CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- Entrepreneurs looking for a business opportunity often start by following their passion. But even the most dedicated founder will fail if there is no customer base for their vision. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to predict which services would be most in demand five or 10 years from now, so you could build a business to meet those needs?Luckily, there is. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, analyzes demographic and business trends to predict which job categories are most likely to grow in the years to come. For the most part, the biggest expansion over the next 10 years will be in service industries. While that evokes hand-wringing from economists, since so many of those jobs are relatively low-paying, it also means they cannot be outsourced overseas -- good news for small businesses.
Of the 20 fastest-growing professions for 2010-20, half are in some form of health care, from personal care aides to physical therapists to veterinary technicians. While a few jobs, such as biomedical engineers, require college-level or above training, most can be done by workers with a high-school diploma or associate's degree. Aging baby boomers are the big reason behind these jobs: Older Americans need physical therapy as they recover from hip replacements or reconstructive knee surgery, and they will someone to help with daily tasks in their homes as they age. That means it's a promising time to start a home health agency. According to data from the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, there were more than 6,000 privately owned, for-profit, Medicare-certified home care agencies in 2009 (the most recent year for which data is available). That's double the number 10 years before. The biggest challenge for a home health agency is hiring and training. Some clients require specialized care from a registered nurse; others need help with dressing and cleaning, duties that can be provided by a personal care aide (an in-home assistant who is not licensed to provide medical care). Not everyone is cut out for working with the elderly, so it is not enough to hire someone with the right credentials. They must have the right attitude as well. 2. Home repair and remodeling
With home sales still in a slump, the best opportunities for growth in the construction industry are to be found in fixing up old homes rather than building new ones. The BLS predicts a steady increase in demand for certain skilled trades (such as brickmasons and glazers), but as with health care, the more notable growth jobs-wise is for lower-paid, lower-skilled "assistant" workers. Opportunities for assistant brickmasons, glaziers, stonecutters, carpenters, pipefitters, pipelayers and tile setters are all expected to grow over the next decade. Would-be entrepreneurs with construction experience may find that this is the right time to start a small business specializing in renovation services. 3. Event planning
We may hear a lot about the "virtual office," but that hasn't stopped American workers from leaping at the chance to socialize and network in person. The BLS predicts that jobs for meeting, convention and event planners will continue to grow, which is no surprise to anyone who has noticed the increasing number of conferences and workshops within their industry. An event-planning company that can build strong ties to local businesses and professional associations can profit from all those get-togethers. 4. Marketing
Forget traditional public relations or generic "brand awareness" strategies. Today, the focus in PR and advertising is all about return on investment, with clients demanding proof that their spending is having a demonstrable effect. That's why jobs for market research analysts and marketing specialists are expected to grow, making it a promising time for marketing pros to strike out on their own. The caveat: You must be prepared to prove your worth, with numbers and stats that back up your strategies. 5. Interpreters and translators
According to the American Translators Association, the language services industry has been growing at more than 10% a year despite the overall slowdown in corporate spending, and demand for translators will continue to increase as business becomes more global. Because large companies often outsource translation projects, the opportunities are ripe for small businesses that can provide those services.