As the holidays wrap up, many are eager to get back to work – especially those who may have been without work for awhile. The bad news is that some sectors will continue to see little growth, and the uncertainty of recent turmoil in the housing, banking and investment markets leave many job categories struggling to produce many new opportunities for workers. Other niches are not only continuing to add workers to the payrolls, they anticipate a boom well into 2012 and beyond.



TUTORIAL: Financial Careers

Here are the top careers you can get into from the ground level, as well as the skills needed to start things right. (For related reading, see Hot, High-Paying Career Sectors.)

Nurses and Skilled Nursing Assistants
We know you're probably tired of hearing how the Baby Boomers will be needing record levels of care as they age, but that's only because it's so relevant to the job market. Unlike some health professions, which may not be able to forecast just how the Obama healthcare legislation will affect supply and demand, a new crop of nurses will likely be necessary regardless of the outcome. According to salary.com, wages for a nurse can range from around $77,000 to $100,000 annually.

While nursing school can take years to accomplish, nursing assistants can see accreditation within months, giving those with small budgets and less time to learn new skills, which can be a viable alternative to the higher-paying registered or licensed nurse practitioner. Nursing homes and home healthcare arrangements will be competing for these workers, sometimes offering hiring bonuses and very attractive benefits packages. Wages vary wildly, and top out at around $30,000 annually.

Home Care Services
In addition to the nursing jobs that much of the aging population will help to create, there are many other in-home services that will be needed to create a culture of care for the elderly. These jobs can include cleaning, meal preparation and transportation services. While many national franchise companies will often offer a full suite of services from a corporate level, private local businesses will be hiring, as well. Skills needed are usually less important than having a clean background check and a desire to help others. (To learn more, read Is Buying A Franchise Wise?)

Sales
While many of the middle management positions across the country have been eliminated during the recession, the sales teams at most companies are generally receiving more pressure to perform – making this position one companies are willing to compensate very well for. If you have a desire to deliver and don't mind the high-stress atmosphere of many of these jobs, you could see your efforts pay off in the form of big bonuses and job security.

The skills needed for a sales job vary; many of them require a heavy volume of cold calls that can seem reminiscent of door-to-door sales. Pharmaceutical, business services, advertising and even vehicle sales are always in need of the best of the best. While degrees may be preferred for the more technical positions, an eagerness to learn and a proven track record can waive this requirement. The salary for a sales person will vary based on sector and performance but generally include some form of a bonus structure.

Laborers
There is good news for those willing to put in 10 hour days (or more) and get their hands very dirty. Manufacturing and construction jobs are continuing to hold steady, giving anyone with a desire to work hard a chance at earning a modest wage. While the focus has shifted away from home construction, plenty of markets are seeing steady growth in some areas of the country. Those that deal in chemicals, specialized parts and even plastics are in need of a few good men and women. The crazier the work schedule, the more you can expect to bring home. (For related reading, see 5 Jobs With Mandatory Overtime.)

The Bottom Line
While the steady jobs for 2012 aren't the sexiest, they are the jobs that will continue to be the backbone of the population. By being ready for these jobs as they open, workers will see less of a wait time between employment opportunities and an overall increase in their earning potential.

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