Find out how you could be a top candidate for some of today's hottest careers.
There's been a lot of press about high unemployment due to the recession lately.
With so much competition for positions, employers are looking at all applicants more closely - and more critically.
So how can you make yourself into a top candidate for the career you want?
"Companies are pickier now... It takes them longer to hire," says Lea Delfosse of Perspectives LTD in Chicago.
Delfosse says that "perfect" candidates should have the technical skills, educational background, and experience that the company seeks.
While we can't get inside the heads of hiring managers for every career, we can show you how you could make yourself competitive for some of today's hottest careers...
Career #1 - Paralegal
Some employers in this industry look for paralegals with additional knowledge or insight that might help them when preparing cases for litigation. If you have prior experience in another field, this could help you stand out to future potential employers. [Find Paralegal schools now]
- To prepare for a career as a paralegal, earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies can be helpful.
- If you already have a bachelor's degree, a certificate program could provide you with intensive paralegal preparation in less than one year.
- When choosing a paralegal school, make sure it's approved by the American Bar Association.
- After you've completed your paralegal preparation, consider earning a voluntary certification from a professional paralegal organization.
Average Earnings: The average annual salary for paralegals is about $46,120. Top earners average at more than $73,450. Keep in mind that salaries vary depending on the type of firm you're working for and your location (salaries are higher in urban areas).*
Career #2 - Accountant
These days, employers are looking for accountants who can do more than just crunch numbers. Accountants are an integral part of many businesses and need up-to-date knowledge on laws and regulations in their field. [Find Accounting schools now.]
- Most employers look for applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, according to the Department of Labor.
- If you already have a bachelor's degree in another field and want to make a career change, consider an accounting certificate program.
- To help you stand out from other number crunchers, take courses in business administration or specialize in an area like international business, international financial reporting standards, or current legislation.
Average Earnings: Accountants have an average annual salary of $59,430. Top earners average at more than $102,380.*
Career #3 - Medical Assistant
Today's health care employers look for personable, trustworthy people. That's not surprising when you consider that many medical assistants work closely with patients and often handle confidential medical information. If you've ever volunteered in the health care field, that experience could help you stand out to potential employers.
- If you're looking for a stable career that you could get into quickly, medical assisting is a great option. Some certificate programs can be completed in as little as one year.
- According to the Department of Labor, employers prefer applicants with formal preparation or experience. Two options to consider: an associate's degree or certificate program.
- To help stand out to potential employers, consider getting certified in a specialty such as podiatry, optometry, or ophthalmology.
Average Earnings: The average salary for medical assistants was $28,300 in May 2008. The highest 10 percent earned more than $39,570.*
Keep in mind that salaries depend on experience and location. For example, according to Department of Labor data, the highest salaries tend to go to medical assistants working in general medical and surgical hospitals.
Career #4 - Public Relations Specialist
The PR world is about getting noticed. So how can you get noticed as a job candidate in this fast-paced career field? Applicants for PR positions should have great communication skills (both written and verbal), be creative problem-solvers, and show initiative. If you have those personal qualities, getting the preparation to match is helpful. [Search for PR and Marketing degree programs now]
- Most public relations specialist careers require applicants to have a college degree in public relations or a related field like marketing and communications or business.
- Consider joining the Public Relations Student Society of America to help make professional contacts. In these tough times, networking could really help boost your chances of finding work.
- If you have the time, look into PR internships. According to the Department of Labor this is the best route to finding entry-level employment as a public relations specialist.
Average Earnings: Public relations specialists have an average annual salary of $51,280 per year, with top earners averaging at more than $97,910 per year.*
Career #5 - Graphic Designer
Employers hiring graphic designers often look for creative people who can communicate their ideas visually and in writing. The ability to work well under pressure could also be paramount, as many times designers work within strict deadlines.
- Earning a bachelor's or associate's degree in graphic design to learn the technical requirements for this type of work is a great first step.
- To be considered a great graphic designer candidate, think about adding to your creative skills by studying web design.
- A good portfolio of work could be the deciding factor in getting you that coveted graphic design position.
- Since consumer tastes can change quickly, don't forget to keep up with the changing trends by subscribing to relevant newsletters and articles.
Average Earnings: According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts, in 2008 the average annual salary for entry-level designers was $35,000 while staff-level graphic designers earned around $45,000 a year on average.*
Career #6 - IT Manager
If you're thinking of working in the growing IT field, know this: Employers are likely looking for more than technical know-how and expertise - a background in business, consulting, or sales can help you stand out from the competition. Interpersonal skills like leadership and communication could also help you rise to the top of the IT pack.
- If you're interested in this career you'll likely need at least a bachelor's degree. Consider majoring in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS).
- Aiming to take on a management role? Consider earning a master's of business administration with technology as a core component to help push you toward this career.
- Certification could also demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. If you have an area where your skills really shine, getting a professional certification could be helpful.
Average Earnings: Salaries of IT managers vary based on specialty and level of responsibility. The average annual salary for IT managers is $112,210.*
*Unless otherwise noted, all salary information is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008.