15 FAST-TRACK CAREERS The hottest jobs in the next decade will fatten your bank balance and enrich your life.
By Michele Morris Reporter associate: Lauren Sinai

(MONEY Magazine) – Time was when following a career path was like climbing a ladder. Rung by rung, you ascended in a succession of orderly steps, each one with added responsibility, pay, status and, you hoped, satisfaction. No more. Today when you reach for that next rung, it's likely to have been shifted offshore, job-eliminated in a cost-cutting crisis or transformed beyond all recognition by technology. Experts forecast that workers starting out now will switch careers -- that's careers, not jobs -- an average of more than three times during their lives. Fortunately, these job market changes are not all bad. As old professions are swept away, new ones roll in with unique opportunities. The trick is to catch a wave early enough to ride it: to become a desktop publisher, for example, rather than an out-of-work typesetter. To help newcomers to the work force as well as established professionals who are window shopping, MONEY presents this guide to the hottest careers of the 1990s. By ''hottest'' we don't just mean fastest growing, although the 15 profiled here -- and the 10 runners-up listed in the table on page 121 -- are all expanding rapidly. We also mean careers that are relatively lucrative (most reach or approach six figures in salary), challenging and -- why not? -- prestigious. Our selection started with the professions that economists at the U.S. Department of Labor predict will grow the most over the next decade. We then interviewed more than 250 career counselors, manpower experts, executive recruiters, academics and economists, along with presidents of trade associations and publishers of industry newsletters, to come up with our master list of the most promising careers. In whittling down the number, we eliminated professions that seemed more like jobs than careers (our definition: a job is something you do mainly for pay; a career is something you do because you love it and see opportunities for personal as well as financial growth). We then zeroed in on the better- paying possibilities as well as those that offered plenty of room for advancement. To make the final cut, we also relied on insights gleaned from interviews more than 100 people in fast-track professions in 32 cities across the country. Be aware, however: this list is not the final word. Though we have tried to forecast the decade's major employment trends, the future always holds surprises, and some of the most exciting careers of the '90s are still waiting to be invented. Meanwhile, the following choices should be a great route to the fast track.

Chef Average salary: $35,000 Executive chef: Up to $200,000 Training: Associate's degree from two-year culinary arts program or three- year paid apprenticeship

These days there aren't too many cooks in the kitchen. The steady climb in the number of women in the work force over the past two decades has meant a sharp reduction in home-cooked meals and an increasing reliance on restaurant fare. In fact, 45% of all adult Americans now eat at least one meal out on any given day, according to the National Restaurant Association. But the number of folks paid to turn out delectable dishes hasn't kept pace. The American Culinary Federation predicts that there will be 250,000 openings for ''trained culinarians'' this year, though only around 140,000 new chefs will enter the field. Novice cooks with lofty aspirations should head for big restaurant towns such as New York City or Los Angeles, where fat dining tabs tend to equate with higher salaries. In a business in which prestige really counts, insiders also advise taking a job in the best restaurant that will hire you, no matter how lowly the position. ''I'd rather see a student wash greens at Lutece than be the executive chef at a chophouse,'' says Mark Erickson, director of culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. To make it to the top, chefs also need stamina (they're often on the job 12 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week) and almost as much managerial ability as skill in whipping up souffles. Says George Lang, restaurant consultant and owner of New York City's Cafe des Artistes, rated three stars by the New York Times: ''A talented chef with business acumen is the kind that will prosper in the '90s.''

Health-care cost manager Average salary: $75,000 Top executive: $200,000 and up Training: Master's degree in business or public health, plus experience in hospital or HMO administration

With medical expenditures by private industry up 30% over the past three years, putting the brake on runaway health-care costs is a big priority for corporate America. Indeed, companies have devised a whole new position in the corporate hierarchy to handle the task: the health-care cost manager. For example, Michael Meyer, managing director of Witt Associates, a health-care executive search firm in New York City, estimates that about 10% of Fortune 500 companies currently employ someone in this position. By 1995, he predicts, 70% will have such a manager. To slash a firm's medical outlays, the first move of a health-care cost executive is usually to contract with hospitals or physicians to provide treatment at discounts and to devise ways for employees to pick up a greater share of their expenses. As a result, the position requires people who can negotiate effectively with health-care providers and insurers as well as trade unions, which are likely to balk at paying more for coverage. The best executives, however, quickly find more creative ways to keep the lid on expenses. Among their recent innovations: company-owned pharmacies (which fill prescriptions at low cost) and corporate wellness programs (which offer seminars to teach workers how to prevent or cope with health risks). Says Larry Leisure, a consultant with Towers Perrin, a New York City benefits consulting firm: ''The only lasting way to cut health-care costs is to have healthier employees.''

