10 Smart Options for a Second Career

A layoff can make you rethink your direction and wonder, "Should I go back to school and do something else?"

According to Clark Beecher, principle at Magellan International, Houston, before you make that decision you should first be aware that corporations on the whole are doing "something else," too. "Employers will move away from employing people en masse and move toward outsourcing professional services [in areas] like finance, business process consulting, investment banking and legal," says Beecher. So, if you don't have one now, gaining an essential skill to offer may be your key to future paychecks.

Which skills will be in demand? Here are ten jobs with promising outlooks. Check them out if you are considering a trip back to school and a new career:

1. Information Technology Manager

According to the Department of Labor Statistics, companies prefer candidates with an MBA and an emphasis in IT. Regardless of the type of MBA, Beecher advises splurging on the best school you can get into. "A degree from a pedigree school can deliver $150-200K per year after five years and that person can expect to earn that much for the rest of their [working] lives," says Beecher.

Median annual salary:$67,393

2. Registered Nurse

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career with the greatest expected increase in available jobs over the next seven years is registered nurse. If you have an aptitude for science, a compassionate nature, and like the idea of variable hours, an RN degree may be your ticket to future employment. Not to be confused with LPNs or LVNs, it takes four years of education to obtain a bachelor of science in nursing or 2-3 years to receive and associate degree from a community college. Either path can lead to an RN certification.

Median annual salary: $55,910

3. Software Developer

Still a strong option both in terms of salary potential and employability, software developers may consider the area of "casual game" development. "One of the fastest growing segments in the gaming industry is casual gaming. Every month an estimated 200 million consumers play casual games online, many of whom do not normally regard themselves as gamers or fans of video games," says Henry DeVries, director of communications at UC San Diego Extended Studies and Public Programs. UC San Diego offers an extension program for casual gaming education to assist graphic artists and programmers.

Median annual salary: $70,834

4. Gaming Manager

Las Vegas! Not to be confused with the above computer gaming industry, this title refers to managers in casinos. Gaming manager jobs are expected increase by 24.4 percent by 2016, according to the BLS. This career path requires a specific effort to gain experience in the gaming industry, knowledge of casino regulations, and the general operations. An associate or bachelor's degree is useful but not mandatory.

Median annual salary:$48,000

5. Environmental Engineer

With our society and government looking for new ways to protect the environment, degrees in environmental studies and engineering are in becoming more popular. There are different areas of specialty you can focus on. For example, "Environmental engi­neers study the environmental impact of a proposed construction project, analyze data and assess the extent of possible harm to the environment. As a result of their evaluation, they may recommend that the construction plans be altered to minimize potential harm," reports Alice Ramey, economist at the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Median annual salary:$61,440

6. Pharmacist

If you already have a bachelor's degree and the prerequisites for pharmacy school, a few more years in school can offer an excellent return on your investment. This is one of two careers where PayScale data showed an increase in salary over the last six months. (The other career is physical therapist.)

Median annual salary:$98,232

7. Financial Advisor

Do you love numbers and people? Financial advisors help people make decisions about where to invest their money to help them enhance the quality of their lives. Some training programs exist that do not require a college degree, but the Department of Labor Statistics says a bachelor's or graduate degree offers the best prospects both in terms of employment opportunities and higher salaries.

With prospects for jobs to increase by 41 percent, this is one to check out.

Median annual salary:$59,979

8. Licensed Physical Therapist

With 27 percent growth expected by 2016, licensed physical therapy is another graduate degree program with promise of jobs in the future and excellent compensation. Most programs require a master's or doctorate level degree.

Median annual salary: $64,322

9. Paralegal

Job prospects for paralegals are expected to rise 22 percent by 2016. According to the BLS, part of this growth may be attributed to paralegals gaining responsibility and performing more tasks once commonly done by lawyers. If you like responsibility, can work under pressure, and have an eye for detail, a career as a paralegal may be for you. Paralegal education is available as a certificate, post-graduate program, associate, bachelor's and master's degree, or some companies may even teach you on the job.

Median annual salary: $44,751

10. Social Worker

With 22 percent growth projected, a career as a social worker can begin with a bachelor's degree in sociology or social work. With a variety of potential work environments, ranging from schools to rescue shelters, part-time and full-time job opportunities are expected to increase over the next eight years.

Median annual salary:$40,986

Next:Career Changers Choose Teaching >>

Source: All salary data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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