GSR CEO Mike McDonough is featured in: “The 12 most in-demand jobs in Chicago for 2015”
By STEVE HENDERSHOT, Crain’s Chicago Business
Whether you’re officially in the market or just curious, here’s where demand is heating up and how much bosses are willing to pay.
By now, you’ve probably read that Chicago’s economy is poised to catch up with the rest of the nation this year. Unemployment has fallen sharply to below 6 percent from 8.4 percent, and hiring is accelerating in sectors considered bellwethers of the local economy, such as professional services.
The picture is even brighter when you look at national trends. After adding about 3 million U.S. jobs last year, employers are picking up the pace: 36 percent plan to add full-time workers this year, according to a survey by Chicago-based CareerBuilder.com, the best outlook since before the recession.
“The tide is rising,” says Jim Kolar, managing director of professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Chicago office. He sees hiring across industries, though still focused on “specialized, circumstantial needs.”
Some sectors are recovering faster than others. Here’s a look at a few poised for rapid growth and 12 trending jobs where demand should be strongest, ranked from lowest median salary to highest.
Computer and information research scientist $102,190
THE GIG: Make sense of the tidal wave of information collected by big-data applications and turn that data into meaningful, useful insights.
RÉSUMÉ: A doctorate in data science or mathematics
WHY: Big data professionals—data scientists and others skilled at culling meaning from the information generated and collected as part of the Internet of Things—are still in high demand. However, the market has cooled a bit from 2013, when employers’ frantic approach resembled the current hunt for cybersecurity experts. Now companies are looking for candidates fluent in a particular software framework, such as Apache Hadoop. “The temperature has not turned down on big data, but we’re starting to see it hone in,” says Mike Durney, CEO of jobs siteDice.com.
*Based on Crain’s reporting.
Note: 2012 median salary information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is the latest data available.
THE GIG: Use statistical modeling to determine insurance-related risks and probabilities.
RÉSUMÉ: A bachelor’s degree and a passion for statistics
WHY: Besides underwriters, other insurance specialists such as actuaries also are in demand. Insurers are eager to add entry-level talent, partly to begin grooming future executives. It’s rare for execs to make the jump to insurance from other industries, and observers worry about a leadership vacuum when the current crop of execs retires.
There’s no short-term solution, but companies are recruiting millennials with the idea that they’ll grow into senior positions. Mike McDonough, CEO of Chicago-based insurance staffing firm General Search & Recruitment, says the competition for talent is so fierce that he expects an increase in mergers-and-acquisitions activity as insurers buy their rivals in order to add talent. “Across the board, (insurers) are looking for people very desperately,” McDonough says.
Software developer $93,350
THE GIG: Build software ranging from cloud-based Web applications to internal systems used to control networks.
RÉSUMÉ: A bachelor’s degree, though it’s most relevant that you’re skilled in hot frameworks such as Apache Hadoop, Python and Rails.
WHY: Technology remains an area of rapid job growth both in Chicago and nationwide.Chicago is the top U.S. city for growth-stage technology companies, according to the Illinois Technology Association, and demand remains strong for app developers and Web developers, which, combined, will account for 25,000 new jobs in the U.S. this year, according toSologig.com, the tech-focused arm of CareerBuilder.
Compensation and benefits manager $92,250
THE GIG: Develop and oversee salary and benefits packages offered to employees.
RÉSUMÉ: A bachelor’s degree and a love of numbers
WHY: Compensation and benefits specialists are in demand, thanks to two trends. The first trend, says executive search firm CEO Ken Daubenspeck, is millennials who are likely to value creative benefits packages over salary. Second is a surge in cross-border placements, which put a premium on specialists who can translate benefits packages of equivalent worth into disparate cultures where perks such as health care or retirement-account contributions may look very different.
Information security analyst $86,170
THE GIG: Known as “infosec analysts,” these hires work to protect companies and their data from hackers. There are two primary types: cyberdefense (keeping hackers out) and forensics (studying and reverse-engineering attacks to figure out who is stealing your data and how).
RÉSUMÉ: If you’ve got the hacking skills, don’t sweat a lack of formal education; there’s a job waiting. At the other end of the spectrum, companies are courting Ph.D. mathematicians to be cyberwarriors.
