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Sunday Magazine

Where the jobs are now

The straight dope on careers in health care, finance and insurance, customer service, and computers and information technology.

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IF YOU HEED THE LATEST REPORT from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city has emerged largely victorious from the recession, with an unemployment rate down to 5 percent even as the rest of the country still languishes near 8 percent. For Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, the recovery can be judged by a different criterion: whether employers are calling to recruit her newly minted graduates. 

“Three years ago, I would check that my phone was still plugged into the wall,” she recalls. “The employer activity has been crazy lately, phones ringing, e-mails coming in. After a few really tough years, it’s exciting.” She attributes some of this pent-up demand to older workers who had been delaying retirement until their 401(k) stabilized, and some to risk-averse employees who now feel confident enough to make a move.         

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But other experts are less sanguine, pointing to persistent double-digit unemployment rates in Massachusetts cities like Fall River and Lawrence, and even some pockets inside Boston. “The job picture continues to be troubled,” says Tom Juravich, professor of labor studies and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “There’s always bright lights in health care, the technical fields, but we need to remember the largest single occupation in Massachusetts is retail sales. Boston, for a Northeast city, is in surprisingly good shape, but if you peel away [the layers], you see far too much service-sector, dead-end, low-wage, contingent jobs — not the growth of jobs that require education or training. That’s a sore wound that’s not going to heal itself.”  

Finding a new job isn’t easy in the best of times, but there are ways to increase the odds in your favor. Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time, trying to come back from a layoff, or just ready to make a change, be smart and start with a look at where the jobs of tomorrow will be. For those with the right credentials, these 20 picks in four relatively strong Massachusetts industries — health care, finance, high tech, and, yes, service — will have hired more than 100,000 new workers by the end of this decade, according to projections by the state’s labor department.

Things are looking up, that’s the good news. The bad is that we’re not out of the woods yet. “We don’t want to get in the way of people’s dreams,” says Juravich. “But there’s a difference between dreams and fantasy. People have to be realistic and work within those parameters.” To land many of the jobs listed here, you’ll need the right training, experience, and to accept that some of the best opportunities might have to begin on a trial basis. “Don’t snub an offer of temp-to-permanent as a way to get your foot in the door,” Sarikas urges job hunters. “Go in and work your butt off — and show you’re the right choice.”

christopher churchill

Jennifer Rosario.

HEALTH CARE

With hospitals stacking the top-five list of Boston’s largest employers and baby boomers graying, 120,000 new health care jobs are expected in Massachusetts by 2020. “We are seeing tremendous hiring in the health care sector,” notes Aaron Green, president of Boston’s Professional Staffing Group, who attributes this growth “to Obamacare and the drive toward cost efficiencies.” Job seekers afraid of blood will be pleased to learn that much of the growth here is in positions outside of direct patient care. Insurance companies are hiring marketing professionals to update coverage plan materials, for instance, and finance experts to analyze the impact of all the policy changes to come.

Hospital Town, USA

According to Waltham-based Salary.com, the following job titles represent the most searched terms for Boston-area users.

No. 1: Registered nurse

Nurse practitioner

Dental hygienist

Pharmacist

Physician assistant

Physical therapist

Dentist

Medical assistant

Radiologist

Occupational therapist

Radiology technician

What it’s like to be a home health aide

JENNIFER ROSARIO

27 / Brockton

Employers: Sunrise Senior Living / Braintree; VA Hospital / Brockton; and Jewish Family & Children’s Service / Brookline

EVER SINCE I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I’ve had a love for health care, a passion for taking care of people. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. In high school, they had a health services program. I had my first nursing assistant job when I was 16. I graduated from Massasoit Community College with an associate’s degree.

The hours are flexible, as long as it works with your clients. I have a 5-year-old son. I like the fact I can go to work, and be able to spend time with my son. I drop him off at school, sleep when he’s not home. When he comes home, I help him with homework, take him to swimming, cook dinner. He’s with my mom overnight; when he falls asleep, I’m working. I still stay involved in his life.

