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Future Hot Careers

In our information-rich society there is an ever increasing demand for workers in the fields of computers, health care, science and space technology—much of it driven by the demands of the retiring baby boomers. If you like to plan ahead, here is a sampling of some of the jobs that will be hot in the next several years and beyond.

1) Organic food Industry

By 2010, organic food and beverage will represent about 10 percent of the total market — a tenfold increase from 1998. Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation says the industry will soon need more organic food producers, certification experts, retailers and scientists as organic becomes mainstream.

Qualifications: Organic food expertise in farming, business or science.

Salary range: $50,000 to $80,000


2) Computational Biology

There is a growing need to combine computer science, biology and math to make sense of research data in massive quantities, says Leroy Hood, co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology. This field may eventually allow physicians to test for a patient’s unique genetic markers and tailor the best treatments and medicine for that patient.

Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree or higher in bioinformatics, computer science, mathematics, biology or related area; strong software engineering skills.

Salary: $106,000 to $118,000


3) Parallel Programming

By 2012, computers will jump from core duo processors to multi-core processors — as many as 80 processors per machine — packing supercomputer power into desktops, said Jerry Bautista, co-director of Intel’s Tera-scale Computing Research Program. The different cores can work in parallel, like a symphony’s instruments, cracking complex problems, building lifelike models and anticipating its users’ needs, all at breathtaking speed. Parallel programmers who can keep the‘symphony’ in tune will be in high demand.

Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science or relevant field, non-linear thinking and creativity.

Salary: $79,000 to $88,000


4) Data Technology

In 2012, radio frequency ID chips, video cameras, computers and sensors will generate incredible amounts of information. Data technologists build structures—real and virtual—that turn the pile of data into something meaningful and beautiful, says Eric Rodenbeck, founder and creative director at Stamen Design.

Qualifications: Experience in virtual environments, imaging and visualization, technical skills, willingness to learn new tools and imagination.

Salary: $90,000 to $102,000


5) Simulation Engineering

By 2012, an increase in processing power and rich data will make simulations more realistic, and user-friendly. Simulation engineers will be working on bringing us closer to “Star Trek’s” Holodecks—the ultimate total immersion simulation. Simulations will be in every industry and every engineering field, said Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California-San Diego. Businesses will test products and product releases and forecast markets. Engineers will test designs, from bridges to skyscrapers, by examining lifesize projections. Historians will be able to recreate the past, like ancient Rome or the moon landing.

Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, math, physics or relevant field; analytical skills; and interpersonal skills.

Salary: $91,000 to $114,000


6) Boomer Caregiving

This job may not sound as exciting as some, but it will certainly be in demand. Most retiring baby boomers want to remain in their homes for the rest of their lives, accord to the AARP. To accomplish that, they will need help with errands, chores and home care. From 2004 to 2014, home health aide will be the fastest-growing career, with 56 percent growth and about 350,000 new openings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Qualifications: Short-term training, people skills and compassion.

Salary: $23,000 to $25,000 (sometimes includes free housing in the clients’ home and other perks)


7) Genetic Counseling

Doctors will be able to test for dozens of genetic markers and predict when a person will likely experience a genetically based condition. With more tests and treatments available, genetic counselors will be needed to help individuals and families make decisions about genetic technologies as it applies to science and personal beliefs. Today, about 2,000 counselors are recognized by the American Board of Genetic Counseling.

Qualifications: A master’s degree in genetic counseling, critical thinking skills and communication skills.

Salary: $58,000 to $64,000


8) Brain Analysts

Using increasingly advanced brain imaging tools, neuroscientists will determine how people feel and react or what they’re capable of, said Terry Sejnowski, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies and head of its Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. People could detect deception, diagnose mental illness, identify intellectual strengths and collect accurate market research and even get help picking careers best suited to their brains.

Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, experience in health care and people skills.

Salary: $180,000 to $229,000


9) Space Tourism

While this one may sound far-fetched, the entire industry of space tourism is poised to “take off”. There are already 200 reservations for space flights. Space Adventures plans on hiring about 10 space tour guides to start, said spokeswoman Stacey Tearne said. The world’s first space hotel is also set to open in 2012, which could be the beginning of a whole new sector of jobs which will require the merging of space smarts with great hospitality.

Qualifications: A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a relevant field, a love for sky-high adventure and a strong belief in the benefits of human space exploration.

Salary range: $80,000 to $90,000


10) Roboticists

In a way, robots have already taken over the world. The components, processors and sensors for robots are getting cheaper every quarter, said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster. Hundreds of new applications for robots are already being developed. Robots already work in research laboratories, factories, hospitals, daycares and housekeeping, and the trend is only expected to grow as the field progresses.

Qualifications: Experience in computer science, engineering and electronics and a love of tinkering.

Salary: $80,000 to $90,000


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