Top 10 Best Jobs In America 2010

By Paul Keegan, with Anne C. Lee

Great pay and superior growth prospects. Work that's meaningful. Those are some of the qualities we looked for when selecting America's best jobs. Take a look at which jobs made the top 10 list.

1. Software architect

Sector: Information tech

What they do: Like architects who design buildings, they create the blueprints for software engineers to follow -- and pitch in with programming too. Plus, architects are often called on to work with customers and product managers, and they serve as a link between a company's tech and business staffs.

Requirements: Bachelor's degree, and either a master's or considerable work experience to demonstrate your ability to design software and work collaboratively.

2. Physician assistant

Sector: Health care

What they do: Act as Robin to a doctor's Batman, performing routine care such as physicals and tests, counseling patients, and even prescribing medication, all under a doctor's supervision. Today's doctor shortage will only worsen as boomers age and health-care reform brings more patients into the system, creating a huge need for PAs.

Requirements: Complete an accredited PA program (average length: 26 months). The typical applicant has a bachelor's degree and four years of health care experience.

3. Management consultant

Sector: Consulting

What they do: Advise companies on how to grow the business or battle a problem. Economic upheaval is forcing many firms to rethink strategies, creating a need for advisers on everything from pricing and operations to cost-cutting and sales growth. Information technology consulting is one of the fastest-growing areas, as is helping companies explore international markets.

Requirements: Just about anybody can claim the title (nearly a third are self-employed), but an MBA coupled with experience inside firms in your field gives you an edge. Nowadays, many laid-off managers are finding that their industry knowledge and access to insiders translates well to consulting.

4. Physical therapist

Sector: Health care

What they do: Assess and treat people with physical conditions that limit their movements or ability to perform daily activities. Help with pain management and surgical rehab. Longer life spans and a wave of aging boomers have already created a PT shortage.

Requirements: Three-year graduate degree and a state license.

5. Environmental engineer

Sector: Consulting

What they do: Use engineering skills to protect the environment and human health. Environmental engineers work on air-pollution control, water treatment, waste management, alternative energy, and conservation, in both the private sector and government agencies.

Requirements: An undergraduate degree in any engineering specialty can be enough, and a state license is not always required. But you'll fare better with a graduate degree in environmental engineering.

6. Civil engineer

Sector: Construction, architecture, engineering

What they do: Design and supervise the creation of highways, bridges, sewer and water systems, power plants, and the like. Huge projects in countries like China and India are creating a shortage of qualified local engineers, bolstering demand for U.S. talent. America's own infrastructure is in desperate need of an overhaul.

Requirements: A bachelor's in civil engineering and a state license. Specialty jobs like structural engineer often require a master's.

7. Database administrator

Sector: Information tech

What they do: Organize and manage data, update software, and troubleshoot when problems arise.

Requirements: Many DBAs start out elsewhere in IT, usually as developers or programmers. Database certification isn't mandatory -- classes alone may be enough -- but if you're starting out, the credential can help you land a job. Lim recommends certifying in SQL Server, Oracle, or DB2 database management systems.

8. Sales director

Sector: Other

What they do: Manage a company's sales strategy and sales staff. During the recession, companies focused on cutting costs and staying the course. Now the goal is growth.

Requirements: Climb the ladder. You'll need to prove yourself as a high performer on the sales staff to be promoted to this role. You can also move into the job from another management position, says Bob Kelly, chairman of the Sales Management Association.

9. Certified public accountant

Sector: Business services

What they do: Maintain financial records and analyze the numbers. Especially in this time of economic turmoil, CPAs are needed to make sense of increasingly complex financial transactions -- from buyouts to businesses grappling with changing tax laws.

Requirements: You'll need a bachelor's degree in accounting -- some CPAs also complete a one-year master's program -- and at least two years of on-the-job experience to get a license in most states.

10. Biomedical engineer

Sector: Scientific research

What they do: Design and develop medical devices, treatments, and procedures, from artificial hearts to drug-delivery systems. Breathtaking technological advances are intersecting with the medical needs of an aging population, creating what the U.S. government projects will become "the fastest-growing occupation in the economy."

Requirements: An undergraduate mechanical, electrical, or chemical engineering degree, coupled with some bio background, is often enough. (Or you can pick up the biology on the job.) But as more schools award biomedical engineering degrees -- the number of college programs has doubled in the past decade -- that credential will become a must.

You've seen the top 10, now see what other jobs made the list starting from number 11 on Continue to the full list of Best Jobs in America >>

Check out the Top Paying Jobs in America >>

See the Least Stressful Jobs in America >>

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I look for a job EVERY DAY. As an example, I've tried to get a jobs at McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Verizon, UPS etc.. and AT&T selling cell phones. NO company would hire me. Not because I'm unqualified. I'm over 50. I can serve a pizza and I use an iPhone and have been in Telecom for over 25 years. I'm qualified. I'm just old. So tell the GOP to shove it. Try and get a job today. I'm not lazy. I want to work and I HAVE to work to keep a roof over my head. Businesses will not hire anyone over 50. I'm PROOF

November 21 2010 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
web design company

Thanks for u r information

its very useful

October 12 2010 at 3:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a Mother, I am thrilled that both of my children have the most satisfying jobs! Thank you AOL>

October 11 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Toombs

A well educated America is a well employed self sustained country. You want to create jobs get the people educated. Not enough attention to education in this declining economy. We all still will need the basics. I know it takes effort and sacrifice in the end education works get qualified. You can gain experiance in any field by voluntering. May success be found to anyone who reads this and keep up the hard work it will pay off.

October 11 2010 at 1:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Scott Toombs's comment
Steve R

It doesn't do any good to return to school and improve your skills and education if EVERY GODDAMN JOB HAS BEEN OR IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING OFFSHORED

October 11 2010 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well said Scott.

October 11 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe because the pay and respect is about the same?

October 11 2010 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I "dropped everythhing" Now I am in command of my destiny. Everyone wants something for nothing. Good Luck! I suggest you play the lottery.

October 11 2010 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree. PA appears to be demeaning. That is unfortunate as the need for PA is strong. The job is great. The pay is terrible. The AMA is to strong for a PA career to be profitable. Low money and no respect.

October 11 2010 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to robert's comment

A nurse practioner may be a better route.

October 11 2010 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are correct.

October 11 2010 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh good, let me drop everything, spend what little money I have right now and GO BACK TO COLLEGE TO GET the specific training that these jobs require. The sad thing is, after 4 years (and more for some of these, as they require experience), the job market will completely change, and you'll be left holding a useless degree or certificate. There are only 34 types of jobs that will always be in demand. If you're going to go to school and get training, this is the way to go right now:

1. Healthcare.
2. Legal.
3. Education.
4. Engineering.

October 11 2010 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to gr8bsn's comment

although the pay is not great social worker are in high demands. you don't really get into that field for the money

October 11 2010 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are so right!

October 11 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Salary is not too low for PA but job is not good. When you have to move behind Doctors and you see respect and money doc get you hate your self. If Doc is not married you like to be his wife and if Doc is maried you are enveous to his wife and his lifestyle.Believe me I been there and did it.

October 11 2010 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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