With a declining employment rate and an uncertain economic future, students who have just recently finished high school and Americans who are considering a career change want to know what they should study in order to have a promising career. The Department of Labor publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which forecasts which jobs will see the greatest amount of growth between now and 2018. Using these numbers, we've figured out what areas you should study if you want to create a long-term strategy that will guarantee you a great job down the line. (For related reading, check out Top Job-Search Mistakes For Finance Grads.)

IN PICTURES: Obtaining Credit In A Bad Economy

Sciences and Health Care
One of the industries that experts advise will grow no matter what is the healthcare sector. A huge segment of the population, the baby boomer generation, is aging and will need increased care in the next five to 10 years. The Department of Labor estimates that by 2018, there will be a 21% increase in employment for healthcare practitioners (1.6 million jobs), and a 29% increase in healthcare support roles (1.1 million jobs).

Think about earning a bachelor's or associate's degree in nursing, since experts forecast that there will be 581,500 new jobs open for registered nurses by 2018, and those in the field currently make approximately $62,450 annually. If you'd prefer to learn on-the-job, there will also be a dramatic increase in the need for home health and personal care aides, with a projected need for 460,900 home health aides by 2018, and 375,800 personal and home care aides. People in this field make a smaller salary, however, earning between $19,180 and $20,460 annually.

Business and Administration
Because of stronger regulations in the financial field, there will be an increased need for compliance officers and financial examiners, who will see a 41% increase in their industry by 2018. Financial examiners - the people who make sure that businesses are complying with the laws that govern finance, securities and real estate - make about $70,930, and will need a bachelor's degree in finance.

There is also an increasing need for accountability in business, and so the Department of Labor estimates that there will be a 22% increase in positions for accountants and auditors, with 279,400 jobs opening by 2018. Those in this field also need a bachelor's degree, and earn about $59,430. And with these more senior positions come a growing number of administrative and clerk roles in bookkeeping, accounting and basic office jobs, where you may need some college training but can likely learn the tricks of the trade on-the-job. (Read more on accounting in Accounting Not Just For Nerds Anymore.)

The American population is growing, and because of that, there will be more students who need an education. The Department of Labor reports that by 2018, there will be 244,200 more jobs for elementary school teachers - a 16% increase in that field. Elementary school teachers, who earn about $49,330 annually, need a bachelor's degree in education and potentially more training on top of that depending on what state you live in. Post-secondary teachers will also be in demand in the coming future, with an estimated 256,900 roles opening. Teachers at the university level earn about $58,830, but require that you attain a doctoral degree in the subject you want to teach.

Computer Science
The way we send and receive information has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and the nation will need more people with expertise in data-processing, hosting and streaming services and internet publishing in the future. Software publishing alone is expected to grow by 30% as businesses and individuals demand improved software applications for their daily operations. Those with a knack for computers and technology would be wise to earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, with which you can get one of the 155,800 coming jobs as a network systems and data communications analyst (the people who design and test local and wide area internet networks), earning a salary of about $71,100. There will be also be an estimated 175,100 computer software engineering jobs opening by 2018 according to the report, which will earn you a tidy sum of $85,430 after earning a bachelor's degree.

If you're more of a hands-on learner and you'd prefer to get your employment training at a community college or on-the-job, think about mastering a trade. Construction will see a 19% increase in employment because of a projected increased demand for more commercial buildings and an increase in infrastructure construction, like roads, bridges and tunnels. Construction laborers will see a 20% employment increase, according to the Department of Labor, with 255,900 more jobs opening by 2018. Construction laborers earn a modest $28,520, but many learn by doing, and can avoid school if they want to.

Those who pick up a trade earn more. Carpenters will see a 13% increase in employment, with 165,400 more positions opening in the near future, and make a salary of about $38,940.

The Bottom Line
If you're thinking practically and strategically about your future career, it's worth taking the stats seriously even though they are estimates. The economy has an enormous impact on employment - we can see that right now - but some industries, like health care and education, necessitate employees no matter what. And if you're considering a job in textiles, machine operating, photo processing or as a file clerk, think twice: these are the jobs with the projected fastest decline in employment. (For related reading, take a look at 7 Jobs Companies Are Desperate To Fill.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Ups And Downs Of A Double-Dip Recession.

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