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Though job market is still gloomy, more bright spots are emerging

By Maggie Jackson
January 10, 2010

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New year, new job? Although the state unemployment rate still hovers close to 9 percent, and the Commonwealth lost more than 82,000 jobs in the 12-month period ending in November, there’s still cause for some cheer on the job market as we ring in 2010. Some professions - such as health care - are evergreen. Other occupations - from accounting to some high-tech specialties - are growing apace.

“I think 2010 will definitely be a better year than 2009,’’ says Nancy Snyder, the state’s interim secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “We’re starting to see some growth in key sectors, particularly in health care and education, and professional, scientific and technical jobs.’’

If you have the right degree or just know where to look, the job market could yield a steady new paycheck - a belated holiday gift by any measure. Here are the top five hot jobs for 2010:

Accountant and auditor. A complex economy inspires very thick corporate rule books. So companies of all stripes need increasing help from accountants and auditors, especially in complying with fast changing financial regulations. “Companies are always looking for people who are current with and experienced with financial compliance,’’ says Mark Gleckman, a managing partner at Winter, Wyman Cos., a recruiting firm in Waltham.

To become eligible to sit for the certified public accountant exam, you need a college degree, plus an additional 30 hours of accounting and business credits at the un dergraduate or master’s level. But if you’re math-savvy and good with people, your studies will pay off. Entry-level accountants earn nearly $45,000 annually, and experienced professionals are paid on average more than $68,000 a year.

The number of accounting and auditing jobs in the state is projected to grow a healthy 12 percent, to nearly 40,000, in the decade ending in 2016, the latest state projections available. The hottest niche in this profession: forensic accounting, which deals with disputes, divorces, and white-collar crime, says Dave Clarkson, vice president of human resources for accountants Caturano and Co. in Boston.

Home health aide or nurse. An aging population is hoping to live independently. That means health care at home and in the community will be a source of jobs. For both nurses and home health aides, “there’s more demand than supply,’’ said Tim Burgers, associate director of the nonprofit Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

Specifically, the number of home health aide positions will rise by a third in the state to 23,000 by 2016, with some specialties growing by 60 percent. The job involves cleaning, housekeeping, and general care in the home, and is a stepping stone toward nursing or work as an orderly. One plus: you don’t need a high school diploma or college degree, although you do need 75 hours of training, including 16 hours of practical hands-on experience. A drawback: low pay, with starting salaries of $21,000 and an average of $26,000 annually.

Community and home nursing, as well, will be on the upswing, with home health care nursing jobs rising 32 percent, to nearly 8,000, between 2006 and 2016. Annual wages can top $91,000 for experienced registered nurses, and even newcomers can earn an average $55,000 in Massachusetts. It takes a minimum of three years to earn a nursing degree, although career-changers with a bachelor of arts degree can earn a master’s in as little as 16 months.

Specialized teacher. Teachers are in demand with turnover high and retirements down in recent years. Details vary by region and subject, but, generally, what’s most needed are those who can teach math, science, special education, and English as a second language. “These are the areas of greatest need right now,’’ says David Haselkorn, associate commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The number of special education teachers in preschool through elementary grades, for example, is estimated to rise by 16 percent, to more than 8,200, by 2016.

Teaching is a popular second career for professionals seeking more meaning in their work. If you have a college degree, you’ll need at a minimum 40 additional hours of coursework, plus a passing score on a subject test and a communications/literacy exam to get a license to teach. An average starting salary for a special education teacher in elementary and nursery schools is $38,000, but experienced teachers can earn an average of $62,700 a year. Going back to the drawing board can pay off later in life.

Network systems analyst. It’s no surprise that high tech is still a healthy source of jobs in this tech-friendly state. Information technology jobs related to e-commerce, energy efficiency, and mobile applications are hot. But the infrastructure specialists who design and manage the company intranet and other networks will be in demand for years to come, and represent one of the best entry points into the tech realm, even without a college degree in computing. “There are entry-level jobs, and certification programs,’’ says Dave Barbato, president and chief executive of Burlington-based Talent Retriever LLC. “That’s a nice lead-in.’’

The number of network systems and data communications analysis jobs is expected to rise nearly 50 percent between 2006 and 2016, to nearly 11,500 positions. Average starting salaries are $54,000 a year, and experienced pros can earn up to $93,000 - making this the best-paying among the Globe’s hot jobs of 2010. “As technology races forward, especially in the Greater Boston community, it’s a wonderful place for people to be,’’ says Gleckman of Winter, Wyman.

Retail sales staff. You won’t get rich as an entry-level sales clerk. But if you don’t have a degree and yearn to work, it’s a good bet that you can find a job in one or more corners of retail sales, even in a down economy. Overall retail sales jobs are projected to grow steadily - rising 5 percent, to 116,000, in the decade ending in 2016. In this same decade, retail jobs in building materials and gardening supplies are estimated to grow nearly 20 percent, to 12,000 jobs. Starting average salaries in retail sales are $18,000 a year, with average earnings of $25,000 annually.

That’s why Snyder, the state’s labor secretary, describes the sector as a “great first job.’’ She says: “It’s a great job during difficult times, to be able to support your family. But it’s important if you’re working in retail that you continue to pursue your education.’’

That’s great advice for anyone looking to move on or up in 2010. As the economy recovers, stay current with trends in your industry or the field that you hope to enter. Keep your network of contacts well-oiled. Take on new resume-building challenges, at work or in the volunteer sector. Look out - you may land a hot new job in 2010.

Balancing Acts columnist Maggie Jackson will be on leave for the next year to write a book. She can be reached at maggie@maggie-jackson.com.

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