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Published on October 22, 2018

17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40

17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40

Making a career switch is no easy decision, especially when considering the change at 40 or older. You might be wondering which careers are really worth going back to school for at this stage in your career and if the time (and money) spent seeking a degree or certification is worth the payoff.

Luckily, there are several fields worth the mid-career return to school whether income, job security, happiness, or fulfillment at work is your focus for making the switch.

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up 17 careers across 6 fields with help from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that are absolutely worth the investment of returning to school.[1]

Healthcare

1. Registered Nurse

With a stable and constant projected growth and a median salary of $70,000 per year,[2] nursing is a secure career choice worth returning to school for.

To succeed in this field, expect to provide care, education, and support to patients with varying medical needs within hospitals, physician’s offices, and/or through home care.

Time in school: Two to four years.

Nursing students can shoot for 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 direct contact with patients, then a career as a medical secretary may suit you well. The median salary of these professionals is around $34,610 per year.

Medical secretaries do more than just set appointments. Often, this role also handles medical reports, billing, and creating medical charts. Successful candidates for this position will need a strong grasp on clerical skills as well as basic medical knowledge of terminology, technology, and procedures.

Time in school: Around two years.

While entry-level positions may be offered 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 offer programs specific to medical administrative duties, where students learn the basics of administrative work, as well as the specific medical technology they will need to succeed in their roles.

3. Physical Therapist

Another fantastic option within the Healthcare field, physical therapists can earn a median salary of around $86,850 per year. A successful Physical Therapist will help patients manage pain and improve physical movement due to injuries, illnesses, and after procedures.

Time in school: Around seven years

To become a physical therapist, you will need to earn a doctorate in physical therapy (3 years) in addition to a Bachelor of Science Degree (4 years). If you’re just starting fresh with no prior college education, many degree programs offer a 6-year degree program to complete all requirements from start to finish.

While on the longer end of time from starting education to completion, the job satisfaction and salaries reported by America’s physical therapists make this career well worth the wait.[3]

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Technology

4. Software Developer

The tech industry won’t be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, as tech continues to take over the workforce, this career is a secure, safe, and even lucrative choice when considering a career switch.

The median salary for a software developer is currently around $103,560 per year. To earn that salary, expect to be creating programs for devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and more!

Time in school: Expect to be in school for about four years.

Successful software developers often earn a Bachelor of Science degree in either computer science or software engineering. If you have an associate’s degree, you may be able to complete a Bachelor of Science degree program in as little as two years.

5. Web Developer

A web developer is just as it sounds—a professional who designs websites from start to finish for a median salary of around $67,990 per year. Web developers can work as part of a design or marketing agency, work as freelancers, or even start their own businesses creating websites for other businesses and professionals.

Time in school: Two to four years.

Web developers need to be well-versed in both coding and graphic design, as they often create both the back-end and the front-end of a website themselves. due to this balance of skills, there are actually many routes one can take to jump-start a career in web development.

An associates degree or a four-year degree in web design is highly common in this field, but a mix of graphic design and coding for web courses can help start this career as well. It’s not unusual for many web developers to be completely self-taught, either, which is definitely something to consider to save time and money.

6. Information Security Analyst

With a median salary of around $95,510 per year, information security analysts help protect the information and data of their business and organization clients. These professionals are often planning and creating strategies to combat cyber-security attacks with both businesses and consumers in mind.

Additionally, information security can be a highly lucrative career when working in conjunction with the U.S. military, where those with security clearances can earn at or well above the median salary.

Time in school: Around four years.

Information security analysts typically earn a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in a tech-related field such as information assurance, computer science, and/or programming.

One thing to note: Employers often look for experience within their given niche. For example, a financial institution looking to hire an information security analyst is more likely to hire one with experience in finance technology. This is an excellent chance to make your past experience work for you, even within a new career.

Finance

7. Accountant

Accountants (and auditors) work with financial reports, taxes, and records. Their job is to ensure all financial information, whether for a business, professional, or individual, is accurate and that taxes are paid properly and promptly. If you’re considering a career as an accountant, expect to see a median salary of $69,350 per year.

Time in school: Around four to six years.

Many auditors and accountants have a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Alternatively, there has been a shift in employers preferring those with a master’s degree, either in accounting or a related field in business. A bachelors degree will set you back about four years, and a masters degree about two.

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8. Financial Analyst

Unlike an accountant who focuses on the taxes and records side of a business, a financial consultant often deals with stocks and investments and guides both businesses and individuals in financial decisions. The median salary for a financial analyst is $84,300, or $40.53 per hour.

Time in school: about four years

Pursuing a career as a financial analyst creates a generous amount of freedom when choosing a degree field. Typically, a four-year degree in either economics, statistics, finance, or even mathematics can be suitable for this career path. Whichever path you may choose, a wide variety of fields are open to you as more often than not, all types of businesses need the expertise of a financial analyst.

Education

9. Elementary School Teacher

A career in teaching can be a rewarding and secure choice, as elementary school teaching positions are at an average growth rate that is predicted to stay more or less the same in future years. While starting salaries may be low for new teachers, the median salary for elementary teaching positions is $57,160.

Time in school: At least four years

In addition to a bachelors degree, elementary school teachers must also obtain a license or certification issued by the state in which they work. Expect a fair amount of continuing education to account for curriculum changes and new teaching materials over time.

