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The Most Underrated Jobs in America

Even in a sluggish economy, there are jobs out there that fly under the radar yet give you good bang for the buck -- careers with a lower unemployment rate and decent salaries. Careercast.com recently came out with a list of "America's Most Underrated Jobs," and here's the countdown:

1. Paralegal/Legal Assistant

Income Average: $47,153.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 4.6%

Job Description: Assists attorneys in preparation of legal documents; collection of depositions and affidavits; and investigation, research and analysis of legal issues.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Despite projected much faster-than-average employment growth, competition for jobs is expected.
  • Formally trained, experienced paralegals should have the best employment opportunities.
  • Most entrants have an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies.
  • About 71 percent work for law firms.

2. Accountant

Income Average: $60,174.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 5.0%

Job Description: Prepares and analyzes financial reports to assist managers in business, industry and government.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Most jobs require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field.
  • Job opportunities should be favorable; those who have earned professional recognition through certification or licensure, especially a CPA, should enjoy the best prospects.
  • Much faster than average employment growth will result from an increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws and regulations, and greater scrutiny of company finances.

3. Loan Officer

Income Average: $55,239.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 7.7%

Job Description: Loan officers help people apply for loans for significant purchases, such as to buy a house or a car, or pay for college.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 loan officers work for commercial banks, savings institutions, credit unions, and related financial institutions.
  • Educational requirements range from a high school diploma for many loan officers to a bachelor’s degree for commercial loan officers; previous banking, lending, or sales experience is highly valued.
  • Good job opportunities are expected for mortgage and consumer loan officers and excellent opportunities are expected for commercial loan officers.
  • Earnings often fluctuate with the number of loans generated, rising substantially when the economy is strong and interest rates are low.

4. Market Research Analyst

Income Average: $62,229.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 7.7%

Job Description: Collects and evaluates data to make recommendations to businesses concerning trends in consumer purchasing.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Market and survey researchers can enter the occupation with a bachelor's degree, but those with a master’s or Ph.D. in marketing or a social science should enjoy the best opportunities.
  • Researchers need strong quantitative skills and, increasingly, knowledge of conducting web-based surveys.
  • Employment is expected to grow much faster than average.

5. Software Engineer

Income Average: $87,140.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 4.6%

Job Description: Researches, designs, develops and maintains software systems along with hardware development for medical, scientific and industrial purposes.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Computer software engineers are among the occupations projected to grow the fastest and add the most new jobs over the 2008-18 decade, resulting in excellent job prospects.
  • Employment of computer programmers is expected to decline by 3 percent through 2018.
  • Job prospects will be best for applicants with a bachelor's or higher degree and relevant experience.

6. Computer Systems Analyst

Income Average: $77,153.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 5.9%

Job Description: Plans and develops computer systems for businesses and scientific institutions.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Employment is expected to increase much faster than average.
  • Excellent job prospects are expected as organizations continue to adopt increasingly sophisticated technologies.
  • Employers generally prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree; relevant work experience also is very important.

7. Insurance Agent

Income Average: $46,342.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 5.4%

Job Description: Sells insurance and advises clients about amount and type of coverage based on needs and circumstances.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • In addition to offering insurance policies, agents increasingly sell mutual funds, annuities, and securities and offer comprehensive financial planning services, including retirement and estate planning services, some designed specifically for the elderly.
  • Agents must obtain a license in the States where they sell.
  • Job opportunities should be best for college graduates who have sales ability, excellent interpersonal skills, and expertise in a wide range of insurance and financial services.

8. Dietitian

Income Average: $52,127.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 3.2%

Job Description: Assesses patients' dietary needs, plans menus and instructs patients and their families about proper nutritional care.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Most jobs are in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians or other health practitioners.
  • Dietitians and nutritionists need at least a bachelor's degree; licensure, certification, or registration requirements vary by State.
  • Applicants with specialized training, an advanced degree, or certifications beyond the particular State's minimum requirement should enjoy the best job opportunities.

9. Dental Hygienist

Income Average: 67,107.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 1.2%

Job Description: Assists dentists in diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of a group or private dental practice.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • A degree from an accredited dental hygiene school and a State license are required for this job.
  • Dental hygienists rank among the fastest growing occupations.
  • Job prospects are expected to be favorable in most areas, but strong competition for jobs is likely in some areas.
  • About half of all dental hygienists work part time, and flexible scheduling is a distinctive feature of this job.

10. Civil Engineer

Income Average: $76,139.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 3.9%

Job Description: Plans and supervises the building of roads, bridges, tunnels and buildings.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, although growth will vary by specialty; overall job opportunities for engineers are expected to be good.
  • A bachelor's degree in engineering is required for most entry-level jobs, but some research positions may require a graduate degree.
  • Starting salaries are among the highest of all college graduates.
  • Continuing education is critical for engineers in order to keep up with improvements in technology.

11. Physical Therapist

Income Average: $74,104.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 2.0%

Job Description: Plans and directs treatment to improve mobility and alleviate pain in persons disabled by injury or disease.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Employment is expected to grow much faster than average.
  • Job opportunities should be good.
  • Today’s entrants to this profession need a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited physical therapist program.
  • About 60 percent of physical therapists work in hospitals or in offices of other health practitioners.

12. Chiropractor

Income Average: $68,358.00
Unemployment Rate for 2010: 2.3%

Job Description: Treats physical problems by manipulating various parts of the body, especially the spinal column.

U.S. Department of Labor Summary:

  • Job prospects should be good.
  • Chiropractors must be licensed, requiring 2 to 4 years of undergraduate education, the completion of a 4-year chiropractic college course, and passing scores on national and State examinations.
  • About 44 percent of chiropractors are self-employed.
  • Earnings typically are relatively low in the beginning but increase as the practice grows.

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