than jail boosts the need for managers of treatment programs.

You need at least a bachelor's degree in social work, urban studies, public administration or a related field to get started. But reaching these managerial heights typically also requires relevant work experience of five years or more. And some employers prefer applicants with master's degrees.

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Computer Systems Analyst


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Total number of jobs: 554,524

Job growth, 2004-2014: 23.4%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 23.3%

Median annual salary: $80,059

Typical education: Bachelor's degree

This is a nerd's world, and we're all benefiting from it. With the computerization of everything from phones and coffeemakers to cars, you'd be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn't rely on computers in one way or another. That puts the folks who run the computers in very high demand. Computer systems analysts ensure that organizations' technological needs are met and are constantly improving with the advancements and demands of the increasingly connected world.

A bachelor's degree in information technology (one of our best college majors for a lucrative career) or another computer-related field is typical for these workers. But you can also qualify with a liberal arts degree and techie talents you developed outside of a standard four-year program (perhaps even using free online classes). Other non-tech skills can also help you stand out as a job candidate. "More than I've ever seen in the past, employers are looking for a well-rounded tech person with collaboration skills, business acumen and problem-solving skills," says John Reed, senior executive director of specialized staffing firm Robert Half Technology. On your resume, emphasize team projects you've worked on.

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App Developer


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Total number of jobs: 691,295

Job growth, 2004-2014: 26.6%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 23.4%

Median annual salary: $92,081

Typical education: Bachelor's degree

Why become an app developer? Check the palm of your hand (or possibly your back pocket or the couch cushions) for the answer. The proliferation of mobile technology is driving demand for development of new applications. According to Robert Half Technology, more than 70% of organizations are implementing some kind of mobile strategy, and they all need the tech professionals who can get the job done. Systems software developers, who create the operating systems for computers, are also poised for prosperity; from nearly 400,000 jobs currently, the workforce is projected to grow 21.5% by 2024. The job pays a median income of nearly $100,700 a year.

A college degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field is a standard requirement to land most software-development jobs, but a master's degree can give you a leg up on the competition. Beyond formal education, you need to stay on top of changes in the field, such as the introduction of new tools and computer languages. App developers already enjoy the second-highest median income on our list, and additional skills can fatten your paycheck even more. For example, according to Robert Half Technology, proficiency with Java or C# development can add 9% to your salary; Microsoft SQL Server database skills can add 10% to earnings.

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Registered Nurse


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Total number of jobs: 2.7 million

Job growth, 2004-2014: 15.8%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 16.6%

Median annual salary: $66,060

Typical education: Associate's degree

The outlook for RNs is healthy. This already robust workforce--the fifth-largest of all occupations--is expected to add nearly 450,000 new positions by 2024. Advancing technology, greater focus on preventive care and an aging population will mean a growing number of patients requiring care in hospitals, doctors' offices, long-term-care facilities and even private homes.

Becoming a registered nurse requires either a bachelor's of science in nursing (another one of our best four-year college majors), an associate's degree in nursing or a diploma from an accredited nursing program (which usually takes two to three years). You'll need a license to practice, as well, not to mention reserves of compassion, patience and emotional stability.

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Information Security Analyst


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Total number of jobs: 82,400

Job growth, 2004-2014: 31.7%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 32.7%

Median annual salary: $88,587

Typical education: Bachelor's degree

Thank the cybercriminals for propelling the demand for information security analysts. This career has the second-fastest project growth rate of all the jobs on this list. Increasing digital dangers are pushing Uncle Sam, state and local governments, and companies of all stripes to hire more white hats to beef up their information security. You can also find new opportunities in hospitals and doctors' offices, where the move to keep more digital records pushes the need to protect patients' privacy.

To get started developing and implementing measures to safeguard an organization's computer network, you likely need a bachelor's degree in computer science, programming or another tech-related field. You may also need at least five years of work experience, perhaps as a network or systems administrator, to secure a management role. A master's of business administration in information systems can help you stand out in the applicant pool. Becoming a certified information systems security professional can boost your pay by 6%, according to Robert Half Technology.

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Health Services Manager


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Total number of jobs: 318,703

Job growth, 2004-2014: 19.8%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 18.1%

Median annual salary: $89,835

Typical education: Bachelor's degree

As the population ages, demand for health services rises and technology improves, more administrators will be needed to run health care facilities. Health services managers may oversee the functions of an entire medical practice or facility--as a nursing home administrator, for example--or a specific department, as a clinical manager for, say, nursing, surgery or physical therapy. Health information managers work specifically on maintaining patient records and keeping them secure, an increasingly demanding task with the shift to digital.

