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CAREERS

The Hottest Jobs In Massachusetts

How sweet it is to be a worker in demand - with your choice of openings and little fear of layoffs.

ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR

* SALARY RANGE $39,890-$88,610

* US EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS 1,176,000 in 2004, projected to be 1,440,000 in 2014

* EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE bachelor's degree; those with master's degree or who obtain certification (like a certified public accountant) or a license have the best opportunities

One good thing came from the recent pileup of corporate corruption and fraud: more jobs for bookkeepers who keep clean books. "In the wake of the financial scandals at Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and other large, publicly held companies, the demand for transparency about financial information - and, in fact, the demand for much greater financial information - has really been stepped up," says John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm that tracks workplace trends. Accountants and auditors, who are expected to see nationwide job growth of 22 percent by 2014, typically prepare and analyze financial documents and are employed by nearly all firms and organizations to help ensure they run efficiently. Further driving the need for these workers is an increase in the number of businesses across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and enactment of a 2002 federal anti-fraud law known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. "With Sarbanes-Oxley's passage," Challenger explains, "companies are really building out their financial reporting departments."

One kind of bean counter is generating buzz among job seekers. Forensic accountants like Kelly Webber, who lives north of Boston and works in the FBI's Boston office, use accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to uncover white-collar crimes, such as embezzlement and securities fraud, and assist in counterterrorism investigations. A former FDIC bank examiner who has a master's in business administration, Webber, 39, says helping crack financial crimes - sometimes testifying before a grand jury or at trial - gives her great personal satisfaction. "It's a very fulfilling career if you want to be part of the investigative team but you don't really want to carry a gun."

COMPUTER SOFTWARE ENGINEER

* SALARY RANGE $59,130-$113,830 (applications), $63,150-$118,350 (systems)

* US EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS 460,000 in 2004, projected to be 682,000 in 2014 (applications); 340,000 in 2004, projected to be 486,000 in 2014 (systems)

* EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE bachelor's degree; graduate degree preferred for more complex jobs

Jobs for which you need to speak geek - that is, computer software engineering positions - are projected to be among the fastest-growing occupations through 2014. "Software engineers have gotten a bad rep in terms of being holed up in dark rooms to sit down and develop code, but that's not necessarily true," says 32-year-old Vaishali Kamat of Arlington, a software engineer who writes systems software for medical devices. "Seeing that the code I developed will have a direct impact on a device or a system that will help somebody keeps me in this line of work."

Job growth for computer applications software engineers, who assess users' needs and then design, construct, and maintain computer programs using various programming languages such as C, C++, and Java, is projected to jump by almost 50 percent. Computer systems software engineers, who construct and maintain systems for companies - for example, they might develop programs that do inventory or payroll - should see 43 percent employment growth. "Every year, companies invest in new technology that offers new ways of enhancing productivity and cutting cuts, and they need computer engineers to put those systems in place, manage them, and train employees to use them," says John Challenger of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Kamat's employer, Cambridge Consultants, a technology and product development firm with offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Cambridge, Britain, plans to expand its US workforce from about 25 to about 100 over the next five years and hire several computer software engineers, most of them in systems. "We've actually found we need to invest in the recruitment process," says chief technologist Michael Dunkley, "and we take that very seriously."

INTERPRETER AND TRANSLATOR

* SALARY RANGE $25,800-$57,100

* US EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS 31,000 in 2004, projected to be 37,000 in 2014

* EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE long-term on-the-job training, though some have bachelor's and even master's degrees

Stephen Sanford grew up in Rio de Janeiro speaking both English and Portuguese, but he says being bilingual doesn't necessarily translate into a career as an interpreter. "You need to be able to be interested in what people are saying - even when it's deathly boring," explains the 44-year-old Newton resident, a staff interpreter for the Massachusetts Trial Court system who also speaks Cape Verdean Creole. "You need to have a good memory. You need to be able to organize yourself when you're speaking. You need to be able to handle stress."

