When it comes to looking for a job, some skills are in higher demand than others due to skill gaps and increased demand. For job seekers in the Chicagoland area pursuing careers in nursing, criminal justice or security, the city is rich with opportunity.

But first, what is a skill gap? A skill gap is when there is a mismatch between the skills required for a job and the skills that job applicants currently have. A mismatch in skills can result from job seekers not having the right education, experience or certification for a particular job. A recent article from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago warned that a skill gap could lead to job seekers spending even more time looking for a position, leading to a higher unemployment rate.

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For job seekers, some fields are seeing more demand for employees than others. Nursing is on the rise for job growth in Chicago, with the field considered to be the top profession with vacancies in Illinois. With an increase of baby boomers needing care — and nurses from that generation set to retire — nursing can be a lucrative field for those looking for a job. According to the OECD Territorial Review, the Chicagoland area is seeing a critical shortage of nurses, especially as the population of 20 to 44 year olds, or influx of newer, younger nurses, is being outpaced by the baby-boomer generation.

Nursing also requires extensive training, with many nursing jobs requiring degrees at the bachelor’s or associate’s level. Some positions in this field may also require a master’s of science in nursing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses must also have a license.

Nationwide, the BLS projects that registered nurses will be the top occupation in terms of job growth through 2020, increasing 26 percent that year from demand in 2010. The high demand is also seen at present, with nursing accounting for one out of almost every five jobs created. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), registered nurses are projected to see an increase in job demand in Illinois, with job growth of about 16.3 percent projected for 2020 from employment in 2010.


Jobs within the security industry are poised to increase as well. Covering everything from monitoring alarms and closed-circuit televisions to completing security checks and protecting a venue from fire, theft or terrorism, according to the BLS security jobs will grow 18 percent nationwide. Within Illinois, IDES projects jobs for other protective service workers, including security guards and detectives, will grow at a rate of 11 percent by 2020 from employment in 2010.

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What’s required in this field? Job applicants can come from a variety of backgrounds. Some positions for unarmed guards may require a high school diploma or GED, while other organizations require security guards with more extensive backgrounds and education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Additional training may also be required.

Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is another field seeing increases in job demand. The field encompasses numerous backgrounds, with some jobs requiring an associate’s degree while others, including those for criminal law attorneys, requiring law school and licensing.

Within Illinois, the IDES projects that law enforcement jobs will grow by 3.4 percent by 2020, including jobs for bailiffs, correctional officers, detectives and police officers. Training for criminal justice jobs can include participating in the local police academy or internships.

To help bridge the skill gap, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a public-private partnership supported by the City of Chicago, Cook County and the State of Illinois, was created to match employers with potential job candidates. The service is available at no charge to unemployed residents of Chicago and Cook County.

Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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