The job market in Southern California is rebounding with a number of in-demand career choices across several growing industries. Whether it's saving lives, designing clothing or teaching abroad, we round up different programs and degrees to help you land your dream job.
During the next few years, industries like healthcare, technology, design and education will have the most economic growth, according to Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"The best-paying jobs of 2013 or 2014 almost undoubtedly will require more skills, more technical training and more education than many jobs lost during the recession," he said. "An individual can definitely hedge his or her bets by building marketable skills through vocational training or additional schooling in the industries that are adding jobs."
The healthcare industry is the fastest-growing sector in the state and nation and is expected to add 5.6 million jobs to the U.S. economy by 2012, including 535,870 in California. Jobs in this industry will expand by 27% (compared with 17% in other sectors) between 2010 and 2020, and employ 10% of California's workforce, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce report.
Although need for support positions like EKG techs and clinical medical assistants will grow, 82% of the positions created — from nurse practitioners to physicians' assistants — will require advanced degrees.
"The pay gap is enormous," said lead report author Anthony P. Carnevale. "The average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker."
Regardless of whether you go for a certificate or master's degree, the College of Continuing and Professional Education at Cal State Long Beach offers a flexible class schedule for working professionals considering a healthcare career.
If you're more inclined to stitch fabric, consider a career in fashion design. It is one of 19 different majors at the Academy of Art University, which offers associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs that prepare students for careers in everything from fashion to graphic and visual design.
"Our education approach is to require the students to engage in active, direct, hands-on learning that results in the creation of actual work — whether it is a web-based graphic design, a sculpture or the latest in fashion," said Sue Rowley, executive vice president of educational services. "Students are always obtaining real-world experience. For instance, last semester, one of our classes did a collaboration with NASA that involved students creating a user interface for astronauts."
Fashion is the county's fifth-largest industry, employing 68,500 people, according to a report commissioned by the Los Angeles Economic Development Committee.
The industry grew nearly 6% from 2010 to 2011 — in part because regional schools like the Academy of Art churn out high-quality independent local designers who, in turn, manufacture their products locally. About 85% of Southern California's apparel manufacturers are based out of L.A., according to the report.
Teaching is another in-demand field and also offers opportunities for free schooling. The Assumption Program of Loans for Education forgives student loan debt in exchange for four years service teaching in a low-performing California public school after graduation.
The field can also cater to those with wanderlust, offering a number of teaching opportunities overseas. It's something Elizabeth Norton LeBoo, 39, has been doing for a decade. Currently based in Indonesia, she and her husband, Steve, teach English at the Jakarta International prep school where students hail from more than 60 different countries.
"If you want to get paid to live abroad this is a great way to do it," LeBoo said. "Salary and benefits vary between regions, but we are able to save as well as travel quite a bit. We went to Phuket [Thailand] over Christmas and back to the U.S. to visit family this summer."
Whether you stay local or go overseas, to get into education you'll need at least a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree, although a master's, like LeBoo holds, makes candidates more desirable. Most international schools also require two years of teaching experience.
California State University Northridge offers master's and bachelor's degrees through its Michael D. Eisner College of Education — as well as degrees to set you on a professorship track.