Utah women have a chance to cut themselves a niche in many of the 25 hottest careers identified this week by a national publication.
The growth of the service economy, the graying of America and the expansion of the global market are creating new business opportunities and igniting unusual careers for women across the nation and in Utah.Working Woman magazine released its annual list of the 25 best and 10 worst professions for women last week. Many of those sizzling careers are heating up in Utah, too.
Patent attorneys are in strong demand nationally and a woman would do well in go into the field, Working Woman magazine reported. Salaries start at $45,000 and top out at $300,000-plus for those who stay in the profession, the magazine said.
Calvin Thorpe, senior partner with the Thorpe, North and Western said Utah is as hungry for patent attorneys as most other states. Thorpe's firm specializes in patent work.
"We could use a patent attorney right now. Other firms seem to have a need for good patent attorneys as well," he said. "That's the trouble - finding those with a little experience and good training. When they appear, they have no trouble getting jobs."
The career preparation is arduous. A patent attorney must have an undergraduate degree in a technical field, such as engineering, as well as a law degree. In order to certify, the attorney must pass the state bar and a daylong patent test administered by the U.S. Patent Office.
While working as a patent attorney is promising, working for a major law firm is not. The magazine reported that women are being hired by major firms in droves. However, only a small percentage of the wom-en hired are making partner. Wom-en partners' wages lag behind men's, and the demanding work load leaves little room for a personal life, the magazine said.
Jan Graham, a partner with Jones, Waldo, Holbrook and McDonough disagrees in part. She believes major law firms in Utah are making women partners at a promising rate. Some major Utah firms are also trying to accommodate women's family responsibilities, she said.
"There have been big firms in Salt Lake City that have made part-time women lawyers partner. That is a really good sign."
However, major firms, as a general rule, are still less flexible about working around a woman's family responsibilities than smaller firms are, she said.
Physical therapy is another hot profession for women. Working Woman called it a profession with 100 percent employment and no shortage of opportunities. The career ranks third on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of fastest growing professions, with starting salaries in excess of $25,000.
Terry Sanford, director of the division of physical therapy at the University of Utah, says his graduates are getting about 8 job offers apiece with starting salaries that exceed those of the younger faculty.
On the down side, there are only 24 slots in the three-year program. Competition for the slots is keen, Sanford said. Between 150 and 200 students apply to enter the program each year.
High-tech public relations management is another burgeoning field that is also opening up in Utah. Technology-literate public relations executives who can talk about high-tech products in language everyone understands - and do so with flair - are in great demand, particularly in California.
That demand is growing in Utah, too, said John Ward, director of media relations for Utah Power and Light.
"For its size, Utah has a good number of industries oriented toward computer technology and software," he said. "As that segment expands, so will the need for public relations people to serve it."
Account executives in high-tech public relations earn $27,000 to $52,000, while supervisors make up to $60,000. Vice presidents can earn over $70,000, the magazine said.
David Hart, director of placement for Utah State University, thinks Working Woman's list of the 25 hottest careers may discourage Utah women because so many of the careers are highly specialized and not available in Utah.
For example, one of the careers is a cogeneration specialist, an executive that helps major companies turn excess energy into something they can use again or sell to others.
Other specialized careers on the list of top 25 are outplacement executives, who help laid-off employees find new work; sports marketers, who organize promote sports events; and a private-label manager, who helps major clothing stores design and manufacture their own line of clothing.
While those jobs may be hot, Hart said, they aren't numerous - even in major cities.
However, there are lots of jobs for Utah women college graduates in technical fields such as engineering and computer science, he said. USU, the only Utah university that tracks the placement of its students, notes consistently high placement in those fields, particularly for women.
"Women, if they are equally qualified as men, are in more demand," Hart said. "Companies are always seeking women and minorities to help them reach their affirmative action goals."
Some of Utah's most popular professions for women were on Working Woman's list of the 10 least desirable professions. Teaching and nursing, for example, were blackballed by the publication because of high stress and poor salaries.
The magazine also discouraged women from becoming social workers, flight attendants, dancers and investment bankers. Each of these careers has a gloomy outlook, too, the magazine said.