Careers You Could Prepare For In Two Years or Less


Check out career options for people who don't have four years to invest in school.

By Chloe Jenkins-Sleczkowski

So you're ready to enter the workforce. You've finished high school, or maybe you quit your old job and you want to take your career in a different direction.

The next step: Figuring out your career path.

To help you sort through your options, we've put together a list of six great careers with education options that could be completed in two years or less.*

Check out your school and degree options now.

Career #1 - Medical Billing and Coding Technician

If you're interested in health care but not sure working hands-on with patients is for you, consider medical billing and coding. These technicians do everything from updating patients' medical history to managing health information data and verifying insurance billing information.

What else makes this career a great option? U.S. Department of Labor projects this fast-growing field will need more technicians as the population ages and doctors see more health-related problems.

Education Options: If you want to pursue an entry-level position in a health care office, it could benefit you to have an associate's degree or certification according to the Department of Labor. Associate's degree programs in medical billing and coding often cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, and medical terminology. Certificate programs could take anywhere from six months to two years to complete, on average.

Earning Potential: Medical record and health information technicians have an average annual income of $35,010.**

Click to Find Medical Billing & Technician Certificate Programs

Career #2 - Pharmacy Technician

Another health care career that won't require you to spend four plus years in school: pharmacy technician. With the Department of Labor projecting a 25 percent job growth for this profession through 2018, a career as a pharmacy technician, which often entails assisting with prescriptions and administration, could be a potentially rewarding option.

Education Options: Although most positions ask for a high school diploma, having your pharmacy technician diploma, certification, or associate's degree could give you an advantage in obtaining an entry-level position as well as increase your earning potential, according to the Department of Labor. Many pharmacy technician programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete, depending on the program and how much time you can devote to your studies.

Earning Potential: Pharmacy technicians and aides earn an average annual income of $29,330.**

Find Pharmacy Certificate Programs Near You

Career #3 - Paralegal

If you're interested in participating in important legal proceedings, consider pursuing a career as a paralegal. In this position, you could help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, closings, and legal investigations. Job growth for this profession is projected at 28 percent through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.

Education Options: Most paralegals and legal assistants have an associate's degree in paralegal studies, a program which can take as little as two years to complete, depending on your course load and schedule. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you could complete a certification program in paralegal studies. Program duration varies by school - and your availability - but some can be completed in a few months to one year.

Earning Potential: Paralegals and legal assistants have an average annual income of $49,640.**

Click to Find Paralegal Degree Programs

Career #4 - Dental Assistant

If you like working with people, dental assisting could be a good option for you. Dental assistants often work with patients and records and also help with x-rays and anesthetics. Another perk of the profession: the Department of Labor projects a 36 percent job growth through 2018.

Education Options: Completing a dental-assisting program or certification is not required by most states for entry-level work, but it could give you a boost in the workforce, according to the Department of Labor. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) has approved a number of programs that could have you earning a certificate or diploma after one year of study or less. If you want to pursue an associate's degree, you could complete a program at a community or junior college. Average time to completion: about two years.

Earning Potential: Dental assistants have an annual average income of $34,140.**

Find Dental Assisting Certificate Programs Near You

Career #5 - Medical Assistant

Another great health care career option that doesn't require four years of study: medical assisting. Medical assistants often work on medical records and insurance forms, and take care of other medical office duties. Clinical medical assistants could take patients' medical histories and help physicians with examinations.

Education Options: According to the Department of Labor, you could make yourself more competitive in the field and potentially earn a higher salary by completing a certificate or associate's degree program. On average, these programs could be completed in one year to two years, respectively. In a medical assisting program, you'll likely study medical terminology, transcription, anatomy, physiology, and even insurance processing.

Earning Potential: Medical assistants have an average annual salary of $29,760.**

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program for You

Career #6 - Tech Support

If you're great with computers and want to get into a career where you can use your problem-solving and analytical skills, you should consider a career in tech support. Computer services positions, such as computer support specialists or network administrators, troubleshoot hardware and software problems and give technical support advice to customers who use their computer systems.

Education Options: Many people in the computer technology industry have a bachelor's degree, but you could still qualify for positions if you have a computer-related associate's degree or certification from an accredited program, both of which should take less time to complete than a four-year bachelor's degree. Obtaining a tech support certification could also help you advance to higher positions down the road.

Earning Potential: Computer support specialists have an average annual salary of $49,930.**

Find Technology Support Certificate Programs Now

*Time to completion varies by individual and is dependent on course load, part-time/full-time status, and other factors.

**Unless otherwise noted, all earning potential data is from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2010.

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