Best Careers for Right Now
By Lauren Leonardi, PayScale.com

A troubled global economy has many workers wary of their future career prospects. Still, certain skills are in high demand, which is translating into well-paying careers for those who have them.

According to online salary database PayScale.com, the following six jobs are not only well-paying in 2012, but they also have unemployment levels lower than the current national average. Plus, they're expected to grow in demand in the coming years. Median annual salaries listed are for workers with five to seven years of experience.

Actuary
Salary: $137,000
Typical Degree: Bachelor’s, plus certification

An actuary must focus on the negative. Most actuaries work for insurance companies, calculating the likelihood that a catastrophe (such as a house fire or hurricane) will occur; that analysis is used to set insurance rates. Actuaries can also work for other types of companies to help them evaluate risk and ensure profitability in the face of any potential losses. In a Casualty Actuarial Society newsletter, actuary Dan Tevet describes his work as “a combination of being a math whiz and weather forecaster.”

Find actuary jobs.

IT Security Consultant 
Salary: $99,300
Typical Degree: Bachelor’s degree, plus optional certifications

Technology security consultants typically work for firms that specialize in protecting clients’ business networks and stored information. Security consultants handle tasks like securing a Wi-Fi network or encrypting hard drives. Their job is to create smart, cost-effective strategies for their clients. Earning certifications from companies like Cisco and Microsoft can help boost a security consultant’s job prospects.

Find IT security consultant jobs.

Physician Assistant
Salary: $92,200
Typical Degree: Master’s degree, plus licensure

Physician assistants (PA) work closely with MDs to diagnose and treat patients in hospitals, clinics or private practices. Many serve as primary-care providers in rural settings. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, physician assistants complete a two-year master’s PA program and must pass a national exam to obtain their license. They then take exams to maintain their license throughout their career. They can also pursue additional training to specialize in areas such as emergency medicine or pediatrics.

Find physician assistant jobs.

Marketing Consultant
Salary: $87,500
Typical Degree: Bachelor’s degree

If you have a strategic mind and a gift for positive spin, you might enjoy a career in marketing. Marketing consultants develop and implement strategies to help companies sell more products or services. Consultants may be self-employed, work within an advertising firm or work in the marketing department of a large organization.

“We’re soup-to-nuts,” says Jessica McDonald, an assistant project manager at a St. Louis marketing firm. “We get to know everything there is to know about [what our clients offer], and then make that information accessible…in an appealing, compelling way.”

Find marketing consultant jobs.

Biomedical Engineer
Salary:
$81,100
Typical Degree: Bachelor’s degree

The goal of biomedical engineering is to improve the way clinical medicine is researched, practiced and administered. To that end, biomedical engineers may create medical instruments, medical technology, drug therapies, and artificial organs and limbs. A successful candidate for this job excels in physics, biology, mathematics and engineering. Biomedical engineering is expected to be the fastest-growing job between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it the hottest career on this list.

Find biomedical engineer jobs.

Certified Financial Planner
Salary: $89,000
Typical Degree: Bachelor’s degree, plus certification

When people aren’t sure what to do with their money, or when they’d like to turn the money they have into more, they might seek counsel from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). CFPs can help people set and reach financial goals, such as retiring at a certain age or saving enough to send the kids to college. CFPs can also help people and organizations navigate their way through IRAs, 401ks and other complex financial products.

“People who didn’t used to come to us are looking for help more and more,” says James Carey, an independent CFP in New York City. “With the economy so unstable, with pensions no longer a certainty, people want to be smart with what they have…or…what they have left.”

Find financial planner jobs.

Source: All salary data provided by PayScale.com. Salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with five to seven years of experience and include all bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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