8 Fast-Growing, High-Paying Jobs

With the economy shrinking, many job-hunters are looking for a new career that pays well — and they need to find one that’s not going to disappear.

Robin Ryan, career coach and author of “60 Seconds and You’re Hired,” says, “I look at where you can make good money, where employers are looking for people and saying they can’t find them.”

Below are the careers that are forecast for strong growth over the next decade, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections through 2016.

Ryan notes that the federal growth forecasts are a few years old, and some fields are undergoing rapid change. Be on the lookout for emerging opportunities, especially those that involve Internet skills. With the cost of education soaring, we asked our experts to focus primarily on careers you can get started in without a four-year degree.

1. Physician’s assistant — The economy may be down, but people still get sick and need to go to the doctor. As the population continues to age, health-care fields will continue to see strong growth, says Ryan. Physician’s assistants usually take a two-year course (in addition to required college coursework and/or degree) and need to pass a certification exam. Then, they assist doctors in hospitals and clinics or in rural areas they may provide care if a doctor isn’t always available. 27% projected growth, according to the BLS. Median annual salary: $88,575

2. Database administrator — One thing’s for sure in this uncertain economy — companies continue to pile up data and need experts to make sure it’s properly organized and securely stored. Some database administrators get started with just a two-year degree — and if you enjoy computer programming, this is one of the best-paid areas in computer tech. 28.6% projected growth. Median annual salary: $73,388

3. Video game designer — The gaming field is exploding, notes Ryan. There are hugely successful massive multiplayer online role-playing games, casual games to play on computers, PDAs and cell phones, as well as games for Xbox, Nintendo and other proprietary game systems. If you’re a game nut, consider learning how to create games to cash in on this trend.

“These skills are often self-taught,” she notes. “And programming jobs pay extremely well.” 35% projected growth. Median annual salary: $66,664

4. Medical equipment repair — As medical equipment uses more complex technology, there are more parts that can malfunction — and more need for repair technicians. You may need a two-year degree, but the BLS reports most training is on the job. 9.4% projected growth. Median annual salary: $62,115

5. Media planner/buyer — Though the official BLS data doesn’t show explosive growth here, the Internet is causing rapid change in this industry that probably isn’t figured into federal forecasts yet, says job-trends expert Debra Yergen, author of “Creating Job Security: The 2009 All-In-One Workbook.” While the traditional advertising industry may be shrinking right now, online skills are in demand, she says. Many online-media pros are learning on the job.

“This is an emerging area where talent is going to be rewarded,” Yergen says. 11.7% projected growth. Median annual salary: $47,149

6. X-ray/Imaging technician — The medical field is increasingly relying on X-rays, MRIs and other imaging technology to diagnose and treat patients, notes Yergen. As new types of scans are invented, and become covered by insurance, the demand for trained imaging technicians will continue to grow. The BLS says technicians can get started with a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree. 15% projected growth. Median annual salary: $42,749

7. Plumber — Robin Ryan calls plumbing “a classic job most people don’t want to do.” Which is why it pays well. And bad economy or good, pipes burst and need replacing. If you enjoy working with your hands, look for an apprenticeship program where you can get paid while you learn on the job. 10.6% projected growth. Median annual salary: $42,001

8. Graphic/Web designer — Like Internet advertising, anyone who can make companies’ Web sites look better will be in demand, Yergen says. “This field will blossom as people find creative ways to help clients.” About one-quarter of graphic designers are self-employed, the BLS reports, and may get started with a two-year degree or be self-taught. 44.6% projected growth. Median annual salary: $41,215

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