Six great ways to pursue a new career

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See how the right education could help you pursue a new career in two years or less.

By Lisa Manterfield    

Want to switch careers fast?

Good news: One to two years of preparation now could set you up for a great career for years to come.

In fact, there are a number of careers out there that require only completion of a certificate or associate's degree program.*

These fast educational routes could appeal to recruiters and managers, says Giselle Shardlow, a recruiter with CherryBranch Consulting in San Francisco, California. "Investing in your education is highly valued by employers because it shows commitment and passion," Shardlow says.

To help you get started on a new path, we've highlighted six quick-switch career options.

Career #1 - Paralegal/Legal Assistant

Are you an ace researcher or a whiz with information? Consider making a quick switch into the paralegal/legal assisting profession.

In this career, you could find yourself helping lawyers prepare for trials, hearings, and meetings. You might also be asked to help research case information, gather facts, compile documents, and interview clients.

Start Your Paralegal Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: To enter this competitive field, you'll need at least an associate's degree in paralegal studies, which can take about two years to complete. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject, earning a paralegal certificate  - which could take just a few months - could help fast-track your career change.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for paralegals and legal assistants is $49,640.**


Career #2 - Dental Assistant

Are you ready to transition to a career in a growing field? Consider dental assisting. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 36 percent from 2008-2018.

In this career, you could be working closely with a dentist to assist with patients, procedures, and equipment. In some cases, you could also be scheduling appointments, preparing bills, or maintaining dental records.

Start Your Dental Assistant Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: You'll need to know about dental terminology and practices, and a certificate or diploma in dental assisting could help you get ready in about a year. Alternatively, you can opt for an associate's degree, which usually takes about two years to complete.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for dental assistants is $34,140.**


Career #3 - Bookkeeper

Are you a natural at math? Do you love it when everything is in balance? Consider making a quick-career switch into bookkeeping.

As a bookkeeper, you could be responsible for managing a company's financial accounts, logging transactions, and producing reports and financial statements. You could also be asked to handle payroll, purchasing, and invoices.

Start Your Accounting Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: For some positions, an associate's degree in business or accounting, which generally takes about two years to complete, is required.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks is $35,340.**


Career #4 - Pharmacy Technician

Organized, meticulous, and interested in health care... Does this sound like you? If so, consider switching to a career in pharmacy technology.

In this career, you might be responsible for receiving prescription orders from doctors, verifying patient information, weighing, counting or measuring medications, and dealing with patients. A keen eye for accuracy and people skills are key.

Start Your Pharmacy Technician Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: Most companies prefer applicants with formal pharmacy technician education through a certificate, diploma, or associate's degree. A certificate or diploma usually takes between six months and one year to complete; an associate's degree can often be completed in about two years.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for pharmacy technicians is $29,330.**


Career #5 - Medical Assistant

If you enjoy working with people, consider transitioning to a medical assisting career in the growing health care field.

Working as an administrative medical assistant, you could find yourself scheduling appointments, filing patient records, or filling out insurance claims. As a clinical medical assistant, you're more likely to work closely with patients, take vitals, draw specimens, and explain diet and exercise plans.

Start Your Medical Assistant Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: Many medical assistants complete a one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree program in medical assisting to prepare for this career.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for medical assistants is $29,760**


Career #6 - Administrative Assistant

Do you rock at customer service? Consider transitioning to a career in administrative assisting.

Administrative assistants are organizational whizzes that keep an office running smoothly, managing projects, maintaining files, and sending memos and emails to other employees. Other responsibilities might include keeping the supply cabinet stocked or helping plan the company picnic.

Start Your Office Administration Education. Find the Right School Now.

Education Options: You're going to need excellent computer and office equipment skills, and knowledge of office software, such as word processing, spreadsheets, database management, and desktop publishing. A certificate or diploma in office administration could help you develop these skills, and might take less than a year to complete.*

Average Earning Potential: The average salary for administrative assistants is $32,000.**


*All education information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor. Time to completion varies and depends on numerous factors, including a student's program type, level of commitment, school, and workload.

** All career and average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 data.

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