Kelley McDonald has always loved exploring new terrain. In home videos as early as age 3, “I’m always off by myself, looking under rocks or catching and studying bees,” she says. Today, at 18, the Apple Valley, Minn., college student is studying for a science career in the fast-growing field of nanotechnology—working with materials at the molecular or atomic level.
That makes her one of the lucky ones—a young adult whose career passion is in sync with one of the hot jobs of the near future.
Predicting the jobs or skills that will be in demand years from now is a tricky task for many teens, young adults and their parents. Luckily, there are rich sources of information on the Web, in books, and in most people’s communities; the challenge is to sift through them all.
Ms. McDonald found her passion through a community-college nanotechnology program funded by the National Science Foundation, where one official foresees hundreds of thousands of job openings in the field in the next five years. Other sources include government forecasts, school or college career counselors, and neighbors and friends employed in growing fields.
The richest vein of job-growth information is the Labor Department‘s 10-year forecast for demand, pay and competition for more than 300 jobs in 45 categories. The department’s latest biannual compilation, published last month as the “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” is great for sizing up the long-term outlook for most fields. The forecasts have often been prescient—accurately predicting this decade’s fast growth in special-education teaching jobs and the widening range of hot health-care careers, for example.
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