Growing Industries to Consider If You're Going Back to School

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Going back to school can provide you with the skills and knowledge you need for a second (or third) career path, especially in growing fields. Job opportunities range from entry level to experienced, with some careers even offering six-figure salaries for qualified individuals.

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Information Technology (IT), Computer Systems and Related Services

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Computer systems design is one of the fastest growing industries. Technical and professional certification is important for all IT jobs. The industry changes quickly, and workers need to stay current on the latest technology. Community colleges are a great resource for this training. Skilled software developers, in particular, are in demand and can pull over $100,000 a year for a salary. This industry added more than 650,000 new jobs to the workforce between 2008 and 2018 and is projected to grow another 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. This equates to about 557,000 new jobs. 

People interested in IT should earn at least an associate's degree and have the following skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Troubleshooting
  • Writing
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The aerospace industry includes companies that produce aircraft, guided missiles, space vehicles, aircraft engines, propulsion units, and related parts. Aircraft overhaul, rebuilding, and parts creation and maintenance are also included. The aerospace workforce is aging, and lots of jobs in this sector are expected to open up. The industry is expected to grow 6 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Those interested in aerospace need to be able to keep up with the rapid technological advancements in this industry. Many companies provide on-site, job-related training to upgrade the skills of technicians, production workers, and engineers. Some provide computer and blueprint reading classes, and some offer tuition reimbursement for colleges expenses.

Many jobs in this area require an apprenticeship, especially for machinists and electricians. Most employers prefer to hire workers with a minimum of a two-year degree. Creativity is a definite plus.

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Technical advancements in healthcare are making this a booming industry that continues to grow, with over 2 million jobs in healthcare added between 2008 and 2018, and is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, which equates to another 2.4 million new jobs.

From highly trained medical professionals, known as telesurgeons, conducting remote operations to highly advanced customer service roles like the Healthcare Navigator, the opportunities for finding a career path are vast. 

Physician offices alone have added 772,000 new jobs in the same 10-year period, while home health care services, services for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and nursing care facilities combined have added another 1.2 million jobs to the workforce.

Most healthcare jobs require training that leads to a vocational license, certificate, or degree, with practicing nurses, doctors, and surgeons requiring even more education and hands-on training. created a health care industry competency model that may be helpful in determining exactly what you'll need to pursue for education.

Some of the occupations in healthcare with the biggest growth include physicians assistants and nurse practitioners, which can both pull over $100,000 a year in salary. Physical therapists are also in demand and can pull nearly $90,000. 

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Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services

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Firms that offer management, scientific, and technical consulting services impact the ways in which businesses, governments, and institutions operate. These consultants work behind the scenes to help their clients solve problems by offering technical expertise, information, contacts, and tools.

Human resources consulting services deal with the people of a company and help to ensure that there is proper management, compliances with laws, offering proper training, and even help with recruiting personnel.  

General consulting firms offer support in day to day operations, including risk assessment, financial planning and taxes, strategic planning, and more. 

Approximately 835,000 new jobs have been created as part of this growing industry between 2008 and 2018, and employees can expect an average salary of nearly $90,000. Between 2016 and 2026, the industry is expected to grow another 14 percent. 

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The biotechnology industry is a broad-ranging field that includes genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, virology, and biochemical engineering. It has been identified as a fast-growing industry with projections for 10 percent more biological tech, biochemist, and biophysicist jobs between 2012 and 2022. The most important job skills for many of these roles are in computer and life sciences.

According to the Department of Labor site,

"for science technician jobs in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry, most companies prefer to hire graduates of technical institutes or junior colleges or those who have completed college courses in chemistry, biology, mathematics or engineering. Some companies, however, require science technicians to hold a bachelor's degree in a biological or chemical science."

Among some of the biotechnology roles with the fastest growth are genetic counselors, epidemiologists, biomedical engineers, and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. Biochemists and biophysicists, in particular, are also expected to see growth in jobs, and many can expect to pull over $90,000.

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Business Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency
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The energy industry includes natural gas, petroleum, electricity, oil and gas extraction, coal mining, and utilities. There are a variety of education requirements in this industry. Jobs as engineering technicians require a minimum of a two-year degree in engineering technology. Geologists, geophysicists, and petroleum engineers must have a bachelor's degree. Many companies prefer masters degrees, and some may require a Ph.D. for workers involved in petroleum research.

