As job losses remain at record levels, many Americans are trying to figure out what jobs might be secure in the future.
Occupations with the largest projected growth through 2016 include accountants, elementary and postsecondary teachers, child care workers and computer-software engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
C.J. Reimche has been a physical therapist for 15 years. That is her second career. She previously worked as a research assistant in a biochemistry lab. She didn't pick physical therapy because it would be a growing field; she simply thought she would enjoy the job.
"I've worked in a variety of settings. That's one of the beauties about physical therapy. You really won't get stagnant in your job. If you're tired of doing one thing, there's so many different avenues where physical therapists are employed," Ms. Reimche said.
The demand for physical therapists will only increase with the aging population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy jobs are expected to grow much faster than average, said Danielle Wong Moores, the public relations specialist at Walton Rehabilitation Health System in Augusta.
"With this economy and as globalized as we are, people have to look at their true interests and skill sets and ... understand what those skill sets are and how that can translate into a lot of different occupations," said Julie Goley, the director of Augusta State University's Career Center.
Nationally and in Georgia, job seekers can expect opportunities in technology, such as network administrators, software development engineers and communications analysts, Ms. Goley said.
"There is also projected growth in the areas of social work and community service," she said.
Many of those positions require a bachelor's degree, but counseling jobs, such as drug- and substance-abuse counselors and family counselors, require at least a master's degree, Ms. Goley said.
Ms. Goley also projects opportunities in the government sector.
"It's documented the people they have in senior management positions as a government entity are going to be very near retirement in the next five to 10 years -- for middle management and upper management," she said.
Camiliza Walker, 26, has been a customer service representative at Comcast for nearly four years. According to the federal government's list of hot jobs, there will be 545,000 more customer service reps needed in the country by 2016.
"It's a joy to be able to deal with the customers that we deal with ... When they leave, and they're happy, it's the best feeling," Ms. Walker said.
She works in the lobby taking payments and orders for installations, but she started out on the telephones in the call center.
"No matter what industry, no matter what the economy does, every company has front-facing people. You've got to have somebody that can work with the public because the public is who pays the bills. There's always got to be someone who can handle customer needs and issues," said Tina Baggott, the marketing director for Comcast in Augusta.
Aiken or Augusta "probably has an exploding need for accountants," said Corey Feraldi, the director of career services at University of South Carolina Aiken.
Judy Smith, a public accountant at G.P. Accounting Inc. in Evans, has been an accountant for nearly 40 years. Through the years, the accounting field has been steady, and she's never been unemployed because of economic conditions, she said.
"Everybody still has to do their taxes and have their accounting done. So it's pretty stable. Almost every type of business needs accounting. I've tried other things, but I always come back to accounting," Ms. Smith said.
The field is competitive, so she recommends getting a bachelor's degree in accounting and taking the certified public accountant exam.
There's job security in child care.
"It's more of a demand now than it ever has been with both parents having to work. So it's a very good opportunity for their children to learn some things," said Jackie Welch, a pre-kindergarten teacher at A Child's World, who has been in the industry for 13 years.
The trade-off for job security, however, is pay.
"This is the worst year that I've seen in 13 years for the job market for our education majors. It has nothing to do with the need, but there's no money," Mr. Feraldi said.
The money and the demand is in engineering, said Debbie Wendt, the career services and recruiting specialist at Augusta Technical College.
"With the expansion in the Southeast with nuclear power plants, that's going to be a very hot industry," she said.
There will be a big demand for engineers, Mr. Feraldi said, particularly nuclear engineers, because "there's not many of them out there." Most engineering jobs only require a bachelor's degree.
"Within the technical college system of Georgia, that's been a quite a push. A lot of the energy industries are saying they just don't have a lot of people to replace their retiring workers. They've got a lot of baby boomers that are employed," Ms. Wendt said.
Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or email@example.com.
WANT TO STAY COMPETITIVE?
These are the top five qualities and skills that employers seek, according to a 2009 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers:
1. Communication skills (verbal and written)
2. Strong work ethic
3. Teamwork skills
5. Analytical skills
Source: Julie Goley, the director of Augusta State University's Career Center
The occupations that will grow the most by 2016:
OCCUPATION - GROWTH BY 2016 - Education/training
Registered nurse - 587,000 - Associate degree
Retail salespeople - 557,000 - On-the-job training
Customer service representatives - 545,000 - On-the-job training
Food preparation and service - 452,000 - On-the-job training
Office clerks - 404,000 - On-the-job training
Personal and home care aides - 389,000 - On-the-job training
Home health aides - 384,000 - On-the-job training
Postsecondary teachers - 382,000 - Doctoral degree
Janitors and cleaners - 345,000 - On-the-job training
Nursing aides and orderlies - 264,000 - Postsecondary vocational
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics