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How many of you had your parents tell you that you could grow up to be whatever you wanted? At the age of three, I apparently wanted to dress in a chicken costume for a living, which for some reason my parents encouraged (were they hoping I’d have an exciting career as a sports mascot, or a lucrative position selling wings for KFC?). Hopefully, you set your sights a bit higher. While it was nice of mom and dad to offer encouragement, they couldn’t possibly have seen what the state of the world (or more importantly, the economy) would be like when you approached graduation. Many of you probably dreamed of becoming a teacher, a veterinarian, or a firefighter. But now that you’re facing the cold, hard reality of an economic recession, your dreams may seem a little unrealistic. Luckily, there are several fields that are set to grow over the next few years, and a degree in one of them may ensure a bright future.

A career in medicine might be your best bet. If your childhood fantasies included helping others, you may have found a winner. Earning a degree as a nurse, a medical assistant, or even a doctor could afford you the opportunity to enter your profession immediately after graduation, as jobs in these areas look to be on the rise in the next decade (thanks to health care reform and its offer of insurance to more Americans). And with several options for schooling and degree programs, almost everyone can find a niche they’re comfortable in.

Engineering is another area that is always in need of qualified individuals (note, there may be a lot of schooling involved). The options are almost limitless when it comes to specialization (a few broad areas of engineering are mechanical, aerospace, computer, and civil) so almost anyone can find an area of interest. These jobs also tend to be highly specialized, which means better-than-decent salaries. If you’re technically savvy and have an eye for the bigger picture, you should consider an occupation in this field.

While formerly in-demand positions for web/graphic designers are now facing a flood of applicants, not all careers in computing are on the decline. Internet marketing is one field that is wide open for those who have the drive to run their own business. With a background in marketing, a basic understanding of SEO, and the desire to continue to learn in a quickly-changing internet landscape, you could be on your way to a fun and exciting occupation that can earn you a lot of money…if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Another field of computing that continues to be fruitful is Information Technology (IT). All companies, large and small, will at one time or another need help running a myriad of computer systems, servers, and back-up facilities. Having professionals on-site and on-call is often a necessity in the fast-paced world of corporate business (although a freelance position may be more lucrative and flexible over time if you can hold out to build up a good clientele). Additional training in creative pursuits (like computer graphics or web design) can also be a big help as a recent trend has emerged in which companies under the gun to cut costs are laying off designers and passing their duties on to the IT department.

Finance is also an area that looks to enjoy future growth. The internet offers many opportunities in the area of ecommerce and many companies are looking to hire individuals who have a focus on either international finance or financial analysis. So a head for numbers and good communication skills could guarantee gainful employment.

None of us grew up with visions of medical billing dancing through our heads, but all of us dreamed of a house, a car, and whether or not we knew it at the time, financial stability. Even if you don’t end up reaching solvency by the path you chose as a child, it’s better to go for the gold than to end up looking at the field of your dreams from afar.

Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Colleges, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.

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