Careers That Don't Require a Lifetime in School


Check out these careers that could get you out of the classroom and into the work force sooner, rather than later.

By Amanda Hearle

Want to go back to school to prepare for a career, but don't want to spend a lifetime there? If you're looking for a potentially shorter route from the classroom to the work force than, say, a bachelor's degree, consider earning a certificate or associate's degree.

These programs offer an alternative for students who don't want to earn a bachelor's degree, which generally takes as little as four years to complete.

"You should always remember that there's a program out there for everyone," says Jeanette Stirdivant, college services division chair and academic counselor at Glendale Community College. "And whether it's an associate's, certificate, or vocational program, just make sure that the area of study you choose is going to help you end up where you want to be."

Check out this list of education programs that could prepare you to pursue a career sooner, rather than later.

Career #1: Paralegal

Looking to pursue a career in law - but don't want to take the law school route? You're in luck. As a paralegal, you could develop the skills needed to assist lawyers, without having to endure the long years in school.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, paralegals could help lawyers prepare for hearings, trials, or corporate meetings. Common duties might include researching relevant laws and regulations, drafting documents and reports, and getting affidavits that could be used as evidence in court.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program.

Lifetime in School Not Required: A majority of paralegals earn an associate's degree in paralegal studies, notes the Department of Labor. This option could take as little as two years to complete. However, if you already have a bachelor's degree, earning a certificate in paralegal studies is another possible path. The best part? "Some certificate programs only take a few months to complete," says the Department.

Career #2: Bookkeeper

Are you the one who handles all the household accounts: paying bills, checking balances, organizing pay stubs for taxes? If you're looking for a finance career that won't require you to be stuck in school forever, consider bookkeeping.

As a bookkeeper, you might revise business statements, track expenses, and make sure that financial records are accurate, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Depending on the company, bookkeepers could also be responsible for payroll, creating invoices, and billing clients.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Lifetime in School Not Required: According to the Department of Labor, most bookkeepers are required to have a high school diploma and generally pick up skills on the job. However, some employers favor candidates with some postsecondary education and coursework in accounting. One option to prepare for this career could be an associate's degree in accounting, which could be completed in as little as two years.

Career #3: Medical Assistant

Want to pursue a career where you can care for patients - without going through a decade of schooling? A medical assisting program may be a great option for you.

Medical assistants help keep doctors' offices running smoothly by staying on top of a combination of medical and administrative duties. Tasks could include scheduling appointments, filling out insurance forms, measuring patients' vital signs, and assisting with medical exams, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Lifetime in School Not Required: Although most only have a high school diploma and learn on the job, some states might require assistants to complete an accredited program, which could lead to a certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting, says the Department of Labor. The good news?  A certificate could be completed in as little as one year, while an associate's degree could be completed in as little as two years.

Career #4: Computer Support Specialist

Do you want to learn more about solving computer issues? You could be well-suited to prepare to pursue a career as a computer support specialist - which (thankfully) doesn't require you to be in school for four plus years.

As a computer support specialist, you could help companies with their computer needs by making sure that systems are up-to-date, secure, and functioning. Common duties might include testing existing network systems, completing regular network maintenance, and troubleshooting local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs), says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Lifetime in School Not Required: Lucky for you, there are several paths to this career. According to the Department of Labor, while some computer support specialist positions require a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree could be sufficient for other positions. For more technical positions, a degree in computer science, engineering, or information science might be required, adds the Department. If you opt for earning an associate's degree, you'll be happy to know that it's a degree that could be completed in as little as two years.

Career #5: Physical Therapist Assistant

You don't have to attend years of medical school to help make a difference in a patient's life. In fact, as a physical therapist assistant, you could help patients recover after completing an accredited program that's much shorter than medical school.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, physical therapist assistants could work with patients to regain movement and manage pain while recovering from injuries, illnesses, or surgery. To assist with the recovery process, you could teach patients certain exercises and offer therapeutic treatments such as massage and electrical stimulation, adds the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistant Program.

Lifetime in School Not Required: The Department says that most states require physical therapist assistants to earn an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist program. This means you could prepare to pursue this career in as little as two years. A lifetime in school? Not in the least.

Note: Time to completion of an associate's or certificate program will vary by a variety of factors, including - but not limited to - level of student commitment, school, and program.

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