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Preparing for Tomorrow: Major Job Markets of the Future

written by: Ginny Edwards•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/26/2011

Today's workers need to face the fact that the high paying jobs of yesterday are simply not coming back. In order to compete for the jobs of the future, workers need the knowledge and skills demanded by the industries that are on the verge of explosive growth.

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    Bubble Jobs vs. Sustaining Careers

    In recent decades, the United States has been on a roller coaster ride of job growth explosions followed by economic dips and high unemployment. In the 1980s, a great wave of consumerism brought unprecedented manufacturing and service expansion. In the 1990s, technology and innovation spurred the creation of hundreds of companies, including tech giants Amazon, eBay, and Yahoo. And in the 2000s, the zeal to fulfill the American dream to put everyone in the house led to rapid growth in the housing industry, creating millions of construction and mortgage finance jobs.

    Disappointingly, many of the jobs created in these industries became "bubble" jobs that quickly deflated when manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas and the housing market collapsed. So what future job markets will turn out to be the real deal instead of bubbles waiting to burst?

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    Emerging Trends Predict Future Job Growth

    The best way to predict where the next major job market will be is to survey the current demographic, economic, social, and human resources trends. By assessing these trends carefully you will get a pretty good idea where future demand lies and how goods and services will be delivered. The last step is to evaluate whether these trends will be self-sustaining or are have they been artificially inflated.

    An Aging and Independent Population Signals a Health Care Explosion

    With the baby boomers entering their golden years, the need for health care services is imminent. But don't expect baby boomers to utilize the health care system in the same way as their parents. For baby boomers, health care is not only about feeling healthy but also about looking healthy. According to the National Health Institute, the likelihood that an American who reaches the age of 65 will survive to the age of 90 has nearly doubled over the past 40 years. All of this bodes well for the boom in the health care profession to continue for some time.

    The Rising Middle Class in Emerging Markets Could Usher in the Next Wave Consumerism

    China and other emerging markets are expected to build up their middle class over the next decade. Generally a rising middle class means a rise in discretionary spending, including the sale of luxury goods and expanded travel and leisure spending. As the world's population gets richer there should be more demand for U.S. products, and an increase in travel to the United States by foreigners should also boost the hospitality industry. Of course, this trend is predicated on the assumption the world's new middle class will act as prior generations and begin to spend more than they save.

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    Look to Health Care for Jobs with the Fastest Growth Rates

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these health care jobs are expected to have the fastest growth rates from 2008 to 2018.

    1. Biomedical engineers are professionals who bring the application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. They help to design, develop, and evaluate biological and health systems and products, such as artificial organs, prostheses, instrumentation, medical information systems, and heath management and care delivery systems.

    • Expected growth rate: 72%
    • New jobs created: 11,600
    • Average salary: $77,400
    • Educational requirements: Bachelor's degree

    2. Home health aides assist people who are physically challenged, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired who want to continue to live in their homes or in a nonmedical residential facility. Some of the nonmedical tasks performed by home health aides include assisting those under their care with personal grooming, housekeeping, and preparing meals.

    • Expected growth rate: 50%
    • New jobs created: 460,900
    • Average salary: $20,460
    • Educational requirements: Short-term on-the-job training

    3. Medical scientists, except epidemiologists, are experts in the research of diseases and disorders to improve the overall human condition. They concentrate on developing advanced knowledge of life processes and of other living organisms that affect human health, including viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents.

    • Expected growth rate: 40%
    • New jobs created: 44,200
    • Average salary: $72,590
    • Educational requirements: Doctoral degree

    4. Physician assistants are trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, under the supervision of a physician. They are important cogs in the delivery of health care and their tasks involved recording medical histories, examining patients, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and x rays, and making diagnoses and recommendations for treatment.

    • Expected growth rate: 39%
    • New jobs created: 29,200
    • Average salary: $81,230
    • Education requirements: Master's degree

    For additional careers expected to grow by leaps and bounds, this Bright Hub article on the fastest growing jobs in America provides a list that includes a number of nonmedical opportunities.

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    The Greatest Number of Jobs Will Come from the Service Sector

    Setting your sights on an occupation that has the fastest growth rate does not necessarily guarantee a job will be waiting for you. A job with a high growth, even an accelerating growth rate, will remain competitive because the actual number of job openings will be small. Those seeking greater job security and mobility should consider jobs with the largest growth in terms of numbers.

    A heavy concentration of jobs in the next decade will be found in the service-related sectors resulting from a burgeoning middle class and another wave of consumerism. While the following jobs will be more plentiful, they will also command lower salaries because of the lower qualifications required from applicants.

    1. Customer service representatives

    • New Jobs Created: 399,500
    • Expected growth: 18%
    • Average Salary: $29,860
    • Education Requirements: Moderate-term on-the-job training

    2. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food

    • New jobs created: 394,300
    • Expected growth rate: 15%
    • Average salary: $16,430
    • Education requirement: Short-term on-the-job training

    3. Retail salespersons

    • New Jobs Created: 374,700
    • Expected growth rate: 8%
    • Average Salary: $20,510
    • Education Requirements: Short-term on-the-job training

    For more insight on playing the job numbers game, this Bright Hub article on the top 10 jobs in the demand in the US discusses several prospects and pinpoints where the greatest growth will be regionally.

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    Getting Off the Block First: Degrees of the Future

    To prepare and compete for the next wave of jobs, you will need to be able to move quickly. Getting a degree now in a developing field may be the best way to position yourself to get that quick jump off the starting block. Begin by taking a look at new programs being offered at your local college or vocational school.

    Here a few examples of some of the new programs being offered at universities and community colleges that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). These degrees are specifically designed to help students prepare for the workforce of the future.

    • Computational Science - A new discipline that provides the tools necessary to solve complex problems using computers. The expectations is that economic development and public policy decisions will rely more heavily on computer simulations and design instead of the traditional cost/benefit and policy analysis.
    • Environmental Science - A new twist on an established degree that focuses on a quantitative scientific approach to environmental processes as opposed to a policy approach that considers rising energy needs and climatic impact.
    • Health Information Technology - Provides students with the tools on how to use health information systems to assemble, store and analyze patient data, as well as assess and monitor the quality of records.
    • Systems Engineering and Management - Applies scientific and management principles to the design, development and operation of complex projects working with diverse teams and ambitious deadlines.

    By assessing emerging trends and degrees, you will be able develop a career in a future jobs market that hopefully won't see its jobs disappear overnight.

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    References and Credits

    Florida State to Offer New Degrees in Computational Science and Enviornmental Science Retrieved July 23, 2011 at

    Healthcare Management and Health Information Technology Degrees Now Available Online from Ultimate Medical Academy. Retrieved July 23, 2011 from

    The New Global Middle Class: Potentially Profitable -- but Also Unpredictable - Knowledge@Wharton. (n.d.). Knowledge@Wharton. Retrieved July 23, 2011, from

    Overview of the 2008-18 Projections. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 23, 2011, from

    Image Credits:

    Protection: graur razvan ionut/

    Businessman off the block: Ambro/

    Woman doctor: Sura Nualpradid/