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Ten hot careers for recent college graduates

BY MALLORY BEBERMAN

Published November 15, 2010

A recent study published by the University of California at San Diego examined the top careers for recent college graduates. We profile the top 10 here.

1. HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNICIAN

This past July, President Barack Obama signed new legislation that will reward hospitals that optimize their use of electronic health records, creating a greater a need for health information technicians.

The Department of Health and Human Services could grant doctors and hospitals up to $27 billion over the next 10 years to turn all of their paper medical records into electronic ones. Furthermore, with this legislation, doctors and hospitals that do not use electronic medical records by 2015 could face financial infractions from Medicare.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of medical records and health information technicians will grow 20 percent faster than the average rate of all other occupations through 2018.

Professionals in this field generally have an associate degree and have strong computer software and technology skills, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information technicians should also be familiar with medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, clinical classification and coding systems.

“Health information technology makes it possible for health care providers to better manage patient care through secure use and sharing of health information,” the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s website states.

The website also says health information technology allows hospitals to provide their patients with improved care since electronic medical records enable doctors to diagnose health issues faster, decrease the frequency of medical errors and better coordinate the care they give.

Specifically, health information technicians compile reports that detail patients’ medical history, symptoms, examination results, diagnostic tests, treatment methods and all other relevant information. As electronic health records are more frequently used, technicians must understand the EHR software programs, how to maintain a high-level of EHR security and how to analyze the electronic data.

2. DATA MANAGER

Before a cancer drug can be put on the market, it must be proven effective and beneficial to those who take it. That's where drug testers come in.

The tiring process that is drug testing — from the time the drug is discovered to the time it is put on the market — usually takes 12 years, said Marleen Meyers, M.D. and assistant professor of medicine at the New York University Clinical Cancer Center.

Meyers explained that oncology drugs, or cancer drugs, are developed differently than they were 30 years ago. “Going back 30 years, they would have been drugs that would have hit many cancers at once,” she said.

But now, she explained, the focus is on smart drugs. “Smart drugs try to hit on particular DNA pathways in the cell so they are formulated on individual types of cancer," she said.

When a drug is first discovered it is tested on lab animals, usually rats. Meyers said that a rat is injected with cancer and then with the new drug. A rat's liver metabolizes a drug in a much different way than a human, she said, but nonetheless if the drug proves effective to the rats human trials ensue.

In Phase I of human trials, Meyers said a small number of patients — who have already tried multiple other cancer treatments in the past — are enrolled in the study.

“The goal is not to see whether (the drug) works or not, but rather the goal is to see the maximum tolerated dose at which more people do well than have severe side effects,” she said.

Phase I trials will usually not directly benefit the patients, but might benefit others in the future, she added.

If people are found to tolerate the drug, Phase II trials begin. According to Meyers, Phase II is concerned with discovering if the drug works, and involves a larger subject pool of people who have not undergone as many other treatments. Phase III of the process involves comparing the new drug to drugs already on the market, and explores whether the new drug will be cost effective and improve someone’s life span more than drugs already available.

Data managers, who conduct clinical trial designs for the testing of oncology drugs, are responsible for supervising the trials. Meyers said their job usually includes working with statisticians to analyze results, communicating with patients about the studies, keeping the data organized, making sure people get their lab tests and CAT scans done on time and making sure to follow up on patients’ progress.

“If we have a data manager who is collecting data in a sloppy way and we are being funded by a grant from a private corporation, they will take the grant away,” she said. “We rely really heavily on the data managers and the people who are working with the clinical trial design not only to make sure that (the study) will say something real but also to be excessively precise with what’s happening with the data.”

The need for more data managers and other professionals involved in clinical trials is important for a number of reasons. Meyers said that because it takes so long for a drug to be released to the market, the public is “clamoring for ways that we can move this process along.” One possible solution is to change the emphasis of drug trials from a crude observation of how long people can live after they take the drug, to a more sensitive method of looking at the changes of a person’s individual tumor as it is being treated. This individuated and more specific approach requires more personnel than the current studies do, she said.

A second reason for the increased need for data managers in clinical trial design is because of the policy changes in health care and funding. Meyers said that, as insurance changes, drug companies will need to provide insurance companies with proof that these drugs are worth the extra money to test them.

For students interested in pursuing a career in clinical trials design and management for oncology, Meyers recommends taking classes in biology, genetics, chemistry and statistics. She also said that students should be comfortable talking to sick people because this job entails a lot of direct-patient contact.

