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Workers offer advice on 10 fastest-growing jobs in Northeast Georgia
Nurse practitioner Missy West consults with Andy McCullers, RN, center, and EMT Nathan Dillard on Friday morning at the Comprehensive Care offices inside The Longstreet Clinic. For new high school graduates considering the careeer of a nurse practitioner, local university programs often have a waiting period of one to two years.

Whether they have decided to continue their education or are going directly into the job market, high school students in the class of 2017 are searching for a career to meet their goals in life.

Here’s a look at the top 10 fastest-growing career fields in the Georgia Mountains region, which includes Hall County and 12 other counties in the northeast corner of Georgia. The growth is calculated over a 10-year period beginning in 2012, according to information provided by the Georgia Department of Labor, Workforce Statistics and Economic Research.

Workers in these fields shared advice with The Times for those considering their field.

Physician assistant

• Jobs in 2012: 250

• Jobs by 2022: 460

• Percent growth: 83.3

• Education required: master’s degree

Nichelle Monroe, who works as a physician assistant with The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, said her job is “an incredible field with a lot of rewards.”

“PA school is very grueling and it’s an intense program” said Monroe, adding the master’s degree program usually lasts about 27-28 months with few breaks.

Monroe said local schools often require 3,000-5,000 hours of experience in the medical field before a student is selected for the program.

“Before you start applying for PA school, you should definitely try to work alongside of or shadow other physician assistants so you can really see what they do,” Monroe said. “Try to start making connections with hospitals and doctor’s offices where you can shadow or potentially get a summer job. It may not be actual hands-on experience, but (schools) can see you know this is what you want to do.”

Monroe, who works in vascular surgery, said she decided to be a physician assistant instead of a doctor because it helped her to accomplish her goal of working in medicine while starting a family earlier.

2. Health specialties teachers

 Jobs in 2012: 100

• Jobs by 2022: 170

• Percent growth: 77.3

• Education required: doctorate

4. Nursing instructors and teacher

• Jobs in 2012: 130

• Jobs by 2022: 230

• Percent growth: 76.2

• Education required: master’s degree

Two of the jobs on the list involve training people to work in the medical field. Gale Hansen Starich, dean of the Sidney O. Smith Jr. Graduate School and the College of Health Sciences at Brenau University, said jobs for post-secondary health specialties teachers and postsecondary nursing teachers are both difficult to fill.

“Probably the most important feature of the health specialties teaching career is all of these majors are highly regulated and the accrediting bodies have very specific requirements for us to meet,” Starich said. Health specialties includes teaching in any area of medicine other than nursing, according to the state Department of Labor.

The requirements include being licensed to practice in the field of study the person is teaching such as a doctor, dentist, occupational therapist or physical therapist. Programs usually also require a doctorate, especially those teaching graduate students.

“It takes a long time; I went to school for 12 years straight,” Starich said, adding she would encourage people to get their license and work in the that specialty before teaching. “Being a practicing PT or OT or physician actually really brings a lot to the students and may be the most important part.”

Starich said Brenau and other universities have nursing education degree programs, designed so students can work as a nurse while in graduate school

“Most folks who are interested in nursing are interested in practice,” she said. “They want to take care of people. They have that calling or that desire. It’s only when they get into the field and they practice as a nurse they find out a large part of what you do is education — patient education, family education, growing up new practitioners in your department. They might just put their toe in the water first, like be an adjunct professor.”

3. Personal care aide

• Jobs in 2012: 890

• Jobs by 2022: 1,570

• Percent growth: 77.3

• Education required: less than high school

After two years as a personal care aide for ResCare Home Care, Cilianette Rentas, now supervises employees in her former job in Hall and White counties.

“We’re like that one key that keeps people at home instead of in a nursing home,” she said. “Being committed and being able to share a passion or bond with these patients, that’s typically how someone is able to be successful in this field.”

She encouraged those interested in her field to become a certified nursing assistant, something she said “is always a plus.”

“It a six-week program and extremely affordable,” Rentas said. “If they really want to go in to health care, that is the easiest way.”

5. Nurse practitioners

• Jobs in 2012: 250

• Jobs by 2022: 430

• Percent growth: 72.8

• Education required: master’s

Missy West, a nurse practitioner for 13 years who works in comprehensive care at The Longstreet Clinic, said she has seen interest in the job increase in recent years.

