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10 Best Careers for the Future: Highest Paying & in Demand

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There’s a good chance that you’ve been told to think about your future your entire life. You may have been told to think about where you want to go to college, what you want to study, and what career you want to have. This is especially true for high school students.

The truth is that just thinking about your career probably isn’t enough. You have to actively do some research and plan. Technology and the rest of the world are advancing at such a rapid rate that it can be difficult to know what the labor market will look like in 10 years, much less when you graduate.

How are students supposed to know which are the best careers for the future? What are some important things to considering when deciding? Don’t worry because we’ve got you covered for the long haul. Here are some of the best careers for the future and how you can get your foot in the door.

1. Registered Nurses and Medical Professionals

male nurse with female patientOne important question to ask yourself when planning for a future-proof career is what services people are always going to need. Medical professionals are definitely at the top of the list. People will always need medical care and, while the technology we use to deliver some of that care is changing, the necessity for nurses, doctors, and medical professionals will always be there.

Depending on your field and which medical profession you want to pursue, there are a number of options for students. For those who value interacting with patients and want to become registered nurses (RNs), you’re going to need either an associate degree in nursing, a Bachelor of Science in nursing, or another accredited diploma from a nursing program. If you’re interested in becoming a practicing physician you’ll need a medical degree in your chosen field on top of your four-year degree.

Even better, students interested in working in a medical profession may be eligible for student loan forgiveness. It’s part of the FELS (Forgivable Education Loans for Service) Program where students can have some or all of their student loans forgiven as part of working in eligible professions within North Carolina. Examples of FELS eligible professions and programs include a wide range of nursing, allied health, and medical programs. Be sure to check carefully and see if your program is eligible for student loan forgiveness.

2. Data Analysts

If there’s one field that has positively exploded in the last decade, it’s the field of data analytics. Big data is more than a buzzword, it’s a growing field with lucrative opportunities for college graduates. As a matter of fact, the projections for careers in the fields of computer and information research scientists (which also includes data analysts) are among the strongest out there.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for jobs in the field is 16 percent. This is more than three times the average national growth rate for jobs, which is five percent. Couple this with a 2018 median industry pay of more than $118,000 and you’re looking at an opportunity to make some serious money. Of course, it’s also recommended that you have a master’s degree in computer science or another related field if you want to break into the industry.

Data science is also a promising field for people looking to break down walls and shatter glass ceilings in a traditionally male-dominated industry. An article from Forbes detailed that only 26 percent of the jobs in data science in the U.S are held by women. Thankfully, there are terrific programs out there looking to change these numbers. Girls Who Code is one such program designed to offer clubs and immersion programs for girls from third grade through college. The program teaches girls all about the exciting world of computer science and how they can break into this dynamic field themselves.

3. Plumbers and Electricians

Not all of the best careers for the future will require a four-year undergraduate degree. There are many jobs in America with a desperate need for skilled laborers. A report by the National Science Board projects that there will be 3.4 million unfilled jobs in skilled labor by 2022. There’s a serious demand for skilled positions jobs like plumbers and technicians, and these are well-paying jobs with promising career prospects.

One of the best things about skilled labor positions is how quickly you can potentially enter the workforce. Many of these positions require a high school degree and often an associate degree in a related field, but don’t necessarily require graduation from a four-year university. Students looking to work with their hands in a high-demand field should give serious thought to jobs as plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades.

There are state-sponsored apprenticeship programs available for people eager to start their careers. Students can explore career opportunities in fields like the energy industry and find a variety of jobs from electrical technicians to power plant operators. You can even find available apprenticeships with specific companies in your industry. Do your parents have an NC529 Account for you? These funds can also be used for apprenticeship programs!

4. Dentists and Dental Hygienists

dental hygienistLike medical care, people still need to visit the dentist regardless of how the economy is doing. As baby boomers keep getting older, they’re going to require more dental care. The same can be said for the health-minded millennial generation.

Students will need an associate degree in dental hygiene to start a career as a dental hygienist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 11 percent annual growth in this important field over the next ten years. For a career as a dentist, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree followed by a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD).

Careers for dentists are expected to grow by seven percent by 2028 and have a 2018 median pay that’s almost twice what you’d make as a dental hygienist ($156,240 as a dentist compared to $74,820 as a dental hygienist).

