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The 50 Best Careers of 2011

 Consider these high-opportunity jobs as you look for your next paycheck:

It pays to be smart when choosing your career, particularly now that the job market is (slowly) improving. With the recession officially over, anyone who’s out of work or eager to change jobs is on the lookout for opportunities. But where, exactly, are the jobs? Which occupations offer decent salaries, quality of life and are likely to stick around for the next decade?
Click here to find out more!
Our list of 50 Best Careers answers those questions. We’ve highlighted dozens of high-opportunity professions careers you may want to consider as you decide where to look for your next paycheck. Based on job-growth projections, salary data, and other factors like job satisfaction, these occupations span a variety of industries, so you can find the right position for you no matter what your interests.
Here’s our list of the 50 Best Careers of 2011 — click each job to learn more:
Business Jobs:
Creative and Service Jobs:
Healthcare Jobs:
Social Service Jobs:
Clergy
Technology Jobs:
What’s new on the list this year? Several of our picks reflect the recent uptick in the economy, while others are long-time contenders that finally muscled their way onto the roster. With an aging baby boomer generation, healthcare continues to make a strong showing. All of the healthcare jobs on last year’s list have made the cut again this year, plus two new positions: massage therapist and athletic trainer. While the field of athletic training doesn’t offer the sheer number of positions as nursing or dental hygiene, it outranks nearly all other healthcare occupations for expected job growth.
Technology positions also account for a good chunk of our top-choice careers. Computer support specialist joins the ranks this year with upward trending employment numbers. Education administrator, which ranked particularly high for job satisfaction, made it onto our lineup of social service jobs. In the business category, we added sales manager, an occupation that’s making a comeback along with the economy.
On our creative and service jobs list, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technician is new this year, largely because of its high expected job growth. Interpreter/translator, an occupation that’s increasingly in demand as a result of globalization, also made the cut.
To come up with this year’s list, U.S. News considered job-growth projections from the Labor Department, estimates for 2008 to 2018, the most recent data available. We narrowed it down to occupations that are expected to add jobs at an above-average rate over the next decade, as well as those that provide an above-average median income. Sales manager makes the highest median annual salary on our list, nearly $97,000. Computer software engineer, physician assistant, meteorologist and education administrator all bring in median average salaries in the mid-$80,000 range.
We also considered, where possible, data on job satisfaction, turnover, and impending retirements, which crank up openings in jobs that may have only slightly above-average employment growth. We talked with labor and industry experts as well, gathering anecdotal evidence about employment prospects and job satisfaction. We excluded careers that lack a statistically significant number of positions and therefore provide opportunity for only a small number of workers. When necessary, we favored jobs that would help diversify our list in terms of category and educational requirements, since not everyone wants to work in healthcare or go to school for six years.
Most of the jobs that were cut from the list this year showed a higher-than-average unemployment rate or shrinking employment numbers during the last few quarters. From the creative and service jobs category, funeral director, plumber, security system installer, and landscape architect got the boot. In business, we cut market research analyst, loan officer, and cost estimator.
Of course, no one job is best for everyone, and everyone has their own ideas about what makes a job great. “You have to like what you’re doing or you’re not going to be successful at it,” says Emily Bennington, who helps college graduates transition into careers through her company, Professional Studio 365. At the same time, “if you’re not getting paid to do it, you’re not going to love it for very long.”
Qualities that make a job desirable also change with the times and circumstances. Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, expects his next set of job-satisfaction data to show that workers value stability more than they did before the recession. “Occupations that have greater job stability perhaps have improved in the public’s evaluation,” he says.
Even as hiring picks up, the odds can seem daunting to job seekers. In a struggling economy with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, competition is stiff even for some jobs that made our list. For every job opening in September, there were about five unemployed people, according to the Labor Department. While that’s an improvement from 6.2 people for every job opening in November 2009, the most recent peak, “it’s still a very tough job market,” says Steve Hipple, an economist at the Labor Department. During the three years before the recession, the rate averaged 1.7 unemployed people for every job opening.
Others like John Challenger, CEO of outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, are more optimistic. “The whole environment has changed,” says Challenger, who talks daily with companies that are hiring, as well as job seekers. “(It’s) certainly not gang-busters by any means … but it feels like springtime compared to last year’s winter in the job market.”
Whether you’re out of work or your job has simply fallen out of favor, you’ll likely find an occupation on our list that suits you. For each profession, we’ve offered a summary of what you can expect on the job, as well as advice from hiring managers and people who work in that industry about how to land one.
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America’s 20 fastest growing salaries

When you interview for a job, conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t bring up salary. Let the employer broach the topic first. After all, the last thing you want is to give the impression that you’re only taking the job for the money.