At Jewish Family, I work with elderly clients, helping them stay organized. It’s kind of like having a companion. I tidy up, help if there’s shopping to be done. Another one is Cape Verdean; I help her with language, translating. It’s not like a job to me, they’re like family; they always ask about my son. That’s my favorite part of it. When I was planning on moving to Pennsylvania for nursing school, one of them cried. That’s why I stay.

I want to get my nursing degree. After I get my license, I probably won’t quit; I could graduate into being a visiting nurse. Health care is an awesome way to go — the people you meet, the experience you gain, the things you learn. You have to be dedicated.

Jennifer’s Keys to Success

1. Have a big heart. 

2. Be patient — don’t rush your clients. 

3. Be honest — you’re working in someone’s home; you need to earn their trust.

Jobs to watch in Massachusetts

HOME HEALTH AIDE

> New jobs 2010-2020: 9,366

> Average salary: $26,750

> The fine print:

Duties Provide routine personal care, such as bathing and dressing, to elderly, convalescent, or disabled persons in homes or residential care facilities

Minimum Qualifications High school diploma 

MEDICAL SCIENTIST

> New jobs 2010-2020: 3,399

> Average salary: $95,690

> The fine print:

Duties Conduct research or clinical investigation dealing with the understanding of human diseases and the improvement of health

Minimum Qualifications Doctoral or professional degree, such as a PhD in biology

MEDICAL SECRETARY

> New jobs 2010-2020: 6,568

> Average salary: $39,310

>The fine print:

Duties Scheduling appointments, billing patients, and compiling and recording medical paperwork

Minimum Qualifications High school diploma

REGISTERED NURSE

> New jobs 2010-2020: 22,578

> Average salary: $86,810

> The fine print:

Duties Administer nursing care to ill, injured, convalescent, or disabled patients 

Minimum Qualifications Associate’s degree and certification; must obtain a state license

NURSING AIDES AND ATTENDANTS

> New jobs 2010-2020: 8,097

> Average salary: $29,450

> The fine print:

Duties Under direction of nursing staff, provide basic patient care such as feeding, bathing, and dressing patients 

Minimum Qualifications High school diploma and certification; must obtain a state license

christopher churchill

Peter Jaworski.

FINANCE AND INSURANCE

This sector is expected to add nearly 100,000 jobs statewide by 2020. “Investments still feels a bit soft, with such a flood of talent in the market trying to claw their way back in,” says Lynne Sarikas of Northeastern. “But we are seeing increased needs for corporate finance staff. They ran pretty lean and mean the last few years, and some are playing catch-up to fill the positions they needed a few years ago.” In addition, the banking and credit-rating scandals of recent years have focused more scrutiny on financial operations. “So more companies are investing resources in that,” Sarikas says.

What it’s like to be a certified financial planner

PETER JAWORSKI

48 / Boxford

Employer: McGladrey / Boston

I GREW UP in a three-decker in Dorchester, the youngest of five. My parents were college educated, but life was a challenge for us. Economically, we weren’t doing well. That maybe leads to how I got involved in this profession. I went to BC High, then UMass Boston College of Management and got my degree in accounting and minor in economics.

Starting my freshman year in college, I worked for a retail family-owned business in the Back Bay for 13 years. In 1991, I went to school to be a professional baseball umpire. I was on the waiting list to go into pro ball when I said, What’s next? I thought I would dust off my accounting degree. That’s when I found out about this profession. That was my passion — to figure out, How do you help people become successful?

My typical day starts with The Wall Street Journal, then I can take two to three hours talking with clients; there are meetings in the queue; reviewing client portfolios. I just love what I do every day. You have to have a passion for it. Go for the certified financial planner exam; that’s the gold standard [of training]. 

People think what I do is try to sell some investment product; that’s not what comprehensive financial planners do. It’s about getting that life-money balance. Around age 50, [people] start to take stock and say, What am I doing here? There’s only so much sand in the hourglass. It’s got to be about more than buying a house, paying for college, vacations, and retirement. What’s the legacy going to be? What’s going to make you feel like you emptied out the tank while you were here? You really help people get a lens on what are they trying to accomplish.

