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Great Jobs and the Education You Need to Get Them.

Today's best career opportunities are in fast-growth industries in need of workers with certain skills. With the right degree and training, you may qualify for one of these hot jobs.

'The three biggest industries where we continue to see widespread growth is in technology, health care, and sales,' says Tom Musbach, managing editor of Yahoo! HotJobs in Sunnyvale, California. In addition, there are 'surges of opportunity' in many major metropolitan areas.

Technology

Technology jobs are in high demand right now because most companies need people with technology skills, says Musbach. Our society's increasing reliance on the Internet - which shows no sign of a decline - has created a shortage of employees who enjoy working with computers and technology. View a list of Technology Degree Programs

Two specific technology jobs you may want to explore include webmaster and database administrator.

Webmaster. Webmasters create and manage the more than 106 million websites currently in existence worldwide. They develop new websites, improve existing ones, and fix ones that are malfunctioning. And with an annual growth rate of 41.5% in 2006, demand for websites services continues to grow at a rapid pace.

In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 231,000 web-related technology jobs. But more than two years later, the number of such jobs would have to nearly double to keep pace with demand. Which is why this is such a hot growth category - companies are having trouble keeping up with their technology demands.

Most webmasters have either an associates degree in information technology or a bachelors degree in information technology to qualify for such positions. The majority earned between $46,480 and $78,060 in 2004, although some made closer to $36,000 while others at the top made more than $95,000.

Database administrator. Another fast-growth technology job is database administration, which involves storing, sorting, managing, and analyzing the information generated by websites and other online systems. Just as demand for webmasters is on the fast track, so is the need for database administrators.

While job candidates with an associates degree or bachelors degree can qualify for database administration positions, increasingly companies prefer employees with a master of business administration and concentration in information technology degrees.

Perhaps even more important than a particular degree, however, is training in the latest technologies. With technological shifts occurring so quickly, organizations frequently look for employees with up-to-date skills and certifications. They also prefer candidates with related job experience.

For many technology workers, receiving training online makes it possible for them to keep their skills current without having to head back to campus full-time.

In 2004, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of database administrators earned between $44,490 and $81,140.

Health care

Just as the growth of the Internet has created the huge need for technology workers, the graying of America has created 'continued strong opportunities in health care,' confirms Musbach.

Nurse. In particular, 'nursing jobs continue to be in strong demand,' he states, due in part to people everywhere living longer. But nursing jobs themselves are quite varied. Some nurses work in doctors' offices, while others work in clinics or hospitals. Some assist doctors in diagnosing an illness and others handle lab tests or treatments.

Nurses who pursue additional training can become nurse practitioners, and are authorized to prescribe medicine, or nurse midwives, who help women give birth.

To be a nurse, you must first graduate from an associates or bachelor's degree program in nursing. After graduation, nurses must also take a test for their nursing license, which needs to be updated every few years with continuing education classes.

Most of the 2.4 million nurses in the U.S. earned between $43,370 and $63,360 in 2004. Of those, 60% worked in a hospital. 'There is an especially high need for nurses in Massachusetts and Maryland,' reports Musbach, based on job listings at Yahoo! HotJobs.

Social worker. Social work is an area with 'a lot of new entry level jobs,' says Musbach. And what social workers generally do is provide counseling and resources. Depending on the types of people they support - the homeless, the sick, students, families, or drug abusers, for example - social workers will research organizations and services that might be able to assist their client. They'll also counsel their client, helping them to understand their situation and work with them to solve their problems.

Nearly all social workers earn at least a bachelor's degree, while others will continue to earn a master's degree or a doctorate. Before applying for a job, however, social workers need to apply for a license or certification, such as from the National Association of Social Workers.

Most social workers are child, family, and school social workers and make between $27,840 and $45,140. In 2004, there were 562,000 social worker jobs, but that number is expected to rise quickly.

Other human service positions experiencing an increase in demand are police officers and teachers, both of which require at least some college coursework. If you're considering entering either of these fields and need college experience to qualify, consider attending college online. The flexibility of online studies will allow you to work your current job while you prep for your next.

Police officer. Our continued concern with security and safety has spawned new opportunities in law enforcement, include police officer positions. Police enforce laws, investigate crimes, pursue criminals, and prepare regular reports about their work.

In many cases, police officers must work 24-hour shifts, or regularly be available to their department. Most work more than 40 hours a week, but they also earn overtime for anything above 40 hours.

To qualify for a position as a police officer, most cities and states require candidates be U.S. citizens. They must also be physically fit, a high school graduate, and display good character. To get a job, applicants must pass a written test.

Some state and local police departments prefer that police candidates have had some college coursework, while all Federal police agencies require a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

Once hired, police officers typically earn between $34,410 and $56,360, not including overtime pay.

There were 842,000 police and detectives in 2004, 80% of which worked in local government. But that number is expected to climb as concern for personal safety remains strong, with states like California and Texas having a higher percentage of job openings, says Musbach.

Teacher. With 3.8 million teaching jobs nationwide in 2004, it might appear that teachers are plentiful. But in fact, some school districts are having trouble finding teachers with particular specialties, such as math, science, foreign language, and English as a second language. Teachers within major cities are also at a premium.

The commonality across all teaching jobs is the willingness to explain information, to demonstrate new skills, and help students grasp new concepts. Yet beyond that, there is a wide variety of teaching specialties. Elementary school teachers instruct one class on a variety of subjects, while middle and upper school teachers frequently specialize in a single subject.

To qualify for a teaching job, you must have a college degree and a teaching certificate if you intend to work in the public school system. You must also pass tests to demonstrate your subject-matter knowledge.

While the majority of teachers earn between $33,050 and $57,600, with upper school teachers earning more than kindergarten and elementary school teachers, they also have the opportunity to take the summer off.

Sales/Marketing

Along with the surge in sales job opportunities Musbach reported, human resource and accounting positions are also currently in high demand.

Human resource assistant. 'We're seeing a lot of opportunities in human resources, particularly in junior and mid-level position,' says Musbach.

Human resource assistants help manage employee records, update them with new information, as well as identify and hire new workers. About 25% of all human resource assistants work for a government agency.

There were approximately 172,000 human resource assistant positions held in 2004, but that number continues to grow in conjunction with new job creation in other industries. Most human resource assistants had a high school diploma and earned between $25,780 and $38,770.

Other opportunities in human resources exist as well, such as in management, where a Master of Business Administration in human resources management is the right training.

Accountant. Accounting jobs are 'booming' in major metropolitan areas, says Musbach, because that is where most major companies are headquartered. However, the constant stream of changes to U.S. accounting law that organizations are required to deal with is another factor in the rising demand for accountants.

An accountant's primary responsibility is to keep track of a company's money, although there are four different types of accountants. Public accountants work for accounting firms and provide accounting and tax consulting services to other businesses. Management accountants work within companies, while internal auditors double-check the work of the management accountants, and government accountants and auditors review the government's books and those of their suppliers.

Most accountants have a bachelor's degree in accounting, though a master of business administration degree in accounting can also be a plus. Public accountants also have to take a test in order to become certified, earning the title CPA.

Accountant earnings generally range between $39,890 and $66,900, though income rises with experience in this field.

If you've been considering a career change, or want to pursue a better job in a hot field, use this list to zero in on the fields most likely to have both opportunity and reward.

Marcia Layton Turner is a freelance writer based in Western New York. Her work has appeared in BusinessWeek, Black Enterprise, and Entrepreneur, among many others.

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