Hot Jobs in Health Care, Science and Other Fields

Millions in America remain unemployed, but one of the biggest risks facing many employers today is a dearth of skills in the workplace. That's because rapid changes in the business world have triggered extraordinary and immediate needs for experienced workers, particularly in the technology, health care, life sciences and financial fields.

"The market is so desperate now for people who can hit the ground running on a job," says Roy Cohen, author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide."

The eight jobs featured here are among the hottest this year, and many are expected to grow for years, experts tell Bankrate. All average salaries are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Be aware: Career management experts say change will remain constant in the jobs market, so it's critical to take advantage of training and development to increase your skills and keep pace with your profession. That's the best defense against losing your job.

Job: Computer software developer.
Average annual salary: $90,410.

If you have a bachelor's degree in computer science and want a career in developing and designing software for business applications, computer games or government security, prospects are bright and job options are plentiful.

Just ask Farouk Dey, director of the Career and Professional Development Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Dey recently returned from visiting technology company executives in Silicon Valley. There, companies have so many openings for computer software developers and engineers that they bumped the starting salary by 30% last year, he says.

"This is one of the top fields that are highly sought-after by recruiters," Dey says.

Job: Physical therapy assistant.
Average annual salary: $49,810.

With the population aging and people working longer hours, more workers are getting injured and needing physical therapy. Much of the hands-on therapy to treat the injured and disabled is administered by physical therapy assistants. Unlike physical therapists, the assistant jobs don't require college degrees.

These jobs usually require two years of specialized training. It's inevitable this job will remain in demand as people are living longer, says Roy Cohen, author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that physical therapy assistant jobs will increase by 33% by 2018.

Martin Yate, author of the "Knock 'em Dead" series of career management books, says physical therapy assistant jobs offer a low-level education entry point, advancement potential and mobility to work anywhere in the country.

Job: Biochemist or biophysicist.
Average annual salary: $86,580.

The life sciences and pharmaceutical industries desperately need research scientists. In San Diego, home to many life-science firms, biomedical researchers are in high demand, says Phil Blair, CEO of Manpower San Diego.

Farouk Dey, director of the Career and Professional Development Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, adds that pharmaceutical companies will keep driving demand for biochemists and biophysicists because of the rising health problems of an aging population. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates these two areas of research science combined will add 37% more jobs by 2018.

One drawback: These positions often require you to extend your education to a doctoral degree.

Job: Personal trainer.
Average annual salary: $44,030
.

Fitness has become an important part of many people's lives.

"We're living longer and want to stay healthier," career counselor Roy Cohen says. As a result, more personal trainers are needed. Some work for health clubs, while others are self-employed and work one-on-one with clients.

As America ages, older people are turning to personal trainers to help them stay physically active. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine in Chandler, Ariz., people at least 18 years old with current certifications in emergency cardiac care and automated external defibrillator, or AED, can become a certified personal trainer after completing a short study program online and passing an exam.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates personal trainer jobs will increase by 37% by 2018.

Job: Home health aide.
Average annual salary: $21,760.

One of the easiest ways to tap into the burgeoning health care profession is to become a home health aide. These workers help take care of elderly, handicapped or disabled people at home.

"Many elderly folks would prefer to remain in their homes as they age," career counselor Roy Cohen says.

That has caused explosive demand for home health aides, which usually requires only a high school diploma and on-the-job training.

This can be a starting point for people who want to get training to eventually become a nurse or physician assistant. As a result, the position could provide some workers with both a job and a fresh start.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates home health aide jobs will increase by 50% by 2018.

"If the bottom fell out of your job tomorrow, you could start as a home health aide and then work your way up," career management author Martin Yate says.

Job: High school teacher.
Average annual salary: $55,990.

The teaching ranks are being depleted by retiring baby boomers. This is making room for a new crop of teachers across America, particularly in high school classrooms.

Martin Yate, author of the "Knock 'em Dead" series of career management books, called teaching "meaningful work" that comes with good pay, stability and lots of vacation. Also, it's a favorite occupation for experienced professionals who get laid off or seek a career change.

In all but a few states, if you have a bachelor's degree, you can take a three-month course to learn how to be a teacher, work a stint as a student teacher and then pass a test to earn a teaching license in your respective state, according to the National Center for Education Information in Washington, D.C.

Job: Pharmacy technician.
Average annual salary: $29,330.

Drugstores and medical laboratories can't find enough pharmacy technicians. These workers help licensed pharmacists count tablets and label bottles for prescriptions as well as prepare insurance claim forms and handle customer service and administrative duties.

There's no standard training, so typically all you need for this job is a high school diploma and completion of three months to 12 months of on-the-job training. Last year, more than 100,000 of these technicians were added to the U.S. labor market, and demand is expected to continue, career-management author Martin Yate says.

Indeed, another 30% more pharmacy technician jobs are expected by 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

Job: Biomedical engineer.
Average annual salary: $84,780.

For years, engineering has been a stable, high-paying occupation. That has led many people into the profession, but more still are needed. In a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., almost 90% of companies said it's difficult to find enough engineers. The field is vast, from civil engineers working on bridge designs to petroleum engineers toiling on an oil rig.

Roy Cohen, an executive coach in New York, says "all things green are in demand." That's helped to boost jobs for environmental engineers.

To be sure, the entire profession is rock-solid, but ecology and life sciences are particularly hot for engineers. Pharmaceutical firms and biotech startups have triggered demand for biomedical engineers. Their ranks are projected to expand by 72% by 2018, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.