Best Degrees for Second-Act Careers

Degrees for Second-Act Careers

Check out five degrees that could lead to a more satisfying second act in your career storyline.

By Terence Loose    

Is the curtain coming down on your first-act career because of burnout, boredom, or unemployment? It could be time to return to school for a degree in a field with more promising second-act career choices.

Don't know if going back to school is right for you?

Consider this: About two-thirds of all employment will require some college education or better, according to "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018," a June 2010 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

With that in mind, here are five "sneak peeks" of degree options that could lead to great second-act careers.

Degree #1 - Associate's in Paralegal Studies

If you love courtroom dramas, you might find earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies equally fascinating.

As a paralegal student, you'll likely sharpen your writing and critical thinking skills, as well as study the law, legal research, and how to use law libraries, according to the College Board, an educational organization that administers aptitude tests like the SAT.

What's more, an associate's in paralegal studies could prepare you to pursue a career as a paralegal. Paralegals do a lot of the same work as lawyers, such as researching case law, writing legal documents and arguments, and preparing for hearings and trials, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Second-Act Career Details: Paralegals earn an average of $49,640 annually, and the field is predicted to grow by 28 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Department.*


Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Computer Science

Are you intrigued by movies where the techie saves the day with a few keystrokes? If so, a bachelor's degree in computer science might be the preparation you need for a great second-act career.

You could prepare for a career in computer science with courses like program design, computer system organization, and software engineering, according to the College Board.

And don't fret - the careers you could pursue with a bachelor's in computer science aren't as dull as stereotypes might make them out to be.

Take computer systems analysts for example. They generally design and develop new computer systems or find ways to use existing systems for new tasks, notes the Department. Dull? Decidedly not.

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Second-Act Career Details: Computer systems analysts earn an average of $81,250 annually, and the field is predicted to grow by 20 percent between 2008 and 2018.*


Degree #3 - Associate's in Medical Assisting

If you love caring for people, studying to pursue a second-act career in the health care field might be your calling. One exciting option is an associate's degree in medical assisting.

As a medical assisting student, you'll likely study everything from medical terminology to insurance processing and medical transcription, according to the College Board, which also notes that this degree is an ideal stepping stone towards a medical assisting career.

What's a medical assistant? Think of them as the oil that keeps your doctor's office running smoothly.

Medical assistants perform a variety of tasks, from updating patients' files and taking vital signs to preparing insurance or hospital forms and making appointments, according to the Department.

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Second-Act Career Details: Medical assistants earn an average of $29,760 annually, and the field is predicted to grow by 34 percent between 2008 and 2018.*


Degree #4 - Associate's in Business

If you would like to prepare for a career in the business world, then earning an associate's degree in business might be the right way to script your second-act career.

As a business major, you'll generally study accounting and auditing techniques as well as broader business issues, according to the College Board.

These courses could help you prepare for a career as a bookkeeper, which generally involves performing a wide range of tasks and roles. In small businesses, bookkeepers might be in charge of all accounting. In large firms, they might work in specific areas, preparing reports for accountants and other business professionals, according to the Department.

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Second-Act Career Details: Bookkeepers earn an average of $35,340 annually, and the field is predicted to grow by 10 percent between 2008 and 2018.*


Degree #5 - Associate's in Nursing

Whether you're a "General Hospital" fan or more of a Mother Teresa biopic kind of person, an associate's degree in nursing might be good medicine for an ailing first-act career.

Nursing degree coursework usually involves conducting physical exams, studying health care ethics, and learning how to diagnose and treat illnesses, according to the College Board.

An associate's in nursing is a common route towards a career as a registered nurse, according to the Department, which notes that nurses generally help doctors diagnose illnesses, perform diagnostic tests, administer treatments, and educate patients and their families on medications and treatments.

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Second-Act Career Details: Nurses earn an average of $67,720 annually, and the field is predicted to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018.*


*All occupation, average salary, and growth potential comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using 2010 data. Growth data is for the period between 2008 and 2018.

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