The Best Careers for the Future: Why they're growing and what you should study

By Brendan Conway updated on Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The times, they are a-changin'. Gone are the days when pretty much any college degree guaranteed you a decent job that would pay the bills. Today, graduates in many fields find it difficult, if not impossible, to secure gainful employment after graduating. If you want to maximize your chance of finding work upon graduation, consider preparing yourself for one of these fast-growing, sought-after careers.

(All earning figures are median pay for the profession, taken from 2010, unless specifically stated otherwise)

1.    Elder Care

What is it?
Providing assistance or care for elderly individuals, especially those with medical problems and those who can't necessarily take care of themselves.

What should I study?
Nursing is a good idea if you're interested in getting into elder care. You could likely get into the field with just an associate degree in nursing. Becoming a full RN (registered nurse) will take the most work and study, but will likely bring you the best rewards in the long run. You'll be studying subjects such as anatomy and pharmacology. Elder care jobs are available at all different levels of education, meaning that you don't necessarily have to earn a specialized degree to find a job.

Why is this field growing?
Right now, the baby boomer generation is getting up there in age, and the number of elderly individuals requiring aid is skyrocketing.

How much can I expect to earn?
• Personal care aides without special degrees - $20,170 per year
• Nursing aide - $24,010
• Registered nurse (which would require an associate's degree) - $64,690.

2.    Genetic Counseling

What is it?

A genetic counselor advises individuals in medical matters concerning genetic disorders and inherited conditions.

What should I study?
To become a genetic counselor, you'll have to do a lot of studying. Genetic counselors must each have a Master of Science degree in the field of genetic counseling. If you're looking into becoming a genetic counselor as an undergraduate student, you'll likely want to study subjects such as biology, genetics, psychology, and public health, among others.

Why is this field growing?
Genetic counseling is going to be a more and more popular form of aid as the costs of genetic procedures continue to decline.

How much can I expect to earn?
• Genetic counselor (average salary) - $63,700

3.    Accountancy

What is it?

Accountancy is the practice of keeping track of financial records, and of performing other activities with relation to those financial records, like tax preparation and budget work.

What should I study?
Many colleges and universities allow students to earn degrees in accounting. At the very least, you'll want to have studied a related field, like business. You will need a bachelor's degree at least to become an accountant, and you will also very likely want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by taking the necessary certification examination.

Why is this field growing?
Even though these are currently troubling financial times, these financial issues mean that accountants are moving into greater demand in a number of different positions.

How much can I expect to earn?
• Accountants and auditors - $61,690.

4.    IT

What is it?

IT, or information technology, is a field that involves the use of computers to help manage information.

What should I study?
A degree in computer science or programming is a great way to prepare for a careers n information technology. The level of education you need to complete will depend on the specific job you want. For example, finding work as an information research scientist will likely require a doctoral level degree, while working as a computer programmer might require only a bachelor's degree.

Why is this field growing?
With technology everywhere nowadays, these professionals have never been more in demand, and the trend isn't going to stop any time soon.

How much can I expect to earn?
• Computer support specialists - $46,260
• Computer programmers - $71,380
• Database administrators - $73,490
• Software developers - $90,530.

5.    Sales

What is it?

A career in sales is a career focused upon selling a product, whatever that product might be, to the interested buyers.

What should I study?
Studying business, finance, and economics can be very helpful for sales in particular fields, such as insurance. In general, a successful salesperson needs good public speaking skills and the confidence to interact consistently with other people. Certain high level sales positions, such as that of a sales engineer, will require specialized degrees. Most sales positions require bachelor's degrees, though some require only high school diplomas or GEDs.

Why is this field growing?
In the coming years, many hiring managers are expected to expand their sales departments, primarily because the economy, ever so slowly, is growing, and new salespeople are necessary to help continue that trend.

How much can I expect to earn?
• Sales representatives - $56,620
• Sales engineers - $87,390
• Real estate brokers - $42,680
• Insurance sales agents - $46,770
About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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