BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Looking to build a career for yourself where there's healthy demand for you skills? Consider construction or health care. The U.S. Labor Department found recently that the building and medical trades boast eight of the 10 professions the agency expects will see the fastest job growth during the current decade. In fact, construction and health care host nine of the 10 fastest-growing jobs, if you count veterinary work as part of the medical field. "We see a large number of health care occupations on the list because there's going to be greater demand for medical care as baby boomers grow older," says Teri Morisi of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Morisi says the BLS also expects construction jobs to boom as the building business rebounds from a big hit it took during the Great Recession. "We don't expect
the building industry to recover all of the jobs it lost during the steep decline of the most recent recession," she says, "but some construction occupations are expected to grow rapidly as the economy recovers." Unfortunately, junior-level positions such as home health aides and carpenter's helpers make up most of the jobs the BLS predicts will have the greatest growth rates. That means many fast-growing professions will pay less than the $34,460 median wage U.S. workers enjoyed last year, the latest period with BLS data available. Morisi believes companies are adding lots of lower-paying positions because bosses are shifting work to the least-costly employees capable of performing any given job duty. "Helpers or aides or assistants are less expensive to employ, but they can take on some higher-paid workers' tasks," she says. The expert also theorizes that employers can "offshore" some high-skills jobs, but can't move lower-paying, hands-on work such as home-health-aide duties overseas. Here's a look at the 10 professions the BLS predicts will enjoy the greatest percentage expansion of available jobs during the current decade. All projected increases refer to 2010-20 as a whole, a decade in which the BLS forecasts the average U.S. occupation will grow 14.3%. Median-pay figures refer to annual wages as of 2011.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 43.7%
Growing globalization is boosting demand for meeting and convention planners as U.S. companies rely on professional gatherings to bring employees and clients from around the world together for face-to-face meetings. "As organizations become more and more international, they find meetings and conventions become more and more important," Morisi says. As a result, the BLS expects the ranks of meeting/convention/event planners to grow by 31,300 this decade -- a 43.7% increase. Meeting and convention planners (median pay: $46,020) handle all aspects of putting together professional gatherings, from choosing locations and negotiating prices. The job generally requires a bachelor's degree (preferably in hospitality management), plus some work experience in planning, according to BLS research. The agency says employers also favor candidates with Certified Meeting Planner credentials, as well as those with experience working with virtual-meeting software and social media.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 45.4%
The BLS predicts construction helpers of all kinds -- from plumber's assistants to carpentry helpers -- will see job opportunities boom as the construction industry recovers from the recession. The agency expects construction firms to add 26,300 plumber and pipefitter helpers during the current decade as orders pick up for new schools, offices, factories and power plants. A growing U.S. population should also boost demand for new housing, while increased home-renovation work should create additional construction-helper jobs of all types, the BLS predicts. Plumbing helpers (median pay: $27,010) typically carry tools and materials for plumbers, as well as set up and break down equipment and perform other basic tasks. The job generally requires only a high-school or general-equivalency degree, although some plumbing helpers learn their craft through trade schools or apprenticeships. The BLS predicts helpers with training or experience in multiple construction disciplines (plumbing, carpentry, etc.) will have the best shot at getting jobs in the next few years. Many employers will also favor military veterans, the agency says.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 45.7%
The BLS expects demand for physical therapy to skyrocket in the next few years as baby boomers age and scientific advances help more and more accident victims and babies born with birth defects survive. The agency expects much of the additional work to go to physical-therapy assistants instead of full-blown physical therapists, though, as insurers push to keep expenses down. "Physical therapists are expected to use more assistants to reduce costs," Morisi says. That's why the BLS projects America will add 30,800 physical-therapy-assistants during the current decade -- a 45.7% gain. The agency predicts physical-therapy assistants, who generally need only two-year associates' degrees and earn a median $51,040, will find good job opportunities in the next few years in hospitals, skilled-nursing and orthopedic facilities. Assistants should find their skills particularly in demand in rural areas, which have fewer physical-therapy professionals than cities, the BLS says.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 48.6%
Rebar workers -- who insert steel bars known as "rebar" into concrete used for structural purposes -- can expect their field to grow by nearly 50% in the coming years, the BLS predicts. That's because lawmakers see public-works projects as a good way to stimulate the economy, while lots of aging U.S. infrastructure needs work, the agency says. "A growing number of older buildings, bridges and highways need to be maintained or replaced -- and rebar workers do that," Morisi says. But she adds that the profession (median pay: $37,990) is small, so the big percentage gains the BLS forecasts translate into only 9,300 additional jobs. Rebar jobs generally requires just a high-school education or GED, although some people in the field graduate from three- to four-year apprenticeship programs. Employers also often favor military veterans, the BLS says.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 52%
