Growing Professions with Good Salaries

solar panels and workers

The directory of job titles from the Occupational Information Network (O*Net) features a variety of entries that many people have never heard of before.

Some of these jobs -- at least the duties -- have been around in some form for a while. What's new is a "professional pathway" for these careers, according to employment expert and author Laurence Shatkin.

"O*Net officially recognizes job titles once there is a critical mass of workers in those jobs and a clear road map for attaining the positions," he said.

Related: Discover your perfect career path and get customized job recommendations based on your military experience and vocational interests with's Military Skills Translator + Personality Assessment.

Green Energy

There are many green-collar job titles on O*Net, which is developed for the U.S. Department of Labor. Civil engineers who work on various aspects of the wind farm now have their own job category: wind farm engineers. These engineers work on the performance of turbines and the overall performance of the wind farm and also oversee aspects of construction and mechanical development.

They usually have a bachelor's of science degree in engineering, with a focus in construction or civil or structural engineering. Some technical colleges now offer degrees in wind farm engineering. The American Clean Power Association (ACPA) pegs the average salary at $80,000.

Solar thermal technicians design, develop, install and maintain solar thermal systems used to heat water and produce energy. Renewable energy plants, companies that install solar panels for domestic use, construction companies, consulting firms and hotel chains use these technicians. A two- or four-year degree in mechanical engineering or electronics is helpful, but some apprenticeship programs exist as well.

Salaries vary widely and will increase if demand continues to outstrip supply. Solar thermal technicians can expect to start at around $40,000 a year or $20 an hour, according to Red Rocks Community College in Colorado. The upper salary limit is a moving target, as the job category is emerging so quickly.

Learn more about energy jobs.

Health care

Nursing informatics is a nursing specialty that integrates nursing science, computer science and information science to manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice. Informatics nurse specialists are registered nurses trained in graduate-level informatics. Salaries start at $60,000 but can more than double after a few years' experience.

"Most often, they are liaisons between clinicians and information and computer science people," said Stacey Prince of the American Nurses Association. "These jobs are growing, because information technology is now becoming a major tool in health-care settings."

Anesthesiologist assistants work under the direction of a licensed and qualified anesthesiologist in hospitals. They perform preoperative tasks, support therapy, recovery-room care and intensive-care support. They do well financially: around $90,000 to start and more than double that with 10 years of experience, according to the American Medical Association. A master's degree in nursing and certification by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants are required.

Learn more about nursing and health-care jobs.

Business and Management

The roles of information technology professionals continue to splinter and become more specialized as new technologies dominate businesses.

Business-continuity planners are responsible for developing plans to recover from cyber attacks, terrorism or natural disasters. They also may be responsible for scaling IT as a company grows (from regional to national, for example), duties that used to be handled by information systems managers.

A bachelor's degree in business, management or disaster management is the minimum requirement. The median salary for disaster-recovery managers, who have a similar job description, is $100,000, according to

America's interest in getting healthy has led to a growing business specialization of spa managers, who are employed by resorts, health clubs and other facilities offering sports and wellness activities. The median income for spa managers in the U.S. is $56,000. A college degree is not mandatory, but a high school diploma or GED and at least five years of experience in managing a related area are usually required.

Learn more about business and finance jobs.


Distance learning, which provides instruction to students who are not on-site, is booming. O*Net now recognizes distance- learning coordinators, who prepare and run online courses at colleges, trade schools and secondary schools. A master's degree in instructional design, curriculum design or curriculum development is usually required, as is a strong understanding of web-based technologies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't yet recognize distance-learning coordinators as a job category, but an analysis of job openings shows a salary range from the upper $30,000s to the low $60,000s for a coordinator with at least two years of experience.

Learn more about education and teaching jobs.

Entertainment and Media

Video game designers have been around for a while, but as the $9 billion interactive entertainment industry matures, new specialties are emerging, such as user experience designer, which focuses solely on improving the user interaction. Designers can also move up to be creative directors as well. A college degree is still not mandatory everywhere; however, strong skills in computer programming, computer engineering, software development, computer animation, graphic design and computer graphics -- or all of them -- are helpful.

Big employers like Microsoft and Electronic Arts snag a large chunk of new designers, but smaller companies are starting to offer competitive wages and career tracks as well. Designers earn $50,000 to $80,000 annually, and the highest reported salary was $200,000, according to the International Game Developers Association.

Social media is a specialty field of public relations that uses the growing social networking technologies, including RSS, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. A few years ago, social media duties were performed by marketing managers or communications directors. Now there is a social media career track.

An entry-level company blogger can earn less than $20 per hour (and many blogging jobs are part time). A director of social media, the top of the social media chain, can pull in $70,000 or more. In the middle, a social media manager can expect to earn around $50,000. A bachelor's degree is usually required, and job seekers should possess strong writing abilities and a keen understanding of online marketing, public relations and new media.

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Job Search section.

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