Computer graphics artist Salary after five years: $30,000 to $60,000 Top freelancer: $75,000 to $150,000 Training: B.A. in art or design preferred, plus computer courses

The latest generation of commercial artists is abandoning brushes and paint to work in a new medium: the personal computer. With the introduction of software specifically geared to their needs, the number of artists producing their work electronically has quintupled over the past two years to hit 51,432, according to TypeWorld, a trade journal. Electronic artists use the computer for a variety of jobs, from setting type to creating graphs, charts and color illustrations, most often for magazines, newspapers and other print media. Many are employed by publishers and ad agencies, where the pay ranges from an entry-level $18,000 to $100,000 for department heads. Most artists, however, prefer the freedom and higher income that freelancing brings. After start-up costs of about $10,000 for a computer and printer, they can charge clients from $20 to $75 an hour. A successful freelancer working 40 hours a week can expect to make more than $100,000 a year. Computer graphics artists can draw directly on the computer screen using an electronic pointer (known as a mouse) and keyboard, then print out the image instantaneously with text in place. This eliminates time-consuming steps such as sending the text to a typesetter and drawing a layout (essentially a blueprint that indicates how the type and illustration should be positioned on a page). No matter how sophisticated the tools, however, they can't stand alone. ''One thing the computer won't do is give you artistic talent,'' says Gail Giaimo, 31, president of 3G Graphics, a graphic-design firm in Kirkland, Wash.

Environmental engineer Average salary: $40,000 to $55,000 Top performer: $100,000 and up Training: B.S. in civil, chemical, mechanical or environmental engineering; M.S. in environmental engineering

Earth Day was not just a one-shot deal. Growing public concern over problems ranging from the oil-fouled beaches of Alaska to the polluted air of Eastern Europe is pushing up demand for environmental engineers. But fewer than 2% to 3% of all engineers -- less than 50,000 -- now have the training and experience required for this speciality, says William Anderson, executive director of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. He adds: ''There are 10 openings for every one environmental engineering graduate.'' Environmental engineers usually specialize in what's known as either clean or dirty work. The profession's clean arm typically does preventive work, investigating the potential causes of environmental damage and developing strategies to ward off pollution and other problems. For example, a so-called clean engineer might help to determine where to build a waterfront development so as not to destroy the area's ecosystem. Engineers who engage in dirty work are the heroes who come to the rescue when environmental emergencies arise -- for example, donning protective gear to investigate firsthand why poisonous gas is seeping from underground pipes. Whichever they choose, environmental engineers are expected to clean up financially over the next 10 years as demand for their skills peaks. Meanwhile, dirty work, which some consider the most urgent environmental need, is likely to pay more than clean. Says Eric Flicker, president of Spotts Stevens & McCoy, an engineering consulting firm in Reading, Pa.: ''Guys specializing in hazardous waste -- the real dirty work of this profession -- are already commanding 25% more in salary than other engineers.''

Software developer Average salary: $50,000 to $60,000 Top performer: $100,000 Training: B.S. in applied math, engineering and computer science

Here's a career where a computer hacker can make real bucks -- legally. Software design and engineering is the top growth area in the high-tech field. Last year employment at the top 100 personal-computer software companies shot up 23.5%, notes Jeffrey Tarter, editor of Softletter, a Watertown, Mass. newsletter. And the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment predicts that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created for software professionals by the end of the decade. Software developers devise a plan for a certain computerized system -- say, regulating the various monitors and instruments in an intensive-care unit -- and then create the instructions that tell the computer how to accomplish that task. As more industries and institutions incorporate high technology into their daily operations, the designs and instructions become more complex. Salaries have been rising to reflect the greater skills now required to design software: since 1987, they are up 19%. Salaries also are being inflated by the insufficient numbers of students entering the field. Last year, 10,688 graduates majored in computer science, barely up from 10,422 five years ago, notes Jane Siegel, a member of the technical staff at the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon. She theorizes that students perceive the field is difficult without realizing how lucrative it can be.

