Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top Careers for 2011 and Beyond

I've given these careers and fields a high overall score on job satisfaction, and compensation including benefits and job security.

These picks are a distillation of the many thousands of nuggets that have entered my brain: from my career counseling clients, colleagues, radio show guests and callers, friends, reading (and I'm a pretty voracious reader of career material,) plus self-generated thoughts.
  • Optometry. This has long been one of my top-recommended careers. Yes an O.D. degree requires four years of post-bachelor's study or a six-year B.S./O.D. degree, but the career has major pluses. Optometrists, unlike many other health care providers, have a very high cure rate, they rarely get a middle-of-the-night emergency call, there's no blood, guts, nor communicable diseases, the aging population increases demand for optometrists, and optometrists make a six-figure income.
Note: optometrists are different from opticians, who dispense lenses and glasses, and from ophthalmologists who are MDs and do major surgery. Optometrists fit patients for lenses, diagnoses diseases, may prescribe some medications and eye exercises, and even do some minor surgeries.
  • Grant/Proposal Writer. The government, foundations, and nonprofits, distribute money through a proposal submission process. So whether it's a desk manufacturer who'd like to sell to the state, a Native American Dance Troupe that would like a grant from the Feds, or a drug addict job training program that wants money from a nonprofit, all of them need grant writers.
  • Fundraiser. Money is nonprofits' lifeblood. So nonprofits generally pay the highest salaries to fundraisers and, of course, to the executive director, who is also responsible for fundraising. So even if there are program cutbacks, nonprofits are likely to keep spending serious dollars on back-office development staff (those who research prospects to identify their hot buttons,) developers and maintainers of the donor database, fundraising event planners, and of course, pitchers: those with the moxie to extract big bucks from wealthy individuals and corporations.
  • Adult Day Care (the entire field, not just direct care providers.) Most elders want to age in place, that is, in their homes, but they'd do well to have meals prepared and companions to eat and recreate with, someone to be sure they take their pills, etc. Less expensive than 24/7 assisted living, adult day care is growing in popularity with elders, their families, and long-term care insurers. Typically a bus picks the clients up in the morning and drops them back home after dinner. These facilities, like all businesses, employ a wide range of people: from accountants to HR people to CEOs, as well as, of course, cooks, janitors, nurses, patient supervisors, etc.
  • Military. I believe the U.S. will enter a period of decreased foreign adventurism yet will continue to maintain a large headcount. Benefits are extraordinary: for example, free housing and education for the servicemember and family after just 90 days of service! Please know that the military offers an enormous range of careers beyond grunt: from artists to engineers.
  • Health care administration. The 2,500-page ObamaCare programs will cover an additional 32-45,000,000 disproportionately low-income high health care users plus 12,000,000 more when Obama fulfills his promise to legalize illegal immigrants and their family members. All of that will profoundly affect health care in the U.S. Hospitals, physician group practices, health organizations such as Kaiser, Humana, Sutter, etc., will, for the foreseeable future, be employing large numbers of people to deal with the myriad required changes.
  • Bilingual special education teachers, school psychologists, and speech therapists. Limited-English-proficient students are America's fastest growing category of students, and, by definition, they have extensive, often expensive, special needs. Unlike education for regular education kids, services to special education students are absolutely mandated by law, no matter how tough the economy or how great the cutbacks to other students. So funding will exist to pay for teachers, school psychologists, speech therapists, special bus drivers, etc., to provide the mandated "free and appropriate education" for all special education students.
  • Federal manager. Despite the Tea Party win, the Keynesian administration and Senate remain in charge. That means the federal government will not shrink and, for non-star employees, the federal government, compliments of the taxpayer, continues to offer the best deal in town: surprisingly high salary and unsurprisingly excellent benefits, holidays, vacation, retirement, and job security. At this moment, there are 190 U.S. federal manager positions advertised on Half of them pay over $100,000.
  • Welding. I've often read that this field has shortages, especially stainless-steel welding and welding in tight spaces--for example, inside oil refinery pipes. That's true not just in the U.S. A recent 60 Minutes reported a severe welder shortage in Brazil.
Self-employment ideas

I like these because they require short training and small investment, have high profit margins, are likely to survive a tough economy, and are minimally subject to trend risk--that is, demand is unlikely to wane.
  • Parking-lot oil changing. Give an owner of a mall- or large employer parking lot a fee in exchange for allowing you to use a few of their parking spaces for changing oil while the car owners are shopping or at work.
  • Gourmet salad and sandwich (including burrito) trucks or carts. I've been touting these for years. Last year, they caught on big-time on the coasts. I believe there's still room in high-foot-traffic locations in non-coastal cities.
  • Wellness coaching. I believe the days of the "ten more pushups!" fitness trainer are waning. People are turning to wellness coaches who help them with all aspects of wellness: alcohol, drugs, and smoking, stress reduction, weight control, and yes, "Ten more pushups!"


ST said...

Be careful thinking about becoming an optometrist if you haven't gone through school for it yet. I was surprised to see among the comments (usually very informative in articles on careers) on how much tuition is owed afterward, even though the field is well-paying (that is, if you're lucky to work 40 hours/week it sounds like):

Of course, it also sounds like some areas are begging (rural, etc.)

Marty Nemko said...

All careers have their tradeoffs. For me, this one--if you're smart enough to get in and through optometry school--overall scores in the very top rung.

Shweta said...

Thanks for the well defined list Marty. wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I would like to add here that other than the regular list of careers it is important for the job seekers to be ready for reinvention.. many of the previously held jobs are not coming back, would love to see an article from you this year on how to accelerate career reinvention this year - a topic many would be interested in.
Thanks again!
Shweta @Careerbright

JeromePineau said...

Darn! I was hoping social media strategist would be in there! :)

Marty Nemko said...


In this economy, my clients are finding making a major career change (what I assume you mean by reinvention) very difficult unless they are quite smart and true self-starters, and most people like that don't usually need a career counselor.

Marty Nemko said...

Jerome, I think social media strategist may be close to peaking so I don't feel it deserves a spot on my list of top careers--I fear that people who spend the time to become experts at it now, may find themselves, in a few years in a field with too many "social media strategists" relative to the number of jobs out there. It'll probably become--like desktop publishing back in the 1980s--something that many people can do--without having to hire a strategist specific to that.

JeromePineau said...

You're probably right Marty. That's actually one thing I blogged about in my 2011 "predictions" - but I was only commenting "tongue-in-cheek" - on the other hand, to pick up on another of your comments, I switched industries a year ago from software/BI to horology and moved to Switzerland in the process. As I like to say, if you find yourself in a comfort zone, you're probably parked illegally :)

Anonymous said...

What would be the expectations of a middle-aged white biology teacher?? Seems like I am a dying breed. I have only been teaching four years, since the "shortage" doesn't really exist.......what's next?

Marty Nemko said...

Move to a less diversity-focused part of the country or world? Or consider teaching opps in the military?