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Median pay: $84,200 Top pay: $121,000 10-year job growth: 24.6% Total jobs*: 3,426,000
What they do all day?
From the games in a smartphone to the tools that map a genome, software developers write the programs that run our lives. The work runs across all levels of the process -- research, design, writing and testing -- and all the way to the final product.
How to get the job?
Most developers have some sort of degree in computer science, but it's a field that welcomes self-starters with practical experience and the right certifications. Check with local colleges to get going.
What makes it great?
A developer can fly solo as a freelancer or work for a company as part of a team. And with a technology boom that sees no end in sight, firms are having a hard time filling positions.
What's the catch?
Those positions aren't always in the U.S. In the search for talent (and to cut costs), more companies are heading overseas for their development needs. It's also an ever-evolving field that requires a constant keeping up on what's new.
Quality of life ratings:
Benefit to society
Published: October 29, 2012
Notes: All pay data from PayScale.com. Median pay is for an experienced worker (at least five or seven years in the field). Top pay represents the 90th percentile. Job growth is estimated for 2010-20, and based on people working in broader 'job family' from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*Total jobs is estimated number of people working in broader BLS 'job family.'
Sources:PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNNMoney research
It's still a tough job market out there, so when CNNMoney and PayScale.com set out to find America's Best Jobs this year, first and foremost we looked for professions that offer great growth opportunities.