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What Should You Go Back to School For?

These 13 industries offer the most jobs.


If you're going back to school to learn a skill that will help you land a job, or a better job, choose a job in one of these 13 high-growth job industries, and then choose the right school at which to learn the necessary skills.

The alphabetical list comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's High Growth Job Training Initiative.

For help finding the right degree and school:

1. Advanced Manufacturing

The National Association of Manufacturers published a 2005 survey in which 80 percent of respondents, U.S. manufacturing employers, said they had a serious problem finding qualified candidates for the highly technical world of modern manufacturing.

Innovation is the key here. Manufacturers need skilled workers with the ability to create new products and services that allow companies to compete globally. Here's the breakdown of the skills needed:

  • Technical, including production, process design and development, maintenance, installation, and repair
  • Teamwork
  • Strong computer skills
  • Ability to read and translate diagrams and flow charts
  • Strong supervisory and managerial skills

2. Aerospace

The aerospace industry includes companies that produce aircraft, guided missiles, space vehicles, aircraft engines, propulsion units, and related parts. Aircraft overhaul, rebuilding, and parts are also included. The aerospace workforce is aging, and lots of jobs in this sector are expected to open up.

Students interested in aerospace need to be able to keep up with the rapid technological advancements in this industry. Many companies provide on-site, job-related training to upgrade the skills of technicians, production workers, and engineers. Some provide computer and blueprint reading classes, and some offer tuition reimbursement for colleges expenses.

Many jobs in this area require an apprenticeship, especially for machinists and electricians. Most employers prefer to hire workers with a minimum of a two-year degree. Creativity is a definite plus.

3. Automotive

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, changes in economic conditions generally have minor effects on the automotive service and repair business. The department also reports that the industry is striving to increase its diversity of workers as far as race, gender, and language.

The automotive industry has become increasingly sophisticated. Service technician and mechanic jobs usually require a formal training program. Courses in automotive repair, electronics, physics, chemistry, English, computers, and mathematics provide a good educational background for a career as a service technician, according to the DOL.

4. Biotechnology

The biotechnology industry is expected to grow by 28.2 percent between 2004 and 2014. The most important job skills are in computer and life sciences. From the DOL site:

"For science technician jobs in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry, most companies prefer to hire graduates of technical institutes or junior colleges or those who have completed college courses in chemistry, biology, mathematics or engineering. Some companies, however, require science technicians to hold a bachelor's degree in a biological or chemical science."

Also this:

"Because biotechnology is not one discipline, but the interaction of several disciplines, the best preparation for work in biotechnology is training in a traditional biological science, such as genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, virology, or biochemical engineering."

5. Construction

The construction industry expects an increased need for electricians, carpenters, and construction managers. Many construction jobs involve apprenticeships. The following skills will give you the best chance of landing the job you want:
  • Math
  • Mechanical drawing
  • Woodworking
  • Reading
  • Several years of informal on-the-job training

6. Energy

The energy industry includes natural gas, petroleum, electricity, oil and gas extraction, coal mining, and utilities. There are a variety of education requirements in this industry. Jobs as engineering technicians require a minimum of a two-year degree in engineering technology. Geologists, geophysicists, and petroleum engineers must have a bachelor's degree. Many companies prefer masters degrees, and some may require a Ph.D. for workers involved in petroleum research.

All levels require skills in computers, math, and science.

7. Financial Services

There are three primary sectors in the financial services industry: banking, securities and commodities, and insurance. A faster-than-average increase in demand for financial analysts and personal financial advisors is expected by 2014. Managerial, sales, and professional occupations usually require a bachelor's degree. Courses in finance, accounting, economics, and marketing will help you in this industry. Agents selling securities are required to be licensed by the National Association of Securities Dealers, and agents selling insurance must be licensed by the state in which they are employed.

8. Geospatial Technology

If you love maps, this might be the industry for you. The Geospatial Information & Technology Association states that because the uses for geospatial technology are so widespread and diverse, the market is growing at an annual rate of almost 35 percent, with the commercial subsection of the market expanding at the rate of 100 percent each year.

An emphasis in sciences is important for careers in photogrammetry (the science of making measurements from photographs), remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS).

9. Health Care

Most health care jobs require training that leads to a vocational license, certificate, or degree. The industry is so expansive that a brief paragraph here is impossible. CareerOneStop.org created a health care industry competency model that may be helpful in determining necessary education.

We also have some help here at About Continuing Ed.: Health Care Career Choices

10. Hospitality

The hospitality industry is popular with first-time and part-time job seekers. The jobs are varied, and education of all kinds is helpful. People skills and English are important in this industry. Managers will do best with a two-year or bachelor's degree. Certification in hospitality management is available.

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