Career Game Changers

Career Game Changers

Check out these short-term strategies that could help you kick off your career.

By Lisa Manterfield   

Are you trying to decide on the right career path, but need help devising a game plan?

Check out these short-term career strategies that could help you kick off a new career.


#1 - Medical Assistant

Career Highlights:

  • As a medical assistant you may be responsible for administrative and clinical tasks, such as making appointments and taking a patient's vital signs.

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  • Medical assisting positions are expected to grow by 34 percent through 2018, according to the Department of Labor, so there's the potential for lots of opportunities in this field.

Career Game Plan:

A certificate or diploma in medical assisting could give you a basic knowledge of medical terminology, procedures, and record keeping. Programs could take about one year to complete, on average, and depending on your course load.

Potential Payoff:

The average annual salary for a medical assistant is $29,450, with top earners averaging at over $40,000 per year.*

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#2 - Dental Assistant

Career Highlights:

  • Dental assistants work under the supervision of the dentist to perform a broad range of duties, including administrative tasks, patient care, and laboratory responsibilities, such as making casts of teeth impressions.

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  • Dental assisting is one of the fastest growing careers in the country, with the Department of Labor projecting 105,600 new jobs between 2008 and 2018.

Career Game Plan:

A growing number of dental assistants prepare to pursue this career through certificate or diploma programs in dental assisting, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Program lengths vary, but could be completed in about one year, depending on your course load.

Potential Payoff:

Dental assistants have an average annual salary of $34,140, according to the Department of Labor.

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#3 - Paralegal/Legal Assistant

Career Highlights:

  • Paralegals now do many of the tasks originally performed by lawyers. On any given day a paralegal could find themselves interviewing clients, preparing documents for trial, researching laws, or scheduling court dates.

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  • Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow by 28 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Career Game Plan:

If you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject, look into earning a paralegal certificate, which could be completed in less than one year - depending on your program and course load.

Potential Payoff:

A career as a paralegal can be financially rewarding. According to the Department of Labor, the average annual income for a paralegal is $49,640, and the highest earners in the field average at over $70,000.*

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#4 - Administrative Assistant

Career Highlights:

  • A typical day for office administrators could involve filing documents, scheduling meetings, managing supplies, and ordering lunch.

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  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of secretaries and administrative assistants is projected to grow by 471,600 positions from 2008 to 2018.

Career Game Plan:

A certificate program in office administration could help one develop basic office skills in about one year - depending on your program and course load.

Potential Payoff:

The average annual salary for an administrative assistant is $32,000.*

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#5 - Pharmacy Technician

Career Highlights:

  • As a pharmacy technician, you might deal with patient information, process prescriptions, and count and accurately label medications. You might also be expected to have an understanding of pharmacy law and ethics.

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  • The Department of Labor estimates that the number of jobs in this field will grow by 31 percent through 2018, so now could be a great time to get in the game.

Career Game Plan:

A pharmacy technician certificate program could potentially help prepare you to pursue a career in this field. Programs generally cover medical and pharmaceutical terminology and could take as little as six months to complete, depending on your course load.  

Potential Payoff:

Pharmacy technicians have an average annual salary of $29,330.*

Click Here to Find Pharmacy Technician Programs

So, now that you have a plan, it's time to get out there and show 'em what you've got. Pick a career path, find the right certificate program, and get going.

*All average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 data.

Program completion times are averages and will vary by course load and school.

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