The expansion of global trade and off shore jobs, US military intelligence gathering, and the continuing influx of non-English speakers to Massachusetts and the United States - not to mention the arrival of Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who uses the services of a Japanese-English interpreter - are behind the expected 19 percent increase in job growth for interpreters and translators by 2014. "We're always recruiting new linguists," says Scott Crystal, the multilingual vice president of American Translation Partners in Raynham, which provides services in dozens of languages to legal, medical, insurance, and other industries. "Folks that are really skilled in the profession are hard to find." Crystal has a good number of Spanishspeaking linguists but says he desperately needs workers who speak subcontinent Asian languages such as Khmer, Indonesian, Lao, and Vietnamese. Meanwhile, the US military and defense contractors are on the hunt for Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu interpreters.

Interpreters convert one spoken language into another (or spoken communication into signed), while translators convert written text. Those working full time with the most sought-after skills - such as Arabic-English simultaneous conference interpreters - can earn more than $100,000 a year.

Interpreters, Sanford notes, don't translate speech literally but make on-the-spot decisions about which words to use and how to translate a word within a specific context. "If you're up on the witness stand and somebody's speaking in a hesitant way, you have to convey that hesitancy," he says. "It's important to preserve what we call the 'register.' So, if they're using very low-register language, you don't want to interpret as if they were a PhD."

REGISTERED NURSE

* SALARY RANGE $43,370-$74,760

* US EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS 2,394,000 in 2004, projected to be 3,096,000 in 2014

* EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE associate's degree; those with a bachelor's are more in demand; training needed to specialize in areas like oncology

John Brower's mother and father both died of lung cancer, five years apart, and caring for them led to the 54-year-old's career switch, from project manager at a plastic-injection molding company to registered nurse. "I love making a difference in peoples' lives. I love helping people," says the Richmond resident, who became an RN last year and works in the orthopedic unit at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. "There's personal satisfaction for me that people can come into the hospital and feel better because I was there."

A top job for mid-career changers as well as newly minted grads, registered nurses are projected to see 29 percent employment growth by 2014. A critical shortage of RNs - three out of five of whom care for patients in hospitals - is symptomatic of an aging US population and an equally aging, retirement-depleted nursing workforce. "The demand for nurses is going up rapidly, but the supply is not keeping up," says Arthur Milano, vice president of human resources at Berkshire Health Systems in Pittsfield, which owns Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington. "The situation is very serious. If left unattended, it would be almost catastrophic in another 20 years."

In June, the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board and its partners received a $500,000 grant for a project aimed at recruiting new registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing aides to area hospitals and improving the skills of existing staff . It was one of 20 grants totaling $10 million funded through Massachusetts's new Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, aimed at helping various industries meet worker shortages by expanding training opportunities.

Experts say a registered nurse is one of the best-paying occupations for those with an associate's degree; those with at least a bachelor's degree are heavily recruited to become nursing program instructors in an effort to end the career hemorrhaging. "You get paid well - very well, nowadays - and you'll never be looking for a job for more than a day," Milano tells prospective RNs. "People will be begging you to come to work for them."

WHOLESALE AND MANUFACTURING SALES REPRESENTATIVE

* SALARY RANGE $32,640-$92,740, but $41,660-$114,540 for those selling technical and scientific products exclusively

* US EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS 1,454,000 in 2004, projected to be 1,641,000 in 2014; for sellers of technical and scientific products: 397,000 in 2004, projected to be 454,000 in 2014

* EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE moderate on-the-job training, but employers increasingly prefer or require a bachelor's degree, and many companies send their sales reps to formal training programs

Sales reps who make selling look easy aren't a dime a dozen, but Bill Andrews, chief executive of ExaGrid Systems in Westborough, says he'd hire a dozen or more this year, if only he could find them. He says he looks for a person with the right "DNA," not an MBA. Andrews advises: "Down low, if they're not a hard-working, competitive, creative, and persistent, determined person, they shouldn't go into sales."

A growing economy means more goods to sell, and that, coupled with a sales workforce beset by retirements and high turnover, will cause the demand for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives to climb in the coming years. Information technology companies like ExaGrid, which makes a disk-based computer backup system for small and mid-size companies, are especially hard pressed for sales workers. "In tight times, companies tend to leave some of their sales positions fallow; in times of growth, they add new people to propel that growth," says John Challenger of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Earnings are typically based on a combination of base salary and commissions (and sometimes bonuses). Andrews says top field sales reps at ExaGrid can make $400,000 a year.

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