Making a career change is not an easy decision, especially when you are 40 or older. You may be wondering which careers are truly worth returning to school for at this point in your career, and whether the time (and money) spent pursuing a degree or certification is worthwhile.
Fortunately, there are several fields that are worthwhile for a mid-career return to school, whether your motivation is income, job security, happiness, or work fulfillment.
To get you started, we've compiled a list of 17 careers in six fields, compiled with the help of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that are well worth the investment of returning to school. Healthcare 1. Registered Nurse With a steady and consistent projected growth rate and a median salary of $70,000 per year, nursing is a safe career choice worth returning to school for.
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Expect to provide care, education, and support to patients with varying medical needs in hospitals, physician's offices, and/or through home care to succeed in this field.
Nursing students can pursue an associate's degree in nursing (2 years), a nursing-school specific diploma (time varies), or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (4 years).
2. Medical Administrative Assistant If you prefer to work in the medical field without having direct contact with patients, a career as a medical secretary may be a good fit for you. The median annual salary for these professionals is around $34,610.
Medical secretaries are responsible for more than just scheduling appointments. This role frequently handles medical reports, billing, and the creation of medical charts. Successful candidates for this position must have strong clerical skills as well as basic medical terminology, technology, and procedures knowledge.
While entry-level positions may be available to those with only a high school diploma, taking specific training can help an aspiring medical administrative assistant land a position faster.
Many community colleges and technical schools have programs that teach students the fundamentals of administrative work as well as the specific medical technology they will need to succeed in their roles.
3. Physical Therapists are another fantastic option in the Healthcare field, with a median annual salary of around $86,850. A successful Physical Therapist will assist patients in managing pain and improving physical movement as a result of injuries, illnesses, or procedures.
Time in School: Approximately 7 years To become a physical therapist, you must first obtain a doctorate in physical therapy (3 years) as well as a Bachelor of Science degree (4 years). If you're starting from scratch with no prior college education, many degree programs offer a 6-year degree program that allows you to complete all requirements from beginning to end.
While the time from beginning education to completion is on the longer side, the job satisfaction and salaries reported by America's physical therapists make this career well worth the wait. Technology 4. Software Developer The technology industry is not going away anytime soon. Indeed, as technology continues to dominate the workforce, this career is a secure, safe, and even lucrative option for those considering a career change.
A software developer's annual salary is currently around $103,560. Expect to write programs for computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices in order to earn that salary!
Time in School: Approximately 4 years Successful software developers typically earn a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science or software engineering. You may be able to complete a Bachelor of Science degree program in as little as two years if you have an associate's degree.
5. Web Developer A web developer is exactly what it sounds like—a professional who creates websites from start to finish for a median annual salary of around $67,990. Web developers can work as part of a design or marketing agency, as freelancers, or even as entrepreneurs, creating websites for other businesses and professionals.
Time in school: 2 to 4 years Web developers must be skilled in both coding and graphic design, as they frequently create both the back-end and front-end of a website. Because of this balance of skills, there are numerous paths one can take to begin a career in web development.
An associates degree or a four-year degree in web design is very common in this field, but a combination of graphic design and coding for web courses can also help you get started. It's not uncommon for many web developers to be completely self-taught, which is something to think about if you want to save time and money.
6. Information Security Analyst With a median annual salary of around $95,510, information security analysts help protect their business and organization clients' information and data. These professionals frequently plan and develop strategies to combat cyber-security attacks while keeping both businesses and consumers in mind.
Furthermore, working in information security in conjunction with the United States military can be a highly lucrative career, with those with security clearances earning at or well above the median salary.
Time in School: Approximately 4 years Information security analysts typically obtain a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in a technology-related field such as information assurance, computer science, and/or programming.
One thing to keep in mind is that employers frequently seek experience in their specific field. A financial institution, for example, is more likely to hire an information security analyst with experience in finance technology. This is an excellent opportunity to use your previous experience to your advantage, even if you are starting a new career.
Finance s7. Accountants (and auditors) deal with financial statements, taxes, and records. Their job is to ensure that all financial information, whether for a company, professional, or individual, is correct and that taxes are paid correctly and on time. If you're thinking about becoming an accountant, the median annual salary is $69,350.
Time in school: 4 to 6 years Many auditors and accountants hold a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Employers, on the other hand, now prefer those with a master's degree, either in accounting or a related field in business. A bachelor's degree will take about four years, and a master's degree will take about two.
8. Financial Analyst Unlike an accountant, who focuses on taxes and records, a financial consultant frequently deals with stocks and investments and advises both businesses and individuals on financial decisions. A financial analyst's median annual salary is $84,300, or $40.53 per hour.
Time in School: Approximately 4 years Pursuing a career as a financial analyst allows for a great deal of flexibility in terms of degree field selection. A four-year degree in economics, statistics, finance, or even mathematics is typically required for this career path. Whatever path you choose, you will be able to work in a wide range of fields, as most businesses require the expertise of a financial analyst.
Education ss9. Elementary School Teacher A career in teaching can be a rewarding and secure choice, as elementary school teaching positions are expected to grow at a similar rate in the coming years. While beginning salaries for new teachers may be low, the median salary for elementary teaching positions is $57,160.