All job levels require skills in computers, math, and science, and the most skilled mathematicians can expect to earn more than $100,000 a year. While not all jobs may not earn six figures, there are several that offer some of the most growth, including solar photovoltaic installers, derrick operators for oil and gas, and wind turbine service technicians.

Between 2016 and 2026, solar photovoltaic installers are expected to see 105 percent growth in jobs, while wind turbine service technicians will see 96 percent growth in jobs. 

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Financial Services

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There are three primary sectors in the growing financial services industry: banking, securities and commodities, and insurance. Managerial, sales and professional occupations usually require a bachelor's degree. Courses in finance, accounting, economics, and marketing will help you in this industry. Agents selling securities are required to be licensed by the National Association of Securities Dealers, and agents selling insurance must be licensed by the state in which they are employed.

Statisticians and mathematicians are occupations that can expect to see significant growth, with a projected 33 percent increase in jobs between 2016 and 2026. 

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Geospatial Technology

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If you love maps, this might be the industry for you. The Geospatial Information & Technology Association states that because the uses for geospatial technology are so widespread and diverse, the market is growing at a rapid rate.

An emphasis in sciences is important for careers in photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs), remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS). Some universities also offer degree programs and certification in GIS. GIS employees can expect to enter the workforce with $40,000-$60,000 salaries and earn over $80,000 at the senior level, which includes project managers, engineers, and developers. 

It's estimated that cartography and photogrammetry will be among the top 20 fastest growing occupations between 2014 and 2024, seeing close to 20 percent growth. 

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 The hospitality industry is popular with first-time and part-time job seekers. The jobs are varied, and education of all kinds is helpful. People skills and language proficiency, particularly English, are important in this industry. Managers will do best with a two-year or bachelor's degree. Certification in hospitality management is also available. More than 340,000 new jobs were added between 2008 and 2018 for full-service restaurants alone, with six percent growth expected by 2024, which equates to more than 941,000 new jobs.

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More than 600,000 jobs were added between 2008 and 2018 for general merchandise stores, and that doesn't even include department stores. Many jobs are available for first-time or part-time job seekers, but those who want a management job should have a degree. The Department of Labor states, "Employers increasingly seek graduates from junior and community colleges, technical colleges, and universities." This industry is expected to continue to grow and offers jobs for all age and skill levels, averaging five percent growth. 

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The transportation industry is global and includes trucking, air, railroad, passenger transit, scenic and sightseeing, and water. This is another gigantic industry, that is expected to see an average of 3 percent job growth between 2016 and 2026.

Each sub-industry has its own requirements.

  • Trucking: Training schools for truck driving are your best bet here. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires these minimum qualifications for interstate trucking--at least 21 years old, have at least 20/40 vision, good hearing, and the ability to read and speak English. You must also have a good driving record and a state commercial driver's license (CDL).
  • Air: Job requirements vary widely here, but helpful are customer service and strong communication and interpersonal skills. Mechanics and pilots require formal training. of course.
  • Railroad: Conductors must complete a formal training program. Engineer positions are almost always filled internally with workers who have railroad experience.
  • Passenger Transit: Federal regulations require drivers to have a commercial driver's license (CDL). Diesel service technicians and mechanics have the best chance of getting a job in this industry with formal training. Diesel repair programs can be found at many community colleges and trade and vocational schools. Communication skills, customer service, and a basic understanding of physics and logical thought are also important.
  • Scenic and Sightseeing: This includes aircraft mechanics, who must learn their job in one of about 200 trade schools certified by the FAA. Basic computer knowledge and good interpersonal skills are important. Customer service reps must have strong communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Water: "Entry, training, and educational requirements for most water transportation occupations are established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. All officers and operators of commercially operated vessels must be licensed by the Coast Guard, which offers various kinds of licenses, depending on the position and type of vessel. Sailors and unlicensed engineers working on U.S.-flagged deep-sea and Great Lakes vessels must hold a Coast Guard-issued document. A medical certificate of excellent health attesting to vision, color perception, and the general physical condition is required for higher level deckhands and unlicensed engineers. No special training or experience is needed to become a seaman or deckhand on vessels operating in harbors or on rivers or other waterways."