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15 most rewarding jobs of 2013

Posting in Cities

Given a choice, would you rather be a newspaper reporter or an actuary? One is the best job to have, the other is the worst.

Photo credit: US Department of Commerce, US Bureau of the Census

Those are the findings of CareerCast's Kyle Kensing, who recently compiled the firm's annual list of the 200 best and worst jobs of the year.

While the CareerCast lists provide great guidance to those seeking to redirect or charge-up their careers, I want to plug in my own observations for the top five jobs of the year, based on their proximity to some of the most exciting trends shaping today's business landscape.

My nominees are:

1. Entrepreneur. With the availability of cheap, or sometimes even free, technology services through cloud and mobile, there are unlimited opportunities to start new business ventures with relatively low startup capital. And it doesn't matter if you're part of a new venture or within the division of a mega-corporation -- everyone is looking for the entrepreneurial spirit to lift the economy.

2. Data scientist/data analyst. Named the "sexiest job of the 21st Century," and in hot demand everywhere.

3. College professor. Usually an intellectually rewarding job, but now there's a new twist. With the rise of massive open online courses, as well as more traditional online courses,  higher education is going through a revolutionary disruption. This is an opportunity for educators to adopt new ways to reach students across the globe.

4. Urban planner. These are exciting times for the profession, as cities are evolving to encompass greater senses of community, as well as greener, more sustainable lifestyles and forms of transportation. Data has also become a valuable tool for planning new communities. Needed are visionaries willing to look at cities in a new way. Even suburban towns are looking for individuals who can inject a sense of community and place into bland tracts of strip malls and cookie-cutter housing.

5. Science fiction author. Where else can you make a living thinking well beyond the boundaries of space and time? And did you know that agencies such as the U.S. Defense Department and NASA often confer with science fiction authors to gain a better vision in their own work?

And here are CareerCast's nominations for the 10 best jobs of the year:

1. Actuary: Perhaps this is a close sibling to the data scientist, mentioned above in my own list. Actuarial science is ideal for those who love statistics. Average salary: $87,650. Projected job growth: 27%.

2. Biomedical engineer: Will play a key role in advancing healthcare technology. Average salary: $81,540. Projected job growth: 62%.

3. Software engineer: Building the 21st-century business. Average salary: $90,530. Projected job growth: 30%.

4. Audiologist: Will be in high demand with an aging population. Skills required: medical. Average salary: $66,660. Projected job growth: 37%.

5. Financial planner: Will shepherd the Baby Boomers through their retirement years. Average salary: $64,750. Projected job growth: 32%.

6. Dental hygienist: Big advantage -- flexible work schedules in pleasant family-like work environments. Average salary: $68,250. Projected job growth: 38%.

7. Occupational therapist: Helping people get back on their feet. Average salary: $72,320. Projected job growth: 33%.

8. Optometrist: Another occupation serving the Baby Boomers, "who all expect 20/20 vision." Average salary: $94,990. Projected job growth: 33%.

9. Physical therapist: Also sees rewards in helping people get back on their feet. Average salary: $76,310. Projected job growth: 39%.

10. Computer systems analyst: Keeping IT -- and therefore all businesses -- up and running. Average salary: $77,740. Projected job growth: 22%.

CareerCast also came up with a list of the least rewarding jobs of the year: Topping this particular list is the job of newspaper reporter -- an occupation punctuated by low wages, high stress, constant deadlines, and declining demand... what's not to like?

— By on July 22, 2013, 3:08 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure