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The new year is right around the corner. It's time to make resolutions, make changes--maybe even make that jump into a new career. While the recent economy has been a little shaky, several industries are expected to grow rapidly over the coming years. Take advantage of this growth, and get on your way to a successful new career--or get a degree online and switch tracks for the new year.

Top jobs for 2011 and beyond

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the technology, health care, and education sectors should add the most new jobs from 2008 to 2018. It's a great time to join the ranks of one of the following in-demand professions.

1. Network systems and data communications analyst

The BLS expects computer and mathematical science jobs to grow more than twice as fast as average from 2008 to 2018, and network systems and data communications analysts are leading the way with a predicted 53 percent employment growth. These analysts plan, design, and test companies' communication and data systems, including Internet, intranet, and local area networks. In 2008, network systems and data communications analysts earned a median salary of $71,100.

Most network systems and data communications analysts hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems, though an associate degree is sufficient for some jobs. Online education in computer and information science can even allow you to earn a degree without leaving your current job.

2. Computer software engineer

Computer software engineering is one of today's fastest-growing occupations, with 35 percent employment growth expected from 2008 to 2018. From computer hard drives to video games, software engineers design the programs that businesses and individuals use on a daily basis. In addition to great job opportunities, computer software engineers enjoy generous salaries--in 2008, applications engineers earned a median salary of $85,430.

A bachelor's degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field is generally required to become a computer software engineer. Software engineers should also have a broad understanding of computer systems and technology. Many computer science and software engineering degree programs are available online, so you can continue your education regardless of your current job or location.

3. Registered nurse

The BLS expects nursing to generate more new jobs than any other occupation from 2008 to 2018, with an estimated 581,500 new registered nurses needed. Nurses work with doctors in hospitals, care clinics, and private offices to diagnose and treat patients. In 2008, the median salary for registered nurses was $62,450.

At a minimum, registered nurses need to earn a degree in nursing from an accredited nursing school. Associate degree programs generally take two-to-three years to complete, and some students stay in school for four years to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. After earning their degree, nurses must pass a state licensing exam to begin practicing.

4. Dental hygienist

The BLS expects rapid growth throughout the entire health care industry, including dental professions. Dental hygienists are among this fast-growing group, with 36 percent employment growth expected from 2008 to 2018. In addition to cleaning patients' teeth and assisting with procedures, some dental hygienists perform tasks previously reserved for dentists, such as administering anaesthetics and placing fillings. In 2008, dental hygienists earned a median salary of $66,570.

To become a dental hygienist, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene degree program and pass a state licensing exam. Most dental hygiene programs offer certificates and associate degrees, though some also have bachelor's and master's degree programs. Generally an associate degree in dental hygiene is required to work in a private dental office.

5. Elementary school teacher

After health care and professional services, education is expected to be one of the biggest employers from 2008 to 2018, with nearly 1.7 million new jobs created. Demand for elementary school teachers, in particular, should account for 244,000 of these new jobs. Elementary school teachers teach multiple subjects to a single class of students and encourage students' social and intellectual growth. In 2008, elementary school teachers earned a median salary of $49,330.

To teach at a public school, teachers must earn a bachelor's degree in education from an accredited teacher training program and pass a state licensing exam. If you already have a bachelor's degree, most states offer alternative ways to prepare for a license. Some degree programs in education are available through online schools.

A career with potential

While you can't fully predict the future economy, the careers above are expected to have excellent employment prospects through 2018. Online education has made earning a degree more convenient than ever. It's never too late to pursue a career you love, and when you get a degree online, you can do it without putting your life on hold. Why not get a great start on 2011 with one of the top careers of the decade?



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