Deciding on a career, you want to be where the action is.

But, more than that, you need to be where the action is and will continue to be. You know what you don’t want: Work hard to qualify for a job, work hard every day, work harder, work hardest, then pfftt!! lose the job for reasons that don’t include you. You’ve heard the (mostly true) stories: Obsolete, outsourced, overseas … The big O’s.

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Sweet dreams: You get a job you can’t lose if you are good. As new people join, you can only rise. In case you even wonder about leaving, your employer will civilly dissuade you by upping the rewards every so often. But you are still free to leave. And no one other than the competition wants you to retire.

Fact is, some are living the dream. If you choose a career that is likely to grow, and have the requisite degrees, these rewards follow naturally. So let’s look at ten careers that might grow, and the degrees that can get you there.

But first, because you may discover opportunities few others (including us!) know exist, here are some decision-making tools that help you identify an opportunity.

1. Demographics One of the hard science pins of sociology, demographics means this: The number of babies born every year on the planet has a huge, often unrecognized, impact on society. That is because there is no way of going back in time and producing a different number. Each cohort (b. 1960, b.1972, b. 1987, etc.) makes its way through life from conception through death, going through the same stages and needing roughly the same things. The impact of the eventual numbers in the various age groups affects economies profoundly. So, when evaluating a career opportunity, check demographics.

In an area where births are booming, career opportunities related to children sell well (products, services, education). In an areas where births are low and the population is aging, careers in products and services aimed at mid and late life are sure to grow. Barring a catastrophe, these are natural outcomes. They happen without any work on your part, beyond maintaining normal competence and keeping up with the trends. If you are looking for a new career, consider taking an evening course in demographics to see how the New Year’s Baby (and everyone in his cohort) affects your plans.

2. Globalization Sick of hearing the word? So are we, because it is often used thoughtlessly. Let’s focus on what the word actually means and doesn’t mean. It means that, due to worldwide communications and transportation systems, it has never been as easy to work with people in other global regions than it is now. It’s an exciting opportunity, but here is a test: Do you know anyone who is neither an American citizen nor living in the United States? Urgent advice: Get out more, especially online. The good news is that courses in international business can get a person up to speed quickly, because many people want to do business with Americans; but they need a way to connect. That way could be you.

3. Urbanization A centuries-old trend has seen people moving to urban areas. Jobs and services are key reasons: Everyone wants work for reliable wages, safe water, medical care, and personal security. Yes, we still crave closeness to nature, just … not too close. Not so close that we can’t go back to town. Never so close that we must live with social rules that no longer make sense to us. One growing field is providing services like education and health care that help people make the transition without losing touch.

4. Energy Most human advancement depends on energy. From the first time people created fire and passed it on, more energy has meant more achievement, higher living standards, better health, and longer lives. Careers in energy resources are bound to grow because most people in the world would like to live well, and energy makes that happen. If you can help, they want to hear from you.

5. Longevity Worldwide, longevity is increasing. That creates a subtle shift in demand for goods and services. Put another way: Many successful careers are built on providing what your mother or grandfather might value.
Now, let us look at a sprinkling of possible careers:

Therapy: People always want to retain their abilities as long as they can, or acquire new ones. The longer they live, the more opportunities arise. Increasing numbers of seniors in retirement residences create opportunities to help people retain the abilities they have or come back from a setback. Especially consider therapist ($40,000 – $76,000) physical therapist, occupational therapist (2009 median $61,000), occupational therapist assistant ($33,000 – $56,000), physical therapist ($58,000 – $76,000), physical therapist assistant ($35,000 – $55,000) or recreational therapist ( $30,000 – $46,000).

