Health care still reigns supreme when it comes to the best jobs in the U.S., but a technology job snagged the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings.
Information security analysts came in No. 1, thanks to a strong 10-year outlook, according to U.S. News' 100 Best Jobs of 2022 list. It also assessed salary and work-life balance, among other criteria. Nearly 4 in 10 occupations in the best 100 jobs rankings are health care or health-care support roles.
There's no better time to try to aim high when it comes to your next job.
"The 'Great Resignation' paired with widespread economic growth over the past year has led to an inflection point where there are many more job openings than applicants," said Antonio Barbera, U.S. News consumer advice senior editor.
To be sure, there were 10.5 million job openings in November.
"This is a boon for job seekers, who can be more selective with what they want in their next job: a higher salary, flexible hours or the ability to work remotely, for example."
Here's what you need to know about the top three jobs and how to go about landing one.
1. Information security analyst
- Median salary: $103,590
Information security analysts are primarily responsible for operating information technology systems and maintaining security, explained Mustaque Ahamad, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. In essence, they help protect organizations from data breaches and cyberattacks, which is a growing concern.
Typically, you will need a bachelor's degree in information technology or another related computer science major. Some employers prefer a master's degree.
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Once you acquire the right skill set, it isn't difficult to get a job, said Ahamad, who has seen the industry grow exponentially over the past two decades.
"Wherever there is IT, you are going to need IT security," he said.
In fact, as the cofounder of two IT security startups, he's been on the hiring end and it hasn't been easy.
"If you want this job, there are a lot of folks looking for people like you."
Jobs are expected to grow 33% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that period, an estimated 47,100 jobs should open up.
2. Nurse practitioner
- Median salary: $111,680
Nurse practitioners perform physical exams, authorize treatments and prescribe medicines, among other duties. Almost 70% deliver primary care, and they can also specialize in orthopedics, pulmonology and other areas.
"NPs increase health equity, expand access to care for patients and address longstanding social determinants of health," said April Kapu, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
You'll have to start as a registered nurse, which means you'll already have a bachelor of science degree in nursing and an RN license. NPs spend about 10 years as an RN before going to graduate school for their required master's, according to the association.
Consider shadowing a nurse practitioner to get an understanding of the job. Research the different programs and requirements needed, which is also outlined on the AANP's website.
By the time you enter graduate school, you should already know your area of practice. Many find jobs through clinical rotation, as well as via networking and recruiters.
Less than half of U.S. states allow nurse practitioners to practice with full authority, meaning without having to be connected to a physician. The AANP is calling for more states to enact similar legislation.
"Workforce shortages have hit the health-care field hard," Kapu, who is also a professor and associate dean at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
"Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise of chronic disease and an increased demand for primary care."
Employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 52% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That translates into about 114,900 job openings.
3. Physician assistant
- Median salary: $115,390
A physician assistant works in all types of settings and specialties, diagnosing illnesses and carrying out treatment plans. In most states, a PA must collaborate with a licensed surgeon or physician. The American Academy of PAs is working to increase access to PA-provided care.
A master's degree is required and admission is highly competitive. Once in school, expect classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical education.
"It is hard and fast and intense and some of the most rigorous coursework that is out there," said Jennifer M. Orozco, president and chairman of the board of the AAPA.
She's also the director of advanced practice providers at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, which takes about 30 students a year. She's had anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 applications.
In addition, you'll take undergraduate courses similar to those to get into medical school and you'll need prior health-care experience, such as being a paramedic.
A majority of students receive multiple offers stemming from the rotations they work during graduate school. The AAPA has a website dedicated to career advice here.
Employment is expected to grow 31% between 2020 and 2030, resulting in about 40,100 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Orozco expects that number to grow as the nation emerges from the Covid pandemic.
"People that are currently in health care are starting to slow down; we're getting a lot of people close to retirement," she said. "PAs are going to start filling those gaps."
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.