The top 10 hottest jobs in today's economy

Andrew Osterland, special to CNBC.com

Knowledge is power ... and paycheck

Tristan Savatier | Getty Images

What are the best jobs for Americans in this economy? The answers are as varied as the millions of individuals that make up the national workforce.

If a high salary is what you want, a career in medical science is a pretty sure bet. The first nine of the top-paying occupations in the country, as measured by average median wage, are in the medical and dental fields, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The education and training required for those jobs is long and expensive, but the money down the road is very good.

Jobs in the so-called STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) as a whole are growing far faster than the economy, as are the wages paid in those jobs. "There's going to be lifelong growth in wages in these areas," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder, a consultant specializing in human resources. "It will pay dividends for people to educate themselves with that in mind."

It also pays to know what specific jobs employers are most looking to fill but having the hardest time finding people to fill them. CareerBuilder and its data-crunching subsidiary recently updated their list of hottest jobs for 2016 as measured by the difference between the average monthly job postings for an occupation and average monthly hires in those jobs. The bigger the gap between the two figures, the greater the opportunity for someone to find work in those occupations.

"The list reflects where the opportunities are," said Ferguson. "People need more quantitative information like this to make better decisions about their college majors and career choices."

Many of the hottest jobs require a commitment to lifelong learning. Others require less education and training, and for some you don't need a college degree at all. Here are the top 10 hottest jobs in the economy through March 31.

— By Andrew Osterland, special to CNBC.com
Posted 18 May 2016

10. Computer systems analyst

PeopleImages.com | Getty Images

As the name implies, computer systems analysts assess IT networks and determine how to improve efficiency through process changes and/or new investments. There is huge ongoing demand for these skills.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 64,155
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 24,816
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 39,339
  • Total employment in 2015: 556,922
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $39.76

Source: CareerBuilder

9. Industrial engineer

Monty Rakusen | Getty Images

Industrial America may be struggling with low-cost global competition, but industrial engineers who improve production and processes in manufacturing and service industries have ample opportunities in the marketplace.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 49,885
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 7,899
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 41,987
  • Total employment in 2015: 244,225
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $39.18

Source: CareerBuilder

8. Web developer

Nullplus | Getty Images

Arguably, one of the few jobs on the list for which you don't need a formal education. If you have a way with the web, your services will be in high demand.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 50,344
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 6,671
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 43,673
  • Total employment in 2015: 130,161
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $30.52

Source: CareerBuilder

7. Network and computer systems administrator

Baran Özdemir | Getty Images

Managing technology infrastructure has become a top priority for all companies and non-corporate entities. People who can organize, maintain and improve computer systems will have endless opportunities.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 68,836
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 18,543
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 50,293
  • Total employment in 2015: 381,001
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $36.44

Source: CareerBuilder

6. Sales manager

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc | Blend Images | Getty Images

If you can sell, you won't have trouble finding a good job. Whether it's in the fast-growing health-care or technology fields or in any other industry, companies will always be hunting for good sales managers.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 69,222
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 17,813
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 51,410
  • Total employment in 2015: 370,648
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $53.20

Source: CareerBuilder

5. Medical and health services manager

Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

Health care is one of the biggest and fastest-growing industries in the country. Jobs across the clinical and operational spectrum of the industry are growing rapidly.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 63,499
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 12,018
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 51,480
  • Total employment in 2015: 321,961
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $44.62

Source: CareerBuilder

4. Marketing manager

PeopleImages.com | Getty Images

People who can manage a marketing campaign or a team well will always be in high demand in the marketplace.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 89,393
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 8,494
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 80,898
  • Total employment in 2015: 193,619
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $61.12

Source: CareerBuilder

3. Software developer (applications)

Ronsitk | Getty Images

One of several IT-related jobs in very high demand, software developers' already high average wages should continue to rise as companies invest in and rely more on technology in operation of their business.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 115,444
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 31,524
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 83,920
  • Total employment in 2015: 727,753
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $45.92

Source: CareerBuilder

2. Registered nurse

Chris Ryan | Getty Images

The need for nurses will only increase with the aging of the baby boomers. With nearly 2.8 million nursing jobs in the country and a good average wage, nursing is an attractive career option for both men and women.

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 311,181
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 98,397
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 212,783
  • Total employment in 2015: 2,776,836
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $32.04

Source: CareerBuilder

1. Heavy/tractor-trailer truck driver

Doug Berry | Getty Images

Trucking continues to be the fastest-growing mode of transportation in the country. You don't need a college degree to drive a truck, but the hours are long and the pay is just barely considered high wage (over $18).

  • Average monthly unique job postings (March 2015–March 2016): 1,161,717
  • Average monthly hires (March 2015–March 2016): 105,997
  • Gap between job postings and hires: 1,055,721
  • Total employment in 2015: 1,695,977
  • Median hourly earnings (Sept. 2015): $19.00

Source: CareerBuilder