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Pick the right field and jobs abound, without college degree

WASHINGTON—Some U.S. jobs pay living wages, are in fast-growing fields, have lots of openings and don't require bachelor's degrees.

Most of them aren't glamorous, but they won't be offshored anytime soon either, according to a newly published analysis by the nonprofit agency Jobs for the Future. Among them: truck and bus driving, nursing, construction and computer-tech jobs.

"A lot of these industries are having difficulty finding reliable workers with the skills they require," agency official Jerry Rubin said.

His group, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., winnowed Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 725 job categories to find the best shots. It looked for jobs that paid $25,000 or more, were in fields with at least 20,000 openings a year, offered at least some opportunity for advancement and had modest requirements for education and experience.

Its report, "The Right Jobs," profiles these winners:

_Registered nurse.

Income range: $40,100 to $57,500. Projected annual openings: 110,119. Education: associate degree in nursing.

Note: School admission is highly competitive but the acute nurse shortage is expected to double by 2015.

_Licensed practical nurse/licensed vocational nurse.

Income range: $26,400 to $37,000. Projected annual openings: 29,480. Education: 11th-grade math and reading required for admission to a 12-month academic training program.

Note: Easier to get into than registered-nurse jobs. Lots of jobs in long-term care. Can lead to an R.N. career.

_Customer service representative.

Income range: $20,960 to $33,540. Projected annual openings: 74,137. Education: high school or college plus training provided by employers. Communication skills matter.

Note: The work—answering customers' questions in person, on the phone or via e-mail or the Internet—is stressful. The turnover rate is often high and offshoring is possible.

_Car/truck mechanic.

Income range: car, $22,080 to $41,270; truck, $27,310 to $42,730. Projected annual openings: auto, 31,887; truck, 10,655. Education: high school. Training for those without high school auto-shop experience lasts six months to two years and costs $3,000 to $24,000.

Note: Head mechanics at car dealerships can earn $100,000.

_Computer support specialist. Includes help-desk support, personal computer technician, network administrator and Web site development and maintenance.

Income range: $29,760 to $51,680. Projected annual openings: 21,579. Education: Entry-level jobs are available without much formal training, but vocational school certifications and degrees help win promotions.

Note: Network administrators are paid the best. Help-desk support jobs are the easiest to land.

_Building trades. (Carpenter, electrician, plumber.)

Income range: carpenter, $26,180 to $45,560; electrician, $31,100 to $55,120; plumber, $30,540 to $53,820. Projected annual openings: carpenter, 31,917; electrician, 28,485; plumber, 20,511. Education: high school. Preapprentice training lasts 12 weeks; apprenticeship, three to four years.

Note: Wages are 50 percent higher in unionized jobs, but they're tougher to get. A criminal record may be tolerated.

_Commercial driver. (Heavy trucks or buses.)

Income range: Truck, $26,020 to $41,610; bus, $21,870 to $39,510. Projected annual openings: truck, 62,517; bus, 25,000. Education: high school. Training programs usually run six to 12 months. Federal law requires interstate truckers to be 21 or older.

Note: New federal regulations that limit daily driving time are expected to yield 60,000 new jobs. School bus drivers trade lower pay for work close to home.

Many high schools and colleges aren't training for these high-growth fields, according to Rubin, whose group advocates private-public training programs to meet the needs.

"The jobs are there, but, particularly for working adults, traditional education just isn't going to cut it," Rubin said. "New ways for training that meet the real-life requirements for adults are critically important."

Until then, community colleges will fill most of the gaps.

"They are a tremendous resource," Rubin said.


To read the Jobs for the Future study online, go to


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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