Time in School: At least four years In addition to a bachelor's degree, elementary school teachers must obtain a license or certification from the state in which they work. To account for curriculum changes and new teaching materials over time, expect a significant amount of continuing education.
10. If you prefer to work with more mature students, a career in higher education can be just as rewarding as you work to help students succeed in their future careers. Furthermore, the median annual salary for a career in higher education is $76,000.
Furthermore, because many colleges and universities offer online degree programs to their students, becoming a college professor may allow you to work from anywhere.
Time in School: At least 2 to 8 years after graduation Most traditional four-year institutions require professors to have a master's degree, if not a doctorate. Pursuing a doctorate at the age of 40 may appear daunting, but if you have a bachelor's degree, you can easily expand this degree into a master's or even a doctoral degree in a major related to your previous field of study.
Even if you don't want to spend that much time in school, you're in luck: many private, state, and community colleges prefer to hire higher education professors with master's degrees and demonstrated expertise in their field.
11. Academic Success Counselor If you want to work in education but prefer to work outside the classroom, you should consider becoming an academic success counselor. These professionals offer guidance and support to students in higher education, assisting them in navigating the path to completion of their degrees.
School counselors (or academic success counselors) earn a median salary of $55,410.
Time in School: 4 to 6 years Most schools require school counselors to have a master's degree as well as a school counseling certification or credential. It's a good idea to also specialize in career development, especially if you want to work as a counselor in higher education.
If you have some prior education, such as an associate's degree, you may be able to complete all schooling for a career as a school counselor in as little as four years.
Marketing ss12. Market Research Analyst With a 26 percent growth rate and climbing, a career as a market research analyst is a safe bet for a career change. Even better, these professionals can work in a variety of fields, as many different types of organizations require the skills of a market research analyst to run their businesses.
So, what exactly is the job of a market research analyst? Typically, this position aims to study and predict trends among a specific business's target market, assisting in predicting who to target for sales and how to sell to them. A median annual salary as a market research analyst is approximately $63,230.
Time in School: Up to 4 years Typically, these positions require a bachelor's degree in a field related to market research. Strong analytical skills, as well as a strong grasp of mathematics, will also help the aspiring market research analyst advance.
If you already have a bachelor's degree in a related field but feel the need to further your education, a master's degree in market research is always appealing to employers.
13. Search Engine Optimization Specialist A relatively new career in comparison to the others in this roundup, search engine optimization specialists succeed by combining market research, web development, and advertising.
Simply put, they work closely with search engine algorithms such as Google and Bing to drive traffic to their clients' websites, with the goal of that traffic ranging from increased views and social media engagement to increased sales.
According to Payscale, the median annual salary for a search engine optimization specialist is around $55,530, and the role has an impressive job satisfaction rate. Time in School: Up to 4 years Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a fast-paced and ever-changing aspect of internet marketing. As a result, there are no degree programs tailored to the role, as teachings can change in the blink of an eye. Instead, look for a degree in a field like business, digital marketing, or data analytics.
If you want to work as an SEO specialist, be prepared to take industry-recognized digital marketing courses and certifications like those offered by Google and Hubspot on a regular basis.
14. Public Relations Specialist Do you believe you have what it takes to cultivate and maintain a dynamic and positive public image for a company? That is exactly what a public relations specialist's job entails.
These individuals are in charge of managing announcements, press releases, and social media campaigns. Public relations specialists typically earn around $59,300 per year on average.
Time in School: Approximately 4 years A bachelor's degree in public relations, communications, business, or journalism is often required for a career in public relations. A career as a public relations specialist may be a good fit for you if you have strong writing and communication skills.
15. Business Administration Project Manager Those with strong organizational and management abilities should consider a career as a project manager. These professionals oversee a variety of aspects of a company, including internal communications, team members, and, of course, projects. A project manager's median annual salary is around $67,280. Time in School: Up to 4 years Due to the position's flexibility, those interested in a career in project management can pursue a degree in a wide variety of fields, such as business management, computer science, marketing, or even engineering, depending on the field you want to work in.
16. Executive Administrative Assistant An executive administrative assistant handles advanced clerical tasks for their company. Executive assistants frequently prepare critical reports, documents, and supervise/train lower-level staff, in addition to performing clerical tasks like filing and call routing (as an entry-level administrative assistant would).
Expect to earn a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in a business-related field after spending up to four years in school. The type of business you want to work for will usually dictate your field of study.
If you want to work in finance, a financial-related business management degree can help prepare you for the high-level tasks that an executive administrative assistant is expected to perform.
17. Human Resources Manager Human resource managers are in charge of the employee side of a company. These professionals specialize in recruiting and hiring new employees for the company and frequently collaborate on strategy with high-level executives.
Furthermore, they serve as a liaison between an employer and its employees, as well as managing employee relationships.
A human resources manager's annual salary is around $110,120.
A bachelor's degree in human resources, as well as strong interpersonal and communication skills, are required for a career as a human resources manager. Furthermore, employers frequently value a variety of previous work experience, ranging from administrative tasks and reporting to customer service and team management.
Final Thoughts: While returning to school in the middle of your career may seem daunting, you now have a better idea of what to expect when narrowing your options to careers worth switching to.
The best part is that, at 40 or older, you've already accumulated several years of valuable life and work experience that you can use to guide you through the next chapter of your life or to help you advance in your new career.
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