If you think about it, the whole formality of salary discussion is strange. Understandably, an employer wants someone who is passionate about the job. But we all know that money is important, otherwise you’d be volunteering full time.

While salary is probably not the only motivation you have for choosing a job, it is an important one. Websites like CBSalary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics contain salary information for thousands of jobs so that you can find out what your position typically pays and how it compares with other parts of the country. For example, the average hourly pay increased 1.7 percent over the last year. Did you fare as well?

Here, at the comfort of your computer monitor, you don’t have to pretend that money means nothing to you. If you’re frustrated with the compensation trends for your job, you can vent and no one will know. Or you can see what other industries pay, just out of curiosity.

To appease your curiosity or give you some direction for your next job hunt, we put together a list of some of America’s fastest growing salaries. Their year-over-year pay increases outpaced the national average by several percentage points.

Here are 20 of the jobs with the fastest growing salaries*:

Endodontist
2009 salary: $141,373
2010 salary: $166,874
Increase: 18.03 percent

Oral pathologist
2009 salary: $159,759
2010 salary: $188,577
Increase: 18.03 percent

Periodontist
2009 salary: $150,023
2010 salary: $177,084
Increase: 18.03 percent

Pharmacologist
2009 salary: $90,012
2010 salary: $99,370
Increase: 10.39 percent

Toxicologist
2009 salary: $63,655
2010 salary: $70,273
Increase: 10.39 percent

Academic dean
2009 salary: $93,126
2010 salary: $100,771
Increase: 8.2 percent

Dean of student affairs
2009 salary: $86,201
2010 salary: $93,278
Increase: 8.2 percent

Director of nursing school
2009 salary: $72,315
2010 salary: $78,252
Increase: 8.2 percent

Experimental psychologist
2009 salary: $86,010
2010 salary: $93,057
Increase: 8.19 percent

Social psychologist
2009 salary: $79,272
2010 salary: $85,766
Increase: 8.19 percent

Numerical control programmer
2009 salary: $57,945
2010 salary: $62,620
Increase: 8.06 percent

General surgeon
2009 salary: $317,494
2010 salary: $342,971
Increase: 8.02 percent

Medical officer
2009 salary: $476,753
2010 salary: $515,010
Increase: 8.02 percent

Neurosurgeon
2009 salary: $465,937
2010 salary: $503,326
Increase: 8.02 percent

Orthopedic surgeon
2009 salary: $346,076
2010 salary: $373,847
Increase: 8.02 percent

Plastic surgeon
2009 salary: $264,349
2010 salary: $285,561
Increase: 8.02 percent

Orthopedic podiatrist
2009 salary: $179,889
2010 salary: $193,920
Increase: 7.79 percent

Early childhood development teacher
2009 salary: $34,418
2010 salary: $37,072
Increase: 7.71 percent

Insurance salesperson
2009 salary: $49,121
2010 salary: $52,743
Increase: 7.37 percent

Credit reference clerk
2009 salary: $28,549
2010 salary: $30,393
Increase: 6.45 percent

*Based on data from the ERI Economic Research Institute, Inc.

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By Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder Writer

America’s Most Popular Jobs – (according to MSN) …

The following is a list of jobs with little in common. Annual salaries for these jobs range from just over $18,000 to more than $110,000. Some don’t require workers to graduate from high school, while others require a master’s degree or higher. The reason they all appear here? They are the most popular jobs in America.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following 15 jobs account for more than 25 percent of total U.S. employment. For comparison purposes, the largest job — retail sales — employs 4.21 million people, or 3.2 percent of the total American  work force. By contrast, a mere 660 people are employed as prosthodontists, 1,170 as geographers and 870 as radio operators nationally.


So what are these mega-professions that employ so many people? According to the BLS, the following jobs are America’s  most popular:

1. Retail salespeople: Perhaps a testament to consumerism, retail salespeople rank No. 1 in job popularity. Besides great communication and customer service skills, retails salespeople also have to know how to close a deal; many of these jobs are commission-based. 

Total employment:  4.21 million
Salary: $24,630*
Requirements: A high school diploma is preferred for entry-level positions. For those who hope to move on to retail management, a bachelor’s degree is helpful.

2. Cashiers: Cashiers are responsible for working registers, monitoring cash drawers and taking payments at establishments that range from supermarkets and gas stations to retail stores and theme parks. Like retail salespeople, cashiers must have good customer-service and people skills, since they spend their day dealing with the public.