3. DATA MINER

A survey conducted by the International Data Corporation said the amount of digital data in the world will reach 1.2 zettabytes by the end of 2010. A zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes — that’s 21 zeroes worth of bytes!

With such an immense amount of available information, there is a growing need for analysts who can sort through this data and transform it into readable information — which can then be used to analyze consumer behaviors and other trends.

Dragomir Radev, a professor in the School of Information, defined the job in an e-mail, explaining that “Data Mining is a statistical methodology for identifying patterns in data.”

Data mining can be used in many occupations. Radev wrote: “(Data mining) can be used to find correlations between particular symptoms and particular diseases, between the sales of different products, or between the prices of different stocks.”

Data mining analysts predict future situations and behavior patterns by building models from historical patterns and past trends. Models can help businesses create better marketing strategies, reduce costs and become more efficient.

According to Radev, data mining analysts might examine the sales transactions in a supermarket to find out how to increase sales. He explained that data algorithms might discover that 75 percent of customers who buy breakfast cereal also buy milk. To account for this pattern, the supermarket would place their milk next to the cereal aisle to make shopping more convenient for customers and encourage them to buy both cereal and milk.

Students interested in pursuing a career as a data mining analyst should be well-versed in algorithms, statistics and computer software. According to a University of California at San Diego report, jobs in data mining are available in advertising, fraud detection, surveillance, web mining, probabilistic trading, risk management, business intelligence, scientific research and law enforcement.

4. EMBEDDED ENGINEER

The field of embedded engineering is expanding as our environment transforms into a more advanced technological world.

Embedded engineers create embedded systems or “computers in other things,” said Robert Dick, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Dick explained that embedded systems “are the specialized computers in smartphones, in cars, in medical devices, in your kitchen and in your child’s toys.”

As the amount of complex technology increases, so does the need for embedded system engineers. “The market size is bigger (for embedded systems) than for general-purpose computers and is growing faster,” Dick said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increase of 295,200 software engineer jobs can be expected from 2008 to 2018.

To answer this demand, companies are looking to hire students who demonstrate a wide expanse of knowledge in software engineering and computer science. Dick said “an engineer who understands hardware, software, applications and people” is best suited for this job.

He explained that a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or computer science is sufficient to be hired as an embedded systems engineer and that the student must also understand the social contexts and environments in which a particular embedded system is used.

“Embedded system designers work to build compact, complex, high-performance, inexpensive, low-power, real-time, reliable, secure, wireless embedded devices quicker or better than their competitors at other embedded systems companies,” he explained.

For students interested in creating embedded systems, Dick recommends that students complete both theoretical and hands-on coursework involving hardware and software design. He said students specializing in this field can expect to be hired by cell phone companies, companies like Google and Intel or even companies that manufacture medical devices.

5. WEB FEATURE WRITER

According to The Digital Future Report, 22 percent of people who still read newspapers say that if the print edition of their newspaper were to be terminated, they would be indifferent. But although America's growing reliance on the Internet has clearly had a negative effect on newspaper publications, that hasn't necessarily translated into a negative impact on the journalism industry per se.

But people are still searching for quality journalism, it's just that they're looking for it online.

The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center found in 2009 that Internet users are consuming online news on average 12 minutes more a week than the year before, up from 41 minutes a week in 2008 to 53 minutes in 2009.

"These are exciting times for news journalism reported on the web," the study stated. "The new medium allows for much more interactivity, as readers respond via comments or blogs. Web/online journalists have the opportunity to shape the future."

Online journalism allows for quick and timely coverage. Web writers are able to keep track of groundbreaking stories as they develop. Videos, blogs and reader polls are just some of the ways in which online journalism allows for more creativity and interactivity than print publications.

As online publications become the dominant source for news, writers and editors with multimedia experience are becoming more and more valuable. Online journalists should be familiar with interactive technologies that combine text, graphics and sound, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.

Superior candidates for feature writing for the web should have strong writing skills typically gained through a degree in communications, journalism or English. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that applicants be creative, curious, self-motivated, have a strong sense of ethics and be able to perform well under a deadline.

6. GERIATRIC HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL

According to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration on Aging, in 2009 there were 39.6 million people aged 65 years and older in the United States. This number will increase to about 72.1 million people by the year 2030. By that time, the percentage of people aged 65 and older will be equivalent to 19 percent the U.S. population.

