Top Jobs 2006

The best jobs to pursue today? Fast Company again draws on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compile a list of 25 great careers for the years ahead.

Finding your dream job can be a real nightmare. Career counselors suggest following your passion, and that's sage advice. Yet outstanding opportunities--jobs that offer high growth potential, good salaries, and intellectual stimulation--aren't always easy to come by. That's why, for the second year in a row, FastCompany.com has surveyed the labor landscape to determine where the best prospects for the coming years can be found.

What's changed in the span of just a year? Not a whole lot--but more than you might expect. You'll find many similarities between this year's 25 Top Jobs and last year's list: Lawyers, financial advisors, computer software engineers, and stockbrokers all rank highly once again. Health-care occupations pepper the list as well--and should present increasing opportunities given our growing and aging population. In the coming decade, "about three out of every ten new jobs created in the U.S. economy will be in either the healthcare and social assistance or private educational services sectors," the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects.

But given updated government data, we've also found a number of other appealing jobs in burgeoning fields. Those new titles are also, at least in part, the result of a slight change in our methodology:

How We Created Our List

Just as we did last year, we set out in search of jobs that will be in high demand, offer excellent potential salaries, and typically require some level of higher education. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we started by narrowing the field to careers that would appeal most to Fast Company readers--business and professional occupations or those in creative fields. Then, to find positions increasingly in demand, we used projected job-growth data through 2014 and ranked the occupations to find those with the greatest growth. That ranking accounted for 40% of our final score.

Compensation is always a consideration, so next we examined government data on salary levels and again looked at the difference between the 90th percentile earnings and 10th percentile earnings for each job--an indication of the opportunities for profitable growth and advancement. That ranking also made up 40% of our final score.

Finally, because we still believe that a great job requires significant investment in education, we ranked occupations by the percentage of workers in those jobs that hold a college degree or higher. This accounted for the final 20% of our score.

In the end, we arrived at the list you see below. The outlook for each of these occupations should be bright. And more generally, as demographic trends progress, prospects for skilled and educated workers should only improve, notes Dr. Kevin Stolarick, an assistant professor at the Information Systems Program at Carnegie Mellon University and an expert on the Creative Class. As baby boomers enter retirement starting this year, for example, employers may be hard pressed to fill their positions; for every two people leaving the workforce, only one new person is entering, Stolarick says. "You can't spontaneously create a 21-year college graduate out of thin air, South Korean cloning notwithstanding," he says.

All of which means that your dream job may be closer than ever. We can't promise that you'll find it here, but this list should be a good place to start.

Top Jobs 2006 List

  • Lawyer
  • Personal financial advisor
  • Sales manager
  • Management analyst
  • Computer and information systems manager
  • Financial manager
  • Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent
  • Marketing manager
  • Computer software engineer
  • Chiropractor
  • Postsecondary education administrator
  • Medical scientist
  • Market research analyst
  • Dentist
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Producers and directors
  • Financial analyst
  • Wholesale and manufacturing sales representative
  • Engineering manager
  • Advertising and promotions manager
  • Compensation and benefits manager
  • Clinical, counseling, and school psychologist
  • Real estate sales agent
  • Training and development manager
  • Public relations manager

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