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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: 2 to 4 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 2 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 7 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.

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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]

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: About 4 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: 2 to 4 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 4 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.

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Time in School: Around 4 to 6 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.

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 4 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 4 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 2 to 8 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 4 to 6 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.

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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.

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 4 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 4 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.

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Time in School: About 4 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]

Time in School: Up to 4 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 4 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 4 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.

More About Changing Lifecourse Late

Featured photo credit: Persnickety Prints 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 September 24, 2020

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

The world of productivity has several hacks or tricks to help you manage your time: to-do lists, the Pomodoro Technique, Parkinson’s Law… All of these strategies are great strategies in their own way, but one strategy stands above all the others: the 80 20 rule.

This particular strategy has been used the most and is regarded as the most helpful in developing time management and other concepts in life.

But what’s so special about this rule? How does it give you success and how do you use it? Let’s explore the specifics.

What Is the 80 20 Rule?

Many people regard this rule as the 80 20 rule, but it has a proper name: the Pareto Principle[1]. The principle was named after its founder,  the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in 1895. Pareto noticed that people in society were divided into two categories:

  • The “vital few,” which consisted of the top 20 percent with respect to money and influence.
  • The “trivial many,” otherwise known as the bottom 80 percent.

As he researched this further, he came to discover that this divide didn’t apply only to money and influence, but other areas, too. Virtually all economic activity was subject to his previous observation.

He observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth at the time was controlled by only 20% of the population.

Since the development of this rule, humankind has used this particular ratio in all kinds of situations. Even if the ratio isn’t always exact, we see this rule applied in many industries and in life. Examples are:

  • 20% of sales reps will generate 80% of your total sales.
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
  • 80% of the revenue will stem from 20% of the workers.

Either way, I’m sure you can piece together why people call this rule the 80 20 rule over Pareto’s Principle[2].

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Make Your Life and Your Business More Efficient with the 80-20 Rule - Salesforce Canada Blog

    In terms of how this particular rule will be able to work for you, it’s a matter of applying this rule to how you spend your time. For us to see success, the goal is simple.

    We need to set it up in such a way that 20% of our input is responsible for 80% of our results.

    Another way to think about it is we use 20% of our time on activities that give us 80% of our results in a given area of life.

    How Does the 80 20 Rule Work?

    To best explain this, let’s visualize a bit.

    In an ideal world:

    • Every employee would contribute the same amount of effort to work.
    • Every feature that’s released for an app or product would be equally loved by users.
    • Each business idea you come up with would be a hit.

    In that scenario, planning would be a breeze. There wouldn’t be any need to analyze anything so long as you put in the effort.

    But that’s not reality.

    Yes, the effort is certainly an element, but what the 80 20 principle states is that everything is unequal. Invest in 10 start-up companies, and you’ll find only a few will pass year two and make it big. You’re in a team of five, and there’ll be one person doing more work than others.

    We wish our lives were always one-for-one in terms of input and output, but that’s simply not true. Understanding this is key to understanding how the 80 20 rule really works.

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    So how does it really work?

    It’s a matter of focusing on what’s giving you the most in your life for little of your time.

    Going back to the few examples I’ve presented above, consider this:

    • If two start-ups you invested in are making it big, focus on having a more direct hand, and see if you can help them prosper more.
    • If 20% of sales reps are giving you 80% of your sales, focus on rewarding those and keeping their spirits high and motivated.

    These scenarios can go on and on, but the idea is to place your efforts on the 20% that is actually making the difference in your life. Another term that’s good to know is the diminishing marginal utility[3].

    Pareto didn’t come up with this one, but the law goes as follows: each extra hour of effort or worker will add less “oomph” to your finished results.

    Eventually, you’ll hit a point where you will spend a lot of time on small and unimportant details, similar to perfectionism.

    So before hitting that point, you want to have a laser focus on the most important details, from family and relationships to your work or business. Prioritize the activities that are going to move you forward the most, and be wary of adding extra time, effort, or more hands into those particular tasks moving forward.

    How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule

    So now that you have an understanding of the 80 20 rule and how it works, what is the best way to take advantage of it?

    Depending on where you are applying this rule, this can be used in all kinds of fashions.

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    For example, you can apply this rule to goal setting, as demonstrated by Brian Tracy in this video:

    Or you can apply it in terms of general productivity as explained in this article: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

    The core of this rule is that it forces us to ask ourselves the questions we wouldn’t consider otherwise. It helps us to place our focus in the right places with regards to all things in life.

    In short, the 80 20 rule places us in charge of our lives and helps us set out on our goals and dreams. With this in mind, here are some things you can consider concerning this rule.

    1. Focus on Your Big Tasks First

    While this is the essence of the 80 20 rule, it’s still worth mentioning. Why? Because so many of us feel intimidated by the biggest task. We instinctively avoid it and opt for smaller tasks first.

    We think that if we complete enough small tasks that we will feel motivated to finish that really big one later. But that’s really false hope at work.

    Once we finish off a lot of small tasks, we either feel drained, or we tell ourselves we’ll do this the next day.

    Instead of doing all that, bite the bullet and tackle the largest task first.

    If you need help with prioritization, check out this article.

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    I argue this by challenging you to ask yourself this one question:

    “Is the task I’m about to do the top 20 percent of my activities or the bottom 80 percent?”

    I’m sure you’ve seen time and again you or other workers spending a lot of time on one task for most of the day. In those kinds of grinds, you’re barely getting ahead and have next to nothing to show for it. That’s because they’re putting all their attention on work that’s in the 80 percent.

    It’s normally the big tasks that are part of the 20 percent.

    Another way to think about this is that everything we do starts a habit. If every day we spend our energy on low-value tasks, we will always prioritize those.

    2. Stretch This Into Personal Life

    While I’ve been talking about business and setting goals, remember you can use this in other areas of your life, too.

    Take your personal life and ask yourself some of these questions:

    • How much TV do you watch on a regular basis? What sort of shows are you legitimately into? These questions can help you in recognizing what shows you are watching purely for consumption. By applying the 80 20 rule, you can cut back on Netflix, TV, or YouTube video consumption and prioritize other areas of your life.
    • What does your wardrobe look like in terms of colors? Are there specific colors that you like? Knowing what you wear most times will help you in sorting out your wardrobe significantly. It also saves you time to come up with what to wear every morning.
    • How many newsletters do you actually read? This question can help you in figuring out which newsletters to unsubscribe to and can clear up a lot of space in your inbox. It can also relieve pressure from having to check your emails constantly.
    • How much time do you spend on your phone every day? How much of that time is actually doing something meaningful? These questions can help you in clearing out various apps that aren’t helping you with your goals. In fact, this can curb the need to check your phone constantly.

    Final Thoughts

    The 80 20 rule is the productivity hack that many of us need, and for good reason. As you can tell, it’ll help you to focus and prioritize the more important aspects of your life.

    Not only that, but it’ll maximize those outputs at the same time and ensure you’re not spending too much time working on them. All you need to do is start asking questions and taking action.

    More Techniques to Help You Succeed in Life

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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