There is good news to report for every employer and employee in the United States: statistics show that the economy added two hundred and fifty seven thousand new positions to the job market in January 2015. In October 2009, during “The Great Recession,” the unemployment rate was an unthinkable ten percent. Compare that to the current rate: 5.7! Americans are finding work, and there are thousands of students about to graduate who need jobs as well. Not just a job, but a career – or at least a step along the path to one.
Jobs vs. Careers
The words ‘job’ and ‘career’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but that is incorrect. They are not the same thing. So, what is the difference between a career path and just finding a job? There are two primary differences: the amount of time invested and the ultimate goal.
Jobs are sometimes part time and typically short term. The definition of ‘short term’ depends on the person. It could be the three months of summer between college semesters for a student, or the five years a mother takes off work to raise her child until school. The amount of time could even be ten years or more. People get jobs for various goals: to pay bills, for extra cash, to put food on the table, to experiment with what type of work he or she may like to do, or even just to stay active and be social as is the case when retired workers get jobs. The goal is the income, not necessarily the experience.
Careers, on the other hand, are built for the experience as well as the pay. It is about who they are, about their vocation. Someone working a career cares about the success of that product or service in addition to their own income. They care about it and want to stick with it in the long term.
The verb “career pathing” is the process by which a worker uses various jobs and educational opportunities as steps up the proverbial ladder to success. That path consists of high school education, college education, internships, mentoring, coaching, cross-cultural experiences, graduate and post-graduate school as necessary, related jobs, and volunteer work. If someone wants to be a doctor, they do not stop going to school after they get their high school diploma. That would not be on the career path to becoming a physician. On the other hand, someone who wants to become a manager at a retail store could possibly skip getting a college degree. Their career path would be within the store itself: getting hired, learning the necessary skills, shadowing other employees, switching lateral positions within the company, transferring to other locations as necessary and, eventually, their career path would take them up the ladder through promotions.
With those definitions in mind, here are the top three career paths for 2015 (based on information from the BLS- the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, and various expert opinions). These paths are for you if they match your passions, and if you prioritize the job security and growth they predict. The rankings are based on several factors including unemployment rates, predicted salaries, reported job satisfaction, projected openings, and rate of growth. If these paths do not appeal to you, then aim for something in health care. Seven out of the top ten career paths for 2015 are in that industry!
Path #1: Dentistry
Dentists work with teeth, and they are also able to use those skills to notice undiagnosed diabetes, oral cancer, and heart disease. The median salary is reported as over a hundred and forty six thousand per year. The current unemployment rate is less than one percent. Between 2015 and 2022 there will be about twenty three thousand new dentist positions open in the United States. Dentist are also known for having a comfortable work / life balance. Specialties include general dentistry (diagnosing, preventative measures, surgery), public health (developing community health programs), oral pathologists (specializing in the mouth), Orthodontics (irregular teeth development or alignment, and missing teeth) Periodontics (who work on the gums), and Endodontics (who treat diseases involving the nerves and tissues of the teeth). There are many options upon graduation. Dentists are needed in private practice, and in the military and other government positions.
Path #2 Nurse Practitioner
Like physicians, nurse practitioners treat patients. They can diagnose illnesses and injuries, prescribe medications, read x-rays and laboratory results, provide medical referrals, and track medical histories. Over thirty seven thousand positions are expected in the next ten years, the unemployment rate is 0.7 percent, and the median salary is over ninety two thousand dollars per year. A master’s degree in nursing is required, as well as a license. They work with all ages from newborns to the elderly.
Path #3 Software Developer
As the job title implies, software developers design and manage computer software, or build operating systems. More jobs will open as more technology is needed, so a whopping one hundred and forty thousand new positions will need to be filled, if not more. The median salary is over ninety two thousand a year. Software developers need to complete at least a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, programming, or computer science.
Keep in mind that very few people take the same career paths, even if those paths lead to the same destination. Also, a job can turn into a career and a career into a job. People who dreamed of being teachers their entire lives may become accountants in their forties. People who always thought they would be a professional golfer may fall in love with waitressing or recording music. But if you want the best chance possible at a long term, well paid career, and you have both the passion and the skillset (or the ability to learn the skills), choose one of the three paths above. And what if you don’t know where to begin? Just start somewhere. Start with one class. One lecture. To paraphrase the cliché, it is always easier to steer a ship when it is moving forward!
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