Five Popular Second-Act Degrees


Interested in pursuing a new career? Check out these great second-act degree options.

By Terence Loose

Have the lights gone out on your first-act career? Do you want to go back to school in hopes of making your career's second act brighter with a promotion or raise - or just a different career altogether?

No matter what the reason, you'll want to consider your second-act degree carefully, says Eileen Sharaga, a career psychologist who helps people find the vocation best for them.

"Finding the right degree fit is complicated," says Sharaga. "It's an integration of many different facets of who you are." But, she says, if you do find the right fit, it means you will be playing to your strengths. "And when you're using your strengths, you have confidence. And that makes you successful."

Keep reading for five second-act degree options that could be the right fit for you.

Second-Act Degree #1 - Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Having trouble breaking into a management position? Perhaps you see yourself as an entrepreneur? These are just two good reasons people go back to school to earn a master's in business administration (MBA), says Cathy Suma-Wolfe, communications director of the College of Marin in Northern California.

Can't give up your first-act career to prepare for your second? Don't sweat it: The U.S. Department of Labor says that many MBA students take classes while working. Common business administration courses include financial management, business ethics and law, and international management, notes the College Board, an educational organization that administers tests like the SAT.

Click to Find the Right MBA Program Now.

Second-Act Sizzle Factor: "This is a degree for those who want to sharpen their business skills and move into management," Suma-Wolfe says. "They want to take it to the next level and prepare themselves to really excel in their company, or a new profession."

As for a career you could pursue, the Department of Labor says that many employers seek applicants with master's degrees in business administration, finance, or economics to fill a position such as financial manager. You know, the finance experts that keep the company financially healthy.

Second-Act Degree #2 - Master's in Health Care Administration

If your first-act career is on life support and you're looking for a second-act degree in a field of study with a better prognosis, a master's in health care administration might be just what the employer ordered.

Why? Because the U.S. Department of Labor says that a health administration program prepares students for higher-level management jobs than other degree programs.

Students gain this preparation from courses that range from hospital management and accounting to human resources administration, law and ethics, and health information systems, notes the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Master's in Health Care Administration Program Now.

Second-Act Sizzle Factor: This degree is pursued by many who have had a first act in health care and want to take it to the next level, says Suma-Wolfe.

And what's the next level? While there are a variety of career options, a master's in health administration is one common route to pursuing a career as a medical or health services manager, says the Department. Even better, it's an occupation that is projected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Second-Act Degree #3 - Bachelor's in Computer Science

Are you looking for a second-act degree that caters to your techie personality? Perhaps it's time to modernize your second act with a bachelor's degree in computer science.

This is a degree that often includes intriguing class choices that could make any second act more interesting. For instance, computer science majors take such classes as artificial intelligence, the theory of formal language, and digital system design, says the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program Now.

Second-Act Sizzle Factor: "Virtually every business I can think of relies on computers, so I think computer science is definitely going to be a great degree to have for a long time," says Mary Jeanne Vincent, a career expert and strategist.

In fact, software developers, who usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, are projected to have 30 percent job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Looks like Vincent was pretty on target with her prediction.

Second-Act Degree #4 - Bachelor's in Accounting

If your first-act career never really added up to a satisfying gig, and you have a passion for analytics and numbers, perhaps you should consider a bachelor's degree in accounting for your second act.

And don't worry about your second act being a number-crunching snoozer. As the College Board points out, this degree does more than just teach you how to count beans. You'll learn not only how to gather and record financial information, but how to analyze it and consult with individuals or organizations about financial strategies. To do this, the College Board says you'll probably take classes in auditing, business law, and accounting information systems.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program Now.

Second-Act Sizzle Factor: "Accounting is a very useful degree," Suma-Wolfe says. "It can lead to jobs in so many different industries, at so many sizes of business, that I think it's a very solid choice."

And a solid career choice that fits nicely with this degree? You guessed it: accountant. In fact, most accountants need - at a minimum - a bachelor's in accounting or a related field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And with accountants and auditors projected to have an increase of 190,700 new positions from 2010 to 2020, a second-act degree in accounting seems like a great option.

Second-Act Degree #5 - Associate's or Certificate in Paralegal Studies

There's nothing like a courtroom to add a little drama and excitement to a second act. But if you don't want to spend years in law school, in addition to passing the Bar exam, then pursuing an associate's degree in paralegal studies could be a good option. And if you already have a bachelor's degree in another field, you could sign up for a certificate in paralegal studies.

And what might you study? According to the College Board, commonly offered courses include civil procedure, ethics, legal research and writing, Hollywood courtroom dramas... okay, that last one we just threw in for fun. But hey, watching "A Few Good Men" again can't hurt, right?

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Now.

Second-Act Sizzle Factor: What makes this degree ideal for your second act? One reason might have to do with the career it's linked to. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most paralegals have a certificate in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in any area and a certificate in paralegal studies.

And here's another sizzling factor: "As employers try to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of legal services, they are expected to hire more paralegals and legal assistants," says the Department of Labor. And while there certainly are no employment guarantees, this is still positive news for students studying paralegal studies.

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