Five Degrees for a Scary Economy


These five education options could help you navigate the rocky road of the recession.

By Renee Wade

Are you thinking about heading back to school? Don't forget to think about your potential return on investment.

Consider going for career specific education, advises Peter Goetz, vice president for marketing and enrollment at Ross University in New Jersey. "Degrees that have the highest proportion of job-specific education are the best investment,” says Goetz.

Certificate and associate's degrees are a few options for getting a career-specific education.

In fact, according to a report, "Certificates Count: An Analysis of Sub-baccalaureate Certificates", by Complete College America, a non-profit group, "certificates can position graduates for immediate workforce success."

More good news: Despite the state of the economy, some industries are still thriving.

Keep reading to explore some certificate and associate's degree options that could help you weather any economic climate.

Education Option #1 - Associate's in IT and Information Systems

Information technology (IT) has become an integral part of modern life, according to the Department of Labor. Completing an associate's degree in IT and information systems could help you develop the skills needed to prepare for a tech-savvy career.

Click here to find the right IT and Information Systems program for you.

Details: An associate's degree program in IT and information systems generally takes about two years to complete, and might include courses such as statistics, engineering, computer science, networking, and others.*

Potential career path: One potential career path for graduates of this degree program is computer support specialist, a gig that has an average wage of $49,930, and a projected job growth of 14 percent from 2008 to 2018.**

Education Option #2 - Associate's in Accounting

Do you want in on this in-demand field? An associate's degree in accounting can help. The Department of Labor notes that an associate’s degree in accounting can potentially qualify you for several positions related to the recording and reporting of financial transactions.

Click here to find the right Accounting program for you.

Details: Associate's degree programs take about two years to complete, and generally offer career-specific classes like accounting systems, fraud examination, tax regulations, and auditing.

Potential career path: This degree could provide great preparation for a career as a bookkeeper. Bookkeepers have an average salary of $35,340 and are expected to have a job growth of 10 percent during the 2008 to 2018 decade.

Education Option #3 - Pharmacy Technician Certificate

A pharmacy technician certificate is a career-specific program you could take to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician, says Goetz, who adds that it’s a particularly good investment because a certificate takes less time to earn than an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Click here to find the right Pharmacy Technician program for you.

Details: Certificate programs in this field generally take about one year to complete, and generally include courses like pharmaceutical terminology, drug interactions, and inventory management.

Potential career path: This education option could be a good long-term investment. Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 31 percent from 2008-2018. Pharmacy technicians have an average annual salary of $29,330.

Education Option #4 - Dental Assisting Certificate

Do you want to pursue a career in a fast-growing field? Consider earning a dental assisting certificate.

Click here to find the right Dental Assisting program for you.

Details: Dental assisting certificate programs generally take one year or less to complete, making them ideal if you can’t devote years to completing your education.

Potential career path: While it's not a requirement, this hot education option can prepare grads to pursue work in dental assisting, where employment is projected to grow 36 percent from 2008-2018. The average salary is $34,140.

Education Option #5 - Medical Assisting Certificate

“Health care is undoubtedly one of the hottest fields," says Goetz. "And the demand for doctors, nurses, and medical assistants just keeps growing." If you're interested in this growing field, a medical assisting certificate could help you pursue this career in far less time than it might take to pursue a career as a nurse or doctor.

Click here to find the right Medical Assisting program for you.

Details: A medical assisting certificate program generally takes about one year to complete, depending on program and workload, and should include courses in anatomy, physiology, medical transcription, and insurance processing.

Potential career path: Medical assistant positions are projected to grow by 34 percent from 2008-2018. The average annual salary for medical assistants is $29,760.

*Information from the U.S. Department of Labor and may vary according to a student’s course load and other factors, such as individual program requirements.

**All average earnings and job growth statistics are from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 figures.

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