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Hot Jobs Are Still Out There

Openings Abound in Many Fields--You Just Need to Know Where to Look

April 15, 2001|RONALD D. WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Peter Hirschmann may not be the only person on the planet ensconced in a makeshift military post, trying to ensure a weapons platform will kill as many of the enemy's people as possible. But he may be one of the few having fun with it.

Hirschmann is a game designer, one of the many professions that, despite the economic slowdown, remain a job seeker's market.

But the career categories on these "hot" lists aren't all dream jobs. They include translator, human resources manager, private sports coach, actuary, physical therapist and technical writer, as well as game designer.

"It's hard to keep people because good game designers are worth their weight in gold," said Hirschmann, 29, who leads a team of game designers. His Electronic Arts command center, decorated with camouflage netting, is in an office building near the J. Paul Getty Center.

Computer game designer made the top 10 hot careers in "The Everything Hot Careers Book" by Ronald Reis, chairman of the technology department at Los Angeles Valley College. Game designers typically earn $25,000 to $60,000 annually, plus royalties and bonuses.

Reis' is one of many "top job" lists updated frequently. The selections tend to be subjective, but here are some of the hot jobs, what it takes to get them and what they pay:

* Interpreter. One needs to look only as far as the new U.S. census figures to understand that the field of interpreters and translators will be booming for decades.

Hector and Norma Orci, a husband-and-wife team, own and operate a business that shows what is possible for those with multilingual skills. Their Los Angeles-based firm is a Latino advertising agency called La Agencia de Orci y Asociados that employs 90.

"Most of the work we do, about 95%, is for Spanish consumption," said Hector Orci, a native of Sonora, Mexico.

"We have people who have full mastery of English and Spanish," Orci said. "But what we do is more involved than straight translation, which is generally less graceful and less communicative. We have to rewrite or adapt the message to present the original intent."

Being bilingual or multilingual and having additional skills can make a worker especially valuable to employers.

"We have been carrying a dozen to two dozen vacancies. We need people with mastery of the Spanish language, but also the specific training for the job, like art director," Orci said.

"In our company, we have openings for account supervisors, copywriters and broadcast producers, and we are looking aggressively," he said. "Junior translators can earn from $40,000 to $80,000 to $85,000 with lots of experience. A good art director is $65,000 and up, and copy editors are worth their weight in gold."

Orci's clients have included American Honda, Verizon, Washington Mutual, Shell Oil, Allstate Insurance and Krispy Kreme.

Orci worked for the international McCann-Erickson agency when he was asked to open a Los Angeles office in the early 1980s. He went independent in 1986 and hasn't looked back.

"We are growing rather fast, at 20% a year. Our billing last year topped $80 million, and we are shooting for $95 million this year," Orci said. "My mother always said if I mastered English and Spanish that I would make a lot of money, and she was right."

* Information technology, systems or network administrator. Vicky Franklin, 28, had something of a rough start in her native Oregon.

On her own since age 15 through a state law that allowed youths to be legally emancipated from their parents, she graduated from high school a year later and managed a 1,300 combined score on her SATs.

One of her fondest childhood memories was learning how to write computer code with her uncle when she was 6, but she said she would never work with computers. That didn't last. By 16, Franklin was helping businesses set up their internal computer networks.

After years in a jack-of-all-trades lifestyle that included everything from being a mechanic to driving a truck, she returned to her earliest fascination. Now she moves from region to region, working as an information technology administrator on a contract basis.

Franklin is finishing a job for Sonco Worldwide, shifting the company from Novell and Unix systems to a Windows NT-based work system.

"We had to upgrade their computers, upgrade their networking hubs and set them up with a [high-speed] DSL [Internet connection] system," Franklin said. "I like IT because I get to do a lot of different things rather than get pigeonholed. I get to do Web work one day, database the next. I don't get stagnant."

Network administrators can start at $40,000 to $50,000, according to Reis, and average just under $77,000 with six or seven years of experience. As an IT administrator, Franklin said, she can clear $80,000 to $100,000, enough for a 25-acre spread in Coos Bay, Ore. "Our little slice of paradise," she said.

* Graphic designer. Some hot careers carry important caveats.

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