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America's 10 toughest jobs to fill in 2017

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In the 1967 film "The Graduate," new college grad Ben is given a piece of career advice: Head for the plastics industry.

Today, Ben would be likely to be told to snub plastics and head toward two other sectors: health care and technology. Skilled labor in both industries is in demand, yet some companies are having trouble finding enough qualified applicants to fill their open positions, according to a new study from CareerCast.

Despite the booming growth in tech and health care, many Americans are struggling to find any job at all that pays a living wage or that provides career growth. Even though the jobless rate is near a 10-year low, wages still stand below their late-1990s peak.

The situation is especially dire for workers without a college degree because the post-recession years have left behind people who only have a high school degree. College grads took home about 56 percent more income than high school graduates in 2015, the largest gap since 1973.

It's not all doom-and-gloom for those without a college degree, however. CareerCast found that several of the 2017's hardest-to-fill jobs don't require college degrees. But the jobs that require a bachelor's degree tend to pay higher salaries, the research found.

"The concept that not having enough candidates might have felt foreign at the height of the recession, when unemployment lingered around 10%," Kyle Kensing, online content editor at CareerCast, said in a statement. "However, improvements in the job market have resulted in a different issue for some industries: Labor shortages."

CareerCast's study is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hiring trends during the past decade, trade statistics, college graduate employment data and CareerCast's database of job listings.

Read on to learn about this year's most in-demand jobs, which are listed alphabetically.

Data scientist: $128,240

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This relatively new profession is in hot demand at companies across almost every type of industry. With the vast amount of data that's being generated by online applications, industries are hiring data scientists to interpret the information.

A technical background is often preferred, such as a master's or doctorate in a related field such as computer science. But some workers are breaking into the field after attending a data science boot camp.

The number of jobs in the field is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial adviser: $89,160

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It's essential to have a bachelor's degree to become a financial adviser, especially in related fields such as finance or accounting. The profession is set to grow by 30 percent by 2024, much faster than the typical occupation, due to America's aging population. As citizens grow older, they'll need more help managing their financial affairs.

After earning a college degree, financial advisers typically receive on-the-job training. They also may need licenses, depending on whether they're also directly buying or selling stock. On top of that, some earn the Certified Financial Planner certification, which can enhance their skills and qualifications.

General and operations manager: $97,730

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This group of workers plan and coordinate corporate or public sector organizations. It's a field that's likely to grow by 7 percent by 2024, according to the BLS.

Managers typically have a bachelor's degree in a business-related field, while some also have an MBA or master's degree in a related field, such as science or finance.

Home health aide: $21,920

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Home health aides, who have the lowest annual income among the careers on this list, perform the vital function of helping people with disabilities and illness or who are elderly and need assistance.

While providing an essential service, the occupation's low pay has proved to be a stumbling block for companies that are seeking to hire more home health aides. Labor activists have taken up the low-pay issue and poor track record of providing benefits, with the Fight for $15 among those advocating for higher pay.

At the same time, it's one of the few in-demand careers that doesn't require higher education. Most practitioners have at least a high school diploma, and certified home health agencies require some formal training and that candidates pass a formal test, according to the BLS.

The growth outlook for the job is 38 percent through 2024, much faster than typical, thanks to America's aging demographics.

Information security analyst: $90,120

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Jobs in this field are pegged to expand by 18 percent through 2024, according to the BLS.

Most information security analysts have a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, since the job requires workers to protect their companies' computer networks.

Medical services manager: $94,500

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Otherwise known as health care administrators, medical services managers help manage medical practices, hospitals, clinical areas or other medical offices. Growth in the segment is forecast to expand by 17 percent by 2024.

Requirements include a bachelor's degree, while some employers also expect candidates to have a master's degree in a related field, such as public health administration.

Physical therapist: $84,020

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Physical therapists help people with injuries or illnesses improve their movement. They often work at medical practices, hospitals or nursing homes.

Entering the field requires a doctor of physical therapy degree, and all states have licensing requirements for PTs. The field is forecast to grow 34 percent by 2024, thanks to the aging baby boomer generation, who are more active than previous generations and may seek PT help to maintain their mobility.

Registered nurse: $67,490

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Registered nurses provide medical care to patients in hospitals, doctors' offices and other medical facilities. The field is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2024, according to the BLS.

There are a few ways to enter the field, including earning a bachelor of science degree in nursing or an associate's degree in nursing. Nurses also need to qualify for a license, while some states have additional certification requirements.

Software engineer: $100,690

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Software engineers typically have a bachelor's degree in computer science, as well as strong coding or programming skills. Employment is forecast to expand by 17 percent through 2024, thanks to the continued rapid growth in internet applications and software.

Truck driver: $40,260

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The American Trucking Association projects 900,000 openings for truck drivers by 2025.

The shortage stems from the aging workforce as well as the recession, when trucking volumes declined drastically, leading to a cutback in drivers. As the economy has rebounded, the workforce hasn't kept up with renewed demand for drivers, according to an ATA report.

Nevertheless, the long-term outlook for the job may not be stellar, given projections that driverless cars and trucks may become the norm. When that might happen, however, is a matter for debate.

As for the near term, employment of truck drivers is expected to expand by 5 percent through 2024.

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