by Martha Craver and Michael DeSenne
Believe it or not, even with the unemployment rate stubbornly high and many industries reluctant to staff up, there are employers out there who still can't find enough qualified applicants. Some are offering six-figure salaries to the right job seekers. The trick, of course, is unearthing these hidden opportunities.
We started by asking CareerBuilder to mine its vast employment database to identify promising occupations that are experiencing an under-supply of qualified applicants relative to the number of available jobs. The resulting ratio is a good indicator of hiring demand -- the lower the ratio, the greater the need for applicants. A ratio of 10.0, for example, means there are ten job seekers for every open position. A ratio of 0.5 means there are two open positions for every job seeker.
We also took a hard look at pay and growth prospects, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Annual salary ranges reflect the rates in the 25th and 75th percentiles. Ten-year growth projections are based on BLS's expected change in the number of positions between 2008 and 2018. Finally, we filtered our choices to represent a range of industries and educational requirements. Check out our list of ten of today's hottest jobs.
1. Nurse Practitioner
Hiring demand: 0.25 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $52,980-$79,020
10-year growth projection: 22%
Job description: A picture of health. The first baby-boomers are reaching retirement age at a time when there's a shortage of primary-care physicians. Nurses are needed to close the gap. They perform many duties, from medical histories to disease management, previously handled by doctors. While hospitals are the largest employers of nurses, the fastest growth -- and best pay -- can be found in physicians' offices. At minimum, you'll need to complete a formal training program. Some nursing positions call for an associate's, bachelor's or even master's degree.
2. E-Mail Marketer
Hiring demand: 0.65 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $43,840-$84,430
10-year growth projection: 28%
Job description: Spam I am. The fragmenting of the information market makes it harder and harder to get the attention of consumers. Just as a fisherman has better luck if the bait ends up where the fish are, more companies are turning to targeted e-mail efforts to get the right message to the right audience. Technical and quantitative skills are a plus to manage large distribution lists and analyze reports on the success or failure of electronic campaigns. A bachelor's degree typically is expected of job applicants.
3. Network Security Engineer
Hiring demand: 1.07 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $57,240-$97,660
10-year growth projection: 30%
Job description: Climbing a firewall of worry. The Internet has made information more accessible, but it has also created a rich environment for identity thieves, hackers and others looking to profit by misappropriating sensitive data. Specialists in network security must be well-versed in the latest technologies for fending off cyber-attacks. A formal degree is less important than relevant computer skills. Knowledge of all aspects of information technology, from software and hardware to networks and databases, pays dividends.
4. Environmental Engineer
Hiring demand: 1.15 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $61,500-$99,180
10-year growth projection: 31%
Job description: It's easy being green. This isn't a fancy title for a trash collector, a la sanitation engineer. The interest in all things environmental -- and the public and private funding that's fueling that interest -- is creating openings for engineers to solve problems in a variety of areas, including pollution control, recycling and, yes, waste management. State and local governments are among the biggest employers, but oil and gas companies pay the best salaries. A bachelor's degree usually is sufficient to get started, but some positions require graduate work as well.
5. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver
Hiring demand: 1.39 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $30,270-$46,920
10-year growth projection: 13%
Job description: Keep on truckin'. Getting behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler takes more than just a love of the open road. It also takes a commercial driver's license and, in some cases, a union card. Many aspiring long-haul drivers enroll in a course at a vocational school to learn the ropes. Prospects are much brighter for drivers of tractor trailers and other heavy trucks than for drivers of light trucks who deliver small packages, merchandise and the like. Piloting big rigs also pays a lot better.
6. Physician Assistant
Hiring demand: 1.45 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $73,040-$101,690
10-year growth projection: 39%
Job description: The doctor's assistant is in. Known as a P.A., a physician assistant does many of the same things as an M.D.: conducts exams, makes diagnoses, performs procedures, and sometimes even prescribes medications. Formal training is mandatory, as is a passing grade on a national exam, but the process is less rigorous (and costly) than med school. In the hierarchy of today's health care, the P.A. resides between a nurse practitioner and a full-fledged doctor. Just don't confuse physician assistant with medical assistant. The latter is a low-paying, albeit fast-growing, occupation that involves basic clerical and clinical tasks, such as coding claim forms and recording vital signs.
7. Social Media Manager
Hiring demand: 1.50 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $38,960-$71,820
10-year growth projection: 24%
Job description: Update your status. Facebook, Twitter and other "share" sites aren't just for friends anymore. They're integral components of professional and corporate communications strategies, too. Companies are throwing money at folks who understand how to use social media to build brands and expand markets. Look at Facebook's more than 750 million active users and it's easy to see the potential in this relatively new field. A bachelor's degree in journalism, marketing or communications is preferred.
8. Financial Analyst
Hiring demand: 1.50 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $56,310-$99,230
10-year growth projection: 20%
Job description: Crunch the numbers. Financial analysts provide guidance on investment decisions, mostly to businesses. Banks, pension funds, securities firms, insurers and similar institutions are typical employers. Metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs are, not surprisingly, cities synonymous with high finance: Stamford, Conn.; Boston; New York; Wilmington, Del.; and San Francisco. A related and even faster-growing field is personal financial adviser. MBA's are common, and professional licenses may be required.
9. Software Engineer-Mobile Applications
Hiring demand: 1.67 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $69,090-$109,210
10-year growth projection: 34%
Job description: There's an app maker for that. As computer users become increasingly untethered from wired networks and smart phones become increasingly indispensible, demand for software engineers who can keep the mobile trains running on time will only increase. You'll probably need a bachelor's degree or higher to penetrate this field, but more important is proven experience with the latest mobile technologies. California is home to the most jobs overall, thanks to Silicon Valley, but Washington state has the highest concentration of jobs, thanks to Microsoft.
10. Home Health Aide
Hiring demand: 1.74 active job seekers for every open position
Annual salary range: $17,900-$24,020
10-year growth projection: 48%
Job description: Home is where the health care is. As America starts to show its age -- the first baby-boomers just turned 65 -- the need for workers to help people age gracefully will only become more apparent. That's where home health aides come in. Aides visit residences to help the elderly, disabled and severely ill with everyday living tasks (bathing and grooming, for example) and provide very basic medical services (checking pulse rates and monitoring medications). There's no minimum education level, but training may be required, depending on where you work and agency demands.
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