If you feel stuck in your career, have experienced a layoff, or are just looking to make a change, you might consider a career switch. If there's one big barrier that's stopping you from taking the plunge, it's probably the thought of going back to school — which involves getting a loan (or using up savings), putting in the time, and hitting the books, all while continuing to maintain what's going on in the rest of your life. It's a lot to juggle.
If you are willing to go back to school, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers some tips on career paths and jobs for the future that make the investment worthwhile. Not only do they all have a decent salary, they're jobs in fields that the BLS expects to grow in the next decade, meaning your post-graduation skills will be highly in demand.
Going back to school for an Associate's Degree:
According to the BLS, these careers are obtainable with an Associate's Degree, are growing at a much faster than average rate, and had a median annual salary of at least $55,000 in 2018.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Growth Rate: 31%
Median Salary: $59,200 per year ($28.46 per hour)
If helping people makes you feel good, you'll really get to see results as an assistant or aid to an occupational therapist. You'll put patients through their paces doing stretching, exercising, and practicing using new equipment, as well as some administrative tasks. The American Occupational Therapy Association can point you in the right direction and help you find accredited programs.
Growth Rate: 21%
Median Salary: $61,330 per year ($29.48 per hour)
Respiratory therapists work with patients who have trouble breathing — measuring lung capacity, coming up with treatment plans, connecting people to ventilators, etc. The National Board of Respiratory Care explains what credentials you'll need to get started out in a career that's a breath of fresh air.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Growth Rate: 14%
Median Salary: $68,750 per year ($33.05 per hour)
If you have a good bedside manner and a knack for dealing with some technical equipment, you might want to look into becoming a sonographer and give sonograms and ultrasounds to patients in hospitals or doctor's offices. Check the Commission on Accreditation to find an accredited program near you.
Growth Rate: 13%
Median Salary: $73,760 per year ($35.46 per hour)
The only non-healthcare-related jobs in this portion of the list, web developers design and create websites for businesses and clients. It's a creative job that often lets you be self-employed, if you're looking for that kind of flexibility. And while you can start out your career with just an associate's degree (or even a coding bootcamp), pay generally increases with more education — like a bachelor's in computer science — or increased specialization.
Growth Rate: 11%
Median Salary: $76,220 per year ($36.65 per hour)
If you are good with people and can stand to work with spit, blood, plaque, and the other things that are in our mouths, becoming a dental hygienist can offer a huge return-on-investment on your tuition dollars. In order to become one, you need an Associate's Degree in dental hygiene, which often takes three years to complete. Find programs at the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
Going back to school for a Bachelor's Degree:
If you can swing a little more schooling, these jobs are also growing at a much faster than average rate according to the BLS, and they had a median annual salary of at least $80,000 in 2018.
Operations Research Analysts
Growth Rate: 26%
Median Salary: $84,810 per year ($40.78 per hour)
Operations research analysts help businesses run smoothly, mostly by collecting data and using analytical information to figure out how to make the companies run more efficiently. The interesting thing about this job is that it gets an overall view of how a business runs, which is good for people who don't want to be tied to any one specific department. The high growth rate shows that lots of companies will be hiring for this position in the future.
Growth Rate: 20%
Median Salary: $108,350 per year ($52.09 per hour)
If stats are your things, actuaries crunch numbers to assess risks for businesses like insurance companies. The Society of Actuaries offers information about how to get certified in the field.
Growth Rate: 21%
Median Salary: $105,590 per year ($50.77 per hour)
The big brother of the web developer, software developers use their computer skills to make programs and design systems or networks. This field is closely related to information technology (IT) or information security, which are other career paths available for someone who is interested in acquiring a deep knowledge of computer systems.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Growth Rate: 18%
Median Salary: $100,980 per year ($48.55 per hour)
For those who are interested in healthcare but don't necessarily want to work with patients all day, healthcare administrators take a big-picture view of a medical provider and coordinate services, manage departments, and make sure everyone follows the laws and regulations. It's a big job with a lot of moving parts, which is why sometimes even a Master's Degree is required.
Growth Rate: 16%
Median Salary: $129,890 per year ($62.45 per hour)
If you have a head for numbers, you can help businesses with their budgets, investments, and profits — while making lots of money for yourself — as a financial manager for a company. In addition to a Bachelor's, you'll need to pick up a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute, which requires some years of work experience in a related field, too. If you'd rather work for a personal client than a business, you can also look into becoming a personal financial advisor, and help people with financial goals like for retirement and college.
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