I say, “I help people make their dreams come true.’’ I enjoy seeing people have that success and retire successfully. It’s hugely rewarding. And I still umpire for college baseball games on the side — this career gives you a lot of flexibility to do other things.

Peter’s Keys to Success

1. You have to love this stuff, get absorbed in it every day, reading articles, journals. 

2. It’s not just about math. I’ve always had the ability to read [what clients want].

3.  I’m deliberate. I look both ways before I cross the street. In 2008, when the world was coming to an end, we didn’t get rattled.

Jobs to watch in Massachusetts

ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR

> New jobs 2010-2020: 9,279

> Average salary: $76,430

> The fine print:

Duties Examine, analyze, and interpret accounting records; install or advise on systems of recording costs or other financial data

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree in accounting or related fields

FINANCIAL ADVISER

> New jobs 2010-2020: 5,489

> Average salary: $115,680

> The fine print:

Duties Advise on financial plans, assessing clients’ assets, liabilities, and financial objectives to establish investment strategies

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

INSURANCE SALES AGENT

> New jobs 2010-2020: 5,917

> Average salary: $80,420

> The fine print:

Duties Sell life, casualty, health, automotive, or other types of insurance

Minimum Qualifications May require associate’s degree

FINANCIAL ANALYST

> New jobs 2010-2020: 8,335

> Average salary: $93,150

> The fine print:

Duties Conduct quantitative analyses of information affecting investment programs of public or private institutions

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

MANAGEMENT ANALYST

> New jobs 2010-2020: 9,775

> Average salary: $103,440

> The fine print:

Duties Conduct organizational studies and evaluations; design systems and procedures to assist management in operating more effectively

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

christopher churchill

Rob Robinson.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

With nearly half of the city’s jobs in the service industry, this sector seems inviting — especially in thriving food services (think: food trucks), where employment was up 10 percent over the past decade or so. The caveat, points out UMass’s Tom Juravich, is that many service-oriented jobs offer low wages and little room for moving up the career ladder. “Be thoughtful about where you put time and energy,” he suggests. “Look to places where there is some notion of advancement or ability to move.”

What it’s like to be a customer service representative

ROB ROBINSON

56 / Gorham, Maine

Employer: L.L. Bean Inc. / Portland, Maine

I’VE BEEN AT L.L. BEAN for 24 years this July. I started as a seasonal employee and became a regular in July ’89. I have a bachelor’s in English. I went back to UMaine Orono to get a teaching certificate, but when I decided I did not want to get into teaching, I responded to an ad.

Having grown up about 10 miles south of the L.L. Bean retail store, I had always been impressed by their reputation for integrity. I’m the son of an attorney; it was instilled in me to have a basic sense of fairness. Working here allows me to maintain my sense of fairness. We’re not ever told to try to lowball the customer or do [just] what’s minimally necessary. There is a phrase here: “Give them the pickle.” What it boils down to is going a little above and beyond, so the customer says, “Oh, wow.”

I’m working in the customer-service research area as a level-three representative. If a customer asks to speak to a supervisor, they get transferred to our area — we have the best resources to resolve the problem. There’s so much more technology now than when I first came. We have three call centers, called customer contact centers, and about 200 reps work from home. The facility where I’m at in Portland is open 24 hours. Sometimes I’ll work the third shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. We definitely notice a difference in the call length — customers during the day are more direct; at night, customers have a lot more time on their hands.

The hardest part of the job is doing everything possible to satisfy a customer and not being able to — thankfully that’s pretty rare. I have long days and tough situations like everybody else, but when I go home, I really feel that I’ve made a difference; I’ve represented the company well. 

Rob’s keys to success

1. Be able to actively listen and hear what [customers] have

to say.

