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The Hottest Careers for 2016 and Beyond

September 28, 2015

Thinking about switching to a more interesting and promising line of work? Maybe you’re just entering the job market and looking for a career with a bright future.

The good news is that many of the fastest-growing jobs in California are also among the most lucrative — and the path might be more accessible than you think. To provide its students with classes and curriculum that offer what the job marketplace wants and needs, UC Irvine Extension keeps a finger on the pulse of the employment landscape.

“At UCI Extension, our mission is to provide personal and workplace development opportunities to professionals in our region and beyond,” said Tim Keef, director of marketing and communications. “As business and industry continue to evolve, we are constantly adapting and introducing new programs to help individuals stay competitive in their profession."

The Great Recession changed the Southland job scene. But with that downturn fading into history, the employment landscape is heating up again, especially in several key industries, including healthcare. Among the healthcare careers singled out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for medical laboratory technologists and technicians is expected to grow 22% by 2022. That's faster than the average for all occupations, due to the aging U.S. population. And the mean annual salary is more than $80,000 for medical technologists in California.

Helping to fill that gap, the Clinical Laboratory Science/Medical Technology Training Program, offered in collaboration with the UCI Medical Center, is a full-time, one-year curriculum that leads to a career in diagnostic laboratory medicine, preparing students to perform laboratory procedures related to patient diagnosis and treatment.

For those seeking advancement within a medical/clinical laboratory setting, a Clinical Trials Program provides training in how to coordinate, monitor and manage a clinical trial. Other programs such as Clinical Research or Comparative Effectiveness Research and Evidence Based Medicine, offered in collaboration with the School of Medicine, help address key training needs in the healthcare field.

With growth in the nursing profession projected to reach nearly 20% over the next seven years, according to BLS, UCI Extension makes continuing education opportunities available to nurses seeking to specialize in this wide-reaching field. Consider that California is among the top 10 states in both employment rates and mean annual salary ($71,000) for RNs.

Partnering with UCI’s Nursing Science Program, UCI Extension offers nurses at all career levels the opportunity to study and specialize in Evidence-Based Practice, Nurse Educator and Aesthetic Nursing.

Keef said that career-focused certificate programs are designed to help learners acquire the skills and knowledge they need to be effective on the job. “It's no surprise that our most popular programs are the ones that reflect the fastest-growing fields out there today,” he said.

With that in mind, UCI Extension is offering more than 15 information technology programs this fall, training future computer and information systems managers, systems software developers and applications software engineers. No wonder the programs are popular: Computer and information systems managers make a mean annual salary of $158,000 a year.

A full range of in-demand data management programs — like Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Data Science, and Business Intelligence/Data Warehouse — deliver the critical training necessary to meet demand.

UCI Extension also offers its popular Information Systems Security Program, designed to provide the skills and certification necessary to keep an organization safe from computer hacking. For a computer network security analyst in California, the annual salary is around $102,400.

“With computer hacking threatening to disrupt everything from national security to financial stability, companies of all sizes in all industries are taking every precaution to avoid becoming victims of cyber crimes," Keef said. "There is a significant need for people who are trained in the field of advanced computer and network security and there will continue to be a significant need for many years to come.”

Financial planning — offering a typical annual salary of $113,000 in California — will grow an estimated 32% from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, as millions of workers seek help planning their retirement. Accountants and auditors are also in high demand.

UCI Extension’s Personal Financial Planning Program provides the skills necessary to work as a financial manager, while the new Applied Accounting Program helps fill the growing need for qualified accountants.

With a fast-shifting job market requiring many Americans to change careers during their working years, continuing education is essential to staying competitive in today’s job market.

“To make a successful job/career change, individuals must continually adjust, adapt and reinvent themselves," Keef said. "It’s all about staying relevant — in terms of knowledge, skill set and practice. Continuing education programs are perfectly suited for the lifelong learners since they are practical, convenient, and require minimal investment in time and money.”

– Julia Clerk, Tribune Content Solutions