Erin Doyle’s quest for a full-time job with benefits sent her first to North Jersey, then to South Korea, and finally to where she is today -- a graduate student in speech language pathology at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

“I was teaching in Hackensack full time, but as a temp, because they didn’t want to hire full time with benefits,” said Doyle, 28. “I got headhunted to teach public school in Korea, and they offered benefits and job security.”

Doyle, who has an undergraduate degree in history, wanted to be back in the U.S., however, and working in a career she enjoyed and with good prospects, even in a weak job market.

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“I was out there, looking for work, and it was just so tough,” she said.

For Doyle, speech language pathology fits the bill of an in-demand job — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment to grow 23 percent from 2010 to 2020.

The recession and lingering economic downturn has made finding or keeping employment in many careers difficult, but there are occupations at varying education levels and income expectations that are seen as in demand. Through 2020, these positions are expected to grow more than the average of 14 percent for all occupations.

Some include:

  • Physical therapists, where employment is expected to grow nearly 40 percent by 2020, as baby boomers seek assistance to continue their active lifestyles, according to the BLS. Median salary: $66,920.
  • Brickmasons, blockmasons and stonemasons, which may see a 40 percent increase as the physically strenuous jobs will be needed to build schools, hospitals and apartments for a growing population. Median salary: about $45,000.
  • Speech language pathologists, who can assist children with speech disorders and the elderly suffering hearing loss or stroke-related language problems. Median salary: $66,920.

At 50, Eileen Bianco, of Galloway Township, is one year into her new career as a medical assistant at AtlantiCare Physician Group Cardiology in Egg Harbor Township.

A graduate of a nine-month training program at Atlantic Cape Community College, Bianco entered a field with solid job prospects. The BLS expects medical assistant jobs to increase 31 percent by 2020, much faster than average.

“I didn’t have three years to put aside to be a nurse and I wanted to be in the field,” she said.

“A lot of people would be intimated at my age to think they’ll get a job. It was all my talent and my skill. I got the first job I applied for,” she said.

Amy Hadley, an associate professor at Stockton and program director for the communications disorders program, highlighted careers in health care as being particularly in demand.

The college offered a new undergraduate program a year ago for a bachelor of science degree in health sciences, designed to offer more options in the health field.

“There’s been a spike in interest in the health-care careers because consumers seem to know that’s where jobs are now. The BLS predicts jobs to be in that sector in the future as well,” Hadley said. “With our undergraduate degree, rather than have students come in as freshmen to say I want to train to be nurse or physical therapist, we train them in the whole field of health care — make them realize that by the time they graduate there might be new opportunities that didn’t exist when they were freshmen.”

The program had 300 students last year and more than 600 this year, she said.

“Unfortunately, people are always going to get sick. We know that health-care jobs are part of the future. Other factors are we have an aging generation coming up, the baby boomers are aging and with age comes increased health concerns,” she said.

The economy is playing no small role in the decisions of students now in what they study, from nursing and medical-related fields to occupational and physical therapy.

“When the recession came, students focused more on careers that were more stable, and certainly health care is one of those,” Hadley said.

Some jobs are geared toward local markets.

Vicki Simek, executive director of work force and community education at Cumberland County College, said advanced manufacturing jobs have been in demand in Cumberland County _ entry-level jobs that can pay $14 to $18 an hour.

This startles some people in Cumberland County, whose once-robust manufacturing base eroded over the years and took thousands of jobs with it. But Simek said these jobs in pharmaceutical glass and processed food manufacturing differ from those in traditional, old school manufacturing.

“The skills my grandfather needed to work in a factory are not the same skills people need today,” Simek said.

Cumberland County College started an advanced manufacturing certified production technician program last year, which Simek said teaches a 150-hour curriculum that includes reading blueprints and understanding control charts.

“They come into the classroom and challenge me and say, ‘Are there really jobs out there?’ and ‘I already got laid off by them.’ And I said, ‘You didn’t have the skills they need to do the job.’

“Some people — in at least two cases — went back to the company where they had previously worked and got employed. It’s all about skills and keeping skills current,” she said.

Some jobs that do not show up as particularly technical in the Bureau of Labor Statistics expectations can still offer solid job prospects. For cooks, for example, 8 percent job growth is projected through 2020.

Chef Kelly McClay, dean of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College, said there is demand in the food industry.

The program has 290 full-time students.

Jobs can be outside the traditional scope, from research and development with processed food manufacturers to chocolate makers, she said.

“The placement for students completing the program is 100 percent. If they want to go to work, there is absolutely a job for them,” she said.

Entry-level positions in hot and cold foods or bake shops can pay $12 an hour, but industry experience and growth into other areas and management can lead to higher salaries, she said.

Turnover in entry-level jobs can be high.

“In this business, it’s pretty commonplace to change jobs quite a few times in the first five to eight years,” she said. “If you take an entry-level position in a restaurant without a lot of room for advancement, you can start to feel like you need more of a challenge and move on to something else.”

In light of the economy, some culinary students with entrepreneurial aspirations may have shifted their focuses, but not their desires.

“I don’t think the students changed their plans because of what happened with the economy. I think if they wanted to have their own restaurants, maybe they are looking more for a pub or tavern environment where the average check might be $25 to $30 a head, where the higher end restaurants might average $60. It certainly didn’t’ change their desire to be in the food business,” she said.

Opportunities are not just cooking in restaurants.

McClay said niches have grown in consulting menu redesigns, organizing kitchens and service assistance. And more assisted living facilities have been competing for quality chefs.

Back at Stockton, the graduate students in the communications disorders program were in a field with high demand, but also one where getting into a graduate program is competitive.

Melanie Baig, 26, of Ship Bottom, said she knew she wanted to do something in health care that also involved education, but worried about prospects of finding a teaching job. She studied a career where she says she can be involved in both while benefiting from high demand for workers.

“Once you’re done (school), you are so needed,” she said. “I’ve had so many job offers already.”

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