2. Go into the conversation with a basic sense of fairness, an open mind.

3. Ask pertinent questions and guide the conversation to the best solution. 

Jobs to Watch in Massachusetts

FITNESS INSTRUCTOR

> New jobs 2010-2020: 3,590

> Average salary: $43,470

> The fine print:

Duties Coach groups or individuals in exercise activities and the fundamentals of sports

Minimum Qualifications High school diploma

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE

> New jobs 2010-2020: 13,262

> Average salary: $38,050

> The fine print:

Duties Interact with customers to provide information in response to inquiries about products and services and to resolve complaints

Minimum Qualifications High school diploma

HAIRDRESSER

> New jobs 2010-2020: 4,374

> Average salary: $29,550

> The fine print:

Duties Provide beauty services, such as cutting and styling hair, and nail and skin care

Minimum Qualifications Cosmetology school followed by state licensing

FOOD PREP AND SERVER

> New jobs 2010-2020: 6,716

> Average salary: $20,370

> The fine print:

Duties Food preparation and service

Minimum Qualifications Less than high school diploma

LANDSCAPING AND GROUNDSKEEPING

> New jobs 2010-2020: 5,934

> Average salary: $32,120

> The fine print:

Duties Landscape or maintain grounds of properties

Minimum Qualifications Less than high school diploma

christopher churchill

Zhenya Kovalenko.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

If you know your Java from your Flex, you just might be in the safest sector of all. “Some of the highest demand occupations right now for current job openings are in computer and information systems,” says Rena Kottcamp, director of economic research at the Massachusetts labor bureau’s Department of Unemployment Assistance. In fact, the nonprofit New England Economic Partnership projects that in 2013, Boston-based jobs in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector will pull ahead of the finance sector for the first time. 

What it’s like to be a senior software developer

ZHENYA KOVALENKO

Thirtysomething / Somerville

Employer: Rakuten Loyalty / Boston 

I GREW UP IN ST. PETERSBURG, Russia. Both my parents are electrical engineers. They thought it would be good for their kids to have that science education. The thought of [studying it in college] was pre-defined for me. I was always good at math. When I was in high school, we immigrated to the San Francisco area. I got my GED and got a degree in computer science from UC Davis, with a minor in fine arts. 

Engineering is extremely dynamic. If you keep up to date, you are always needed. Just like any career, you soul-search and understand where your real passion is. I started with back-end work; I gradually moved into front-end work, which is what’s visible to anybody browsing the Web or playing with an application.

I’m really happy. I think I’ve found somewhere I can grow and be valued. The best part [of software development] is that you are usually surrounded by smart and talented, focused people who have the same goal as you — to create this amazing product.

When a project starts, you have teams working in two- to three-week sprints. A team could consist of a software engineer, a designer, and an information architect. Each team works on stories, or tasks, such as creating a log-in page. It’s research, writing code, testing. Every day we have a meeting so everyone knows what every other person is doing. At the end, you show everybody what you have accomplished. You have responsibilities; you have to be sure your solution does work and be ready to defend it.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, you have to fight a little more to stake your ground. You have to speak [up] and believe in what you’re speaking. 

Zhenya’s Keys to Success

1. Don’t ever say, “I know enough.” That attitude won’t get you anywhere. Read a lot. Know your stuff and be passionate. 

2. Be a good problem solver. There are millions of solutions, but finding the best one is an art.

3. Keep in mind what the top competitors are doing. Be on the lookout [for] better tools out there that will save you time.

Jobs to watch in Massachusetts

COMPUTER SYSTEMS ANALYST

> New jobs 2010-2020: 5,711

> Average salary: $89,870

> The fine print:

Duties Analyze science, engineering, business, or other data-processing problems to implement and improve systems

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT (SYSTEMS)

> New jobs 2010-2020: 9,615

> Average salary: $106,590

> The fine print:

Duties Research, develop, and test operating systems software and general computer applications

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

SOFTWARE DEVELOPER (APPS)

> New jobs 2010-2020: 7,050

> Average salary: $98,520

> The fine print:

Duties Develop and modify general computer applications software or specialized utility programs

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYST

> New jobs 2010-2020: 3,043

> Average salary: $90,690

> The fine print:

Duties Plan, implement, upgrade, or monitor security measures for the protection of computer networks and information

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR

> New jobs 2010-2020: 3,817

> Average salary: $81,800

> The fine print:

Duties Analyze science, engineering, business, or other data-processing problems to implement and improve systems

Minimum Qualifications Bachelor’s degree

FOLLOW THE MONEY?