International lawyer Average salary for a fifth-year associate: $75,000 to $150,000 Partner: $200,000 and up Training: Law degree, with course work in international law; fluency in foreign languages helpful

Twenty years ago, the term international lawyer was reserved for legal scholars and diplomats who negotiated treaties between countries. Today it's typically applied to lawyers who help companies and individuals put together business and investment deals that transcend national borders as well as litigators who represent clients when such deals unravel. Demand for these attorneys is growing in proportion to changes in the global marketplace -- most notably, the pending economic unification of Western Europe and the collapse of Communism in the Eastern bloc. ''Ten years ago, only the major companies did international business, so only they needed our help,'' says Carol Emory, an international lawyer in Lake Oswego, Ore.''Today small businesses, even mom-and-pop shops, are doing foreign transactions.'' Adds Judith Hancock, head of international law at Shook Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City, Mo.: ''Eventually, every major law firm in the country is going to have to be able to offer international law experience to serve its clients properly.'' Working for a foreign client involves reconciling disparities between legal codes as well as sorting through cultural differences, which puts an interesting spin on routine legal work, practitioners say. Another major perk is lots of travel, sometimes to exotic countries.

Industrial designer Average salary: $55,000 Top performer: $90,000 and up Training: Undergraduate degree in industrial design or architecture

The recent commercial success of such innovatively designed products as the Ford Taurus and Black & Decker's Spacemaker line of home appliances has helped convince corporate America that good design pads the bottom line. A recent Gallup poll showed that 60% of senior management credit industrial design for the success of any given product. Lately these managers have been backing their newfound conviction with both jobs and money. Over the past decade, openings for industrial designers have leaped 40%, while their salaries have doubled. Industrial designers develop all manner of things, from stethoscopes to sleek new cars, from filing cabinets to fishing poles. ''We take the engineering and marketing ideas and transform them into a real product,'' explains Bruce Claxton, a manager of industrial design at Motorola in Fort Lauderdale. The kinds of questions these designers wrestle with: Is the seat too high? Where should the buttons go? Is the steering wheel in the right place? Over the past decade, companies making consumer products -- auto, toy, appliance and computer firms, in particular -- have supplied much of the job growth in this profession. But in the 1990s, firms that sell raw materials are expected to hire many designers in an effort to find new customers. Says Sandor Weisz, director of industrial design at Dictaphone, an electronics manufacturer in Stratford, Conn.: ''It's a lot more effective to show potential customers a finished product than it is to simply rattle off a list of great uses for a particular chemical.''

Physical therapist Average salary for hospital therapist: $30,000 to $42,000 Private practitioner: $100,000 to $120,000 Training: B.S. or M.S. in physical therapy; must pass state licensing exam

Physical therapy is the ultimate hands-on profession -- but the hands are short these days. By the year 2000, the need for therapists will increase 57% to 107,000, estimates the Department of Labor, which dubs the occupation one of the 10 fastest growing of the decade. Fitness buffs and the elderly are two expanding groups helping to fuel demand for therapists. Thirty- and forty-something weekend athletes are beating a path to the clinic door complaining of bursitis, tendinitis, sprains and strains. The elderly are also increasingly seeking treatment to speed recovery from such ailments as strokes and broken hips. The vigorous demand for therapists' services has helped spur a 30% jump in their salaries over the past few years. Another plus: therapists can tailor their jobs to fit their needs by electing to work for themselves. Therapists are indeed choosing to strike out on their own in growing numbers. Says Kenneth Davis, a director of the American Physical Therapy Association: ''Private practice is the fastest-growing area these days.'' Therapists who set up shop and continue to work 40-hour weeks can usually double their salaries within three to four years.

