Predicting the jobs or skills that will be in demand years from now is a tricky task for many teens, young adults and their parents. Luckily, there are rich sources of information on the Web, in books, and in most people's communities; the challenge is to sift through them all.
Ms. McDonald found her passion through a community-college nanotechnology program funded by the National Science Foundation, where one official foresees hundreds of thousands of job openings in the field in the next five years. Other sources include government forecasts, school or college career counselors, and neighbors and friends employed in growing fields.
The richest vein of job-growth information is the Labor Department's 10-year forecast for demand, pay and competition for more than 300 jobs in 45 categories. The department's latest biannual compilation, published last month as the 'Occupational Outlook Handbook,' is great for sizing up the long-term outlook for most fields. The forecasts have often been prescient--accurately predicting this decade's fast growth in special-education teaching jobs and the widening range of hot health-care careers, for example.
In the coming decade, engineering--already known for paying college graduates some of the highest starting salaries--is expected to offer the fastest-growing area: biomedical engineering. Jobs in this field, which centers on developing and testing health-care innovations such as artificial organs or imaging systems, are expected to grow by 72%, the Labor Department says.
Among other professions, job opportunities for physicians should be "very good," the guide says; health care dominates the list of the fastest-growing jobs, capturing 11 of the top 20 slots. While more attorneys and architects will be needed, competition for these jobs will be intense. Psychologists will be in demand, but growth will be fastest in industrial and organizational psychology.
The forecasts have limitations. The Labor Department's macroeconomic model works on two noteworthy assumptions--that the economy will rebound to long-term growth and that there won't be any more big shocks like the 2007-2008 recession. Thus its forecasts don't predict the big job-market swings or sudden changes in the supply of workers that can easily happen in a volatile economy.
That means you could pick a job from the Labor Department's "fastest-growing" list when you enter college, only to find the field in a slump by the time you graduate. For example, a 2006 high-school graduate eyeing the government's 2004-2014 forecast for nursing at that time would have read about excellent job prospects, with "thousands of job openings" predicted because experienced nurses were expected to retire.
While that forecast is likely to hold for the long term, the job market for students graduating from college this year is headed in the opposite direction: Thousands of experienced nurses who had been inactive or retired have been re-entering the work force because of the recession.
Similarly, a high-school grad in 2000 might have picked computer programming--No. 8 at the time on a government list of fast-growing, high-paying jobs--only to graduate to the aftermath of the dot-com collapse.
These five countries are hungry for more workers. Canada Ontario is being hit hard by the economic slowdown in the United States, but there's more to Canada than the eastern citi
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