The Best Jobs of 2012

The year's hottest jobs are hiring in droves, paying well, and providing room to grow.

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[See our list of the Best Technology Jobs.]

8. Physical Therapist

Salary Range: $53,620-$107,920

This is another healthcare job that requires a minimum of a master's degree to begin practicing. And with good reason, since physical therapists often see patients overcoming adversity: Injured athletes, amputees, and stroke victims might all find themselves working with these professionals to rebuild their range of motion, coordination, and muscle strength. This profession graces our top 10 not only because of its comfortable salary and good job prospects, but because it's also one of the faster-growing occupations of the next decade. There should be a nearly 40-percent increase in available positions by 2020.

7. Computer Systems Analyst

Salary Range: $48,360-$119,070

Think of this occupation as a very technically oriented project manager. Computer systems analysts determine the technological needs of their clients and then help configure a system to fulfill those needs. They often serve as a liaison between the client and another occupation on our top 10, software developers, when compiling a rundown of necessary hardware specifications. Similar to other information technology professions, computer systems analysts should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. David P. Bieg, chief operating officer for the International Institute for Business Analysis, also recommends that analysts-to-be spend time learning business systems analysis.

6. Web Developer

Salary Range: $43,190-$119,940

Web developers use their knowledge of applications and HTML code and couple that with an understanding of Web users' preferred browsing experience to create visually appealing, intuitive, and organized Web content. A bachelor's degree in a computer-related concentration is usually the first requirement to land one of the 65,700 expected jobs in this profession, but you could also study to receive certifications that designate your level of expertise. And there are a few other good qualities Web developers should have that can't be learned: patience, imagination, and versatility.

5. Database Administrator

Salary Range: $41,570-$115,660

Does anyone even use file cabinets anymore? Much of today's storage lives on a datachip, and competent database administrators (DBAs) are needed to build and maintain the systems used to house that information. Challenger explains why now is prime time to enter into this IT job: "The educational system hasn't caught up with the demand for technology skills. ... The education and preparation people need to qualify for science and technology jobs is extensive enough and requires so much that the population has yet to fully recognize the requirements to do the job." DBAs should earn a bachelor's degree in computer science or management information systems, and might want to pursue a master's in business administration. You should also obtain certification for as many database platforms as possible, so that your skills are transferable from one company to the next.

4. Medical Assistant

Salary Range: $20,810-$40,190

The Labor Department reports that there is no formal training required to become a medical assistant. But if you want to distinguish yourself from the more than 160,000 persons looking to enter this profession, then training is preferred. Some vocational high schools and colleges offer medical assisting programs. And professional associations like the American Association of Medical Assistants offer certification credentials. It’s also possible for a medical assistant to receive certification in particular specialties, such as podiatry or optometry.

3. Pharmacist

Salary Range: $82,090-$138,620

There are some obvious perks to this profession. The compensation is one—pharmacists earn one of the highest average salaries of all of our Best Jobs—and excellent job prospects is another. But these literal pill pushers also undergo years of study, several examinations, and a postgraduate residency before donning their white coats. And like many healthcare practitioners, pharmacists frequently work evening shifts, weekends, and some holidays. Place yourself ahead of the competition during your job hunt by trying to secure internships early in your education. Also consider taking a few business courses if your program doesn't already include them in the curriculum, since many pharmacists work within retail facilities.