Best-paying jobs of the future

The U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 10% in October 2009 and has since slowly improved, flirting with 8% earlier this month. Despite the downward trend, the rate is still more than double prerecession levels. As the economy continues to recover and more people return to the workforce, many are trying to find the right career — one that is hiring and pays well.

Knowing which jobs will be in high demand and pay the most is a good place to start. To serve as a guide, 24/7 Wall St. identified the best paying jobs of the future. These jobs will grow the most in the next decade, some as much as 60% by 2020. They also have median salaries that are close to double the national average of $34,450, and in some cases more.

Many of these occupations will be in highest demand because of changes in the nation’s population and in the way the country’s businesses operate. Last year, the first baby boomers turned 65. As this generation gets older, increasing medical needs will require more health care professionals. Of the 10 high-paying, high-growth occupations we reviewed, six are in the medical field.

Because most of these positions are in the medical field, many require at least a master’s degree, and in many cases a doctoral degree. However, four have less demanding educational requirements, including the three that are growing the most. A career as a sonographer, projected to grow 43.5% with a median salary of $64,380, typically just requires an associate’s degree.

24/7 Wall St. identified the best paying jobs that also will have the highest demand for new workers in the future based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Employment Matrix, which forecasts job growth between 2010 and 2020 for the bureau’s more-than 1,000 listed jobs. The Matrix was used to identify the professions that are going to grow the most as a percentage of 2010 employment figures by 2020. Of those, we then narrowed the list to jobs that also had a median annual income of at least $60,000 in 2010, 75% higher than the $34,450 national median average, and at least 5,000 positions. Using the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. also identified the states with the highest concentration of jobs as of May 2011.

These are the best paying jobs of the future.

1. Biomedical Engineers

Thinkstock> Pct. increase: 61.7%
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 9,700
> Median income: $81,540
> States with the most jobs per capita: Massachusetts, Utah, Minnesota


The work of biomedical engineers typically involves designing or maintaining biomedical equipment, such as artificial organs and X-ray machines. These jobs often require a great deal of technical knowledge in fields such as biology, engineering, math and chemistry. Because of this, a bachelor’s degree is typically needed. The professional requirements come with impressive compensation. The median income for such jobs was $81,540 and the top 10% earned more than $126,990. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of biomedical engineers is projected to rise by 61.7%, more than four times the projected growth rate for all jobs, which is 14%. To explain its growth projections for the profession, the BLS cites the baby boomer generation’s growing demand for biomedical devices and procedures as it “seeks to maintain its healthy and active lifestyle.”

[More from 24/7 Wall St: American Cities Adding the Most Jobs]

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

> Pct. increase: 43.5%
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 23,400
> Median income: $64,380
> States with the most jobs per capita: Rhode Island, Florida, South Dakota


Diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals and other facilities, conducting ultrasounds on patients and analyzing the resulting images. The BLS projects an increase of 43.5% in the number of positions between 2010 and 2020, which would raise the total number of such jobs to 77,100. Explaining the driving factors behind the growth, the BLS states that “as ultrasound technology evolves, it will be used as a substitute for procedures that are costly, invasive or expose patients to radiation.” Sonographers typically need an associate’s degree, and many employers prefer candidates to have professional certification. The top 10% of sonographers made more than $88,490 annually.

3. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

Thinkstock> Pct. increase: 41.2%
> Total new jobs (2010-2020): 116,600
> Median income: $60,570
> States with the most jobs per capita: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York


Market research analysts work in most industries, monitoring and forecasting marketing and sales trends, as well as collecting and analyzing data on their companies’ products or services. To become a market research analyst, a bachelor’s degree is typically required, though many analysts have a master’s degree. Citing increases in the use of market research across all industries, the BLS projects the number of positions in the field will rise to almost 400,000 by 2020. Top-earning market research analysts made more than $111,440 annually.

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