How to speed up a career switch

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A hot career could be closer than you think. Check out these 5 careers you could start with an associate's degree.

By University.com Staff

The job market is tough these days, especially if you haven't earned a college degree. The time is fast approaching - if it isn't here already - when higher education will be a necessity for anyone wanting to enter the professional job market.

Already, college graduates with at least a bachelor's degree earn nearly $20,000 more per year than people with only a high school diploma or GED, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2010 report "The Condition of Education." That gap can only be expected to grow as the job market becomes even more competitive.

But for many people, a bachelor's degree is too big of a commitment, especially for those who already work full-time or have a family.

Sound like you? An associate's degree program - which generally takes about two years to complete - may be the right option for you.*

Check out these hot associate's degree career options now.

Associate's Degree Career #1: Medical Assistant

Want to work in the growing health care field - without spending years and years in medical school? Look into earning an associate's degree in medical assisting.

Medical assistants are indispensible to the operation of health practitioner offices, often handling a range of administrative tasks including obtaining patients' medical history and scheduling appointments.

Career Growth: The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that employment for medical assistants will grow 34 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Average Earning Potential: $29,760 per year**

Start Your Medical Assistant Education - Find the Right School Now


Associate's Degree Career #2: Computer Support Specialist

If you want a quick-prep career that will incorporate your love of technology, consider earning an associate's degree in tech support or information technology, which could prepare you to pursue opportunities as a computer support specialist.

Computer support specialists help people with their computer problems. Some work out of call centers, where they try to help customers figure out what's wrong with their computer. Others might be on the staff of a company or school.

Career Growth: The U.S. Department of Labor predicts the field will grow by 14 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Average Earning Potential: $49,930 per year**

Start Your Tech Support Education - Find the Right School Now


Associate's Degree Career #3: Paralegal

Love the law, but don't want to spend years in law school? Consider studying to pursue paralegal career opportunities through an associate's degree program.

If you've seen the Oscar-winning film "Erin Brockovich," you know that a career as a paralegal can be far from boring. And while it's not all Hollywood glamour and sticking it to the man, paralegals do perform many of the same exciting tasks as attorneys, such as researching cases and conducting interviews.

Career Growth: This exciting career is seeing equally exciting growth - the U.S. Department of Labor predicts the field will grow 28 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Average Earning Potential: $49,640 per year**

Start Your Paralegal Education - Find the Right School Now


Associate's Degree Career #4: Bookkeeper

Love to crunch numbers? Prepare to pursue bookkeeping opportunities by earning an associate's degree in accounting.

Financial records are often the most important aspect for any business, and bookkeepers are the ones who make sure they are complete and accurate.

Career Growth: The U.S. Department of Labor calls this "one of the largest growth occupations in the economy," and predicts that the field will add about 212,400 new jobs between 2008 and 2018.

Average Earning Potential: $35,340 per year**

Start Your Accounting Education - Find the Right School Now


Associate's Degree Career #5: Real Estate Agent

If you want to pursue real estate opportunities, an associate's degree in business is a great place to start, especially if the college or university you choose offers real estate-specific courses. Note: All states also require that real estate agents be licensed - and licensure requirements will vary by state.*

Real estate agents manage and negotiate the sale of homes, offices, and other buildings. They might help people who want to buy a house or help those who want to sell.

Career Growth: While it might seem like the housing market is still on the decline, job growth is projected to increase by 14-19 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Average Earning Potential: $52,490 per year**

Start Your Business Education - Find the Right School Now


*Education requirements from U.S. Department of Labor. Time to completion is never a guarantee and will depend on program, course load, a student's commitment, and other factors.

**According to the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010. All figures dependent on factors such as: schooling, place of employment, experience, and other factors.

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