Best Jobs for the Future 2018

By Stacy Rapacon, Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

The U.S. job market is looking good. Unemployment is near a 50-year low, and wages are even starting to rise after remaining stubbornly stagnant for years. But some career tracks lead to a more prosperous future than others.

To help identify which path is best for you–and your net worth–we made it our job to crunch the numbers. Starting with a list of 773 popular occupations, we narrowed the choices to 30 of the most promising professions by focusing on fields that are collecting generous paychecks now and are projected to expand greatly over the next decade. Also, though we favored jobs that don’t necessarily call for a huge investment in education to get started, certain career paths prove lucrative enough to be worth the extra time and money.

Just remember to be honest with yourself before you commit to a career path, regardless of its promise. Don’t pursue a tech job if you hate math or a health-care position if you’re squeamish about blood and germs. Luckily, this list offers ideas in a variety of fields with a range of educational and training requirements. Take a look at 30 of the best jobs for the future to see which might suit you best.

1. App Developer

Total number of jobs: 878,990

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 30.4% (All jobs: 9.7%)

Median annual salary: $100,857 (All jobs: $43,992)

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Why become an app developer? Check the palm of your hand (or maybe in the couch cushions) for the answer. The proliferation of mobile technology is driving demand for development of new applications of all kinds, from news and games to music and social sharing. Systems software developers, who create the operating systems for computers and mobile devices, are also poised for prosperity. From about 409,800 jobs currently, the workforce is projected to grow 13.3% by 2027. Systems software developers earn a median income of $106,653 a year.

A college degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field is a standard requirement to land most software-development jobs, but a master’s degree can give you a leg up on the competition. Without a bachelor’s degree, you can break into the tech field as a web developer, a role that typically requires just an associate’s degree to get started and pays a median salary of about $58,409 a year. Also, the number of such jobs is expected to grow 17.2% to nearly 193,627 positions by 2027. Beyond formal education, expect to keep learning throughout your career in any tech job; you need to stay on top of new tools, computer languages and other advances.

2. Nurse Practitioner

Total number of jobs: 172,102

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 35.2%

Median annual salary: $103,947

Typical education: Master’s degree

Advancing technology, greater focus on preventive care and an aging population will mean a growing number of patients requiring care in hospitals, doctors’ offices, long-term-care facilities and even private homes. Nurse practitioners (NPs) are highly sought after to meet that need. NPs able to provide much of the same care as full-fledged doctors, including performing routine checkups and writing prescriptions, and they can work independently. Exact guidelines vary by state.

NPs need to become registered nurses (another of our best job picks at #14) before pursuing their master’s degrees, which could take up to three years to complete. In addition to an RN license, NPs may also need a second license and certification. Each state sets its own specific requirements; check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for more information.

3. Health Services Manager

Total number of jobs: 371,020

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 21.0%

Median annual salary: $96,517

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

The increasing demand for medical services calls for more people to manage them. Health services managers may oversee the functions of an entire medical practice or facility–as a nursing home administrator, for example–or a specific department, as a clinical manager for, say, surgery or physical therapy. Health information managers work specifically on maintaining patient records and keeping them secure, an especially important task as everyone is shifting to digital.

A bachelor’s in health administration is the ticket to this profession, but a master’s in health services, long-term-care administration or public health is also common among these workers. You may need to be licensed to run certain types of facilities, such as a nursing home, for which all states require licensure, or an assisted-living facility. Check with your state’s department of health for details.

4. Financial Manager

Total number of jobs: 610,056

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 19.1%

Median annual salary: $122,733

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Managing a company’s cash flow is a good way to direct income into your own coffers. Financial managers get paid handsomely to build long-term financial plans that help organizations achieve their goals by controlling risk, maximizing returns on investment and deploying cash wisely. Many of these workers are employed by finance and insurance firms, but a broad mix of organizations–including those in professional, scientific and technical services, government and manufacturing–benefit from their expertise.

While a bachelor’s in finance, economics or other related field is typically the minimum education level expected for this job, many employers are looking for people with a master’s in business administration or similar. You also need to invest five or more years of work experience in another financial or business occupation before you get to control the purse strings. Some starting positions that can lead you toward this career path include being an accountant, securities sales agent or financial analyst.

5. Marketing Research Analyst

Total number of jobs: 634,330

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 24.4%

Median annual salary: $62,828

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Like statisticians (#20 on this list), these workers are big beneficiaries of the big-data boom. Market research analysts help companies navigate an increasingly competitive business landscape by crunching numbers and studying market conditions and consumer behavior. With their analyses, they can develop effective marketing strategies, which may include setting appropriate prices and choosing advantageous store locations.

