The Best Career Paths for Teens

Last Updated Jul 29, 2010 2:43 PM EDT


Students who don't choose their field of study wisely will find it difficult to carve out a good career in the coming decade. The economy is chewing up jobs in a bunch of industries like manufacturing, publishing and retail - and big companies across the board have all but stopped hiring.

This unsettling story in the New York Times details the extent to which corporate America is cutting heads to keep up profits, and how CEOs have become so used to operating on lean budgets that robust hiring won't make a comeback anytime soon.

Career selection will be more important than ever. Take a look at the past decade's top earners. This list is littered with folks in technology and finance, two of the fastest growing sectors over that period. Good careers - and for innovators like Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs, fabulous wealth - go hand-in-hand with being part of a growing industry.

That doesn't mean your teen shouldn't chase her dream, for a while anyway. Money isn't everything and people who find work doing what they love may be the happiest people on earth.

But your grown children need to get over their Broadway or pro ballplayer ambitions sooner rather than later if things aren't working out. As a backup, encourage them to focus on careers in industries that will be booming over the next 10 years. Here are four can't-miss career paths:

Health care As the population ages there will be nonstop demand for pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses, medical assistants, radiographers, fitness trainers, dental hygienists, doctors of all kinds...you get the idea.

Education With college becoming ever more important to a successful career, there will be heightened demand for university professors. But educators are needed up and down the ladder, and this need extends to vocational trainers, mentors and career coaches and counselors as boomers stay at work longer and must retrain for new-economy jobs.

Technology. New technologies will change the way we work and play as far into the future as you can see. Jobs that will be in demand for just as long include software engineers and network systems, data communications and computer systems analysts.

Mathematics. Engineers are always in demand. What's more, in our post-meltdown world, companies (to avoid repeating financial errors) and the government (to better regulate) will be hiring armies of accountants and auditors as well as experts in statistical and risk analysis to boot.

These aren't necessarily the kinds of jobs that are associated with soaring pay. But they offer lots of mobility and job security. Here's where you can learn more about great career paths for your teens -- and here are a few to avoid if you're all about getting rich.

Photo by arjin from Flickr
  • Dan Kadlec

    Daniel J. Kadlec is an author and journalist whose work appears regularly in Time and Money magazines. He is the former editor of Time’s Generations section, which was written and edited for boomers. Kadlec came to Time from USA Today, where he was the creator and author of the daily column Street Talk, which anchored the newspaper's business coverage. He has co-written three books, including, most recently, With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life. He has won a New York Press Club award and a National Headliner Award for columns on the economy and investing.

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