A bachelor's in health administration is the ticket to this profession, but a master's in health services, long-term-care administration or public health is also common among these workers. You may need to be licensed to run certain types of facilities, such as a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. Check with your state's department of health for details.

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Medical Sonographer


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Total number of jobs: 60,815

Job growth, 2004-2014: 38.0%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 34.3%

Median annual salary: $66,560

Typical education: Associate's degree

Not a fan of the scalpel? Noninvasive procedures to check out your insides are not only more popular with patients, the lower costs and relative simplicity also make them better options for insurers. And with advancing technology, they can be applied in more cases and used in more places, such as doctors' offices and medical labs outside of hospitals. No wonder this is the fastest-growing job on our list.

Sonographers operate special imaging equipment to peer inside patients and assist physicians in assessing medical conditions. You can get an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography to get into this field. If you're already working in a related job, such as a radiation therapist, you may be able to transition into this role through a college's or hospital's one-year certificate program. Other specialized certifications, such as in fetal echocardiography or musculoskeletal sonography, can make you a more attractive job candidate. Learn more from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

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Physical Therapist


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Total number of jobs: 213,900

Job growth, 2004-2014: 34.1%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 27.2%

Median annual salary: $80,433

Typical education: Doctorate degree

Aging baby boomers are a boon for those working in physical therapy. Many more workers will be needed in this field to care for victims of heart attacks and strokes and to lead them through rehabilitation. And with ongoing advances in medicine, more people will survive such traumas and need rehabilitative services. You'll need a license to go along with your doctorate.

For similar reasons, demand for occupational therapists is also expected to grow at a clip of 23.1% over the next decade. While physical therapists focus on rehabilitation of major motor functions, occupational therapists help ill or disabled patients develop or recover the ability to independently perform daily tasks, such as dressing or feeding themselves. Occupational therapists typically need a master's degree to get started and earn a median income of nearly $77,000 a year.

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Nurse Practitioner


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Total number of jobs: 118,473

Job growth, 2004-2014: 29.0%

Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 26.4%

Median annual salary: $92,768

Typical education: Master's degree

Thanks, Obama. The growing number of newly insured people due to federal health care reform adds to the patient lists of many primary care providers. Nurse practitioners (NPs), as well as physicians, are sought to meet those increasing needs. NPs are able to provide much of the same care as doctors, including performing routine checkups and writing prescriptions, and they can work independently. Exact guidelines vary by state. NPs need to become registered nurses (another of our best job picks) before pursuing their master's degrees, which could take one and a half to three years to complete. That extra time pays off: Nurse practitioners are the highest earners on our list.

Physician's assistants (PAs) are similar to NPs in knowledge, abilities and promise. They are trained to diagnose and treat patients and are able to write prescriptions and order tests. But unlike NPs, they work under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. (Again, specific duties and supervision requirements vary by state.) Though there are fewer of them than NPs, with less than 94,000 current PA jobs, that figure is expected to grow a rapid 28.8% by 2024. The median pay is about $94,000 a year. To get started, you need at least two years of postgraduate study to earn a master's in this field, and you need a license to practice.

2014 Best Jobs Rankings


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App Developer
Market Research Analyst
Information Security Analyst
Dental Hygienist
Management Analyst
Health Specialty Professor
Physical Therapist
Personal Financial Adviser
Civil Engineer
Brickmason

Kiplinger updates many of its rankings annually. Above is last year's list of 10 of the best jobs for the future. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on data available at the time of publishing, differences in how the data was gathered, changes in data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow the pool of candidates.

2013 Best Jobs Rankings


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Computer Network Administrator
Construction Equipment Operator
Dental Hygienist
Electrician
Painter
Personal Financial Adviser
Physical Therapist's Assistant
Plumber
Registered Nurse
Systems Software Developer

Kiplinger updates many of its rankings annually. Above is 2013's list of 10 of the best jobs for the future. Keep in mind that ranking methodologies can change from year to year based on data available at the time of publishing, differences in how the data was gathered, changes in data providers and tweaks to the formulas used to narrow the pool of candidates.

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