Back-to-School Options for You

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Thinking about going back to school? We break down some hot options.

By Chelsea Lin   

Wondering if going back to school is right for you?

As with most questions in life, there's no easy answer.

To help you make an informed decision, we've outlined some back-to-school options that could meet you in the middle.

Back-to-School Option #1: Certificate

Certificate programs are ideal for adults who already know the career field they want to pursue but still want to acquire the specific skills needed to help them land a career.

Program perk: These programs often require less time to complete than degrees and are generally offered at vocational schools or community colleges.

Check out some hot certificate options:

  • Medical Assisting Certificate

    Potential career path: Medical Assistant
    Typical responsibilities: Handle administrative work and insurance forms, collect vital signs and lab specimens, assist physicians during exams
    Earning potential: $29,760*

Find Medical Assisting Certificate Programs

  • Culinary Arts Certificate

    Potential career path: Chef
    Typical responsibilities: Develop menu and prepare food, provide leadership to other cooks in the kitchen, manage schedules and inventory
    Earning potential: $44,780*

Find Culinary Arts Certificate Programs

Back-to-School Option #2: Associate's Degree

Associate's degree programs can be a good option for those unable to commit to a full four-year program, but still interested in obtaining an education that goes beyond vocational skills. Generally awarded after two years of study, these degrees are offered mainly at community or junior colleges.

Program perk: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with an associate's degree averaged at $141 more per week than those with just a high school diploma. With 52 weeks in the year, that equates to $7,332 more per year.

Check out some hot associate's degree options:

  • Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies

    Potential career path: Paralegal
    Typical responsibilities: Investigate case facts, help lawyers prepare for cases, draft legal documents
    Earning potential: $49,640*

Find Paralegal Studies Associate's Degree Programs

  • Associate's Degree in Marketing

    Potential career path: Advertising Sales Agents
    Typical responsibilities: Sell advertising for media, travel to meet with new clients, analyze sales statistics and demographics
    Earning potential: $55,020*

Find Marketing Associate's Degree Programs

Back-to-School Option #3: Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's degree programs require you to obtain general education credits beyond your industry and can usually be completed in four years of full-time study.

Program perk: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor's degree holders have higher earning potential than those without a degree. While workers with a high school diploma averaged at $626 in weekly earnings in 2010, bachelor's degree holders averaged at $1,038.

Check out some hot bachelor's degree options:

  • Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

    Potential career path: Accountant/Auditor
    Typical responsibilities: Inspect financial information, analyze financial documents, ensure prompt payment of taxes
    Earning potential: $68,960*

Find Accounting Bachelor's Degrees Programs

  • Bachelor's Degree in IT and Information Systems

    Potential career path: Computer and information systems manager
    Typical responsibilities: Oversee the technical aspect of a work place, manage computer programmers and engineers, maintain network security
    Earning potential: $123,280*

Find IT and Information Systems Bachelor's Degrees Programs

*All salary statistics cited are current as of May 2010, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor. All data on earnings by education level is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey and reflects 2010 annual wages for people age 25 and over.

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