10. Higher Education Professor

If you prefer to work with more mature pupils, a career in higher education can be just as rewarding as you work to help students succeed in their future careers. Additionally, the median salary for a career in higher education is considerable at $76,000 per year.

What’s more, becoming a college professor can also allow you to work from anywhere as several colleges and universities offer online degree programs for their students.

Time in school: At least two to eight years post-grad.

Most traditional four-year institutions require professors to have at least a master’s, if not a doctoral degree. Pursuing a doctoral at age 40 might seem daunting, but if you’ve previously completed 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 quite that much time in school, you’re still in luck—many private, state, and community colleges opt to hire higher education professors who’ve earned master’s degree with demonstrated expertise in their field.

11. Academic Success Counselor

If you desire a career in education but prefer to work outside of the classroom, then consider becoming an academic success counselor. These professionals provide guidance and support for students in higher education, helping them navigate the journey to completing their degrees.

The median salary for school counselors (or academic success counselors) is $55,410.

Time in school: About four to six years

Most schools require counselors to have a master’s degree as well as a certification or credential in school counseling. A good idea is to also specialize in career development, especially if you’re considering becoming a counselor in higher education.

If you have some previous education under your belt, like an associate’s degree, the time to complete all schooling for a career as a school counselor can take as little as four years.

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Marketing

12. Market Research Analyst

With a growth rate of 26% and climbing, a career as a market research analyst is a secure choice for a career change.[4] Even better, these professionals can work in a variety of fields, as several types of organizations often need the skills of a market research analyst to run their businesses.

So just what does a market research analyst do? Typically, this position aims to study and predict trends among a target market for a specific business, helping to predict who to target for sales and how to sell to them. A career as a market research analyst earns a median salary of about $63,230 per year.

Time in school: Up to four years.

These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in a field relating to market research. Additionally, strong analytical skills, as well as a tight grasp on mathematics, will help the aspiring market research analyst go far.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a similar field, but feel the need to get more education under your belt, a master’s degree in market research is always eye-catching to employers.

13. Search Engine Optimization Specialist

A relatively new career compared to the others in this roundup, search engine optimization specialists blend market research, web development, and advertising to succeed in their roles.

Simply put, they work closely with the algorithms of search engines like Google and Bing to bring traffic to their clients’ websites, where the goal of that traffic can be anything from higher views and more social media engagement to increased sales.

According to Payscale, the median salary for a search engine optimization specialist is around $55,530 per year, and the role boosts an impressive job satisfaction rate.[5]

Time in school: Up to four years.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a fast-paced and ever-changing aspect of internet marketing. As such, there aren’t degree programs specific to the role, as the teachings could change in the blink of an eye. Instead, expect to seek a degree in fields such as business, digital marketing, and data analytics.

If you’re considering a career as an SEO specialist, be prepared for frequent continuing education in the form of industry-recognized digital marketing courses and certifications, such as those offered by Google and Hubspot.

14. Public Relations Specialist

Think you can cultivate and maintain a dynamic and positive public image for a business? That’s exactly what the role of a public relations specialist entails.

These professionals are responsible for handling announcements, press releases, and social media campaigns. Public relations specialists often earn a median income of around $59,300 per year.

Time in school: About four years.

A career in public relations often requires a bachelor’s degree in public relations, communications, business, or journalism. If you possess strong writing and communication skills, a career as a public relations specialist could be a great fit for you.

Business Administration

15. Project Manager

Those with exceptional organization and management skills would do well to consider a career as a project manager. These professionals manage several aspects of a business from internal communications to team members and, of course, projects. The median salary for a project manager is around $67,280 per year.[6]

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Time in school: Up to four years.

Due to the flexibility of the position, those seeking 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 clerical tasks for their businesses on advanced levels. In addition to carrying out clerical tasks like filing and call routing (as an entry-level administrative assistant would), executive assistants often prepare critical reports, documents, and oversee/train lower-level staff.

Time in school: Up to four years

Expect to earn a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in a business-related field. Your field of study will typically be determined by the type of business you wish to work for.

If you desire to work int he financial field, a financial-related business management degree can help prepare you for the high-level tasks expected of an executive administrative assistant.

17. Human Resources Manager

Another administrative role, human resource managers handle the employee side of a business. These professionals specialize in recruiting and hiring new employees for the business and often work with high-level executives on strategy.

Additionally, they act as a bridge between an employer and its employees while managing the relationships of employees as well.

The median salary for a human resources manager is about $110,120 per year.

Time in school: up to four years

A bachelor’s degree in human resources and strong interpersonal and communication skills are required for a career as a human resources manager. Additionally, employers often value varying types of previous work experience from administrative tasks and reporting to customer service and team management.

Final Words

While heading back to school in the middle of your career can seem daunting, you now have a clearer idea of what to expect when narrowing your selection to careers worthy of making the switch.

The best part is, at 40 and older, you’ve already accumulated several years of valuable life and work experience, and can use this experience to guide you through the next chapter, or use it to help give you a boost in your new career.

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/-Lw8Lba_dQw via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics: Careers in different fields
[2] Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurse
[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics: America’s physical therapists
[4] Bureau of Labor: Market Research Analysts
[5] PayScale: Average Senior Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist Salary
[6] Bureaux of Labor Statistics: Project coordinator

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Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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