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State has forecast for hot, and not-so-hot, jobs in Utah

Published December 22, 2013 5:14 pm

Report • Demand is plummeting for professions that are being phased out by technology.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If your goal is to find work in Utah as a postal worker, switchboard operator, movie projectionist or computer chip processor, you might want to reconsider.

Those will be among the state's slowest growing professions through 2020, as are dozens of others where technology is replacing human workers, judging by the latest state employment outlook reports.

So here's a better idea: Whether you're seeking a new occupation or ways to retool your career, take a look at becoming a biomedical engineer.

Using engineering and innovative design to invent, make and test medical devices is a niche job today, with just more than 320 positions statewide and about 30 or more openings year. But bioengineering is growing at 10.5 percent annually in Utah, faster than any other field in the more than 600 occupations the state tracks.

Even five years ago, some biomedical grads had to settle for jobs as lab technicians. These days, health care-technology companies such as Bard Medical, Becton Dickinson and Abbott Laboratories are snapping them up.

"We don't have a single undergraduate student who wants a job in that industry that doesn't get a job," said Patrick A. Tresco, professor and chairman of the University of Utah's Department of Bioengineering. "I don't hear a single sob story."

Median wage for biomedical engineers: $36 an hour or $74,880 a year. Educational requirements: Usually a bachelor's degree.

The field pops to the top of Utah job outlook data through the end of the decade, compiled by economists at the state Department of Workforce Services in large part to help job seekers and student shape their strategies for landing employment.

The list is full of good options, especially going forward.

''In some categories if people were to look today, they might not see all that many jobs,'' said Carrie Mayne, chief economist for the Department of Workforce Services. ''But long run, we think those jobs are going to grow.''

When looking through Utah's job growth numbers — available under the Labor Market button on the homepage at http://jobs.utah.gov — keep another point in mind, especially if you're a student: Reams of data make clear that your level of education will directly shape what you can earn over a lifetime of work.

Median earnings for Utahns older than 25 are about $21,220 yearly for those who don't graduate from high school. Earnings bumps up to $26,724 with a diploma, $30,658 with some college training, $41,156 with a bachelor's degree and $62,085 per year or higher if you earn a graduate or professional degree.

You can also sift through occupations based on your timeline. In other words, are you looking for a job right now or a long-term career?

Data show the largest segments of Utah employment nowadays are in office support positions and retail sales. Between them, those occupations make up a little more than one of every four of the state's 1.2 million jobs.

Combined office and sales positions pay a median wage of about twice the U.S. minimum hourly rate of $7.25 an hour and about even with the state's overall median wage of $15.40 an hour.

The largest numbers of annual openings in Utah are for retail sales workers, cashiers and customer service representatives. Thousands of these jobs need filling yearly, especially now that Utah's economy is easing out of the recent downturn and unemployment rates fall.

Entry-level sales jobs typically earn around $13 an hour in Utah, state numbers show. And the positions usually require at least a high school degree. The pace of hiring in those occupations picks up this time of year, as retailers add staff for the holiday shopping season.

Winter also brings an uptick in hiring at Utah's ski resorts, part of a strong tourism sector that sees similar cycles other times of the year as well.

On the downside, sales and tourism jobs are buffeted by longer economic cycles, so if you're interested in a steadier job, health care and education might be for you.

Many of the fastest-growing job sectors in Utah are in health care these days, particularly health support positions: personal care aides, home health workers and medical secretaries. This follows a larger societal trend as like-aged people known as Baby Boomers grow older and require more medical care.

Teaching is Utah's fourth largest profession at about 80,440 jobs today, and its growth prospects are about in the middle of all state occupations.

Like retail and tourism, construction work also can be vulnerable to economic ups and downs, and the field was hit hard by what has become known as the Great Recession. But home building and commercial projects are bouncing back now around the state, as housing starts are swinging upward in areas that even a few years ago saw large numbers of foreclosures.

Data show some Utah construction jobs are especially hot right now, particularly specialty trades such as bricklayers, carpenters and iron workers.

"When construction is good, it's really good," said Mayne. "But when it's bad, it can be really tight and hard to find a job."

A more extreme example of cyclical hiring is underway in Utah's Uintah Basin, where oil and gas production is seeing a hiring surge. Across Eastern Utah, number of jobs for oil field maintenance workers — known in the industry as roustabouts — as well as derrick, rotary drill and service unit operators, are all expected to grow rapidly through 2020.

If you're focused on solid job potential long term, all indications are that the future is centered on technology, especially as Utah's own silicon corridor of high-tech employers fills out in southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County.

Zeroing in on the Salt Lake City region, jobs in the computer and mathematical sectors are a great employment prospect. As a whole, positions for software developers, programmers, network and systems administrators, and information security analysts are all growing well above the state average. Those jobs pay well, too, with virtually all of them well above $30 an hour.

The same careers are expanding in Utah County. But notably, business and financial-operations jobs also are on the rise in the Provo-Orem area, especially positions for cost estimates, market-research analysts, training and development specialists and event planners.

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad —

Utah Employment Resources

http://utahfutures.org

A centerpiece of Utah's "workforce alignment" efforts, this site embodies a decadelong effort by state labor experts, economic-development officials, higher education and the private sector to harmonize efforts to create high-skilled, well-paying jobs in the state and train people to fill them.

Use the site to create a résumé, search jobs, find your occupation matches, learn about job options and find training and education in Utah — all with the latest state-specific information.

http://jobs.utah.gov

Operated by the state Department of Workforce Services, this is a similarly powerful site for finding jobs across Utah and assessing the viability of future careers.

It has in-depth and useful tools for job seekers at all levels, employers, lets you look through extensive data offerings on wages and income, and provides links for applying for a range of temporary assistance, including unemployment benefits and food stamps. —

Other top job sites

http://careerbuilder.com • With an especially large database of job listings, this site also makes good use of standard features, such as resume posting, job alerts, advice articles and schedules for job fairs.

http://monster.com • Among the oldest job search engines on the Web, this page still adds punch to your quest, although some claim it hasn't kept up with newcomers that offer more sophisticated search filtering options.

http://indeed.com • Easy to use, has cool functions letting you search across other job sites and set up job alerts via email by location, keyword and salary.

http://USA.gov • This grandmother of US government jobs sites is especially rich in openings for teachers.

http://dice.com • A search engine just for tech jobs, including some rarified niches in technology you don't see on other sites.

http://linkedin.com • Though known primarily as a professional networking site, it also has impressive job-finding functions and webinar training events tailored to your occupation for building skills.