The expected growth of the older population is largely due to the aging of the baby boomers and the higher life expectancies made possible with improved health care. Between the years 1946 and 1964, 77 million babies were born during the post-World War II boom years.

A report published by the Harvard School of Public Health said that in 2011, the oldest of the baby boom generation will turn 65-years old. The report also mentioned that as the baby boom generation grows more elderly, they can expect to live well into their 90s.

As a greater proportion of the American population ages, more nurses and doctors will be necessary to care for the growing number of elderly patients. And according to Dr. Laura Struble, an assistant clinical professor in the School of Nursing, there currently aren't enough clinicians who specialize in geriatrics, or the study of health care for those 65 and older.

“We have a huge number of older adults now in the population and not enough geriatric nurse practitioners, geriatric physicians and geriatric psychiatrists,” she said. “In medicine and in nursing, it’s a big field with a lot of need.”

Struble explained that some of the main problems the elderly face are dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancer. She said that 40 to 50 percent of people over the age of 85 have dementia.

However, Struble said that as health care continues to improve, people are expected to remain healthier at much older ages.

“It’s predicted that older people are going to be healthier because of all the research and health promotion. They will be healthier and live longer and just have a short illness at the end,” she said.

Hospitals are becoming more focused on the growing need for geriatric health care, Struble said. In order to gain more knowledge of geriatrics, she said the amount of geriatric material tested by the nursing boards has increased. She also mentioned the work of the Hartford Foundation, an organization trying to increase the number of social workers, doctors, nurses and other related professionals trained in geriatric health care.

Struble mentioned that the University’s Program for Positive Aging works with the U-M Depression Center, Department of Psychiatry and the U-M Geriatric Center to advance the importance of studying geriatric mental health. According to the program’s website, the initiative strives “to bridge the gap between existing knowledge and practice, and to utilize promising research findings to educate new clinical and research professionals, improve care, and disseminate knowledge regarding aging and mental health locally, statewide and nationally.”

7. MOBILE MEDIA DEVELOPER

According to Nielsen, a global marketing research company, 21 percent of American wireless subscribers use a smartphone. And they only expect that number to grow, projecting that by the end of 2011 smartphone sales will outsell all other phones in the U.S. market.

Not only are more users purchasing smartphones, but they're consuming more data on them as well.

The Internet and American Life Project found that 40 percent of adults access the Internet, e-mail or instant messaging on a mobile phone, and 76 percent of cell phone users now take pictures with their phones, as opposed to the 66 percent who did in 2009. Similarly, 38 percent of cell phone users access the Internet on their phones, as compared to the 25 percent who did in 2009.

The growing consumer desire for smartphones will result in increased employment opportunities for graphic designers, software engineers, videographers and game/app developers, according to a study by the University of California at San Diego. These professionals will be called upon to design new applications and features for even more advanced smartphones in the future.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers with experience in website design and animation will be especially desirable in the coming years as companies become more involved in interactive media. The Bureau also states that computer software engineer employment opportunities will increase by 32 percent from the years 2008 to 2018.

According to the Bureau, graphic designers should have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and be knowledgeable of computer graphics and design software. Similarly, software engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering or mathematics — though graduate degrees may be preferred.

Today, the most popular smartphones in the market are Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Research in Motion’s Blackberry. As companies are looking to grab hold of a larger market share, they will need fresh minds to create innovative applications for their smartphones. Who better to take on the job than eager college graduates, ready to tackle the new age of mobile media?

8. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY SPECIALIST

Individuals in the field of occupational health and safety are concerned with making workplaces free from injury, illness and fatality. OHS specialists are responsible for understanding the risks associated with working in different industries, as well as the ways to prevent accidents.

Monroe Keyserling, associate director of the University’s Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering, explained that specialists in the field “try to eliminate those exposures in the workplace that are known to be associated with disease and injury.”

Keyserling pointed to an excessive rate of cancer among factory employees as an example of a typical problem that OHS specialists might analyze. In this scenario, different types of OHS specialists — epidemiologists, toxologists and chemists — would combine their efforts to locate the chemical linked to the cancer, determine the rate of the chemical’s exposure and either eliminate the chemical from the factory or design a way to contain the chemical from further human contact.

Other work-related injuries or fatalities are often caused by traffic accidents and homicide, where bystanders like taxi drivers, gas station employees and 24-hour convenience store attendents are indirectly caught in criminal crossfire. Construction, fishing and mining are other occupational industries that have high numbers of on-site accidents, Keyserling said.

