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Training for the hot jobs of tomorrow

March 28, 2005

One out of every four new jobs created in the United States between 2002 and 2012 will be in health care or education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls those two industries the fastest growing sectors of our economy.

A friend of mine is primed for a spot in one of those. She recently decided to become a nurse, and turned to the same place tens of thousands of other nurses-in-training turn every year - community college.

More than 10 million students enrolled in classes at community colleges in 2004, and nearly half of those students reported that they were taking courses related to their current job or a future one.

In addition to nursing, community colleges have seen an increase in the number of students signing up for education, information technology and programs in homeland security. Many of these jobs also look pretty good to students when they see the earning potential.

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The American Association of Community Colleges reports that the average starting salary of a registered nurse is $38,419. A computer programmer can average more than $48,000 in starting salary - another field the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow.

It's important for students to remember that choosing a career path simply because it looks "hot" for growth isn't the best thing to do either. Students should consider their strengths, weaknesses and interests before embarking on a two- or four-year education. Students who take the ACT Assessment receive with their scores some suggestions for career areas that could be a good fit for them based on their scores and their answers on an interest inventory.

High school students who plan to begin their college career at a two-year school also need to remember that they have to approach it the same way that they would approach any college - by being academically prepared to succeed.

I know too many students who didn't take challenging courses in high school. They planned to attend a community college and thought it would be "easier." But they ended up struggling and some of them even dropped out.

College is college, and if a student isn't taking challenging courses in high school, he will struggle whether he's attending a Big Ten university or the community college down the street. But for students who are ready, a community college is a great place to get a college education, and a great place to start on the road to a "hot" job.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. Have a question you want answered in a future column? Send an e-mail to AskRose@act.org.

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