Excellent careers for 2006
Audiologist. Careers in which you help people, one-on-one, are rewarding, and the work environment is usually pleasant. Audiology is my favorite. Pay and prestige are excellent, and the job market will be strong because as baby boomers age, their hearing fades. And audiologists will be offering ever better hearing aids. The annoying conventional aids are being replaced by more pleasing computer-controlled ones. A final plus is that audiology is an under-the-radar careerfew people consider it, so competition isn't as keen as it deserves to be. One downside: Universities' relentless push to keep more students longer is creating pressure to make audiology programs doctoral.
Optometrist. This is another one-on-one helping career that will serve the massive numbers of boomers. I like this career slightly less than audiologist because technological breakthroughs don't seem as imminent.
Veterinarian. Veterinary medicine offers substantial advantages over being a physician. You get to perform a wider range of procedures because in a number of specialties, board certification isn't required. Plus, most veterinary medicine is fee for service, so you needn't be bogged down with labyrinthine regulations and paperwork. One downside is that veterinary offices tend to be loud: lots of barking.
Professor. This career offers stimulating work, lots of autonomy, status, and the comforting confines of academe. The job market has been tight, but that should start to improvethere was a wealth of hiring in the '60s, and most of those professors are approaching retirement age. Long term, the job market should remain good because we're in an era of degree proliferation: More students go on to college, and more adults return to school.
Here are the drawbacks: Colleges, more than most organizations, like to hire people part time or on a temporary basis. Over 30 percent of faculty hold part-time positions, and that percentage is increasing. It's ironic that universities decry the way management treats labor, yet when colleges hire, they assiduously try to avoid providing healthcare benefits and job security. Office politics can also be intensein few workplaces is there as much conniving over so few resources. And finally, it's dangerous to be politically incorrect. Harvard President Lawrence Summers nearly got fired recently when he suggested, in a private brainstorming session, that genetic predisposition might help explain why there are so few female scientists. He survived after promising to spend $50 million to increase the number of women and members of minority groups on Harvard's scientific and engineering faculty.
To learn more
OOH profile: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos066.htm
American Association of University Professors: www.aaup.org
Read: The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career: A Portable Mentor for Scholars from Graduate School Through Tenure by John Goldsmith et al.
Librarian. This is an underrated career. Most librarians enjoy helping patrons dig up information. They learn in the process and keep up to date on the latest books and online resources. The need for librarians, unfortunately, may decline because search engines make it easy for patrons to find information without a librarian's help. The job growth for librarians will be in nontraditional settings: corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms.