The hottest careers in the United States today draw on a broad spectrum of skills and interests. Whether you're into numbers, people, nature, sports, or computers, there's a way to parlay your natural abilities into a lucrative career.
10 Pathways to a Better Salary
The following ten careers are in demand--and they have big paychecks to prove it. They are among the highest-paying jobs on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest-growing careers through 2014. With the right training, you could upgrade into these jobs and start earning what you're worth.
If you're interested in HEALTH:
Physician assistants perform many of the same functions as a doctor: They examine patients, diagnose illness, and even prescribe medication. Although doctors must supervise treatment, physician assistants enjoy a good deal of autonomy and more face time with patients.
Your career as a physician assistant begins with a bachelor's degree and a 2-year physician assistant training program.
&bull Ranks fourth in the BLS Top 30 Fastest-Growing jobs, with 49.6% job growth expected through 2014.
Physical therapists guide patients on the road to recovery from illness or injury. They have a profound effect on the people they work with, helping them improve mobility, relieve pain, and even overcome disabilities.
Physical therapists must complete a master's-level Physical Therapy program and pass a licensure exam.
&bull Helps injured and ill patients improve their independence and quality of life.
&bull An active and interactive job.
The shortage of registered nurses means unprecedented opportunities and rising salaries. Registered nurses are on the frontlines of medical care, examining and treating patients.
Prospective nurses have several options: a two-year associate's degree, a three-year applied nursing diploma, or the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). All culminate in a national licensing exam.
&bull People skills and compassion are crucial for this rewarding career.
&bull This job ranks second for projected job growth through 2014.
If you're interested in TECHNOLOGY:
Computer Software Engineer--$76,310
Computer software engineers design and test applications software and operating systems for computers. They write programs using coding languages such as C++ and Java.
You can become a computer software engineer with a four-year bachelor's degree in computer science.
&bull Ranks fifth in the BLS Top 30 Fastest-Growing jobs, with 48% job growth expected through 2014.
&bull An exciting, fast-paced industry that rewards innovation and creativity.
Network Systems Analyst--$61,250
Network Systems Analysts are responsible for keeping a company's network--its file-sharing, voicemail, and email systems--in optimum condition. They evaluate new technology, implement changes to the system, and maintain the company's local area network (LAN), wide area network (WLAN), and intranet.
You can become a network systems analyst in as little as two years: the minimum requirement is an associate's degree. Some positions may require a bachelor's in computer science. Liberal arts degree holders also perform well in this position, because systems analysis relies on out-of-the-box thinking.
&bull Systems analysts rank second in the BLS Top 30 Fastest-Growing jobs, with 54.6% job growth expected through 2014.
&bull A technical career for creative types.
Database administrators perform a crucial function in the information age--they set up computer databases and ensure efficient and reliable access to data. They maintain and upgrade a company's computer systems, identifying user requirements and adding new users.
Educational requirements vary, but most entry-level jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in a technical field.
&bull Database Administration jobs are expected to increase 40% through 2014.
&bull A rewarding career for detail-oriented and computer savvy people.
If you're interested in SCIENCE & NATURE:
Hydrologists study water. They recording the quantity, distribution, and circulation above ground and below, providing key data for public works and environmental preservation. Hydrologists are involved in flood control, anti-erosion, construction, and other projects.
Hydrologists need at least a bachelor's degree in Hydrology or a related field. Many employers prefer to hire master's degree holders, even for entry-level positions.
&bull More than half of work hours are spent outdoors, in the field.
Biomedical engineers apply engineering and biological research techniques to medical care. They make profound contributions to the scientific community and to patients' wellbeing, developing medical devices, diagnostic equipment, artificial organs, prostheses, and more.
Biomedical engineering is a challenging and rewarding career. Even entry-level jobs require a master's degree in biomedical engineering, biotechnology, or a related field, and many biomedical engineers go on to Ph.D.s.
&bull Challenging and meaningful work that helps people.
Environmental engineers research and develop solutions to some of our most pressing environmental problems: pollution control, ozone depletion, and wildlife protection.
Environmental engineers hold at least a bachelor's degree in the field--many go on to a master's in Environmental Engineering.
&bull Help prevent environmental damage. &bull Plenty of time outdoors, collecting field data.
If you're interested in ART:
Video Game Design--$65,000
Video game designers are responsible for creating the animation, storyboarding, and programming that go into producing video games. Video game design combines artistic vision and technical skill. It is a software development career that requires imagination.
Video game designers can start out with a certificate or associate's degree, but they can progress more quickly with a bachelor's degree in game design and development. Top designers enjoy more creative control and command higher salaries.
&bull Software publishing will be the third-fastest growing industry through 2014.
&bull Video game industry jobs expected to double between 2004 and 2009.
&bull Video games produce more revenue than movie theater box office receipts--worldwide revenue is expected to hit $66 billion by 2011.
No matter what your innate talents and interests are, chances are there's a need for them somewhere in the marketplace. With the right training, you can develop your natural abilities into valuable job skills. If you identify hot industries and high demand careers that draw on those skills, you'll be well on your way to earning what you're worth. Remember, it's just as easy to fall in love with a high-paying job as an underpaid one.