If your turn of mind is mainly technical, radiation therapist (2009 median $77,000) or respiratory therapist. ($53,000 – $61,000)

If you must get started earning right away, and have a high school diploma, consider such options as occupational therapist aide ($23,000 – $38,000), physical therapist aide ($18,000 – $25,000), or respiratory therapy technician ($42,000 – $51,000), and psychiatric aide ($20,000 – $30,000), where you learn on the job. Once you have proved yourself, investigate employer co-pay for courses that award you a higher designation, because these jobs are excellent stepping stones to later opportunities. Hint: Today, due to need, most non-physician medical specialties offer a way to start, with pay, as the most practical recruitment strategy for higher designations.

Mid/late-career change counselor: Economic ferment and healthy longevity both mean that many people will require mid-career/late-life career counseling for the next several decades. Counselors typically earn $32,000 and $48,000 a year, but qualifications, which may be available online, are essential in ths field. You can specialize, and three growing areas are midlife directions, late life adjustments, and bereavement counseling.

International affairs expert: Those running news headlines (bomb goes off here … hurricane there … revolution somewhere) are meaningful. But what do they mean? Should your company invest? Withdraw investments? Spend the corporate donation account on aid? This career will be increasingly important in a globalized economy. Put simply, managers need someone to tell them what the news means for them. Study financial analysis (55,000 – $63,000), international law ($110,000 – $131,000) and any foreign language or culture experience will be an enormous asset.

International trade expert: Exporters of goods and services need to know where the market is. As with expertise in international affairs, you can draw on any expertise you have in a foreign country’s language, customs and culture to help them market abroad. But you can also learn to understand a different people, place, and lifestyle, whether it feels as familiar as Australia or as foreign as a US-claimed territory in Antarctica. Courses in world civilization and foreign languages (increasingly available online), followed by living in the venue, could lead to a salary of $39,000 – $65,000 – or much more if you come to be regarded as a valued source for that region. Aim high. Besides, it’s fun.

Urban planner: Generally, people find out why urban planning matters when it hasn’t happened. Impossible traffic jams, no parks where kids live, no personal security where seniors live, etc. Consider urban planning ($71,000 – $84,000,Master’s), also regional planning ($41,000 – $68,000, Bachelor’s). A degree in landscape architecture ($40,000 – $58,000) might help you earn while you learn and establish yourself as an authority.

Immigration counselor: People who were born and raised in a stable country like the United States do not always consider how many people worldwide would be happy to live here legally, be good citizens, and add to the country’s wealth. Any time a country is threatened with instability, many look to the United States as a new home. Considerimmigration law ($80,000, 2009 median) or the burgeoning field of allied services, such as immigration counseling, for which you my not need to be a lawyer. For best career results, take courses on counseling ($32,000 to $48,000).

Energy exploration and production: Most of the world’s population, no matter what they say, wants to live like Americans. That means energy, powering a modern lifestyle. Today, many sources of energy are tapped worldwide, anything from crops (biofuels) to winds and tides, as well as traditional waterfalls, oil, coal, and gas. Check out power plant operator ($85,000 – $110,000). At present, power jobs don’t focus as much on credentials as on knowing what to do and doing it. This is a great way to enter an industry and grow there. Also check out water plant operator ($24,000 – $55,000). But for best results, keep adding to your resume via extra relevant courses because energy needs can change.

Renewable/sustainable energy: Because everyone wants a high standard of living, environment benefits flow from well-planned developments and environment problems can result from poorly planned developments. Currently, many governments are offering opportunities in this area. The wisest degree to get is physics ($40,000 – $65,000) because it conveys the sense (usually correct) that you know how things work in principle.

Revisiting the past: Longevity is growing, and the longer people live, the more they appreciate and want to know about the past and celebrate continuity. Consider being an archivist, or a corporate or family historian. You could also write the history of a town or even a state. One advantage of ths career is that many levels of government, as well as institutions or families, want their triumphs and struggles told.

Brain training: As people age, they often need cognitive help. They want to remember, but cannot do so without help Here, a qualification in special education might open the door them and for you.

Yes, eleven. If you re not satisfied with these options, revisit the introduction and do your own search!