Health, Tech, Management top list as Best Jobs for 2016

While many people make promises to eat better or exercise more in new year, others look to land a new job or switch careers. If the latest jobs report is any indication, the employment landscape seems promising for 2016.

The U.S. economy added 211,000 new jobs in November, while the unemployment rate held steady at 5%. Wages were up an average 2.3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What does this mean? It’s a job hunter’s market, with employers struggling to fill positions with qualified workers, says Tony Lee, editorial vice president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

If finding a new boss is among your top financial goals for 2016, then check out these ideas on where the top jobs can be found:

• Grasp the landscape. Total employment in the U.S. will grow nearly 11% and add 15.6 million jobs by 2022, the BLS says. The fastest growth will occur in health care, health care support, personal care fields and recovering industries like construction.

“In 2016, we will continue to see emerging job titles that combine skills in business, mobile technology and Internet security,” said Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst at Glassdoor, a job search firm.

Glassdoor lists business systems analyst as the job with the highest wage increase in 2015. Folks who had that job earned $83,000 in 2015, a 10% bump from 2014.

Business systems analysts are sought after because they must be highly skilled in multiple areas and are needed across many industries, including retail, health care and technology, Dobroski says.

“Retail is one area people don’t really think about when job searching in this field,” he said. “But big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart need people who can analyze data, because many people today are searching online for clothes and other consumer goods they want to buy.”

• Be the needle in the haystack. The SHRM and CareerCast, a job search firm, recently published a report listing the 10 toughest jobs to fill in 2016.

Data scientist topped the list. About 6,000 companies are expected to hire for an estimated 4.4 million IT jobs directly tied to data analysis, CareerCast reported, based on data from tech research firm Gartner. The reason for the high demand: We’ve gotten really good at collecting tons of information, but few know how to crunch the data to make sense and use of it.

“What’s interesting about data scientist is that it crosses many industries,” Lee said. It’s not just tech companies that are hiring. As the health care industry continues to grow and automate its services, it also will require data scientists, for example.

Other tech-related jobs cited in the report: electrical engineer, with 17 openings for every candidate; information security analyst, driven by the proliferation of cloud computing; and software engineer, with three jobs available for every new computer science college graduate in 2016.

• Follow population trends. As aging baby boomers retire in droves, they’ll affect the number of job openings and the kinds of jobs that will be available based on their needs.

High-level management jobs are set to open up. Among the 10 toughest jobs to fill in this category is general and operations manager. The BLS sees 12.4% growth, which means 613,000 open positions through 2022. Also on the list is marketing manager, thanks to the meteoric growth in digital marketing.

“Health care is still the largest sector hiring the most people,” said Todd Johnson, an economist at the BLS. “A lot of those jobs are well paid.” Johnson says peak demand persists for high-paying careers like physicians, surgeons and dentists.

Health care is a big concern for aging boomers, so rounding out the list of most difficult jobs to fill is home health aide, with openings projected to jump 48% over the next seven years, according to the BLS. The catch: Pay is still low, with the median salary around $21,000, which is part of the reason hiring has been slow.

But don’t overlook typically low-paying jobs altogether, Lee says. Take physical therapists, which also made the list.

“For years it did not pay well, but that has changed in recent years,” Lee said. “When you can’t find physical therapists, you raise the salary, and you do more to keep them when you find them.”

Also, physical therapists are getting a higher level of education these days. A decade ago, a PT would typically have a bachelor’s degree; today, many complete graduate work.

“Their salary expectations are higher, and their annual increases are going to outpace the average,” Lee said.

Other hot health care jobs: medical services manager, for which the BLS projects 73,300 new hires, and registered nurses, with more than a million new hires needed by 2022.

• Look for salary growth. Wages for many low-paying positions are also on the rise. Minimum-wage increases likely helped baristas make the list. Their wages rose 6% to $23,600 in 2015.

Pharmacy technicians enjoyed a healthy salary boost at 6%, but they’re still earning a meager $26,000 a year.

“Even though pharmacy technicians are not earning a lot right now, we will likely see their salaries go up, because they are in high demand,” Dobroski said.

Firms’ increased focus on worker safety and data protection no doubt helped boost demand for security officers and their salaries. Security officers earned $24,000 on average in 2015 vs. $22,460 in 2014, a 7% jump, according to Glassdoor. Data security specialists often earn double, sometimes more.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International