Great Second-Act Career Options

Great Second-Act Careers

Learn which careers have the potential to make the best sequels.

By Chris Kyle

Who said sequels have to stink? With the right work experience and education, your second career could be a big hit.

Marc Freedman has identified a growing trend in his book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. "An increasing number of employers see the value of responsible, stable grown-ups who know what's expected in the workplace and have a track record of experience," he writes.

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If you are thinking of changing careers, you're not alone. As many as 8.4 million Americans have already launched "encore" careers, according to a 2008 study by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures, a San Francisco think tank.

Want to pursue a new career and wondering where to start? Check out these great second-act career options.

#1 Career - Medical Assistant

If you're looking for a second-act career option with generally quick education requirements, look into a certificate program in medical assisting, which can take as little as one year to complete. Medical assistants support doctors and other health care professionals with office and clinical work, like collecting blood samples. Administrative experience can be a real asset when transitioning into a career as a medical assistant, as is a background in bookkeeping and billing.

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Medical Assistant Outlook: Business is booming for medical assistants, who will enjoy a 34 percent increase in job opportunities through 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Average Salary:
Medical Assistants: $29,450*

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#2 Career - Paralegal

Office work is a strong foundation for pursuing a paralegal or legal secretary career path. Professionalism and an eye for detail are also paramount since duties often include conducting research and interviewing witnesses. For those who already have a degree, a certificate in paralegal studies could provide an excellent starting point.

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Paralegal Outlook: Staffing firm Robert Half International pegged paralegals as one of its hottest careers for 2011. Looking ahead, the Department of Labor predicts a 28 percent jump in employment opportunities for paralegals and legal secretaries in the 2008-2018 timeframe.

Average Salary:
Paralegals and Legal Assistants: $50,080*

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#3 Career - Marketing

Professionals with a talent for communicating with consumers and understanding their ways could potentially find great success in marketing. Any business experience, whether it's with a big or small firm, could also help you in marketing. Fluency in a foreign language could also look great on a resume.

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Marketing Outlook: Twelve percent of marketing executives expect to increase staff levels in the first quarter of 2011, according to a study by the Creative Group, a national staffing firm.

Average Salary:
Market Research Analysts: $67,500*
Marketing Managers: $120,070*

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#4 Career - Human Resources

The many hats worn by HR-types make this a great second-act career option. The gig requires a healthy mix of business and communication skills, so talented professionals with backgrounds in marketing, finance, accounting, IT, PR, or sales may all be able to boast directly applicable skills.

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HR Outlook: Security is another plus, since HR opportunities are expected to jump 22 percent through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.

Average Salary:
HR Specialists: $59,070*
HR Managers: $105,510*

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#5 Career - Accounting

Are you an analytical problem-solver who is detail-oriented and computer savvy? If so, you could successfully build upon those skills in an accounting career path. While a background in finance, economics or mathematics can lend an advantage, it's not always a requirement.

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Accounting Outlook: Separate 2010 surveys of CFOs by global accounting firm Grant Thornton and staffing firm Robert Half International found that qualified accounting candidates are hard for employers to find. The Department of Labor estimates that accounting jobs will grow 22 percent through 2018.

Average Salary:
Accountants: $56,850*
Finance Managers: $135,290*

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#6 Career - Health Care Administration

Experience with the day-to-day operations of running an office or business could help you in your pursuit of a second-act career in health care administration. Customer service skills could also help ease the transition, since, like any other business, you're working with customers (in this case, patients).

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Health Care Administration Outlook: Opportunities for medical and health services managers are projected to grow by 16 percent through 2018, according to the Department of Labor.

Average Salary:
Health Care Support Workers: $31,340*
Health Services Managers: $90,970*

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*Average salary comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, using 2009 median salary information.

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