RSS
6 lucrative jobs of the future
More children should want to be logisticians. Seriously.
 
Turns out testing milk is pretty lucrative.
Turns out testing milk is pretty lucrative. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

We've all heard this question. And, in all likelihood, chances are you probably dabbled with the idea of becoming an astronaut or a superhero as a kid. In high school, you may have been dead-set on becoming president. Of course, by the time college graduation rolls around, many of us have moved on to more realistic career goals.

But with our hyper-connected world moving a mile a minute these days, the tried-and-true professions that everyone pursues today could quickly become a thing of the past.

So what does the future hold? Ever heard of ethical hacking? Yeah, neither had we. We spoke to Thomas Frey, author of Communicating With the Future, to suss out the six quickly growing power professions of the future that you should know about. Now tell us again: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Logistician
When you go to the store, you know exactly where to find that toothpaste, oatmeal, and dish soap. But how did it get there? For that, you'd have to consult a logistician. These professionals use complex computer software to track the movements of goods and products — and brainstorm ways to make the process smoother and more efficient. Some logisticians even work with government agencies to help clean up natural disasters.

Why it's a job of the future
Given the current global economy, companies are looking to streamline production and cut costs — and they're hiring logisticians to do it. The Labor Department predicts a 26 percent job growth in this field by 2020, and with a median salary of $71,910, logisticians have it pretty good.

According to Frey, logisticians are in a "gear-shifting" profession. "Their position is changing drastically," Frey says, explaining that he expects these professionals to soon move beyond physical goods and into the more technologically advanced defense world to work on things like pilot-less drones, as well as public projects, such as driverless cars.

Ethical hacker
How can a hacker be ethical? It turns out that many companies hire these experts to purposefully hack systems in order to pinpoint problems in security measures before their less-ethical counterparts get the chance. You can even become a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), a professional who's tasked with network policy creation, intrusion detection, and virus creation.

Why it's a job of the future
With a median salary of $92,200 per year, these moral intruders can lead a very comfortable life. But some worry that ethical hackers have the potential to go "rogue" and take their considerable skills over to the dark side, which may be why the job isn't yet mainstream. Frey says that, in order for ethical hackers to ever be widely accepted, we need to officially distinguish between what is and isn't ethical. For instance, does an ethical hacker have the right to distribute information that he accesses through his position? "This [privacy vs. transparency] debate won't go away anytime soon," Frey adds. "We need to establish ground rules."

Actuary
Can you predict risk — down to the number? An actuary can. These business professionals use math and statistics to analyze the financial consequences of risk for insurance companies, banks, consulting firms, and the government.

Why it's a job of the future
Actuaries earn a national median salary of $87,650 — and the Labor Department predicts that it will only get better for them, with a 27 percent predicted job growth in the next seven years. The skills of an actuary "can go in a lot of different directions," Frey says. Although insurance companies typically utilize actuaries, Frey predicts that these pros will make their way into the medical industry. "The health-care world is ready for a lot of big changes," Frey says. "They just don't see it yet."

Epidemiologist
By now, you may know that the avian flu originated from birds, but who knew it first? An epidemiologist. These disease wizards work to uncover the cause of various ailments and illnesses, review sterilization techniques and procedures, brainstorm improvements on treatments, and create protocol for containing diseases and infections in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and research labs. Plus, you don't even necessarily need a medical degree — this job calls for a master's in public health.

Why it's a job of the future
By 2020, the Bureau Labor of Statistics envisions a whopping 35.8 percent job growth for epidemiologists, who make a median salary of $64,220 — thanks to the fact that the government is hiring more of these professionals to analyze the best preventive health-care measures and new legislation that is improving medical record-keeping.

As technology progresses, Frey believes that the field will further benefit from "the internet of things," a term that refers to the way our world is becoming integrated with the internet. Take smart dust, a coating that can be used on tunnels and airplanes to detect changes in temperature and airborne chemicals. In the future, Frey says that it's likely that smart dust, which contains a microscopic sensor, could be modified for use in humans to help epidemiologists pinpoint precursors to various diseases.

Front end engineer
When you click a button on your favorite website, it brings you to another page. Simple, right? Well, someone has to program that button to do what you're expecting, which is anything but simple. Front end engineers — also called front end web developers — create what you see online everyday. In addition to all of the coding that's required for the gig, front end developers must also have ideas and insights about what will work best for a user.

Why it's a job of the future
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22 percent job growth in this field by 2020, which is greater than the 14 percent expected growth for software developers. And with a median salary of $81,670, web developers have the means to make their lives beautiful, too — not just their websites. This is a "super-critical position," Frey says, adding that the way companies interact with online customers can determine future success. And who will they hire to make their websites more intuitive and effective? Front-end engineers, of course.

Food chemist
How do you make the perfect cupcake? Ask a food chemist. These gurus are tasked with developing and improving the taste and texture of food — and just about everything else that makes things a bit more delicious.

Why it's a job of the future
"[Food chemist jobs] will go wildly crazy in the future," says Frey. And he attributes it all to 3-D printers, which Frey predicts will cook our food in the future: Just insert the ingredient “cartridges” into a printer, and dinner is served — thanks to the food chemists who figured out how to blend and change flavors for the cartridges. In fact, Frey points out that NASA has already implemented a study to see how 3-D food printers would fare on space missions.

Incidentally, all of that chemical prowess pays off for these professionals: The ballpark salary for a food chemist with a Ph.D. ranges between $50,000 and $100,000. And given our penchant for fashionable diets and trendy foods, the future for food chemistry looks bright. "Our wacky diets are like fashion of the week," Frey says, "which leads to new markets and demand."

More from LearnVest...

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week