Booming Career #1 - Medical Records Technician
Medical records for every health care patient are maintained by technicians who track everything from symptoms and exam records to treatments and provider services. Workers in this field regularly communicate with doctors to clarify diagnosis information or assign special coding to procedures for billing purposes.
Why it's booming: The Department of Labor projects the number of medical records technicians hired between 2008 and 2018 will increase by 20 percent, from 172,500 to 207,600. The numbers don't surprise Shapiro.
"Medical billing and coding has grown enormously because of the way our insurance has been structured," Shapiro says. "The current system is so complex, you need a team of people to track one person's billing. It's booming because it's such an enormous system."
Education options: You could prepare to pursue this career by earning an associate's degree in medical records and health information. Coursework will likely include the study of anatomy and physiology, coding systems, and health care reimbursement methods.
Average earnings: The Department of Labor reports the average annual salary for medical records technicians is $35,010. The top 10 percent of wage earners in this field have an average annual salary of $53,430.*
Booming Career #2 - Pharmacy Technician
The responsibilities of a pharmacy technician often involve preparing prescription medications, counting tablets, labeling bottles, and serving customers. A technician might perform administrative duties while working closely with licensed pharmacists in retail stores, hospitals, and other health care facilities.
Why it's booming: "Pharmacy technician will continue to grow as health care grows," Shapiro says of the field. "We have gotten more dependent on pharmaceuticals, so it will continue to be a real growth industry."
Figures from the Department of Labor support Shapiro's sentiments. The number of pharmacy technicians is expected to expand by 25 percent - that's 381,200 to 477,500 positions - through 2018.
Education options: One of the ways you can prepare to pursue this type of path is by getting either a certificate or associate's degree in pharmacy technology. Time to completion will vary by course load, individual student, and program, but range from six months to two years, on average. Coursework generally includes classes in medical terminology, recordkeeping, and pharmacy law and ethics.
Average earnings: Pharmacy technicians have a reported annual salary of $29,330. For wage earners in the top 10 percent, that average figure jumps to $40,710.*
Booming Career #3 - Dental Assistant
Dental assistants prepare instruments and equipment and assist patients during their visits. Dental assistants with good customer-service skills can help ease fears for those who dread the dentist's chair.
Why it's booming: Did you know that dental assisting is among the fastest-growing professions in the country? The Department of Labor expects 36 percent more positions will be available to dental assistants by 2018, when the number of workers in this field should hit 400,900 - up from 295,300 in 2008.
Education options: Your path to pursuing a career in this field could potentially start with an associate's degree, which takes about two years to complete - on average, and depending on your course load and program. Among the courses you might take are biology, chemistry, and health practices.
Average earnings: Dental assistants reportedly have an average annual salary of $34,140, according to the Department of Labor.* The yearly average salary for the top 10 percent of dental assistants is $47,090.*
Booming Career #4 - Financial Analyst
When businesses and people need to make crucial investment decisions, financial analysts respond with expert advice on stocks, bonds, and other assets. Analysts need to track changing government regulations and economic developments to get the best out of the investments they handle.
Why it's booming: According to the Department of Labor, the increased complexity and globalization of investing is driving up the need for financial analysts. Their employment numbers are projected to eclipse the 300,000 mark by 2018 - a 20 percent increase from about 250,000 in 2008.
Education options: A master's of business administration (MBA) might be a considered option if you're interested in a career as a financial analyst.
"An MBA is a good idea," Shapiro says. "During a down economy is when you want to get an education, hone your skills, and get a master's degree."
Average earnings: Financial analysts reportedly have an average annual salary of $86,040, according to the Department of Labor. The average goes up to 141,700 for analysts in the top 10 percent of earnings.*
Booming Career #5 - Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors are entrusted by their clients to provide short- and long-term expertise on financial matters such as investments, taxes, and insurance. Planners also can branch out into specialty areas for those seeking help with retirement or risk management.
Why it's booming: The Department of Labor reports that as the U.S. population grows older, financial planners will find themselves in greater demand. According to their numbers, the field is projected to grow by 30 percent, increasing the number of job openings from 208,400 to 271,200 by 2018.
Education options: A bachelor's degree in business is one option to consider when looking at ways that can help you pursue a potential career in this field.
Shapiro says a versatile business degree, which could qualify workers for a wide range of occupational choices, works particularly well if you're considering a return to school.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many advisors also earn a master's degree in business administration or finance.
Average earnings: The average yearly salary for workers in this field is $91,220. That figure jumps to nearly $112,000 for the top 10 percent of earners in this profession, according to the Department of Labor.*
Booming Career #6 - Paralegal
Paralegals, also called legal assistants, hold pivotal positions in law offices. Lawyers generally depend on paralegals to help them prepare for cases and trials, although paralegals are not allowed to present cases in court.
Why it's booming: "Paralegals will always be sought after," Shapiro says of the profession. "They do all the heavy lifting in law firms." Job openings in this field are expected to increase by 28 percent, hitting a 337,900 total by 2018, according to the Department of Labor.
Education options: Seeking a certificate in paralegal studies is a possible option for you if you already have some type of bachelor's degree under your belt.
Average earnings: Paralegals reportedly have an average annual salary of $49,640. This figure increases to $74,870 for paralegals in the top 10 percent of wage earners.*