By Jeffrey Steele
Special to the Tribune
January 6, 2008
With a degree in nursing, Joliet's Jennifer Clements
didn't have to look far for a job. After receiving her bachelor of science
degree in nursing from the University of St. Francis College of Nursing and
Allied Health in Joliet in 2004, the then 20-year-old Clements applied for
positions at eight hospitals -- and received job offers from all eight. By the
following year, she was earning an annual income of more than
Today, at 23, Clements is a part-time intensive care nurse at Naperville's Edward Hospital, and a full-time master's degree student at St. Francis. Earning a master's degree will enable her to become an advanced practice nurse, a position employers ranging from CVS and Walgreen to physicians' offices and state-funded nurse-managed clinics eagerly seek to fill. "It makes you all the more marketable," she said.
Just how marketable is indicated by the perks some employers offer graduates, including tuition forgiveness and sign-on bonuses of up to $10,000, Clements said.
It's no surprise Clements and other nurses will be in great demand statewide in the coming year. Nursing is expected to be Illinois' hottest private sector job field, according to The State of Working Illinois report, compiled by the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and two Northern Illinois University research groups, the Center for Governmental Studies and Office for Social Policy Research.
Other job fields promise to be almost as hot, from other health care occupations to teaching, information technology and business and professional services. And more than ever, education will be the key to the best-paying jobs, employment experts report.
Nursing is just one of many fast-growing health-care jobs in 2008. Ten of the top 25 fastest-growing occupations in Illinois are in health care, said Mitch Daniels, labor market economist with the Illinois Department of Employment Security in Springfield.
Along with nursing positions, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy jobs also will be plentiful, said Mary Anne Kelly, vice president and chief human resource officer for the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council.
"In the therapies, our aging population is certainly contributing to the demand," Kelly said. "But if you look at the aging population as a whole, not only is the population we're serving aging, but those doing the serving are also aging."
As technology evolves, demand for trained technologists is also surging, Kelly said. That spells growth for the occupations within the realm of imaging, including radiologic technologists, ultrasound technologists and nuclear medicine technologists.
Increasingly, advanced degrees are required to reach the highest levels in some health care fields. To land jobs as pharmacy techs or physical therapy assistants, individuals must complete certificate programs or earn associate degrees. Those at the next level, pharmacists and physical therapists, require doctoral degrees.
"That's a quantum leap," Kelly said. "We really need to look at ways to improve access to advanced level programs in pharmacy and physical therapy."
Six of the top 25 fastest-growing occupations in Illinois are in information technology, Daniels said. "Fifteen years ago, some of these would have been fast-growing, but small, fields. They're not so small anymore," he said, referring to job titles such as network systems analyst, computer software engineer, database administrator and network and computer systems administrator. All are good-paying jobs.
Statewide average pay for network systems analysts is $65,400, while computer software engineers make $77,200 to $87,000. Database administrators earn annual incomes of $65,200, and network and computer systems administrators $61,600.
Professional, business services
Four occupations listed under professional and business services placed among the top 50 fastest-growing jobs in Illinois, Daniels said. Actuaries are in demand, because Illinois is a headquarters state for a number of insurance companies.
Several job titles in human resource management and job training also make the list. "That area becomes more and more critical as it becomes more important for businesses to attract skilled and qualified applicants," Daniels said. "The human resources people not only attract those applicants, but handle their on-the-job training."
The chronic shortage of truck drivers has been well documented, Daniels said. But also in demand are those who work in the logistics end of transportation.
"Down near Joliet, Kankakee and on the south side of Chicago, warehousing is booming," he said. "Anecdotally, we hear people screaming for logistics technicians. And railroad occupations are really growing in the Chicago area. But it's a tough field, because like trucking, you're away from home a lot."
Just as it has for years, Illinois will continue to lose manufacturing jobs in the coming year. But opportunity will still exist in manufacturing, said Ralph Martire, executive director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. "As older workers retire, there will be opportunities for younger folks," he said.
"This is good news for people who only have a high school degree, but could go on and earn an associate's degree or a vocational or technical degree, and obtain one of these jobs to replace a retiring older worker," said Martire.
Other hot jobs
By industry sector, the leisure and hospitality industry is one of the hottest employment fields.
Encompassing job titles like food preparation workers, waiters and waitresses, restaurant and hotel managers and maids and housekeeping workers, this sector will serve up about 7,000 new jobs in Illinois in the coming year, Daniels said.
The wholesale and retail trade, including retail salespersons and cashiers, will ring up about 6,000 new jobs across the state in 2008.
And educational services will offer about 5,300 positions for elementary and secondary school teachers, special education teachers, vocational education teachers and community college, college and university faculty members, Daniels said.
As Martire observed, young people will be able to land manufacturing positions by earning vocational or associate's degrees. But significantly, many of the individuals they will replace in those jobs didn't need more than a high school diploma, if that.
"This is a big change," he said. "You have to learn to earn. Since 1980, the only class of Illinois workers seeing its inflation-adjusted wages grow is the class of workers with college degrees. Everyone else has realized an inflation-adjusted decrease."
The numbers tell a compelling story. Over the last 25 years, college degree recipients saw their inflation-adjusted incomes climb 14.3 percent. Those who attended college but didn't graduate witnessed a decline of 4.3 percent.
Individuals with only a high school diploma suffered an 8.7 percent income drop, and those who didn't finish high school saw inflation-adjusted incomes plunge almost 30 percent.
"That's scary," Martire said. "The days when you could earn good wages, put two cars in the garage and support a family with only a high school diploma are over."
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10 hot jobs in Illinois
1. Registered nurses
2. Retail salespeople
3. Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
4. Janitors and cleaners, except maids/housekeepers
5. Business operations specialists
6. Customer service representatives
7. Secondary school teachers
8. Truck drivers
9. Food preparation and fast-food workers
10. Waiters and waitresses
Source: State of Working Illinois Report 2007
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