10 Best Jobs of the Future: 2017

Good news, advisors: You're on the list

The U.S. labor market is looking robust these days, though not all professions are thriving.

Kiplinger has taken a deep look at 785 popular occupations, and produced a list of the 10 most promising ones in fields that currently pay well and are projected to burgeon over the coming decade.

(Related: 30 Best Paying College Majors: 2017)

“Overall, our rankings emphasize how advancing technology and the aging population are the two major themes driving today’s and tomorrow’s job market,” Stacy Rapacon, online editor at Kiplinger.com, told ThinkAdvisor.

“If you are tech savvy, you should have plenty of opportunities to find work. And if you are able to provide a service to the huge baby boomer generation, you should have little problem finding a chance to do so.”

To arrive at its list of top job opportunities, Kiplinger used data provided by labor market research firm Economic Modeling Specialists International, which collects data from some 90 federal, state and private sources. Kiplinger then assigned weighted scores to each data point and added them up.

The total number of jobs listed for each occupation pertains to 2016. Projected 10-year job growth figures represent the percentage change in the total number of jobs in an occupation between 2016 and 2026. Annual earnings were calculated by multiplying median hourly earnings by 2,080, the standard number of hours worked in a year by a full-time employee.

“Our rankings are meant to showcase the statistics about these jobs,” Rapacon said. “It's really important to consider these numbers when you’re planning your career, just so you know what to expect.

“You don’t want to choose one path — possibly spending a lot of time and money heading that way — only to be surprised at where you wind up.”

Finding an occupation that interests the job seeker is also very important, she said. “You have a long career ahead of you and will spend a lot of time working.

“If you don’t like your job, you may burn out quickly and be generally unhappy, which wouldn’t make for a very good lucrative career anyway.”

(Related: Top 10 Best Jobs of the Future: 2015)

The top jobs on Kiplinger’s list have projected growth rates between 19% and 32%, versus 9% for all jobs. Median annual salaries range from the low $60,000s to the high $90,000s, compared with $43,233 for all jobs.

Four of the jobs require advanced degrees, but a person can find work in other areas with a bachelor’s or associate degree.

Following are Kiplinger’s 10 best jobs for the future:

Speech Language Pathologist

10. Speech Language Pathologist

Total number of jobs: 142,715

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 21%

Median annual salary: $73,334

Typical education: Master’s degree

Speech therapists treat the increasing number of patients whose language is affected by aging-related health conditions, such as stroke and hearing loss. They also treat children with language disorders, often in schools.

Besides a master’s degree, a speech language pathologist usually has to be licensed by the state in which he or she is employed.

Personal Financial Advisor

9. Personal Financial Advisor

Total number of jobs: 251,715

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 23.8%

Median annual salary: $86,780

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, accounting or a similar field is the best preparation for dealing with money matters, but most employers do not specify a required major, according to Kiplinger.

Certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards enhances an advisor’s credibility. This requires a bachelor’s degree, at least three years of relevant work experience and passing an exam on a wide variety of financial issues. In addition, an advisor must be licensed to sell certain types of insurance and investment products.

Market Research Analyst

8. Market Research Analyst

Total number of jobs: 557,031

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 20.9%

Median annual salary: $61,816

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Market research analysts help companies stay competitive by crunching numbers and studying market conditions and consumer behavior.

Similarly, operations research analysts, for whom demand is expected to grow by 28.4%, help firms increase efficiency, lower costs and boost profits by using mathematical and analytical methods; their median annual salary is $78,666.

Dental Hygienist

7. Dental Hygienist

Total number of jobs: 207,223

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 19%

Median annual salary: $73,141

Typical education: Associate degree

A dental hygienist cleans teeth, takes x-rays and educates patients on proper care.

Dental hygienists typically need an associate degree in dental hygiene, which can take three years to complete, as well as a license to practice.

Physician Assistant

6. Physician Assistant

Total number of jobs: 103,422

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 28.8%

Median annual salary: $98,869

Typical education: Master’s degree

Physician assistants have knowledge and abilities similar to nurse practitioners. They are trained to diagnose and treat patients and can write prescriptions and order tests. Unlike nurse practitioners, they are supervised by physicians and surgeons.

A physician assistant needs at least two years of postgraduate study to earn a master’s degree in the field and a license to practice.

Health Service Manager

5. Health Services Manager

Total number of jobs: 337,863

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 17.4%

Median annual salary: $93,294

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

A health services manager may oversee the functions of an entire medical practice or facility or of a specific department, perhaps serving as a clinical manager for surgery or physical therapy. Health information managers focus specifically on maintaining and keeping patient records secure.

These professionals have a bachelor’s degree in health administration, but it is also common for them to have a master’s degree in health services, long-term care administration or public health, according to Kiplinger. Certain facilities that employ them may require that they be licensed.

Physical Therapist

4. Physical Therapist

Total number of jobs: 226,661

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 30.4%

Median annual salary: $83,501

Typical education: Doctoral degree

Physical therapists focus on rehabilitation of major motor functions of those who suffer heart attacks and strokes or are recovering from surgery. Besides a doctorate, a physical therapist needs a license to practice.

Occupational therapists, for which demand is expected to grow by 25.6% over the next decade, help sick or disabled patients develop or recover the ability to independently perform daily tasks. They typically need a master’s degree to enter the profession. Their median annual income is $79,619.

Nurse Practitioner

3. Nurse Practitioner

Total number of jobs: 145,331

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 32.3%

Median annual salary: $98,288

Typical education: Master’s degree

Nurse practitioners provide much of the same care as qualified doctors, including routine checkups and writing prescriptions, and they can work independently. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a master’s degree.

Registered nurses, also in high demand and projected to increase by 17.2% by 2026, earn a median annual salary of $67,418. They must have a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from an accredited nursing program, which usually runs two or three years. Like nurse practitioners, they must be licensed to practice.

Computer Systems Analyst

2. Computer Systems Analyst

Total number of jobs: 597,812

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 22%

Median annual salary: $85,080

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

Computer systems analysts help businesses both meet their technological needs and continually improve with the advancements and demands of the connected world. Also in high demand, and projected to grow by 19.6% in 10 years, are information security analysts, whose job is to protect against increasing digital dangers.

These workers typically have a college degree in IT or another computer-related field, though some enter the profession with a liberal arts degree and tech talents they developed outside a standard four-year program, according to Kiplinger.

App Developer 

1. App Developer

Total number of jobs: 798,233

Projected job growth, 2016 – 2026: 21.6%

Median annual salary: $97,483

Typical education: Bachelor’s degree

These are the folks who develop new applications for mobile devices, from news and games to music and social sharing. Their cousins, software developers, are also experiencing growing demand, projected to be 16% by 2026. These creators of operating systems for computers and mobile devices earn a median annual income of $104,767.

Kiplinger noted that a college degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field was a standard requirement for most software-development jobs, and a master’s degree can be a competitive advantage. Absent a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree can get a job seeker in the door as a web developer, with a median annual salary of $60,385.

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