Career Resources

7 Careers Worth Going Back to School For, Because Your Dream Job Is Out There (Promise)

7 Careers Worth Going Back to School For, Because Your Dream Job Is Out There (Promise)
Here’s the thing: you’re not bound to any one career path, and making a change doesn’t mean you’re falling behind. Image from Unsplash
Isabelle Doyle profile
Isabelle Doyle October 17, 2019

For some of them, you don’t even need to start from scratch.

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Here you are: a working professional, fully certified in the Adulting Sphere. Maybe you graduated from high school, maybe college, even graduate school, maybe you really did the damn thing and got yourself a doctorate. You’ve been in the workforce for years. But something’s missing.

Could it be that the career you loved in your early twenties isn’t right for you now? Or that you ended up with a job you weren’t interested in in the first place? Are you slogging through life as though it’s a chore? Once you’ve been grinding away in the proletariat for an extended period of time, it can be a tough call to decide whether or not to start fresh. It’s easy to imagine that you’re stuck, that the only sensible option is to continue as you are.

Here’s the thing: you’re not bound to any path, and making a change doesn’t mean you’re falling behind. There are a plethora of engaging, stimulating, stable professions that are in reach for almost anyone. For some of these jobs, you don’t even need to start from scratch. Here are a few careers that are worth going back to school for.

1. Dental Hygienist

Passionate about floss? Looking for a little more uvula in your life? Becoming a dental hygienist doesn’t require a four-year degree, just an associate degree or state licensure, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual income as a colossal $74,820. Labor Department forecasts maintain that the U.S. will see a 20 percent increase in demand for dental hygienists in the next decade alone, as there are currently only 200,000 living and working in the states today.

If you’re looking for a remunerative career in the medical field, but are unable (or simply unwilling) to pony up the dough for a four-year program or medical school, you’ve got a new option to consider.

2. Recreational Therapist

While we’d be as thrilled as anyone to see a psychologist shouting stress-management tips from the back of a jet ski, a recreational therapist is actually someone who creates and coordinates recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, mental illnesses, and injuries. From sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to arts and crafts, drama, and music, recreational therapists dabble in whatever might improve the patient’s psychological, social, and physical well-being.

Recreational therapists work in hospitals, special education departments, substance abuse centers, and pretty much any other place where people are hoping to manage symptoms, learn healthy behaviors, or heal. Most employers prefer to hire certified recreational therapists, and certification generally requires completing a bachelor’s degree, 560 internship hours, and a National Council of Therapeutic Recreation Certification Exam.

The median annual income for recreational therapists is $47,860, according to the BLS, which forecasts job growth at a sturdy 7 percent (faster than the average growth rate for all occupations). If you’re creative, compassionate, and hoping to gain a new set of skills that will enable you to serve those in need, it might be time to put in the hours and financial investment and get certified as a recreational therapist.

3. Personal Financial Advisor

This one’s for you, number-crunchers. A new occupation with a 32 percent growth rate, a personal financial advisor assesses a client’s financial needs and helps them make decisions on investments, taxes, and insurance. You get to set your own schedule (score!), which makes it super easy to work more hours if you need some quick cash, or transition to part-time when you’re hoping to ease into retirement. Even better, the average annual wage of a personal financial advisor is a muscular $66,580. Thumps tail: Woof.

4. Market Research Analyst

Are you a nerd for capital? Market research analysts study market conditions in order to estimate the earning potential of products and services. If you’re strong mathematically and analytically—oh, and if you’re down with hard deadlines, tight schedules, and assumed overtime—this career could be The One.

You’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree in market research or a related field, but job outlook is fantastic, according to the BLS, making the investment worth it. Employment is expected to grow 20 percent from 2018 to 2028, vastly faster than average. Plus, the median wage for market research analysts is $63,120 per year.

5. Registered Nurse

Do you like providing those in need with care and insight into the treatment and prevention of illnesses? How about job security? Are you into job security? Same.

But seriously, the registered nurse workforce is projected to grow by 12 percent over the course of the next decade. Plus, there’s some flexibility in the education required for the job: you can get an associate degree in nursing in two years, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in four years, or a nursing-school-specific diploma, which takes varying lengths of time to obtain. Median wage is— drumroll please!— a burly $71,730 per year. And you’re a lifesaver. Literally.

6. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Or, you could go back to school for a career nobody’s ever heard of. Industrial-organizational psychologists conduct scientific studies of human behavior in organizations and the workplace. They figure out the principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior and apply their findings to solving workplace problems.

You need a master’s in industrial-organizational psychology and a jumble of specialized knowledge—Ready? Small group theory/process, job and task analysis, individual assessment, criterion theory and development, consumer behavior, decision theory, organizational and career development, statutory law, administrative law, case law, executive orders related to workplace activities—But, guess what you don’t need? A doctorate. And the median annual wage is $97,260.

7. Software Developer

Technology is the MVP of the modern world. Disagree? Well, which of your assorted gadgets are you reading this on? Exactly. Software developers create systems and applications that run on computers and other devices. Tech is an evolving industry, so there’ll always be something new to learn, which can be tricky, but nonetheless appealing if you prefer variety to mindless repetition and days that blur together.

Programming is a super creative pursuit, and every time you write code, you make something unique. And then there’s the median annual wage, according to the BLS: $103,620 for applications software developers and $110,000 for systems software developers. Not too shabby. Plus, demand for computer software means that the Department of Labor projects employment for software developers to grow 21% from 2018 to 2028. If you’re looking for a lucrative, creative career and you’re up for a challenge, consider going back to school for a bachelor’s degree in computer science. The world always needs more software developers, and it’s always nice to feel needed.

Isabelle Doyle is a junior editor at Noodle. She recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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