Hot Jobs for 2013 to 2020

Unemployment figures in the U.S. continue to dip. As of February, 7.7%, or 12 million people, were out of work. Those are still a lot of slots to fill.

And while work is still hard to come by, some jobs are easier to land than others -- that is, if you have the right skill set and education.

Many of the fast-growing careers are in the health care field, says Laurence Shatkin, co-author of "Best Jobs for the 21st Century."

"The major trends are the aging of the population and improved technology that have created remedies for various medical conditions," Shatkin says. Add to these trends the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, where more people have access to health care, and you have an expanding market for health care workers.

Jobs in the business sector are also on the upswing as the economy slowly recovers, says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. Sarikas warns that hiring managers are still skittish: "Hiring will be deliberate and cautious."

Here are the eight of the fastest-growing careers for 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. These jobs are expected to continue their upward trajectory into 2020. Average salaries, expected growth and minimum education requirements are from the BLS.

Biomedical Engineer

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 62%
  • Average annual salary: $81,540
  • Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

If you have an aptitude for engineering, enjoy being in a health care environment and have a yen to engineer body parts, you might consider a career in biomedical engineering, a field that is booming because of the leaps in medical technology.

"We are now finding ways to engineer replacement parts for our bodies … such as artificial hearts, retinas, knees and hip joints," Shatkin says. "The technology to do this has arrived, and people are getting older and need these replacements."

Shatkin says that while engineering replacement body parts is a fast-growing field, it is growing from a small base. According to the BLS, there were 15,700 biomedical engineers employed in 2010. That's expected to increase by 9,700 jobs by 2020.

"It is a small field, but there is a lot of opportunity for those who have these skills," Shatkin says.

Biomedical engineers can work in a variety of industries including hospitals, universities, research facilities, manufacturing, teaching and government regulatory agencies.

Veterinary Technologist or Technician

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 52%
  • Average annual salary: $29,710
  • Minimum education: Associate degree (technicians); bachelor's degree (technologists)

As more people treat their pets as members of the family, their furry friends are also receiving the benefits of advanced human health care.

"Blood tests typically part of human testing, such as those that look at liver and kidney functioning, (are) becoming routine for older pets," Shatkin says.

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform the bulk of this kind of lab work from taking blood, urine and stool samples to analyzing the results. They also work closely with the veterinarian to restrain animals and assist in surgery.

Add to that a growing pet population, and you have a growth opportunity for this kind of work: Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 52% from 2010 to 2020, with even better opportunities in rural areas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that while technicians require a two-year degree, veterinarians prefer a four-year degree for technologists who perform increasingly complex medical procedures on animals.

Meeting, Convention and Event Planner

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 44%
  • Average annual salary: $45,260
  • Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

If you are good at the details of arranging parties, meetings and vacations, you may have an aptitude for a promising career as a meeting, convention or event planner.

These professionals handle all the behind-the-scenes work of a successful meeting, event or convention, including choosing the meeting location, arranging transportation and making sure the event falls within a client's budget.

"While the Internet provides other means for business people to meet, such as through Skype, they are also discovering there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings," Shatkin says. "Now that business is bouncing back, meetings are also bouncing back."

While employers prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree, you also will need related work experience in hospitality management, catering or event planning.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual salary of about $45,000, Brad Bebell, spokesman for Meeting Professionals International, a trade association in Dallas, says that its members average $85,000 per year, with those in the travel industry averaging more than $100,000 per year.

"We're (also) seeing a proliferation of degree programs across the country. Hospitality schools are offering majors in meeting and event planning, not just minors or classes," Bebell says.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 44%
  • Average annual salary: $64,380
  • Minimum education: Associate degree

Diagnostic medical sonographers use high-tech sound-wave equipment in procedures such as ultrasound, sonogram or echocardiogram to look inside the body.

"Sonography is increasingly being used in the place of X-rays and other procedures because of its lower health risk to the patient. And it's less costly," Shatkin says.