OHS specialists are important in the workplace not only for their efforts to ensure hazard-free work environments, but also to minimize the costs associated with high-risk workplaces. Keyserling explained that when a person is injured, sick or killed on a job, the employer is responsible for covering that person’s medical costs and loss of earned wages through workers’ compensation plans. If OHS specialists can decrease a workplace’s risks, these potential costs to employers will go down.

J. Paul Leigh, a professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of California at Davis, estimated that in 2005, the total cost for job-related injuries and illnesses in the United States was about $163 billion.

People who work in OHS generally come from a background in engineering. While the University does not have its own OHS undergraduate major, it does have an OHS graduate program. Keyserling said the University’s graduate program prefers students with backgrounds in electrical, chemical or mechanical engineering. He added that liberal arts students with a focus in math and science are common.

Keyserling said auto companies, pharmaceutical companies and consulting companies that specialize in OHS often hire graduates from the University’s OHS program.

He added that as technology develops, so does the amount of added risks in the workplace. OHS specialists are needed to combat the risks associated with novel technologies.

9. SPANISH/ENGLISH TRANSLATOR

By the year 2020, the Hispanic population in the United States is projected to reach 59.7 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is expected to climb further to 102.6 million in 2050.

The U.S. Hispanic population is now America’s largest racial minority group and the second largest Hispanic population outside of Mexico. As the proportion of Spanish-speaking people living in the United States increases, the need for Spanish/English translators and interpreters will become more pertinent, especially in states with large Hispanic communities like California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

Opportunities for Spanish translation jobs are expected to increase in the next few decades, especially in healthcare and law, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bureau also noted the many fields that translators and interpreters can expect to work in, including jobs in educational institutions, healthcare and social assistance, government, interpreting and translating agencies, publishing companies, telephone companies and airline companies.

Trusted Translations, Inc. reports that the U.S. Hispanic population has become a tremendous force both in terms of consumer trends and national, state and local politics. Thus, translators and interpreters can also expect to find employment opportunities in commercial companies, advertising agencies and in politics.

Students interested in pursuing a career in this field must be fluent and well-read in at least two different languages. Students are encouraged to spend time abroad and to talk directly to people native in the languages in which they are fluent. Many companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prefer people with experience and a degree in translation studies.

While a job as a translator and an interpreter go hand in hand, they are inherently different jobs. Traditionally, translators specialize in transferring written words to a different language. On the other hand, interpreters work with spoken words and often converse back-and-forth between their two languages of expertise. Both professions however, are not only responsible for translating between different languages, but also for conveying meaning, ideas and concepts.

10. SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES

Just as students at the University are embracing the green trend by printing double-sided, purchasing reusable water bottles and actively recycling, businesses have jumped on board the sustainable bandwagon too, seeing increases in both profitability and community relations.

In fact, the popularity of “going green” is so widespread that, according to a study by the University of California at San Diego, “by the mid-21st century, all jobs will be green jobs."

Allison Shapiro, a student in the University’s Erb Institute MBA/MS Program, said publicly-traded companies especially are adopting sustainable practices in an effort to maximize profits and to retain investor interests.

The greening of business is expected to impact nearly every sector, which means that those with a background in environmental studies will have a leg up in the job market.

Shapiro said people today are more self-motivated to protect the environment than they were in the past and that businesses go green by examining their company from a holistic perspective. Not only do actions like recycling paper, turning off computer monitors and installing energy efficient light-bulbs matter, but a company also needs to “engage their employees and customers and suppliers” to go green as well, she said.

Large and small companies in nearly every industry are concerned with green initiatives. Walmart, for example, is pushing its suppliers to reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, according to The Associated Press.

Since the company is such a powerhouse, Shapiro said Walmart has been able to have a huge impact on changing the way the private sector considers the environment “by forcing companies to meet their standards when selling goods.”

The federal government has also pledged to become more eco-friendly, Shapiro said, by providing energy-efficient vehicles for government employees and implementing a paper-saving program.

Even Facebook has launched a green campaign that involves using energy efficient data centers, providing employee shuttle buses to and from work, practicing water conservation and implementing recycling and compost programs, according to greenbiz.com.

Since companies of all types of sectors are going green, students in all fields will undoubtedly come face-to-face with environmentally-friendly initiatives at their place of work. Thus, students of all disciplines should be familiar with basic sustainable business practices and eco-friendly practices. For students who know that they will pursue a job specifically relating to environmental studies, Shapiro recommends taking environmental science classes and environmental policy classes.