Best Degrees For Your New Career Resolution

see how the right education could help you fulfill your new year's resolution to change careers.


is changing careers your new year's resolution?

we know, you're worried that it will go the way of the fad diets and french lessons and all the other failed new year's resolutions. but the right education might be just the thing to make this resolution the one you actually keep.

what? you don't have time to get a four-year bachelor's degree? that's not a problem. in fact, there are many associate's degree and professional certificate programs that can help you prepare to pursue a new career - and both can generally be completed in much less time.

to help you get started, we've broken down six great degree and certificate options to consider pursuing in the new year.

#1 - paralegal studies associate's degree or certificate

if you've got a little perry mason in you but don't want to spend four plus years in school, starting an associate's degree or certificate in paralegal studies may be the right new year's resolution for you.

a paralegal studies education could cover civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, and legal research and writing. if you already have a bachelor's degree, a certificate program, some of which could take as little as a few months to complete, is all that's required, according to the u.s. department of labor.

what paralegals do: they get their perry mason on. that is, as a paralegal, you'll likely prepare for hearings and trials, research law and facts, and even work on legal documents. of course, certain duties are prohibited for anyone but attorneys, like giving legal advice and presenting cases.

growth outlook: much faster than average - 28 percent between 2008 and 2018.*

average annual income: $49,640**

#2 - information technology associate's degree

if you're the type who rings in the new year virtually - that is, in front of your computer - chances are an associate's degree in information technology (it) could be a good fit for you.

with coursework that generally includes computer networking and web technologies, earning an it associate's degree can help you prepare to pursue a career as a computer support specialist, to name just one example.

what computer support specialists do: provide technical assistance, advice, and support to companies that rely on information technology (i.e., pretty much all of them).

growth outlook: employment for computer support specialists is expected to increase 14 percent from 2008 to 2018.*

average annual income: $49,930**

#3 - pharmacy technician associate's degree or certificate

if your new career resolution is aimed at getting out of a toxic job situation, starting a pharmacy technician education could be just the prescription you need.

and here's the good news: filling that prescription - i.e., earning your associate's degree or certificate - is likely to be less difficult than you think. certificate programs could take as little as six months to complete and associate's degrees are attainable in as little as two years, according to the department of labor.

in this type of program, you might study pharmacy law and ethics, record keeping, and pharmaceutical techniques - all of which could help you prepare to pursue a pharmacy technician career.

what pharmacy technicians do: they help pharmacists prepare medications, interact with customers, and perform some administrative duties like taking prescriptions and labeling bottles. they do tend to stand a lot, so make sure you're up for that.

growth outlook: stellar - 31 percent growth from 2008 to 2018.*

average annual income: $29,330**

#4 - medical assisting associate's degree or certificate

if you're more about hands-on patient care than prescriptions, consider an associate's degree or certificate in medical assisting.

plan on spending anywhere from one to two years or more earning your medical assisting certificate or associate's degree, respectively, according to the department of labor.

coursework is designed to prepare you for a medical assisting career, and will likely cover everything from anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology to recordkeeping and insurance processing.

what medical assistants do: take vital signs, explain medical treatments, and sometimes discuss medications and special diets with patients. medical assistants might also fill out insurance forms and perform other administrative tasks.

growth outlook: medical assistant jobs are projected to grow by 34 percent from 2008 to 2018.*

average annual income: $29,760**

#5 - dental assisting associate's degree or certificate

if you have a great smile and love sharing it with others, pursuing a dental assisting certificate or associate's degree could be your perfect new career resolution.

with courses that might cover dental terminology, instrument identification, and preclinical instruction, a certificate program can take as little as four months to one year to complete, while associate's degrees typically require about two years of full-time study, according to the department of labor.

what dental assistants do: they help make you feel comfortable before the, uh, fun starts. they also assist the dentist during procedures - this is the nice person who sticks the hose in your mouth to keep you from drooling like a one-year-old.

growth outlook: excellent, with a projected growth of 36 percent from 2008 to 2018. (you can smile now.)*

average annual income: $34,140**

#6 - certificate in culinary arts

the world is pretty much divided into two types of people: those who love to cook and those who would rather eat cold beans from a can than go near a stovetop.

if you're in the first category, a certificate in culinary arts will likely make your mouth water. while you'll likely spend a lot of time preparing and tasting food, programs may also include classes in nutrition and menu planning.

a perfect option for those interested in a career as a chef, this certificate program should we say this...tasty.

the one drawback? the dessert classes may lead to another fad diet resolution.

what chefs do: well, they cook, of course. but chefs and cooks also do everything from menu planning, scheduling shifts, supervising other kitchen staff, food ordering, the list goes on.

growth outlook: job opportunity is projected to remain good, with high turnover expected to be the driver of openings.*

average annual income: $44,780**

*all work environment, field growth outlook, and degree or certificate time to completion information comes from the u.s. department of labor's occupational outlook handbook, 2010-2011 edition.

**all average salary potential information comes from the u.s. department of labor using 2010 salary data.


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