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There will always be the most important decision of your life to make. Should you pop the question? Are you ready to have a child? Where should you get your degree? The answers to those questions will impact your entire life.

What career should I pursue?

Is it the most important question you’ll ever ask yourself? Who’s to say? Believe it or not, the answer will influence everything, including the other questions above. A lot of us grow up with an inkling of an idea. We change our minds, change them back. We hop and skip through career ideas throughout our teen years and even throughout the years of higher education.

If you’re still on the fence but know it’s time to get off, here are some highly regarded business careers to consider.

Dentist

For ten years, the dental profession has landed on best and highest paying career lists released by the federal government, MoneyWatch, CNN and CNBC. Regardless of region and the varying positions a dental professional can accept, the rewards are plentiful. There are oral pathologists, endodontists, peridontist and pediatrics. The options vary as well. Dental professionals can choose to operate their own practice, work out of an office with other physicians or staff at a hospital or clinic. They find positions at universities, educate or work in the military.

This is a slot for the community conscious. If there’s personal satisfaction in helping others, this is a good choice. There will be flexibility and the comfort at working at your own pace. It’s a growing industry as, regardless of the economy, it will always be needed. It will always need individuals that are adept at the latest technology.

The average salary for an experienced dental professional can go as high as $76.33 an hour. That’s an annual base of $153,770. Depending on location, the per hour start is in the vicinity of $34.32, tipping out at $67.81.

Computer Programmer

Technology is constantly evolving. Once you’ve got a handle on the latest tech, version 2.0.1.034 is released and everyone has it. This profession will never stop expanding. While the geek who never went to school isn’t unusual, degrees and certifications go a long way to instilling confidence. A proper education can lead to positions in manufacturing, engineering, industry, government offices, educational institutions, video games and hospitals, to name a few. Remember, wherever there’s a computer, there’s a programmer.

Resource: Career Profile: Computer Programmer

If you really want to set your feet in these waters, your best bet is a four year degree. It wasn’t too long ago that a two year degree sufficed. These days, advancement can be dependent on how far you get in school. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to stay ahead of the game in language programming.

Studies show computer programmers rank high in job satisfaction, salaries and employment prospects. Depending on education, experience and locations, salaries can range between $40,000 and $115,000.

Financial Analyst

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t need solid financial guidance. Big, large, small, for- and non-profit, government agencies, auto shops, etc., all businesses will at some point have to prepare a budget, look at their tax situation and simply need to know they’re on the right track.

Smart financial analysis and management can make or break a business. It can be crucial to decision makers and beneficial to employees, and the fact is most of us have no idea how to do it. Anyone who can navitage the myriad of columns and digits and translate them to layman terms will always be appreciated.

This career is an excellent fit for people who love numbers, crunching and analyzing. If you’re currently in school, it might be practical to add some courses in finance. You’re better off with degrees in subjects such as Finance, Business Management or Accounting which are more likely to put you on the map.

The median salary for a financial analyst is $85,000.

Resource: Career Profile: Financial Analyst

Meeting Planner

Meeting planner ended up on U.S. News & World Report’s best careers for 2011 because of, among other things, the projected growth. Money Magazine and Salary.com also recognized it as one of America’s best jobs.

It’s an unlikely position for top job but there are a lot of professionals not interested in putting together time lines and business plans. They prefer to focus on the front end, trusting the back end to delegation. Handing the responsibility off to their administrative assistant can often mean speed dialing the meeting planner. They put together the business, educational and leisure events of business trips. They organize the convention and keep track of the dollars going into the resorts and activities.

Resource: Career Profile: Meeting Planner

The Department of Labor sees an almost 20% jump in this area before 2018. While it would seem an educational background wouldn’t be necessary, it’s a fast growing business that’s eventually going to require street cred. A few years ago, you could’ve put in a phone line and said you’re a meeting planner. Now there are agencies that exclusively do this work and nothing else.

Bachelor degrees in meeting planning and hospitality management are actually becoming the norm.

Right now, the average earnings for a meeting planner is a little under $49,000. Expect that to grow with the industry.

Online Advertising Management

The Internet has become the biggest marketing tool in the world. No business can choose to ignore its potential to maximize earnings, CRM, link building, SEO, e-commerce and more. And if you have no idea what any of that is and you have a business, you are definitely in need of online advertising management.

Resource: Career Profile: Advertising Manager

It’s a good fit for those of us that enjoy creating their own work environment. This is a booming industry where all the advancement is totally dependent on how good you are. Use your software skills effectively, develop a strong base of knowledge about using the Internet to grow business and they will find you.

Don’t forget almost 90% of new businesses fail, especially on the Internet. If you can find your niche, expect an average salary closing in on $90,000.

Occupational Therapist

Helping the physically, emotionally or mentally impaired lead normal lives is an incredibly noble endeavor. It’s unfortunate that we need them, but the fact is we do. The service they provide is exhaustive and rewarding, dealing with various diseases and illnesses, cerebral palsy and patients with lost limbs. It’s one of the fastest growing occupations of the decade.

Resource: Career Profile: Occupational Therapist

A master’s degree from an accredited university will be necessary, as well as any other test requirement for licensing. This can vary state to state. It would be a good idea to minor in a focused study such as speech therapy or audiology. You could end up working in hospitals, schools, nursing homes and health services. There might be the possibility of in-home care or working at a veterans’ hospital or administration.

The field is expected to increase 33% over the next 10 years, as will the salary. Right now this specialized therapist is looking at $34.77 per hour, or $72,320 annually.

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