1. Software EngineerWhy it's great Software engineers are needed in virtually every part of the economy, making this one of the fastest-growing job titles in the U.S. Even so, it's not for everybody.
Designing, developing and testing computer programs requires some pretty advanced math skills and creative problem-solving ability. If you've got them, though, you can work and live where you want: Telecommuting is quickly becoming widespread.
The profession skews young -- the up-all-night-coding thing gets tired -- but consulting and management positions aren't hard to come by once you're experienced.
What's cool Cutting-edge projects, like designing a new video game or tweaking that military laser. Extra cash from freelance gigs. Plus, nothing says cool like great prospects.
What's not Jobs at the biggest companies tend to be less creative (think Neo, pre-Matrix). Outsourcing is a worry. Eyestrain and back, hand and wrist problems are common.
Top-paying job Release engineers, who are responsible for the final version of any software product, earn six figures.
Education Bachelor's degree, but moving up the ladder often requires a master's.