The year 2011 marked a huge transition: It was the year that people in the Baby Boom generation -- one of the largest generations in U.S. history -- began to turn 65 and enter retirement. The exit of the Baby Boomers means that new workers and professional staffers will be needed to take their place over the next decade -- but the landscape is also changing in other important ways. Traditional careers in manufacturing, academia, communications and other fields no longer offer a sure route to success. Yet some career paths are heating up and others are still dynamic, yielding a high return on your education dollar.

Computer Science

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment growth in computer science will exceed that of most other professions, maintaining a rate of 24 percent through 2018. The increasing sophistication of technology and the need for systems and software to drive it are the main forces behind the impressive growth. Workers who hold a Ph.D. in computer science are already in such high demand that, in some areas, there are more jobs than applicants. The median annual wage for computer and information scientists in 2008 was $97,970, according to the BLS.


With a growth rate of 22 percent -- expected to continue through at least 2018 -- nursing employment is forecast to increase faster than that in most other professions, says the BLS. Technological advances, an increasing emphasis on preventive care and an aging population are the main factors driving this growth. The mean annual wage for a registered nurse in May 2009 was $66,530.

Financial Analysis

Although the rate of employment for financial analysts is growing rapidly, so is competition for the well-paying jobs in this field. The BLS estimates that the growth rate will be about 20 percent through 2018 -- a strong showing. The main reasons for this growth are that investment is becoming increasingly complex and global in nature, and the amount of assets that require expert management is rising. The median annual wage for a financial analyst in 2008 was $73,150 -- more than twice the U.S. median wage.

Special Education

A significant proportion of the teaching workforce is expected to retire over the next decade, opening the door to newcomers, especially special education teachers. According to the BLS, the number of special education teaching jobs will increase about 17 percent through 2018, creating excellent prospects. In 2008, the median wage for a special education teacher was about $50,000, depending on the age level of students that the teacher instructed.


Engineering jobs are expected to grow at an average rate for jobs in the U.S. -- about 11 percent through 2018 -- though some types of engineering will do better than others. In greatest demand are biomedical engineers, with an expected growth rate of a whopping 72 percent. Civil engineers will see growth of about 24 percent through 2018, environmental engineers will enjoy growth of about 14 percent, and chemical engineers will see a 2 percent decline. The median wage for a biomedical engineer in 2008 was $77,400. It was $74,600 for civil engineers, $74,020 for environmental engineers and $84,680 for chemical engineers.