Total employment:  3.44 million
Salary: $19,030
Requirements: On-the-job training

3. Office clerks: Workers spend their days filling a variety of roles in an office environment, from entering data to preparing mailings. An office clerk’s duties may vary daily, according to the needs of the company.

Total employment:  2.81 million
Salary: $27,700
Requirements: A high school diploma and a combination of word processing, computer and proofreading skills.

4. Combined food preparation and service workers: This category primarily encompasses those who work in fast food establishments as counter attendants and food prep workers. Duties often include taking orders and accepting payment, filling beverage cups, assembling food items and providing customer service.

Total employment:  2.69 million
Salary: $18,120
Requirements: On-the-job training. Employers look for workers with excellent customer-service skills, a neat appearance and the ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment.

5. Registered nurses: Nursing is the most common profession in the health-care field. RNs treat patients in hospitals, outpatient facilities and doctors‘ offices. Some provide home care to patients.

Total employment:  2.58 million

Salary: $66,530
Requirements: There are three different educational requirements for RNs: a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ASN) or a diploma. Many hold master’s degrees or an advanced practice nursing license (APRN).

6. Waiters and waitresses: Waiters and waitresses take food orders, accept payment and provide menu information to restaurant customers.

Total employment:  2.3 million
Salary: $20,380
Requirements: There are no minimal education requirements, though many establishments prefer staff to have high school diplomas.

7. Customer service representatives: Customer service workers answer questions, provide information, fulfill customer requests and handle customer complaints. While many work in call centers, others are employed in retail stores or at banks.

Total employment:  2.19 million
Salary: $32,410
Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training.

8. Material movers: This broad job category encompasses laborers who literally move materials. Think truck loaders, loading dock workers and baggage handlers.

Total employment:  2.13 million
Salary: $25,290
Requirements: On-the-job training

9. Janitors: Janitors are responsible for maintaining cleanliness in places such as office buildings, museums, schools and hospitals.

Total employment:  2.1 million
Salary: $24,120
Requirements: On-the-job training, ability to perform physical work for extended periods.

10. Stock clerks and order fillers:  Stock clerks and order fillers work in storage facilities, warehouses, and shipping and receiving departments, ensuring that orders are properly filled, stocked, priced and accounted for.

Total employment:  1.86 million
Salary: $23,460
Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training, ability to perform physically strenuous work.

11. Secretaries: Secretaries (not including medical, legal and executive secretaries) provide administrative assistance to an office in the form of answering phones, greeting visitors, ordering catering services, proofreading, entering data, scanning and faxing documents, and more.

Total employment:  1.8 million
Salary: $31,060
Requirements: High school diploma, though an increasing number hold an associate or bachelor’s degree. Secretaries must also have good computer and communication skills.

12. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks: Employees in these positions serve as a corporation’s record-keepers. Tasks include maintaining accounts payable and receivable, documenting and tracking budgets and preparing financial statements.

Total employment:  1.76 million
Salary: $34,750
Requirements: High school diploma, though many employers now require workers in these positions to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.

13. General managers: General managers are the top executives of establishments and organizations such as restaurants, hotels, amusement parks and sports teams. They are in charge of the business’s day-to-day operations and long-term goals.

Total employment:  1.69 million
Salary: $110,550
Requirements: Most hold a bachelor’s or advanced-level degree.

14. Tractor-trailer truck drivers: This category includes only those drivers who operate trucks with a capacity of more than 26,001 pounds. These drivers are responsible for the timely delivery of goods along routes that may cover multiple states.

Total employment:  1.55 million
Salary: $39,260
Requirements: A commercial driver’s license is necessary for all drivers. Some states also require a training program.

15. Elementary school teachers: The category includes elementary school teachers except those who teach special education. Elementary school teachers are responsible for instructing students in kindergarten through fifth grade on a variety of subjects.

Total employment:  1.54 million
Salary: $53,150
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, teaching certification.

* Salary information is according to the BLS, and is based on average annual salary) 
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America’s 15 Most Popular Jobs

