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Where the jobs are
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Bob Cohen, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America, says the industry has turned the corner.

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"There was a period, even after the recession, where businesses were very hesitant to invest in new systems and make capital investments based on economic uncertainty," he says. "We've certainly moved beyond that today, which translates into better employment prospects for IT workers and a more dynamic market."

Demand for IT expertise, Cohen says, is particularly strong in the network security field as companies struggle to keep hackers and Web-based viruses at bay. Companies also are hiring systems analysts and software engineers at a frenzied pace, along with anyone with a background in database design, to help leverage the data they already collect on customers and competitors.

"There's a lot of focus on data mining right now and unlocking information that yields new intelligence about customer buying habits or trends," Cohen says.

For all its ups and downs, IT remains one of the highest paying entry-level jobs.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pa., notes computer science grads this year received average starting salaries of $50,820 -- with many offered software design and development positions starting at $58,000. Those with information science and systems degrees received starting offers of $44,775, a figure that climbed to nearly $50,000 for those engaged in systems analysis and design.

There is "a lot of demand" for people with degrees in business, computer science and engineering, says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for NACE.

That's apparent to Ryan LeRoy. The 22-year-old computer science major at Georgia Institute of Technology, who graduated in December, already has three employment contracts on the table.

"I think me and my friends in the computer science program have the skill set for what employers are looking for," he says. "The majority of us have received a lot of interest from companies, from traditional IT firms, to banks, to consulting firms to medical practices. All companies have an IT need of some sort."

High demand in many fields
Many more hot jobs ranked further down on the bureau's list. Occupations that appear just below the top 10 include: network and computer systems administrators, database administrators, physical therapists, forensic science technicians, veterinary technologists and technicians, and diagnostic medical sonographers.

Physical therapist aides, who perform less hands-on treatment than assistants, occupational therapists and assistants, and medical scientists (except epidemiologists) rounded out the top 20 fastest-growing occupations -- all of which are projected to enjoy employment growth of 33 percent to 38 percent through 2014.

Momentum also is strong for environmental engineers, teachers (preschool and postsecondary), cardiovascular technologists and technicians, hydrologists, computer systems analysts, hazardous materials removal workers, biomedical engineers, employment specialists, and paralegals. The BLS projects these occupations will grow roughly 30 percent during the 10-year period.

Not to be left out: finance and accounting
John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, notes the accounting industry is enjoying a period of rapid employment growth following the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which placed strict controls over corporate disclosures and accounting practices at publicly held firms.

"Demand is very strong in the areas of financial controls and corporate monitoring," Challenger says. "Companies are really out there looking for accountants with that kind of background."

Lucas Group, an Atlanta-based professional recruiting firm, also predicts healthy growth for the industry. Its 2005 survey of hiring managers found that 47 percent of companies that responded -- including banking and finance, consulting, distribution, health care and high-tech firms -- expected to see significant employment and business growth this year, up from 36 percent last year.

 
 
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