The Best Careers in the 21st Century

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Finding a career in the 21st century is a challenge, especially in an environment where technology is changing every year and what you learn in college today may be obsolete tomorrow. But this century holds some wonderful and unexpected opportunities, with the best ones in health care and technology.

Tech and the Era of Big Data

  • According to Harvard Business Review, the sexiest job of the 21st century is data scientist. With the amount of data generated forecast to reach 44 zettabytes by 2020 -- one zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes -- more data scientists will need to sort through, parse and make sense of all that data to spot hidden trends and opportunities. This emerging career is one of discovery, with data scientists finding lucrative careers in all types of businesses. Training in areas such as distributed computing platforms, cloud computing and descriptive statistical models like data visualization will be necessary. A shortage of data scientists already exists in many sectors. While a data scientist may need an advanced degree, a certification to specialize in some data tools may take only six months.

21st-Century Careers Without a College Degree

  • Taking advantage of the best 21st-century careers will increasingly require a college degree. But plenty of new careers that pay well will be available for those who don't have a degree but are willing to pursue certification, technical school or some other form of advanced training. Many jobs in the medical profession are showing high rates of employment growth. For example, in 2012, a dental hygienist could earn an average of $68,000, and CareerCast predicts income growth of 109 percent and employment growth of 37 percent in the field. Tech-related careers are increasingly available without a degree, and a Web developer can earn an average of $76,000.

Health-Care Industry Faces Growing Needs

  • The health-care industry is seeing tremendous growth because of the aging baby boomer population, better access to health care and insurance, and a healthier population that's living longer than ever before and thus requiring more medical services. While jobs in hospitals aren't seeing the same level of growth, positions in outpatient care centers and home health-care agencies are growing quickly, pushed by a trend to shifting more care to outpatient or at-home settings. Eight of the 20 best-paying jobs of the 21st century as reported by CareerBuilder are in the health-care field. The top three are oral and maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists and physicians or surgeons. Jobs for home health aides are near the top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of fastest-growing occupations, with 48 percent growth projected from 2012 to 2022 and no higher education required.

Best Blue-Collar Jobs of the 21st Century

  • Robotics and automation are inevitable, but blue-collar jobs will continue to be in demand -- although the nature of blue collar will change, with many traditional blue-collar jobs requiring more training. Industrial processes are more technology focused, and factory workers will need to bring more skills to the table as they operate lasers, sophisticated control tools and robotics equipment. Demand for these manufacturing skills is on the rise, especially as more sophisticated manufacturing once outsourced overseas returns to the United States. Outsourcing will continue but will focus on lower-skilled manufacturing, while companies recognize that manufacturing that requires specialized training is more economical to source within the U.S., USA Today reports.

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