YAHOO.COM - Is it time to peer into the future of your ideal career? Which jobs will offer you the best opportunities in exchange for your education and training?
While we don't have a crystal ball, we do have some information on this decade's hottest career fields that will help you plan your personal and professional goals for 2013.
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, a career change and jobs expert, says that overall, technical and medical jobs will experience the fastest growth rates from now until 2020. "Technical jobs will continue to grow, and these careers will most likely have the edge as far as growth in 2013 and beyond."
Of course, there are a handful of other growing careers in other fields that are booming, too.
Intrigued? Keep reading to learn which careers you should keep your eye on in the New Year.
Are you the kind of person who offers sick people around you cold-remedy advice? Well, your friends may not appreciate your patented cod liver tea cure-all, but you could still redirect those best intentions toward a promising career in the medical field.
Medical assistants help heal the community by asking questions about a patient's condition, taking blood pressure, scheduling appointments, and maintaining financial records, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth Watch: Medical assisting is definitely going places. Why? "Medical providers such as doctors and nurses are transferring routine record-keeping and basic care to medical assistants to alleviate the time and skill of the physician," says Tannahill-Moran.
Laurence Shatkin, scholar and author of "Best Jobs for the 21st Century," sees other reasons for the boom: "Paperwork in medical clinics is growing because each insurer has its own forms and procedures. And since the Affordable Health Care Act is based on private insurance, the need for medical assistants seems unlikely to reverse," says Shatkin.
Still not convinced? Let's do the numbers: The Department of Labor projects that medical assisting will grow at a rate of 31 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding almost 163,000 new jobs.
Education Options: Although there are no educational requirements for medical assistant positions, employers prefer candidates who graduate from formal education programs, says the Department. This means as little as two years to complete an associate's degree or as little as one year to complete a certificate or diploma, according to the Department.
If you've ever thought about creating your own video game or devising a new application for your cell phone, you're in luck. Career experts and the U.S. Department of Labor say software developers are in demand now, and will continue to be in the future.
Growth Watch: In today's technologically driven world, software developers are needed to design software for a variety of systems and applications. "The expansion of computing power to smartphones and electronic tablets has created a need for new applications to take advantage of the portability of these new platforms," Shatkin says.
What does all this mean in real terms? Jobs for software developers are expected to grow by 30 percent through 2020, with over 143,000 job openings, notes the Department of Labor.
Education Options: Software developers typically have a bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science or a related field, says the Department. Employers may also prefer candidates with a master's degree for some positions.
If you're interested in a high-paying medical field that calls for a lot of hands-on care, dental hygiene may be a good choice for you.
Dental hygienists educate patients about proper dental care, and provide preventative oral hygiene, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They may also take dental x-rays, remove dental tartar, and apply sealants to help protect teeth.
Growth Watch: The job outlook for dental hygienists is excellent. Shatkin says that demand will continue to grow because of the greater emphasis on health care. "New technologies are permitting detection of oral health problems and baby boomers are more committed than previous generations to keeping their teeth into old age," he says.
And the numbers don't lie. According to the Department of Labor, dental hygienist is among the 30 occupations expected to grow the fastest from 2010 until 2020. With a growth rate of 38 percent and 68,500 job openings, this field could provide career longevity.
Education Options: To pursue a career as a dental hygienist, candidates usually need an associate's degree in dental hygiene, says the Department. In addition, all states require licensure.
Do you love the worlds of finance and business? Do you want to take your knack for investing to the big leagues and help clients make important financial decisions? Personal financial advisor might be a career to keep your eye on in 2013.
Personal financial advisors meet with clients to talk about financial goals and make investment recommendations, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They also provide tax advice and information to help people plan for retirement.
Growth Watch: At least one good thing has come out of the recession. According to Shatkin, "The recent turmoil on Wall Street has given baby boomers extra motivation to get professional advice. As this population ages, they will want help arriving at wise decisions about stretching their monetary assets beyond retirement."
The Department of Labor also projects that this field will grow by as much as 32 percent from 2010 to 2020, and could create more than 66,000 job openings.
