How to Fast-Track to a New Career

5 Fast-Track Careers

See how the right education could put you on the fast-track to a new career.

By Renee Wade    

Are you ready for a new career? If you're excited to enter a new field, but not so enthusiastic about the years of school it might require, consider pursuing a faster track career path.

Because of their relatively short education requirements, pursuing a fast-track option could mean a quicker turnaround time and a potential new career before you know it.

Keep reading to learn about five exciting careers that generally require only two - or less - years of education.

Career #1 - Medical Assistant

If you're passionate about the medical field, but don't think med school is for you, consider studying to pursue a medical assisting career instead.

Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical duties in a variety of health care settings. As a medical assistant, your responsibilities might include filling patients' medical records, scheduling appointments, recording vital signs, and explaining treatment procedures to patients.

Fast-Track Factor: Aspiring medical assistants have two fast-track options. Many complete a one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree in medical assisting.*

Average Earning Potential: $29,760**

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Career #2 - Bookkeeper

If you're a numbers-oriented person looking for a career that doesn't require a four-year bachelor's degree, bookkeeping could be just the ticket.

Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining the records of an organization or individual's finances. They might keep track of whether taxes are paid properly and on time, track expenses, and generally make sure that their employer is in sound financial shape.

Fast-Track Factor: Look into earning an associate's degree in accounting or business, which could take about two years to complete. While the degree is not always a requirement, it's becoming increasingly important.*

Average Earning Potential: $35,340**

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Career #3 - Paralegal

Want to make a career transition to the legal field - without going to law school? Consider studying to pursue paralegal opportunities.

Paralegals, also known as legal assistants, are often responsible for helping lawyers by researching, investigating details of a trial, and preparing for cases, meetings, and hearings. Though paralegals cannot participate in trials, they can otherwise perform many of the same tasks as attorneys.

Fast-Track Factor: The most direct route to a career as a paralegal is a two-year associate's degree in paralegal studies. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another field, a certificate in paralegal studies could be your quickest route, as some programs take as little as a few months to complete.*

Average Earning Potential: $49,640**

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Career #4 - Administrative Assistant

Are you interested in making a transition to a career with opportunities in a variety of settings? Administrative assistants - who don't need years of schooling and experience - can often work in schools and large corporations, to name just a few possibilities.

Depending on where they work, administrative assistants might be responsible for answering phones, managing office communication, making spreadsheets, keeping calendars and schedules up-to-date, or purchasing and distributing office supplies.

Fast-Track Factor: If you want to gain relevant skills that can be used in this type of career, consider completing a one-year certificate or two-year associate's degree program in office administration.*

Average Earning Potential: $32,000**

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Career #5 - Pharmacy Technician

If you want to work in the health care industry, but prefer to avoid working with patients directly, then a career as a pharmacy technician might suit you well.

Having an interest in various kinds of medication and how they're made and distributed is ideal for this career as you'll likely be responsible for receiving prescription requests, counting tablets, and labeling bottles. Other responsibilities might include answering phones, maintaining patient profiles, and preparing insurance claim forms.

Fast-Track Factor: Employers favor candidates with formal education - such as a pharmacy technician certificate, which could last as little as six months for a certificate to two years for an associate's degree.*

Average Earning Potential: $29,330**

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*All fast-track factor education info is from the U.S. Department of Labor. Completion times for these programs are never a guarantee and will vary based on a variety of factors, including school, program, and student's level of commitment.

**All salary info is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics

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