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Surprises among list of fastest-growing jobs

Is your business looking for a special ed teacher, a construction manager or a graphic designer? Chances are, you’ll have a wide selection of candidates to choose from, and most of them will be Mississippi educated.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently released Mississippi’s fastest-growing occupations that require a bachelor’s degree, and there were a few surprises in the list. The number of students choosing to become accountants and systems analysts rose dramatically, said Dr. Pamela Smith of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL).

“When I say dramatically, I mean four times what we had in 1996,” she said.

Degrees in business and science have grown rapidly for both undergraduate and graduate level students in the last five years. Ten years ago, Mississippi State University (MSU) had 20 people majoring in management information systems. Now there are over 100. Another strong gainer was communications careers such as public relations, advertising and marketing. As a whole, these fastest-growing occupations are expected to increase 16% to 67% through 2008 in Mississippi.

Another surprising fact: IHL estimates an amazing 92% of Mississippi high school graduates pick a Mississippi college or university rather than leave the state for higher education. Mississippi keeps more of its students than any other state, said Smith, partly because there are eight universities to choose from that vary widely in size. Students looking for lots of attention can find it at a small university, she said.

More good news is that Mississippi schools offer degrees for every one of the U.S. Department of Labor’s top professions, which will also help keep attendance high at state schools. For example, MSU is known for its engineering programs, the University of Mississippi is home to a prestigious law school, and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is strong in software engineering technology and speech and hearing, among other emphases.

Mississippi also has the strongest community college system in the nation, based on the fact that there are so many — 14 community colleges and one junior college — and people assess them highly, said Smith.

“The state’s community and junior colleges likewise try to stay on the cutting edge of careers,” said Dr. Wayne Stonecypher, the new director of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges. “We continually try to update our programs to meet new demands, but we always remember the importance of historical jobs in trade and technical areas. We’re always trying to move forward.”

Students can also take courses via Mississippi’s Electronic Campus (MS e-Campus), a “one-stop” higher education marketplace for adults. Schools that offer courses and programs on the MS e-Campus are Alcorn State University, Delta State University, JSU, MSU, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, University of Mississippi, University of Mississippi Medical Center and USM. Courses can be taken on-line through Internet-based courses, through the Mississippi Interactive Video Network (MIVN) in site-specific classrooms and correspondence courses. The university that offers the desired degree will be listed as the students home university. For more information, see www.msecampus.org.

The average income of a person with a college degree is $48,000. The average income for a person with a high school diploma is $25,000. The IHL’s latest figures show 17,000 of the state’s 27,000 Mississippi high school seniors, or 66%, go on to college. However, Mississippi still has a long way to go in terms of the percentage of citizens who hold degrees. Making matters worse is the fact that Mississippi is way behind in general funds for education and salaries.

“We’ve been slashed $98.3 million of appropriated dollars for universities in the last three years, and that puts us in a difficult spot,” said Smith.

For more information on the fastest-growing occupations or what Mississippi universities and community colleges offer, see the IHL’s Web site at www.ihl.state.ms.us.

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Russell Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

Fastest-growing Occupations in Mississippi Requiring a Baccalaureate Degree or Higher: 1998 and 2008


Physician Assistants

Engineering Managers


Chemical Engineers

Occupational Therapists

Physical Therapists

Mechanical Engineers

Medical and Health Services Managers

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Computer Engineers

Human Resource Managers

Database Administrators

Construction Managers

Speech-Language Pathologists

and Audiologists

Cost Estimators

Systems Analysts

Advertising, Marketing,

Public Relations and Sales Managers

Biological Scientists

Special Ed Teachers

and others including Math and Science

Archivists, Curators, Museum

Technicians and Conservators

Designers in Commercial Industries

Fashion and Graphics

* due to growth and net replacement

** as of 2000

Source: U.S. Department of Labor and Mississippi’s universities


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