Top Careers for a Better Work-Life Balance

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See how the right education could help you pursue a career with built-in flexibility.

By Charyn Pfeuffer    

Are you tired of the same old, same old 9-to-5 office routine? Want to change to a career with a more flexible working schedule? You're not alone.

More than three out of five working adults agreed that flexibility is one of the most important factors to consider when looking for a new job, according to a recent Business News Daily article.

The good news is that with the right education, you could be prepared to pursue a career with flexibility built in...

Career # 1 - Registered Nurse

Want a career that offers a flexible work schedule? Look to nursing. These physical and emotional health care providers generally help perform a variety of tasks - from recording medical histories and symptoms to doing diagnostic tests and helping with patient follow-up and rehabilitation.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Flex Factor: Instead of being confined by normal business hours, registered nurses (RNs) usually have the flexibility to work night and weekend shifts. At Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, Dana Dye, chief nursing officer, RN, says the hospital allows nurses to choose between eight-hour or 12-hour shifts. And during the weekends, nurses could have the option to work 24 hours.

Education: Look into either an associate's degree in nursing or a nursing diploma from an approved nursing program.

Earning Potential: The mean annual salary for RNs was $67,720 in May 2010.*


Career #2 - Dental Assistant

Dental assistants usually play an important role in preparing patients for treatment, sterilizing dental equipment, organizing instruments, and updating dental records. During procedures, assistants usually work alongside the dentist to provide patient care. They also could perform laboratory duties.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Flex Factor: Many dental assistants don't subscribe to a 9-to-5 schedule or a 40-hour workweek. Some put in hours on nights and weekends, while others work for more than one dental office to form a more balanced work-life routine. In 2008, nearly half of all dental assistants had a 35- to 40-hour workweek, says the Department of Labor.

Education: While there's no formal requirements for dental assisting gigs, the U.S. Department of Labor notes that dental assisting diploma and certificate programs - which could take as little as one year to complete - are growing in popularity.

Earning Potential: The mean annual salary for dental assistants was $34,140 in May 2010.*


Career #3 - Accountant

If you excel at organization and attention to detail, you may want to consider an accounting career. Accountants usually help to ensure that firms are run efficiently, public records are kept accurately, and taxes are paid properly and on time.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Flex Factor: Off-site work and travel for audits are two fun flex factors that can be found in accounting. At Ernst & Young, workplace flexibility has been built into the culture, says a recent New York Times article. Ernst & Young's Chairman James S. Turley said, "We listen to our people and they tell us very consistently that flexibility is incredibly important to them and to their family." Nearly 10 percent of Ernst & Young's 23,500 U.S. employees are on flexible arrangements.

Education: If you want to prepare to pursue this career, consider earning a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related area like finance or business.

Earning Potential: The mean annual salary for accountants was $68,960 in May 2010.*


Career #4 - Graphic Designer

Using tools like color, type, illustration, and various layout techniques, graphic designers generally convey visual messages in a variety of mediums. From designing magazines and promotional displays to marketing brochures and packaging, this career is usually about having an eye for design.

Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program.

Flex Factor: If working normal business hours at a big design or advertising firm doesn't excite you, there could be work-life balance alternatives for a graphic designer. Many creative types are self-employed and usually work from home on a contract basis, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Just note that since this has the potential to be a self-employed position that revolves around production schedules, night and weekend hours could be necessary.

Education: If you want to start a graphic design career, a bachelor's degree in graphic design is generally needed to land an entry-level position, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Earning Potential: The mean annual salary for graphic designers was $48,140 in May 2010.*


Career #5 - Police Officer

Uniformed police officers usually protect lives and property by carrying out law enforcement duties. From responding to a traffic accident to confronting criminals, these everyday heroes work to keep our communities safe.

Click to Find the Right Police Officer Program.

Flex Factor: The prospect of flexible or part-time schedules seems to be attractive to police job candidates - it appears on many career hiring sites, including the NYPD Cadet Corps' web site. Although police officers usually work 40-hour weeks, hours can be flexible, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since police officers provide around-the-clock protection, shift work could be necessary.

Education: Educational requirements vary for each agency - from a high school diploma to a few years of college coursework.

Earning Potential: The mean annual salary for police officers was $55,620 in May 2010.*


*Unless otherwise noted, all average earning potential information is from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wages for May 2010.

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