Don't let the bad news get you down. There are some attractive job opportunities out there, especially in “hot” industries or those that need employees with specialized skills or qualifications.

One sector that’s doing well right now is higher education. People who have lost their jobs or want to pursue a better paying career are going back to school to earn advanced degrees. At the undergrad level, state and public universities are especially busy, as students and parents look for more affordable education options. At Penn State, for example, applications this year reached record numbers, exceeding the previous year by at least 5%. Don’t have the credentials to be a professor? No problem. These universities have a wide assortment of openings in just about every category imaginable, including some that might surprise you. Bonus: These institutions generally offer generous tuition breaks for employees, their spouses and children, which can save you a lot of money if there’s a current or future college student in your household.

Penn State
Who They Are:  A “state-related,” but not state owned or operated, university known for its research programs and its athletic accomplishments.

Where They Are: The main campus is in State College, Pa. There are 23 other campus locations across the state.

What They Want: There are lots of research-related openings, mainly assistant opportunities in labs studying subjects like weapons systems and energy science. Engineering aides are in high demand. They also have numerous openings for coaches and athletic trainers, security officers and maintenance personnel, and nurses for their health services department.

Coolest Job: Recently filled openings include a herd manager for the agricultural department and a sous chef for the hospitality department. A cool opportunity available right now is the Manager of Aquatic Facilities. This person would manage the university’s aquatic facilities, oversee 150 student lifeguard employees, supervise aquatic athletic operations and edit department materials. Requires a bachelor’s degree, three years work experience and several lifeguard and pool operator certifications. Benefits include health and life insurance, a 75% tuition discount for employee spouses and children, on-site childcare and career assistance for the spouses of new employees who relocated to accept a university job.

Apply at Penn State's jobs page.

Next page: Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame
Who They Are: An independent national Catholic university (and longtime Penn State football rival).

Where They Are: Notre Dame, Ind., adjacent to the city of South Bend and approximately 90 miles east of Chicago.

What They Want: Notre Dame has a wide variety of employment opportunities in the areas of service/maintenance, office/clerical, library services, information technology, technical and administration. Compensation is based on a job classification scale. Pay ranges are listed on their human resources page.

Coolest Job: The Catering and Events Manager manages events in the nightclub at Legends of Notre Dame (a restaurant, all-ages concert and nightclub venue and banquet facility on the Notre Dame campus). Requires a bachelor's degree in college hospitality, business, student personnel, marketing or a related area and at least one year of event planning and coordinating experience. Notre Dame offers a flexible benefit program that lets eligible employees pick benefit coverage that best suits their own individual or family needs. Programs offered include health, dental, vision, life, long-term disability, long-term care and retirement benefits. Holiday pay, vacation benefits, use of athletic facilities and season ticket discounts are also available to eligible employees.

Apply at Notre Dame's jobs page.

Next page: University of California

University of California
Who They Are: The University of California system serves more than 220,000 students across 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories.

Where They Are: UC has campuses in Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara.

What They Want: They have numerous openings in administrative capacities, including student affairs and public relations. There are also plenty of opportunities involving research, engineering and health services.

Coolest Job: The Web Editor position involves maintaining the content and organization for UC websites related to employee- and retiree-related matters, including the university's main employee and retiree web site. Requires a bachelor's degree and three or more years experience in a “dynamic, high-volume creative office environment providing website maintenance and support.” Pay range is $45,684 to $64,020. Benefits for this and other UC positions include generous leave provisions, comprehensive health and welfare insurance plans for employees and their families, generous pension plans and optional retirement savings opportunities.

Apply at UC's jobs page.

Next page: Columbia

Columbia University
Who They Are:  An Ivy League academic and research institution that includes three undergraduate schools, thirteen graduate and professional schools, and a school of continuing education.

Where They Are: The two principal campuses are located in New York City.

What They Want: With 5,000 full-time officers of instruction and research and 8,000 full-time administrative staff, Columbia is one of the top employers in New York City and is always hiring for a wide range of positions. The most plentiful opportunities are in research and teaching categories, but there are also openings in athletic, administrative and facilities support departments.

Coolest Job: Depending on how you feel about rodents, you’ll either find the Mouse Technician job really cool or really creepy. (By the way, this is a lab job, not pest control.) To earn your pay of $683 per week, you will provide general support in the maintenance of mouse colonies, including helping with breeding, tagging, specimen collection and “other mouse-related tasks.” Requires a science-related bachelor’s degree and at least two years of previous experience working with mice. Columbia offers an extensive benefits package, including health, prescription and dental coverage, retirement benefits and transit/parking reimbursement programs. But perhaps the best perk is the tuition assistance program. Like most colleges, they offer steep discounts at their own school—in fact, for certain employees, the tuition is free for themselves, their spouses and kids. But Columbia also pays half the college tuition for children of eligible employees who attend another college or university.

Apply at Columbia's jobs page.

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