Education Options: A bachelor's degree is usually needed for personal financial positions. According to the Department, you could prep for this career by pursuing a degree in business, finance, economics, mathematics, accounting, or law. And if you end up buying or selling stocks, you'll have to be licensed.
Do you like being in the limelight and promoting events or issues you feel are important? Perhaps a profession in public relations is the winning combination for you.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that work as a public relations specialist might include handling an organization's communications with the public, but could later involve writing speeches or developing a corporation's public image.
Growth Watch: The evolution of media and technology has done a lot to change the field of public relations - for the better. "With instant access to social media, it is more important than ever for individuals and organizations to get professional help maintaining a positive public image," says Shatkin. "Specialists who work well with this new media are needed to build a reputation or save someone from scandal."
Employment for public relations specialists is projected to grow by 23 percent between 2010 and 2020, and Department of Labor officials expect to see more than 58,000 job openings.
Education Options: If it's your goal to switch to a career as a public relations specialist, you may want to consider earning a bachelor's degree. According to the Department, candidates usually need a bachelor's degree for these positions, with public relations, communications, journalism, English, and business being the fields of study preferred by employers.
Is it easy for you to empathize with others who are going through rough times? Perhaps a career in direct-service social work is right for you.
Direct-service social workers help people transition through crises or challenges, such as child abuse, unemployment, or illness, says the U.S. Department of Labor. People are always needed to take on the great responsibility of these positions, which is partly why they will continue to be in demand.
Growth Watch: What else is causing social work to grow? "The driving force behind the expansion of this profession is the aging baby boomers," says Shatkin. "They will need help adapting to lifestyle changes such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes." Shatkin also mentions that the move toward rehabilitating rather than imprisoning drug addicts will also create further demand for social workers who specialize in substance abuse.
This career is projected to add over 161,000 jobs between 2010 and 2020, notes the Department of Labor. That's a growth rate of 25 percent.
Education Options: "A bachelor's degree is required for most direct-service social work positions, but some positions and settings require a master's degree," says the Department. Although a bachelor's in social work is the most common requirement, some employers might hire candidates with a bachelor's in psychology or sociology.
If you like to solve problems and help people live better lives, you might want to explore a career in biomedical engineering.
Specialities within this field might include focusing your expertise into rehabilitation engineering; cellular, tissue, and genetic engineering; or medical imagery, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth Watch: Why will the future need more biomedical engineers? People are living longer. "The growth of this field benefits from the simultaneous increase in older people who need replacements for failing bodily systems, and advances in technology that create heart pumps and knee implants," says Shatkin.
With a projected growth rate from the Department of Labor of 62 percent, it's clear to see why Shatkin believes biomedical engineering to be one of the fastest growing fields of the decade.
Education Options: To pursue a biomedical engineering position, you usually need to earn a bachelor's degree directly in the field from an accredited program, according to the Department. If you prefer to pursue a bachelor's degree in another field, you may need to get on-the-job training or a graduate degree in biomedical engineering.
Pets are more popular than ever, and some cherished animal friends get treated like humans. If you're a pet lover, and like helping both people and animals, veterinary technology might right for you. There is an ever-increasing need for technicians to assist professional veterinarians.
Working as a veterinary technician - a vet's right-hand man - you could perform medical tests and lab analyses to help treat and diagnose diseased or injured animals, reports the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth Watch: Pets are more important to our lives than ever before, which is part of why the need for professionals who can treat them is high. "Many people regard their pets as part of their family, so they are willing to pay for diagnostic tests formerly used only on humans," says Shatkin. "And with advances in technology, new analytical tests are constantly being developed."
The Department of Labor confirms: Veterinary technician careers are projected to grow at a rate of 52 percent between 2010 and 2020, with more than 41,000 positions opening.
Education Options: To pursue a career as a veterinary technician you will need to get an associate's degree in veterinary technology, says the Department. But if you're interested in technologist positions, you'll need to take it up a notch and prep with a bachelor's degree. Depending on your state's requirements, you'll also need to be certified or licensed and, in some cases, registered.