While a bachelor’s degree can get you in, a master’s degree can help you secure a top spot. Prospective market research analysts should study marketing research or a related field, such as statistics or math. Work experience or a strong background in statistical and data analysis will give you an added advantage.

6. Computer Systems Manager

Total number of jobs: 384,340

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 14.4%

Median annual salary: $138,142

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

With the computerization of everything from phones and coffeemakers to cars and airplanes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on computers in one way or another. That puts the folks who run the computers in very high demand. Computer systems managers plan, coordinate and direct all the IT activities of an organization, helping to ensure its technological needs are being met and implemented effectively.

You need at least five years of related work experience, as say an analyst in the same field, in order move up to manager. To get started, a bachelor’s degree in information technology or another computer-related field is typical. But you can also qualify with a liberal arts degree and techie talents you developed outside of a standard four-year program. On the other hand, a graduate degree can give you an edge in a highly competitive field.

7. Information Security Analyst

Total number of jobs: 110,914

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 27.2%

Median annual salary: $95,506

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Increasing digital dangers are pushing companies of all stripes to beef up their information security and hire more white hats. Banks and financial institutions, as well as tech firms, are particularly big employers of information security analysts. You can also find opportunities in hospitals and doctors’ offices, where the move to keep more digital records pushes the need to protect patients’ privacy.

To get started developing and implementing measures to safeguard an organization’s computer network, you likely need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, programming or another tech-related field. You may also need up to five years of work experience, perhaps as a network or systems administrator, to secure a management role. A master’s of business administration in information systems can help you stand out in the applicant pool. Becoming a certified information systems security professional or gaining some other similar certification can also give you a boost.

8. Physician Assistant

Total number of jobs: 112,463

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 35.3%

Median annual salary: $104,986

Typical education: Master’s degree

Want to avoid the time and cost of medical school, but still be a vital part of medical teams, working alongside physicians, surgeons and other health workers? Physician assistants (PAs) are trained to diagnose and treat patients and are able to write prescriptions and order tests. In some areas, they may serve as primary care providers in clinics where physicians visit just sporadically, perhaps one or two times a week. But a PA’s specific duties and how strictly they must be supervised by a physician or surgeon vary by state.

To get started, you need at least two years of postgraduate study to earn a master’s in this field. Accredited programs are competitive, so you ought to have patient-care experience–such as working as an EMT or paramedic, nursing assistant or other similar care provider–to round out your application. Volunteering at hospitals or clinics or with special-needs or at-risk groups, such as orphans or homeless people, can also bolster your experience. You need a license to practice, too.

9. Physician*

Total number of jobs: 393,399

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 13.7%

Median annual salary: $200,774

Typical education: Doctoral degree

Health care coverage may be a hotly debated issue in the U.S., but the need for quality health care is universally acknowledged. And physicians are still considered the top dogs for diagnosing and treating patients, especially when it comes to more specific health issues. Some specialties included in this group of doctors are allergists, cardiologists, dermatologists and radiologists.

Whatever your area of focus, expect to spend many years–and tuition dollars–on studying it. From the start of college, more than a decade will have passed before you finally become a board-certified practicing physician. And in that time, plenty of people pile on the student loans. In 2016, medical-school graduates carried a median $190,000 in debt, according to the American Medical Association.

*Bolded data at top refer specifically to physicians whose specialties are not included in detail by the Department of Labor. It does not include anesthesiologists, family and general practitioners, internists, obstetricians and gynecologists, pediatricians or psychiatrists.

10. Physical Therapist

Total number of jobs: 237,539

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 27.1%

Median annual salary: $85,694

Typical education: Doctoral degree

The need for physical therapy is expected to grow with the aging population, especially as people wish to remain active later in their longer lives. Many more workers will be needed in this field to care for victims of heart attacks and strokes and to lead them through rehabilitation. And with ongoing advances in medicine, more people will survive such traumas and need rehabilitative services. To provide them as a physical therapist, you’ll need a license to go along with your doctorate.

For similar reasons, the number of occupational therapists is expected to grow from 132,451 workers now at a rate of 23.7% over the next decade. While physical therapists focus on rehabilitation of major motor functions, occupational therapists help ill or disabled patients develop or recover the ability to independently perform daily tasks, such as dressing or feeding themselves. Occupational therapists typically need a master’s degree to get started and earn a median income of $81,928 a year.

11. Dental Hygienist

Total number of jobs: 215,720

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 20.9%

Median annual salary: $74,432

Typical education: Associate’s degree

Dentists (#28 on this list) aren’t the only professionals in the oral health field who have a great deal to smile about. Career prospects for dental hygienists–who typically clean teeth, take x-rays and educate patients on proper care–are also getting a boost from the aging population as well as a greater understanding of how good oral health is important to maintaining good overall health.

