Where did all the jobs go? And where did all the good jobs go?
It's a question 13.9 million unemployed Americans and countless disgruntled workers have wondered since the "Great" began. Most jobs seem to be hiding in the health and educational services, with 544,000 openings as of April 2011.
But like stagecoach drivers and telegraph operators who experienced their jobs vanishing forever, no one wants to be caught in a career that won't be there as the economy shifts and expands. So we're peering into the future to see what industries will offer good paying, middle-class jobs for those who are willing to prepare for them.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the U.S. will add 15.3 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018, and a whopping 15 out of 30 jobs with the most projected openings and vacancies will pay wages that are above the national median wage for all workers in the United States.
[InvestingAnswers Feature: 10 Middle-Class Jobs that Will Vanish by 2018]
So whether you're looking for a job today or preparing for tomorrow, here's a list of in-demand careers that offer plenty of growth and pay well.
These skillful craftsmen known for installing, repairing, and building wooden structures (cabinets, rafters, shelves and buildings) will see many join them in the next few years. Population growth, the retirement of older carpenters and the demand for new energy-efficient buildings will stimulate a great need for carpenters in the future. But you'll need to sharpen your woodshop skills, because those with the most training and ability to do more than just the simple tasks will have the steadiest workload.
Median Salary: $48,890
Minimum Training/Education: Long-term on-the-job training
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 165,400
9. Computer Software Engineer, Applications
Computer software engineers will be in high demand as computer networking among businesses continues to grow. Computer software engineers who can develop engaging and functional internet, intranet, and website applications will be valuable to employers who need to effectively communicate to web savvy consumers. They will also be needed to create new, secure and innovative computer system programs used in business, government, healthcare and other organizations.
Median Salary: $87,480
Minimum Training/Education: Bachelor's degree
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 175,100
8. Management Analysts
Management Analysts, sometimes called "management consultants" are specialized masterminds who help organizations rearrange corporate structure or improve operations to increase efficiency and profits. As companies in the U.S. look to become leaner and meaner productive machines, management analysts will be in high demand to suggest profit building, corporate structure organization strategies and cost-cutting suggestions. The high earning potential along with the challenging and independent nature of the job will make this one attractive and harder to attain than others on this list.
Median Salary: $78,160
Minimum Training/Education: Bachelor's or higher degree, plus work experience
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 178,300
7. Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
As highly skilled and communicatively tactful executive secretaries and administrative assistants are promoted or move on to even more professional jobs, there will be a significant demand for those who can fill their roles. In addition, because planning conferences for executives, working with clients and instructing a staff requires someone who is very personable and interactive, a computer can never be a suitable replacement. Bachelor's degree holders will likely have the best opportunities to have managerial responsibilities in this position.
Median Salary: $41,650
Minimum Training/Education: Work experience in related occupation
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 204,400
6. Bookkeeping,and Auditing Clerks
Because many of the current bookkeepers, accountants and auditing clerks are likely to retire or be promoted to higher levels of financial management, the amount of vacancies in this job in the next few years will be immense. Couple that with a growing economy that will have more businesses and financial transactions and a government churning out more regulations to make business financials more transparent, and you can see why the country will require many more bookkeepers, accountants and auditing clerks.
Median Salary: $34,030
Minimum Training/Education: Moderate-term on-the-job training
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 212,400
5. Truck Drivers (Heavy and Tractor-Trailer)
As the economy grows, tons of additional goods will be demanded and the distance the freight will have to travel will matter. Truck drivers who drive the big rigs will be in high demand to ship everyday products to businesses and keep a stocked inventory. Truck driver jobs with the local shipping and normal daylight hours will be hardest to get due to their more attractive conditions, but if you can handle long distances and driving all night then you may have a good chance at nabbing a job that pays well.
Median Salary: $39,450
Minimum Training/Education: Short-term on-the-job training
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 232,900
4. Elementary School Teachers (Non-Special Education)
Many of the teachers that taught you and possibly even your parents in elementary school will be retiring in the next few years and their positions will need to be filled to continue teaching and molding the future generations of America. The best opportunities will be in inner cities and rural areas that have a poorer population and have a hard time attracting teachers. If you enjoy science, math, or foreign languages and think you have a knack for teaching kids, you are likely to find good opportunities upon your certification.
Median Salary: $51,660
Minimum Training/Education: Bachelor's degree, license required
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 244,200
3. Postsecondary Teachers
As a college degree is becoming more expected rather than merely suggested in the U.S. and as many of the unemployed return to school, postsecondary education enrollment is expected to grow exponentially. Many of the professors hired in the 1960s and 1970s that taught baby-boomers are expected to retire soon, leaving those with Ph.Ds a great opportunity for employment. Tenured professor positions will be harder to get, but part-time and non-tenured positions will be plentiful.
Median Salary: $59,140
Minimum Training/Education: Doctoral degree
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 256,900
2. Accountants and Auditors
Similar to bookkeepers, plenty of accountants and auditors will be needed to fill positions in new businesses, keep up with ever changing financial laws and protecting an organization's shareholders through increased transparency in financial reporting. They will be required to keep financial records, prepare taxes and give management advice on how to trim costs and limit tax liability. CPAs and bachelor's degree holders will have the best opportunities.
Median Salary: $61,690
Minimum Training/Education: Bachelor's degree
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 279,400
1. Registered Nurses
With nearly twice as many projected job vacancies in the next seven years as accountants, registered nurses will be in very high demand as the immense baby boomer population ages and as experienced nurses retire. Also, with the nation's for more preventative care and more access to healthcare, hundreds of thousands of nurses will be necessary to meet the enormous demand. Because more services can be performed outside the hospital than ever before, most of the opportunities will be in physicians' offices and home health care service organizations.
Median Salary: $64,690
Minimum Training/Education: Associate degree in nursing, nursing certification
Projected New Job Openings by 2018: 581,500
[InvestingAnswers Feature: 13 Best Job Sites for Baby Boomers]
The Investing Answer: Because these middle-class jobs will be in such high demand, they will be lucrative and secure for years to come. You may have to go back to school and get a certification once you've decided on a job that you're interested in, but it may be worth it if these BLS projections are correct.
If you are fortunate enough to find a job that meets your skills, challenges your abilities and gives you a sense of purpose, then success will likely find you.
[UPDATE -- August 1, 2012: The 7 Fastest Growing Middle-Class Jobs in America -- one profession is expected to add 700,000 new jobs by the year 2020. This is a must read for job seekers.]