Management consultant Salary after five years: $100,000 to $120,000 Top performer: $250,000 and up Training: M.B.A. preferred, plus two years' experience in corporate research, marketing or management

Last year, management consulting was the top career choice of business school grads. Yet there are still plenty of jobs to go around. Over the past five years, the consulting industry has more than doubled to a $13.5 billion business employing about 80,000 people, according to James Kennedy, the editor of Consultants News, an industry newsletter. And Kennedy projects continuing growth of 20% a year throughout the 1990s, as corporate America searches for strategies to contend with rapidly changing technology and a tough marketplace at home and abroad. Corporations usually call in a consulting firm when they're trying to cope with major changes in their business, such as a dramatic loss of market share, or when they're contemplating a costly first, such as entering a new field. Depending on the project, the consultant might spend weeks or months talking to management, viewing operations and collecting data to come up with a strategy to achieve the corporation's goal. After presenting the plan, it's then on to another company and another problem. Heavy industry used to be the biggest employer of management consultants. Currently, the financial, computer and health-care industries dominate, with high-tech information systems being the area with the greatest growth potential. - Would-be consultants should note that this is a young person's field as well as a young profession. Only one in 10 consultants is a 10-year veteran, and almost three-quarters of consulting firms are less than 20 years old -- although the big names in the business, like McKinsey and Towers Perrin, date back to the 1930s. Drawbacks include long hours (a 60-hour workweek is common) and a frenetic pace that some insiders claim is exciting at first but can quickly lead to burnout. Among consulting's perks: lots of travel in the U.S. and abroad.

Infertility doctor Researcher's median salary: $50,000 Private practitioner: $150,000 to $250,000 Training: M.D. plus a four-year residency in obstetrics-gynecology and a two- to three-year fellowship in reproductive endocrinology

One out of every six married couples of childbearing age in the U.S. (excluding those who have been surgically sterilized) cannot conceive. This stunning statistic, attributable largely to the decision of millions of couples to postpone pregnancy beyond their most fertile years, has created a pressing need for reproductive endocrinologists, or infertility doctors. While some of these specialists work strictly in the lab, researching the causes of infertility and helping to develop treatments, most opt to treat patients directly. Tools of the trade range from standard treatments, such as hormonal therapy and artificial insemination, to more advanced procedures, like in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfers. The training that is necessary to become a reproductive endocrinologist -- more than a decade of intensive work and study following college -- is among the most arduous demanded by any profession. But once the long prelude is finally over, the perks of the profession are considerable. Among them: more regular hours than their medical colleagues (no patients going into labor in the middle of the night). Adds Dr. Joseph Gambone, director of the Fertility Center at the UCLA School of Medicine: ''Infertility practitioners can make as much as 50% more than obstetricians and gynecologists.''

The job also offers the satisfaction of helping some childless couples conceive their dream baby. ''We hold an annual baby party to see the little kids who were once cells in our lab,'' says Dr. Richard Rawlins, who is director of the assisted reproductive technology lab at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. Their guest list is ever expanding. During ^ its six years of operation, the facility has been responsible, as Rawlins puts it, for ''57 on the ground and 34 in gestation.''

Mechanical engineer Average salary: $40,000 to $50,000 Top performer: $80,000 and up Training: Undergraduate or master's degree in mechanical engineering

''Gearing a career to the latest trend can get engineers in trouble,'' says Department of Labor economist Doug Braddock, who points to slumps in the computer and defense industries that are hurting the job outlook for electrical and aerospace engineers. ''But as the general practitioners of the profession, mechanical engineers have the flexibility to move into all sorts of fields as the need arises.'' Given the general shortage of engineers, the need will definitely rise. By 1996, given current enrollment trends in engineering programs, the shortfall is expected to hit 18,000, reports the National Science Foundation. One of the primary functions of the nation's 225,000 mechanical engineers is to design power-producing machines, such as jet engines and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as air-conditioning and drilling equipment. The skills involved can be applied to many industries. Where is the need most urgent now? There's a big drive on in the auto industry for engineers who can develop anti-lock brake systems, says Doug Sharrow, president of Sharrow & Associates, a Detroit recruiting firm. Big oil companies are looking for mechanical engineers to maintain and upgrade pumps and motors in their refineries.

Human-resource manager Middle manager's salary: $40,000 to $70,000 Top executive: $100,000 to $165,000 Training: Liberal arts degree; M.B.A. increasingly common

As the baby-bust generation comes of age, the U.S. is facing its first labor shortage in 20 years. ''Changing demographics are transforming our human resources into scarce resources,'' says Audrey Freedman, an economist with the Conference Board. ''For every 10 jobs, there are eight applicants. Four are women, and three are immigrants.'' Accordingly, one of the biggest challenges facing corporations in the next decade will be to recruit, train and retrain an increasingly diversified staff -- the heart of a human-resource professional's job. These managers also are on the front line of other key workplace issues, such as compensation, flexible-benefits programs and child-care policies. ''Chief financial officers were the kingpins in the 1980s,'' says Jim Moynihan, president of Heery International, an engineering and architectural firm in Atlanta. ''Human- resource executives will reign in the 1990s.'' Salaries offer tangible proof of the increasing respect accorded human- resource experts. In the past decade, total compensation (salaries and bonuses) for top human-resource executives at large companies jumped 75%, from $115,000 in 1979 to just under $200,000 last year.