Contributing to the 44% growth of this field are the aging baby boomer population and the increased use of this equipment outside of the hospital setting, such as in doctors' offices and diagnostic laboratories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The path toward a sonographer career includes an associate or bachelor's degree. There are also one-year certificate programs available for those already in the health care field, such as nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says employers prefer a degree or certificate from an accredited institute or hospital program.

Also, those sonographers with more than one specialty have better job prospects, the bureau reports.

Interpreters and Translators

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 42%
  • Average annual salary: $43,300
  • Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

If you are fluent in more than one language, your opportunity for using your skills in an interpreter or translator career will be excellent over the next eight years.

"This is a function of the global marketplace. Business is being done on a global scale, and immigration is also at an all-time high," Shatkin says.

The translation and interpreting industry has proved to be recession-resistant, showing double-digit growth even during the deepest global economic crisis, says Jiri Stejskal, president and CEO of Cetra Language Solutions in Elkins Park, Pa.

"This is simply because this service is not a luxury item but rather a communication tool, without which multinational companies and cross-border businesses cannot function," Stejskal says.

The need for good translators and interpreters hasn't slowed even after the proliferation of free automated translation tools such as Google Translate or Bing Translator.

"(This) does not reduce the need for translators and interpreters, but rather creates a whole new market for their services as world communities become more connected," Stejskal says.

Although interpreters and translators typically need a bachelor's degree, the chief requirement is being fluent in English and at least one other language. While there is no universal certification required to become an interpreter or translator, various associations provide certification programs.

Market Research Analysts, Marketing Specialists

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 41%
  • Average annual salary: $60,570
  • Minimum education: Bachelor's degree

Why the need for market research analysts and marketing specialists?

"Two words: big data," says Beth Walker, chair of the marketing department at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. "The amount of data available on business customers and consumers has simply exploded in the past couple of years."

The data are coming at business from all angles -- cellphones, social media posts, digital pictures and videos, and purchase-transaction records. The information has the potential to reveal insights on individual consumers and isolate quickly changing market trends and demands, Walker says.

Sorting all this information and making it meaningful to businesses is creating more jobs for market research analysts and marketing specialists, she says.

Employment of people in marketing careers is expected to grow 41% by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says analysts and specialists will be in high demand at research firms, social and civic organizations, colleges and universities, and government agencies.

While you can land a job with a bachelor's degree and a few years of experience, most positions require a master's degree and a strong background in statistical and data analysis.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Increasingly, many people are turning to therapists for help with personal, family and marital problems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mental health careers are expected to grow by 36% from 2010 to 2020, while marriage and family counselors are projected to grow by 41% over the same period.

Not only are insurance companies providing more reimbursement for therapy, but treatment by a therapist with a master's degree is a less expensive alternative to psychiatrists with medical degrees or psychologists with doctoral degrees.

And therapy is becoming a more accepted effective treatment for emotional or mental difficulties, says Michael Chafin, president of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

"Therapy, in general, is finally losing its stigma problem that prevents people from accessing help," Chafin says.

Jobs for marriage, family and individual therapists will center on private practice, nursing and residential care facilities, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, hospitals, and state and local government agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says all states require mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to have master's degrees and licenses to practice.

Physical Therapists

  • Expected growth (2010-2020): 39%
  • Average annual salary: $76,310
  • Minimum education: Master's, doctoral or professional degree

Demand for physical therapists is growing as the baby boomer population ages.

In addition, technological advances are saving more trauma victims and newborns with birth defects, creating a greater demand for rehabilitation care. And medical therapies that are alternatives to placing people in long-term hospital care are in high demand, Shatkin says.

Rather than keeping people in a hospital bed to recuperate from injury or surgery, doctors can send patients home, having them return for outpatient physical therapy, he says.

Physical therapy jobs are expected to increase 39% by 2020, with increases in all settings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job opportunities are very good in acute hospital, skilled nursing and orthopedic settings, and in rural areas.

To practice, you must hold a master's or doctoral degree in physical therapy and complete residency programs after graduation that last nine months to three years. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.