“When I started this, there was only a handful of people and now everybody is going back to school to be a nurse practitioner,” West said. “You can make a good living out of it and support your family and then give something back to the community in return.”

Unlike other nurses, nurse practitioners are trained to diagnose, order lab work and come up with treatment options for patients.

If she were advising students, West said she would encourage them, but also make sure they are aware that it is not an easy path.

“I would tell them to embrace helping people and to follow their dream and be open and helpful,” she said. “It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance and they have to be willing to put up the effort to make it in the field. There’s a lot of competition.”

6. Computer hardware engineers

• Jobs in 2012: 80

• Jobs by 2022: 140

• Percent growth: 72

• Education required: bachelor’s degree

Computer hardware engineering is a field constantly looking for new employees, according to Anthony Shope, partner and chief financial officer for Halski Systems.

“I can’t think of a better, more secure career path for a student who enjoys the IT field than a computer engineer,” he said. “At Halski Systems, there is no time we aren’t open to hiring engineers because their availability is limited and their demand is high.”

Shope said students need to be able to handle change and continuing change because the industry “reinvents itself about every 18 months.”

He said students should consider a degree at Lanier or Gwinnett technical college, because of their “hands-on” educational opportunities.

“(Lanier and Gwinnett students) really do well because they put their hands on the application,” he said. “They’re on a server; they’re on a piece of hardware; they’re on that PC,” he said.

7. Insulation worker

• Jobs in 2012: 50

• Jobs by 2022: 80

• Percent growth: 71.4

• Education required: high school diploma

Randy Stokes, an insulation worker with Southern Foam Insulation of North Georgia, said he enjoys his job.

“I would recommend anybody who wants to get into the construction field to check it out,” Stokes said. “From what I’ve seen since I got into it, it’s a growing industry. The products are improving and getting better and are good to work with. The pay is good, and it’s really not hard work. You have to pay attention to safety and certain materials you use might cause you to itch a little bit, but it’s not bad.”

8. Diagnostic medical sonographers

• Jobs in 2012: 70

• Jobs by 2022: 110

• Percent growth: 69.2

• Education required: associate

Sonographers are in high demand because the need is increasing, those who entered the profession when it started are now retiring, according Paul Braum, technical director of cardiovascular ultrasound at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“My advice to them is to find a good accredited school and to go for it, but they should definitely find out by observing somebody to make sure they know what they’re getting into,” said Braum, who has worked as a sonographer and has supervised sonographers in his 38 years of experience.

“There’s call rotation, so it’s not a 9-to-5 job. You work weekends; you work holidays; you could work nights,” he added. “A lot of people have a mindset that it’s a 9-to-5 job, and then they’re shocked to realize that we have to be available, or at least have people available, 24 hours a day.”

Braum added that a program is offered in Gainesville through the hospital and Piedmont College for students interested in this career. He serves as professor of cardiovascular technology in that program.

9. Physical therapist

• Jobs in 2012: 290

• Jobs by 2022: 490

• Percent growth: 67.4

• Education required: doctorate

Barrett Stanley, a physical therapist with Benchmark Physical Therapy in Oakwood, said his job gives him a chance to “make a great impact” on patients’ lives.

“You find a lot of satisfaction in what you do,” he said.

Stanley advised students to stay “diligent” in their studies.

“They’re going to be flooded with a lot of distractions and different activities,” he said. “Make good study habits, stay grounded and surround yourself with good positive friends and good influences and it’ll turn out well for you.”

10. Interpreters and translators

• Jobs in 2012: 140

• Jobs by 2022: 240

• Percent growth: 66.9

• Education required: bachelor’s degree

Those who have a primary language other than English may want to consider a career as an interpreter or translator.

Melva Mendoza, whose native language is Spanish, works full time as a state-certified judicial interpreter for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Hall and Dawson counties. She interprets in court cases where language is a barrier and works to provide interpreters when one is needed.

“My advice is that they definitely take advantage if they have the ability to have native-like fluency in Spanish or any other language that would be their first language,” she said. “There’s plenty of seminars, plenty of resources available.

“If they have the ability to speak more than one language that’s always a plus,” Mendoza said. “A lot of people who do this are contract interpreters, so they have other businesses or they do it part time.”

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