America's ranks of pampered pets are growing, and the BLS expects demand for veterinary technologists and technicians to expand right along with it. "There's a growing pet population in America, and people are willing to spend more on their pets' health than they have in the past," Morisi says. The BLS also predicts increasingly complex treatments for pets -- coupled with a growing number of biomedical and product-safety tests involving animals -- will add to demand for veterinary technologists and technicians. All told, the agency foresees U.S. employers adding 41,700 veterinary technologists and technicians during this decade -- a more than 50% gain. Veterinary technologists and technicians (median pay: $30,140) generally provide lab work and basic care for animals, freeing up veterinarians to focus on more-complex treatments. Veterinary technologists typically enter the field with professional certification and four-year college degrees. Veterinary technicians generally must have certificates and two-year associate's degrees.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 55.7%
Just as a rebound in U.S. construction will create lots of jobs for plumber/pipefitter's helpers, so too will increased building spark strong demand for carpenter's helpers, the BLS says. The agency predicts America will add 25,900 carpentry helpers during the current decade -- a nearly 60% boost in the profession. Like plumbing helpers, carpentry helpers (median pay: $26,400) generally carry tools and supplies to job sites, set up and disassemble equipment and assist with other tasks. And like plumbing helpers, carpentry helpers typically need no more than a high-school degree or GED, although some workers graduate from trade schools or lengthy apprenticeship programs. The BLS adds that employers often prefer military veterans, as well as candidates who have experience in several different construction disciplines.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 60.1%
Brickmason's helpers are members of another field the BLS expects to benefit from the U.S. construction industry's recovery. The agency predicts firms will create 17,600 brickmason-helper jobs during the current decade -- better than a 60% growth rate. Brickmason's helpers (median pay: $27,820) tote equipment and otherwise assist masons with brick, stone, tile and marble installation. Like other kinds of construction helpers, brickmason's helpers generally need just a GED or a high-school education, although some attend technical schools or complete long apprenticeships. And again, employers tend to favor military veterans, as well as helpers experienced in multiple construction fields.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 61.7%
America's growing elderly population is creating lots of work for biomedical engineers, who develop cutting-edge medical devices. "With the aging baby boom generation, there should be increased demand for hip replacements, knee replacements and other things that biomedical engineers work on," Morisi says. She adds that biomedical engineers also help design advanced computer systems for medical record-keeping -- another "hot" product area. As a result, the BLS predicts the number of biomedical-engineering jobs will grow by more than 60% this decade. But like rebar work, the biomedical-engineering field is small -- so the profession (median pay: $84,670) will only add 9,700 jobs in numeric terms. Biomedical engineers also need the most education of any workers on the list of fast-growing occupations Most jobs require a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, or an undergraduate degree in some other engineering discipline plus a biomedical-engineering graduate degree or on-the-job experience.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 69.4%
Demand for home-health aides appears poised to explode in the next few years as baby boomers try to age in place and insurers attempt to minimize nursing-home and hospital costs. The BLS expects U.S. employers to create some 706,000 home-health-aide jobs this decade -- a nearly 70% gain. Home-health aides help elderly and infirm patients stay at home by assisting with bathing, dressing and light housekeeping. In some states, aides can also dispense medicine or check a patient's vital signs. While some home-health aides get special training and certification, you can sometimes get a job in the field without even a high-school degree, according to the BLS. That said, home-health aides don't make much money -- just a median $20,610. BLS researchers have also found that the profession has high turnover because of low pay and the heavy emotional toll of caring for the infirm.
Projected 2010-20 growth: 70.5%
Personal-care aides -- who perform many of the tasks home-health aides do but can't give medication or check vital signs -- should see the largest job gains of any U.S. profession during this decade, the BLS says. The agency expects job openings for personal-care aides to grow by some 607,000 people during the current decade -- more than a 70% increase. Like home-health aides, job opportunities for personal-care aides appear likely to soar because aging baby boomers need help remaining in their houses. And like home health aides, personal-care aides don't necessarily need even high-school degrees to get jobs. Personal-care aides earn only a median $19,730, though -- the lowest wage of any profession on the fast-growing-occupations list. And like home-health aides, personal-care aides also have high turnover rates because of the job's low pay and high stress.