New college graduates are leaving their alma maters behind this spring, and if they thought classes in Advanced Calculus or English Literature were tough, they’re nothing compared to the challenge they face in a depressed U.S. labor market. Countless thousands will fail to find work in their field and will enter the labor force underemployed, finding the $75,000 in student debt they racked up for a Psychology degree has landed them a job in the fast food industry. But for high school students and college students still trying to choose a major, here are five of the fastest growing jobs in the United States with a median pay of $75,000 or more, based on statistics and projections from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Physical Therapists
An aging population of baby boomers still out mountain biking and playing sports spells more work for these members of the medical community. The BLS projects the need for physical therapists to jump a whopping 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, creating more than 77,000 new job openings nationwide. Physical therapists are typically required to have a doctoral degree in physical therapy — that’s three more years of school — along with a residency program, but with a rapidly growing need, and a median salary of $76,000 (2010) some students may figure it’s worth the extra time and student debt.
The BLS predicts a need for almost 70,000 additional pharmacists nationwide through the year 2020. Sure, the $112,000 median salary sounds nice, but pharmacists also take on staggering amounts of student debt to achieve this occupation, thanks to the three-to-four year Doctor of Pharmacy degree required for this occupation. The higher-paying jobs also usually require a one- or two-year residency.
3. Management Analysts
If you were the kid in your neighborhood always trying to show the other kids the best strategy for building a treehouse or playing a video game, you have the makings of a management analyst. Essentially, companies hire consultants to show them a better way of doing business, cutting costs and increasing profits. An MBA will certainly increase your job prospects in this field. It’s estimated an additional 158,000 consultants will be needed in this occupation by 2020. The median pay: about $78,000.
2. Physicians and Surgeons
Now that the public has greater access to health care, through the health reform law passed in 2010, more people will be going to the doctor and the hospital. And when you have more people seeking medical care … you need more doctors. In fact, both supporters and critics of President Obama’s health care reform worry that a shortage of doctors could develop after the law takes full effect. And it’s not like doctors can be rushed into service; doctors endure the most grueling training of probably any profession, with four years of undergraduate study followed by four years of medical school topped off with up to eight years of work in residency. The BLS projects this field will grow by about 24 percent through 2020, creating around 168,000 new jobs. Physicians and surgeons earned a nationwide median salary of $166,000 in 2010, although it’s projected that many of these job openings would be in rural communities, where the pay can be considerably less.
1. Software Developers
Growth in this field is expected to remain strong through 2020, with a 30 percent growth rate expected to create some 271,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone. And these are among the most lucrative jobs in the computer industry, paying a median annual salary of $90,000 (2010). A degree in computer science or software engineering is of course helpful, but knowledge and experience in computer programming is also important. If you’re looking to take specialized courses, systems software developers make about 10 percent more per year than applications software developers, and that field is growing slightly faster, as well.
Other high-paying jobs expected to see faster than normal growth through 2020 include:
• Construction Managers ($84,000 median salary), with 87,000 new jobs.
• Medical and Health Services Managers ($84,000), with 68,000 openings nationwide.
• Information Security Analysts, Web Developers and Computer Network Architects ($76,000) with around 66,000 projected openings.
• Civil Engineers ($78,000), with 51,000 projected job openings.