And these workers can get grinning long before–and with far lower costs–than dentists considering the shorter time required for schooling. To get started, you usually need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, which typically takes three years to complete. You also have to get a license to practice. Requirements vary by state. Learn more from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

12. General Manager

Total number of jobs: 2.3 million

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 12.0%

Median annual salary: $99,754

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Being a boss is, of course, a prosperous path for your future, vague as the title might be. General managers oversee operations that are too varied and difficult to fit into more squarely defined management positions. Their work might include strategic planning, developing work policies, making staff schedules and a multitude of other responsibilities necessary to make things happen on a daily basis.

Education and experience requirements vary widely by industry, company and even department. Typically, you need at least a bachelor’s degree and many years of work experience in order to take charge. But in some instances, workers without a college degree can make their way <a up the ladder into management. On the other hand, some employers may prefer applicants with a master’s in business administration.

13. Operations Research Analyst

Total number of jobs: 112,187

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 26.8%

Median annual salary: $81,441

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Businesses are under constant pressure to do things better, faster and cheaper. Enter the operations research analyst. These workers help firms increase efficiency, lower costs and boost profits, using mathematical and analytical methods. And with advancing technology allowing companies to collect more data about their businesses and customers, the need is greater for people who can make sense (and dollars) of it all.

You can land an entry-level operations research analyst position with a bachelor’s degree in a technical or quantitative field, such as engineering, analytics or math. Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree.

14. Registered Nurse

Total number of jobs: 3.0 million

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 16.3%

Median annual salary: $69,789

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

The outlook for RNs is healthy. This already robust workforce–the fifth-largest of all occupations–is expected to add nearly a half-million new positions by 2027. Advancing technology, greater focus on preventive care and an aging population will mean a growing number of patients requiring care in hospitals, doctors’ offices, long-term-care facilities and even private homes.

Becoming a registered nurse requires either a bachelor’s of science in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an accredited nursing program (which usually takes two to three years). You’ll need a license to practice, as well, not to mention reserves of compassion, patience and emotional stability.

15. Speech Language Pathologist

Total number of jobs: 150,730

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 19.9%

Median annual salary: $75,747

Typical education: Master’s degree

Another health-care-services position poised to benefit from the aging population, speech therapists are increasingly needed to treat the growing number of patients whose language has been affected by health conditions associated with aging, such as hearing loss or stroke. Greater attention to treating children with language disorders, such as stuttering, also drives demand for these professionals, 43% of whom are employed by schools, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition to having a master’s degree, a speech language pathologist usually needs to be licensed by his or her state. Check with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for more information.

16. Medical Sonographer

Total number of jobs: 70,351

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 23.2%

Median annual salary: $71,598

Typical education: Associate’s degree

Who wouldn’t prefer to avoid the scalpel? Noninvasive procedures to check out your insides are not only more popular with patients, the lower costs and relative simplicity also make them better options for insurers. And with advancing technology, they can be applied in more cases and used in more places, such as doctors’ offices and medical labs outside of hospitals.

Sonographers operate special imaging equipment to peer inside patients and assist physicians in assessing medical conditions. You can get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in sonography to get into this field. If you’re already working in a related job, such as a radiation therapist, you may be able to transition into this role through a college’s or hospital’s one-year certificate program. Other specialized certifications, such as in fetal echocardiography or musculoskeletal sonography, can make you a more attractive job candidate. Learn more from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

17. Physical Therapist Assistant

Total number of jobs: 91,319

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 31.3%

Median annual salary: $57,429

Typical education: Associate’s degree

Aging baby boomers are a boon for those working in physical therapy. As more people suffer and survive heart attacks, strokes and other traumas, the need for rehabilitative services is expected to increase. To meet growing demands, physical therapists may look to work with additional assistants, who can help them care for more patients in the same amount of time at minimal cost.

In order to follow this path, you must obtain an associate’s degree from an accredited program, which typically takes about two years. You also need to be licensed or certified, which requires you to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam, on top of completing the degree program. Other requirements vary by state; check with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy to locate your state’s licensing authority.

18. Respiratory Therapist

Total number of jobs: 129,745

Projected job growth, 2017-2027: 22.4%

Median annual salary: $59,717

Typical education: Associate’s degree

These workers can breathe easy. The aging population helps secure the need for respiratory therapy, as middle-aged and older people are expected to experience an increase in respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Effects of smoking and air pollution also inflate the demand for these therapists.

You typically need an associate’s degree to fill this role, but some employers may favor candidates with a bachelor’s degree. You also need a license to practice in all states except Alaska, where certification is recommended but not required. For specific state requirements, you can find your state licensure agency via the

This article provided by NewsEdge.