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Where the Jobs Are (and Aren't)

Before applying to grad school, you need to learn about career prospects in your potential field of study. Program faculty, career counselors, prospective employers and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook can all be helpful information sources.

Consider the following look at career prospects in four popular fields: health care management, computer security, English literature and psychology.

Health Care Management: Hiring Now!

"Health care is the only industry that's hiring now," said Don Lavanty, professor of health care management at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. He noted that the new health care legislation will eventually bring millions of additional patients in to the health care reimbursement system. Furthermore, "The demand for people to manage health care outstrips clinical needs," Lavanty said.

The health care industry will require growing numbers of employees to research and interpret procedure codes. "All payment rests upon the coding," Lavanty noted. While coding itself is not the most exciting job and does not require an advanced degree, insurance companies and other health care organizations that hire coders will also need managers of coders. HMOs, clinics and hospitals will also need multidisciplinary managers to help run their imaging centers, clinical labs and respiratory care centers.

Such organizations also offer opportunities for pursuing a management degree while working. Hospitals and other large health care employers often have tuition reimbursement programs and work schedules that allow employees to pursue an advanced degree part time.

Demand for workers with a master's degree in health care management is bound to increase, and Lavanty expects even higher demand for managers with strong background in business combined with health care management. Marymount University's dual MBA/Health Care Management degree recognizes the fact that business decisions in health care management are often driven by broader issues involving economics, marketing and finance.

Computer Security: Secure Career

Computer security specialists plan, coordinate and maintain an organization's information security. They install security software, monitor networks for security breaches, educate others about computer security and respond to cyber attacks. Sometimes they gather data and evidence to be used in prosecuting cyber crime.

The responsibilities of computer security specialists continue to grow as cyber attacks become more and more sophisticated. Not surprisingly, employment opportunities are likely to increase much faster for computer security specialists than workers in most other fields.

Job seekers can enhance their employment opportunities by earning certifications in cyber security offered through product vendors, computer associations and local graduate programs. University of Maryland University College, for example, offers a master's degree in cybersecurity with an option of earning the degree completely online.

According to GetEducated.com, a Website devoted to online schools and degrees, annual earnings average around $75,000 for those in technical roles such as security engineer or Web security manager, while executive positions such as chief information security officer or security manager often command salaries of more than $100,000.

English: Creative Job Hunting

Even the very best students who pursue a graduate degree in literature or English need to recognize the fact that academic jobs are hard to come by. The University of Virginia, known for its strong graduate program in English, says that a rigorous M.A. course of study is often more desirable than a Ph.D. Many of U.Va's English M.A. grads use their training for jobs in secondary school teaching, technology, the public sector, business, publishing or higher education administration.

In a report on the future of graduate education in the United States, the Council of Graduate Schools calls for graduate schools to provide appropriate training, mentoring and information about career opportunities in business, government and the nonprofit sector as alternatives to limited opportunities in academia.

Psychology: Doctorate, Please

BLS reported that employment growth for psychologists will be around 12 percent for the next several years—about the average rate for all occupations. Employment is driven by increased demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics, consulting firms and private companies.

Job prospects are quite limited for those with only a bachelor's degree in psychology. Competition is also keen for most jobs at the master's level, but career prospects are good for those with a master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology.

Competition for admission to doctoral programs in psychology is intense. Career opportunities are greatest for those with a doctoral degree in a subfield of psychology, such as counseling or health—especially if the degree is from a leading university. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge over job applicants without such background.

Growing demand for school psychologists will be driven by rising awareness of how students' mental health and behavioral issues, such as bullying, affect learning. School psychologists are also needed for working with students who have disabilities or special needs, for tackling drug abuse, and for helping students and families deal with personal crises.

Rising healthcare costs associated with smoking, alcoholism and obesity have made prevention and treatment increasingly critical, which boosts demand for clinical psychologists. Growing numbers of clinical and counseling psychologists will also be needed to help people deal with depression, marriage and family problems, job stress, and addiction. Rising numbers of seniors in the population will increase demand for psychologists trained in geropsychology to help people deal with the mental and physical challenges of aging. There is also demand for psychologists to work with returning veterans.

Industrial-organizational psychologists can help to boost worker productivity and retention rates in a wide range of businesses. They can also help companies deal with issues such as workplace diversity and antidiscrimination policies. In addition, companies use psychologists' expertise in survey design, analysis and research to develop tools for marketing evaluation and statistical analysis.

This Special Advertising section was written by Nancy Henderson, a Washington, D.C.- based freelance writer, in conjunction with the advertising department of The Washington Post and did not involve the news and editorial departments of this newspaper.