Quick Ways To Start A New Career

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Learn which five careers you can prepare for in about two years.

By Jennifer Rodgers   

Want to go back to school to prepare for a new career but don't want to spend four plus years doing it?

Deciding on the right path can be tough - especially if you're interested in starting a career sooner, rather than later.

The good news is that not all great careers require a bachelor's degree. In fact, there are quite a few options out there that only require a certificate or associate's degree, which could take as little as one to two years to earn.

Sound good to you? Keep reading to find out what careers you could potentially prepare for within these timeframes.

Career #1 - Dental Assistant

While many dental assistants pick up skills while on the job, the U.S. Department of Labor says that an increasing number enroll in a dental-assisting program to help prepare. Most take one year or less to complete, says the Department.*

General responsibilities: As a dental assistant, you'll often act as the dentist's second pair of hands as you help prepare patients for their dental procedures. You also might assist with obtaining and updating patient dental records.

Average salary: Dental assistants have an annual average income of $34,140.**

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Career #2 - Paralegal

Want to work in law - without suffering through law school? Look into your paralegal education options. The Department of Labor notes that paralegals generally have an associate's degree in paralegal studies. For career changers with a bachelor's degree in another field, consider earning a certificate in paralegal studies. Associate's degrees can take approximately two years to complete, while certificates generally take about one year to complete.

General responsibilities: In this career, you'll act as a lawyer's right hand man or woman. That's because paralegals heavily assist lawyers with investigating facts, drafting documents and preparing for hearings, trials, and more.

Average salary: Paralegals have an annual average income of $49,640.

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Career #3 - Medical Records and Health Information Technician

If you want to get into the health care field relatively quickly, consider preparing to pursue medical records and health information technician positions. According to the Department of Labor, most technicians have an associate's degree in health information technology, which generally takes about two years to complete, depending on program and course load.

General responsibilities: Technicians can specialize in areas like coding or cancer registry, says the Department of Labor. Regardless of which area you choose, you'll likely deal more with patient information, like codifying patient's medical information for reimbursement purposes, than you will needles.

Average salary: Medical billing and coding technicians have an annual average income of $35,010.

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Career #4 - Bookkeeper

Most bookkeepers have at least a high school diploma, and the Department of Labor notes that having some accounting coursework is important. In fact, for some positions, an associate's degree in business or accounting is actually required. These programs generally take about two years to complete, depending on program type and course load.

General responsibilities: If you have a knack for numbers, this could be a great career for you, as you'll probably be updating and maintaining accounting records. You also might calculate expenditures, record transactions, and prepare reports.

Average Salary: Bookkeepers have an average annual income of $35,340.

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Career #5 - Pharmacy Technician

Another career that doesn't require a bachelor's degree: Pharmacy technician. According to the Department of Labor, employers favor applicants who have formal preparation or a pharmacy technician certificate, which can often be completed in less than one year.

General responsibilities: If you're interested in the health care field, but not so keen about hands-on patient care, this could be a great option for you. As a pharmacy technician, you'll likely prepare prescription medications, provide customer service, and perform administrative duties.

Average salary: Pharmacy technicians have an annual average income of $29,330.

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*All time to completions stated represent the average. Time to completion will vary by school, program, student's level of commitment, and other factors.

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

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