These five jobs had the highest percentage bumps in salary nationwide since July 2009, according to Salary.com.

> Pharmacists and professional staff

$106,114 to $115,983

Why? Because of widespread (if controversial) predictions of labor shortages, as well as a large wave of retirements expected

> Biostatisticians

$103, 773 to $112,179

Why? Because of overall growth expected in statistician jobs, including ones related to medicine and biotech

> Network administrators

$73,431 to $79,233

Why? Because firms are investing in technology and attaching more importance to defending against cyberattack

> Advance-practice registered nurses

$94,117 to $100,329

Why? Because baby boomers aren’t getting any younger

> Computer hardware engineers

$82,223 to $87,157

Why? Because the universe of must-have gadgets, including smartphones and tablets, keeps expanding

GET SKILLS SAVVY

With the US Postal Service aiming to cut Saturday delivery, workers in that and other declining professions (such as journalism) are expected to see major cuts in their ranks this decade. But all is not lost: Annie Stevens, managing partner at outplacement firm Clear Rock in Boston, offers advice for smoothly sidestepping into something new.

List Your Skills Think of your job as a compilation of skills in which you have expertise. Postal workers, whose ranks are expected to decline 44 percent by 2020, have administrative expertise and are deadline-oriented.

Do Research Find jobs you like on sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster and make a list of their skill requirements.

Consider Related Jobs Postal workers could try UPS or FedEx or company mailrooms.

Change Industries If necessary, transfer your skills to other professions that are flourishing. Postal workers can try for retail or mass-marketing firms. Reporters (expected to decline 17 percent) can move to public relations or social media. And floral designers (dropping 16 percent)may want to take their creativity into landscaping. Remember: Specific jobs may fade away, but skills last forever.

CONSIDER CONTINUING ED

COLLEGE ISN’T THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR ALL job hunters, especially with soaring tuitions rumored to be the next big bubble. But earning a professional certificate can boost earnings by an average 20 percent compared with having just a high school diploma, according to a recent report by the Center on Education and the Workforce.

> Paramedic

1,369 new jobs by 2020

Average salary $37,510

To prepare for the state certification and licensing exam, prospective paramedics can enroll in a training class, such as Boston’s 150-hour basic course, which costs $675 (cityofboston.gov/ems/divisions/training.asp; 617-343-1125).

 > Security guard

4,071 new jobs by 2020

Average salary $29,000

With post-Newtown talk about arming our schools, the sad reality is that this field is poised for expansion. For those with some experience, ASIS International (asisonline.org; 703-519-6200) offers self-guided course work followed by a $300 exam to receive certification. 

> Massage therapist

789 new jobs by 2020

Average salary $42,600

To qualify through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (ncbtmb.org; 800-296-0664), you’ll need, among other requirements, 250 hours of hands-on experience and 750 hours of course work from an accredited provider, such as Cortiva Institute in Boston, which charges $11,939 for its 750-hour program.

> Bank teller

6,064 new jobs by 2020

Average salary $28,750

The Institute of Certified Bankers, part of the American Bankers Association, offers a Bank Tellers’ certificate for those who complete its nine-course, 30-hour online program for $795 (800-226-5377).

 > Child-care worker

5,037 new jobs by 2020

Average salary $26,200

Massachusetts’s Department of Early Education and Care (mass.gov/eec; 617-988-6600) offers free professional certification for child-care workers who have nine months’ experience and three college credits in child development, as well as a Family Child Care Assistant certificate for those who have undergone a training class and know CPR and first aid. 

Melissa Schorr is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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