5. Software Developers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a cave without wi-fi) for the last 20 years, you already know how large a role software plays in our everyday lives. Whether it’s your favorite social media platform or that new app you can’t get enough of, you have a software developer to thank for that.

It’s hard to understate just how important software developers are to the modern world. Practically everything you see on your phone or computer was built by a software developer. From the utility apps that let you type reports, to programs that help you schedule and track, down to your favorite video game, they’re all thanks to the hard work of software developers. And developers do much more than build the programs themselves, they’re also responsible for the updates and fixes that keep your favorite applications running smoothly. It’s no wonder developers are in such high demand!

Software developers are also one of the hottest occupations on the market right now. U.S. News and World Report ranked it as their top job overall in their list of the 100 best jobs for 2020 as well as number one in both STEM and technology fields.

If this is a career you’re interested in, you’re going to at least need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, and many companies will look favorably on an advanced degree. You may also want to consider programs like the previously mentioned Girls Who Code to help you develop a foundation for computer science before you get to college.

6. Cybersecurity Experts

Just as the world increasingly becomes even more digital, the need for cybersecurity has grown too. Data breaches are a huge deal and expose the private information of both customers and companies. According to IBM, the average total cost of a data breach is $3.92 million. With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that companies are willing to pay handsomely for someone to protect their data.

Median salaries for cybersecurity experts can start at $80,000 for IT Security Consultants and can reach six figures for other positions such as a security director. The best way to start your path in cybersecurity is with, you guessed it, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering, or another related field.

7. Alternative Energy Installers and Technicians

man working on solar panelNo matter how you may feel about climate change or the continued use of fossil fuels, there’s no question that the role of alternative energy in the world is only going to increase. Whether it’s through the increased application of wind energy, wider use of solar power, or developing new electric cars, alternative and renewable energy are vast fields with virtually limitless untapped potential.

One of the most exciting things about alternative energy jobs is how broad a spectrum of careers there are in the field. There’s a career for you in everything from construction to engineering, installation, and alternative energy research.

In fact, wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing job in America, and employment is expected to grow by an incredible 108 percent by 2024. For this specific position, you’ll likely need to complete a two-year program at a technical school in addition to a high school diploma.

8. Mental Health Professionals

The stigma toward seeking help with mental health is lessening at a time when people arguably need the services of mental health professionals more than ever. It’s not a profession that can be automated, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a caring ear from a robot. That’s why there’s an expected growth rate of 22 percent in the field of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors between 2018 and 2028.

Society, and insurance companies, are recognizing the growing importance of mental health. That means that there is going to be a much higher demand for professionals who are properly trained in providing mental health services. This includes psychologists, therapists, counselors, and social workers. Like many other medical professions, mental health professionals may also qualify for student loan forgiveness through FELS. Don’t forget to make sure your program qualifies to see if you can save on student loans.

If a career in mental health sounds right for you, you’re going to need at least a master’s degree in clinical social psychology or social work, or a doctorate in psychology to become a licensed psychotherapist.

9. Veterinarians

veterinarian and assistant evaluating dogveterinarian and assistant evaluating dogPeople love their pets, and they’re willing to pay a lot of money to take care of them. If you’re a compassionate person that loves working with animals, becoming a vet may be the best career for you.

To become a veterinarian, you’re going to need a four-year degree in a field like biology, zoology, chemistry, physics, or another related field. You’ll also need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from an accredited program.

Once you have your degrees, you can stand to make a good living as a veterinarian. The 2018 median pay for vets was $93,880 and the projected growth rate for the next decade is 18 percent, more than three times higher than the national average.

10. Artificial Intelligence

Instead of worrying about a robot taking your job someday, what if you were the person designing the robot? Artificial intelligence is a dynamic and growing field with a wide variety of occupations, ranging from robotics engineers to natural language processing to artificial intelligence researchers.

Because it’s such a new and exciting field, there’s a lot of room for growth in the artificial intelligence industry. What’s more, it can be a very lucrative career. The New York Times reports that top researchers at big companies are finding salaries in the high six figures. If getting into AI sounds like something you want to do, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree in computer science is recommended if you want to be placed into one of these larger roles.

Find the Right Career for Your Future

These are only a choice few of the many careers with promising futures. The most important career is the one that is right for you. CFNC is here to help students plan for their careers by exploring different types of careers and even find tools for writing resumes, building cover letters, and more. Find out your best career for the future and start planning when you create your CFNC account today.

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