The following is a list of jobs with little in common. Annual salaries for these jobs range from just over $18,000 to more than $110,000. Some don’t require workers to graduate high school, while others require a master’s degree or higher. The reason they all appear here? They are the most popular jobs in America.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following 15 jobs account for more than 25 percent of total U.S. employment. For comparison purposes, the largest job — retail sales — employs 4,209,500 people, or 3.2 percent of the total American work force. By contrast, there are a mere the 660 people employed as prosthodontists, 1,170 who work as geographers and 870 radio operators nationally.
So what are these mega-professions that employ so many people?
According to the BLS, the following jobs are America’s most popular:
1. Retail salespeople
Perhaps a testament to consumerism, retail salespeople rank No. 1 in job popularity. Besides great communication and customer service skills, retails salespeople also have to know how to close a deal — many of these jobs are commission-based.
Total employment: 4,209,500
Salary: $24,630*
Requirements: A high school diploma is preferred for entry-level positions. For those who hope to move on to retail management, a bachelor’s degree is helpful.
2. Cashiers
Cashiers are responsible for working registers, monitoring cash drawers and taking payments at establishments that range from supermarkets and gas stations to retail stores and theme parks. Like retail salespeople, cashiers must have good customer-service and people skills, since they spend their day dealing with the public.
Total employment: 3,439,380
Salary: $19,030
Requirements: On-the-job training
3. Office clerks
Workers spend their days filling a variety of roles in an office environment, from entering data to preparing mailings. An office clerk’s duties may vary daily, according to the needs of the company.
Total employment: 2,815,240
Salary: $27,700
Requirements: A high school diploma and a combination of word processing, computer and proofreading skills.
4. Combined food preparation and service workers
This category primarily encompasses those who work in fast food establishments as counter attendants and food prep workers. Duties often include taking orders and accepting payment, filling beverage cups, assembling food items and providing customer service.
Total employment: 2,695,740
Salary: $18,120
Requirements: On-the-job training. Employers look for workers with excellent customer-service skills, a neat appearance and the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.
5. Registered nurses
Nursing is the most common profession in the health care field. RNs provide treatment to patients in hospitals, outpatient facilities and doctors‘ offices. Some provide home care to patients.
Total employment: 2,583,770
Salary: $66,530
Requirements: RNs are required to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many hold master’s degrees or an advanced practice nursing license (APRN).
6. Waiters and waitresses
Waiters and waitresses take food orders, accept payment and provide menu information to restaurant customers.
Total employment: 2,302,070
Salary: $20,380
Requirements: There are no minimal education requirements, though many establishments prefer staff to have high school diplomas.
7. Customer service representatives
Customer service workers answer questions, provide information, fulfill customer requests and handle customer complaints. While many work in call centers, others are employed in retail stores or at banks.
Total employment: 2,195,860
Salary: $32,410
Requirements: High school diploma, on the job training.
8. Material movers
This broad job category encompasses laborers that literally move materials. Think truck loaders, loading dockbaggage handlers. workers and
Total employment: 2,135,790
Salary: $25,290
Requirements: On-the-job training
9. Janitors
Janitors are responsible for maintaining cleanliness in places like office buildings, museums, schools and hospitals.
Total employment: 2,090,400
Salary: $24,120
Requirements: On-the-job training, ability to perform physical work for extended periods.
10. Stock clerks and order fillers
Stock clerks and order fillers work in storage facilities, warehouses, and shipping and receiving departments, ensuring that orders are properly filled, stocked, priced and accounted for.
Total employment: 1,864,410
Salary: $23,460
Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training, ability to perform physically strenuous work.
11. Secretaries
Secretaries (not including medical, legal and executive secretaries) provide administrative assistance to an office in the form of answering phones, greeting visitors, ordering catering services, proofreading, entering data, scanning and faxing documents, and more.
Total employment: 1,797,670
Salary: $31,060
Requirements: High school diploma, though an increasing number hold an associate or bachelor’s degree. Secretaries must also have good computer and communication skills.
12. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
Employees in these positions serve as a corporation’s record-keepers. Tasks include maintaining accounts payable and receivable, documenting and tracking budgets and preparing financial statements.
Total employment: 1,757,870
Salary: $34,750
Requirements: High school diploma, though many employers now require workers in these positions to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.
13. General managers
General managers are the top executives of establishments and organizations like restaurants, hotels, amusement parks and sports teams. They are in charge of the businesses day-to-day operations and long-term goals.
Total employment: 1,689,680
Salary: $110,550
Requirements: Most hold a bachelor’s or advanced-level degree.
14. Tractor-trailer truck drivers
This category only includes those drivers who operate trucks with a capacity of more than 26,001 pounds. These drivers are responsible for the timely delivery of goods along routes that may cover multiple states.
Total employment: 1,550,930
Salary: $39,260
Requirements: A commercial driver’s license is necessary for all drivers. Some states also require a training program.
15. Elementary school teachers
The category includes elementary school teachers except those that teach special education. Elementary school teachers are responsible for instructing students in kindergarten through fifth grade on a variety of subjects.
Total employment: 1,544,300
Salary: $53,150
Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, teaching certification.

* Salary information is according to the BLS
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