Special events marketer Average salary: $35,000 to $50,000 Top performer: $150,000 and up Training: Experience in sales, marketing or advertising; M.B.A. helpful

The corporate search for cost-effective ways to reach niche markets and stand apart from the competition has made special events one of the fastest-growing areas in marketing. In just five years, as the number of corporations pinning their names on special events has risen from 1,600 to 3,800, the industry has grown from $850 million to $2.1 billion. That means big demand for the specialists who plan, promote and produce corporate-sponsored sporting events, festivals and cultural extravaganzas. As a rule, special events marketers work for an independent events agency with many corporate clients, for a company such as Anheuser-Busch or AT&T with an in-house events department, or for an advertising agency. Getting ahead requires working your way up from pre-event preparations to directing events. Tasks along the way can include promoting the event with the media, negotiating contracts with technicians and stars, and on-site management. All the celebrities and media attention can make events marketing intoxicating. But there is a flip side to the glamour: a flurry of last-minute preparations for each event often means 18-hour days for a week or two at a stretch. But many thrive on the hectic pace. Says Richard Adler, who manages four tennis events a year for ProServ, an Arlington, Va. sports marketing and management firm: ''The adrenaline rush is unbelievable.''

Operations research analyst Average salary: $45,000 to $55,000 Top performer: $150,000 and up Training: B.S. in math, computer science or engineering; M.S. in operations research or management science

Operations research analyst is more than just a fancy name for an old- fashioned efficiency expert. ''The computer is now the engine that makes this profession go and grow,'' says Carl Harris, chairman of the department of operations research and applied statistics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The computer allows an analyst to process enormous amounts of information about a company's daily activities, then filter the data through mathematical models that help determine the most effective way to allocate human and financial resources, design work space and distribute products or services. For example, the analyst might use the computer to answer questions such as: How many cashiers does a fast-food restaurant need to ensure that no more than three people are waiting on line at any given hour? Or how much should a hotel overbook to guarantee that most of its rooms are occupied most of the time? Operations research specialists have always found jobs in the defense, manufacturing and transportation industries. Much of the future job growth should come from telecommunications and service firms. All told, the Department of Labor projects a 55% rise in the field from 55,000 to 85,000 by the year 2000.

Bankruptcy lawyer Average salary for a fifth-year associate: $75,000 to $150,000 Partner: $200,000 and up Training: Law degree; additional courses in finance strongly suggested

The merger-and-acquisition madness of the '80s has spawned a big business in bankruptcy in the '90s, as companies stagger under the weight of debt that financed megabuck deals. The number of filings has nearly doubled since 1984, and bankruptcies are expected to grow another 30% to around 890,000 in 1992, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The number of cases involving assets of $1 billion or more is mushrooming too. Eleven of the 25 largest industrial bankruptcies ever have been filed since January 1989. Says Christopher Beard, publisher of Turnarounds & Workouts, a Washington, D.C. newsletter tracking distressed companies: ''When you're dealing with that kind of money, you're talking a lot of litigation.'' As a result, commercial bankruptcy law is one of the country's fastest-growing legal specialties. Bankruptcy lawyers need to be as well versed in reading a balance sheet as they are with the legal intricacies of the bankruptcy code. Part of the job involves helping firms on the brink of insolvency to stay out of bankruptcy court by negotiating contracts to restructure debt or sell assets. Once bankruptcy has been declared, these lawyers represent debtors or creditors in court. Both tasks frequently require 50- to 70-hour workweeks. But, points out Andrew DeNatale, partner in the insolvency department at Stroock & Stroock & Levan in New York City: ''Bankruptcy work is one of the legal profession's most lucrative specialties.''

CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: NO CREDIT CAPTION: TEN CAREERS ON THE VERGE While these careers didn't make our top 15, they are surging because of the same social trends described in the accompanying story. Financial planners will earn the most of this bunch, teachers and horticultural professionals the least. Registered nurses can expect the greatest number of job openings.