WHY: Nationally, there will be about 3,500 cybersecurity hires this year, increasing the number of professionals by 4.3 percent—but the talent pool is thin and competition is fierce. “There’s a desperate need” for more information security workers, says Mike Durney, CEO of Urbandale, Iowa-based jobs site Dice.com. “Right now, companies will hire anybody with even a hint of security experience, without any platform specificity.”
Industrial-organizational psychologist $83,580
THE GIG: Foster organizational development and cultivate corporate culture.
RÉSUMÉ: A doctorate in psychology and a knack for applying psychological theory to real-world organizational challenges
WHY: Industrial-organizational psychology is a small field, but the U.S. Department of Labor projects it to be the single fastest-growing field in America between now and 2022, with the number of positions growing by 53 percent over that span.
Physical therapist $79,860
THE GIG: Guide the recovery and adaptation process for injured people.
RÉSUMÉ: Requirements have grown more stringent in the past decade, and a doctorate in physical therapy now is the standard for licensure.
WHY: Few would argue that the sector poised for the most consistent and long-term growth nationwide is health care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this industry will drive U.S. job growth throughout the next decade and account for nearly one-third of all new jobs as baby boomers age and demand surges for such services as in-home care.
Regarding this boomer spike, “everybody knows it’s coming,” says Sean Bisceglia, founder of Chicago-based staffing-software company Scout Exchange. “We’ve been building more clinics and hospitals for 10 years, and now there will be a challenge to bring in enough talent so that the industry can function from a growth standpoint.”
Physical therapy and occupational therapy are two fields that cater to the aging population with rehabilitative programs that help manage pain and maximize mobility. A projection from Miracleworkers.com, CareerBuilder’s health care-focused jobs site, predicts providers will hire about 13,000 physical and occupational therapists this year.
Insurance underwriter $62,870
THE GIG: Evaluate insurance applications to determine whether to grant policies and how much to charge.
RÉSUMÉ: A bachelor’s degree, with a boost for candidates with big-data analytics skills
WHY: In the recovering economy, the insurance industry faces a peculiar challenge: too many open jobs, not enough applicants. Unemployment in the industry is just 3.1 percent, half the national average, and more than half of insurers expect to add staff this year, according to a survey by Chicago-based industry recruitment firm Jacobson Group.
The most in-demand position is commercial underwriter, specifically underwriters with data-analytics skills and the technical knowledge required to work in complex fields. “It’s the people with specialist knowledge who understand niches of the economy and who can evaluate things like energy risks,” says Greg Jacobson, Jacobson Group’s co-CEO.
Mixologist $60,000 (est.)*
THE GIG: Red-hot craft cocktails require haute-cuisine levels of creativity and skill.
RÉSUMÉ: Experience as a bartender and chef, and, likely, culinary school
WHY: What used to be called “bartending” has been rechristened “mixology” as the craft cocktail craze accelerates and as ingredient lists and techniques grow in sophistication. What’s more, the demand for $16 cocktails shows no sign of slowing in Chicago or elsewhere: As the economy improves, so does the fortune of the restaurant and hospitality industry, whose performance is tied closely to discretionary income levels.
Occupational therapy assistant $48,940
THE GIG: Lead patients through exercise and treatment regimens prescribed by an occupational therapist, with the goal of helping aging or injured patients increase the function required for day-to-day activities.
RÉSUMÉ: An associate’s degree
WHY: With physical and occupational therapists in demand, so are their lower-paid assistants.
THE GIG: It’s the chef’s job to serve the latest and greatest, be it kale salads or bacon-wrapped anything. But the hours are grueling and staff turnover high.
RÉSUMÉ: It’s an industry where you’re still allowed to work your way up through the kitchen, but it’s competitive at the top, and culinary school helps.
WHY: Eddie Lou, CEO of Chicago-based hospitality website Shiftgig, says the high-end independent dining segment is on a tear. “There’s a continued increase in the number of four-star independent restaurants, and those types of restaurants need experienced sous chefs as well as a main chef.”
Personal-care aide $19,910
THE GIG: Provide companionship and assistance with everyday tasks for aging and ailing patients in their homes.
RÉSUMÉ: Very little experience or training required.
WHY: Health care dominates the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of fastest-growing occupations, with 12 of the 20 jobs expected to show the most growth in the coming decade. But not all of those jobs are high-paying. Much of the growth in the sector centers on in-home care, mostly low-paying positions such as personal-care aides.