Five dead-end jobs, and how to escape them

Five dead-end jobs
Five dead-end jobs

Feeling like you're in the rut of a dying career? Consider one of these five alternatives that are growing by at least 10 percent between 2010 and 2020.

By Andrea Duchon

Look, we get it. As a kid, no one sets out to get stuck in a dead-end job or envisions themselves slaving away in a career they hate day in and day out. But somewhere along the line, life happens, and we might end up falling into a less than desirable career path.

Fortunately, if you find yourself in a dead-end career, there are alternatives for you to consider that could provide a brighter outlook for your professional life.

"I've worked with many people who describe their career path less like a chosen path and more like 'falling into a career,' says Wendy Nolin, professional career coach at Change Agent Careers, a career coaching agency in Texas. "And because they've 'fallen' a few times, they've started to believe they can't get back up. This is just not true!" says Nolin.

Want to find out what bigger and better alternatives exist for you to consider? Keep reading to learn about five jobs that lead to nowhere - and five growing careers that you should pursue.

Dead-End Job #1:
Desktop Publisher

Desktop publishers saw their career peak in the heyday of newspapers and printed news. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, their days are numbered due to the rise in digital publications. In fact, the Department of Labor says careers as desktop publishers are projected to decline by 15 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Why Avoid It: "Careers become obsolete as our technologically oriented society continues to improve and evolve at an ever-increasing speed," Nolin says. "With the advent of streaming and online news reporting, blog feeds, and instantaneous delivery of information via Twitter, texting, etc., this occupation is dying a slow painful death along with the few remaining newspapers in print circulation."

Alternative Career:
Graphic Designer

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It makes sense that the need for digital design is growing, since everything seems to be going digital these days. Graphic designers are responsible for the look and feel of a visual concept and for creating designs - either by hand or computer software - according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Plus, this career is slated to grow by 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, reports the Department of Labor.

Why It's A Better Choice: "This career marries the creative mindset with the mind-blowing sophistication of technology," says Nolin. "Graphic designers have the ability to work across every industry, organization size, and geographic location. Their services are in demand across the spectrum, allowing for self-employment or traditional employment."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program.

Education Options: A bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related subject is usually required for graphic designer positions, according the Department. If you have a bachelor's in another field, the Department says you may pursue "technical training" to meet most hiring qualifications.

Dead-End Job #2:
Telephone Operator

Back when you had to enlist the help of someone to direct a call, the career of telephone operator was probably one that was in demand. But, with the advent of virtual and digital answering services, this is another career that's experiencing a steep decline. How steep? The U.S. Department of Labor projects a drop of 17 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Why Avoid It: Lavie Margolin, a New York-based career coach and author of "Lion Cub Job Search: Practical Job Search Assistance for Practical Job Seekers," says that a role where one concentrates on a specific task, like answering the phones, is nearly extinct.

"One has to have diverse skills in order to succeed today. The person answering the phones today is also working on the boss' PowerPoint presentation, greeting visitors, and running calculations via Excel," he adds. "Additionally, many organizations are either outsourcing phone operation with a virtual assistant, or using an automated system."

Alternative Career:
Public Relations Specialist

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A PR specialist is responsible for presenting a company in the best possible light - something that any organization can benefit from. Community outreach and reputation building is something more and more companies are focused on - which is why the U.S. Department of Labor projects this career path to grow by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Why It's A Better Choice: "A PR Specialist can bring businesses to the next level, because they actually have the connections and relationships with the community, radio personalities, publishers, journalists, and the ability to leverage various media strategies for the greatest media exposure," says Laura Rose, business and efficiency coach at Rose Coaching, a business coaching company. And most importantly, she says that this is a position with a lot more career opportunity than a static position like a telephone operator might see.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Education Options: You'll typically need a bachelor's degree to pursue a career as a public relations specialist, reports the Department of Labor. They also note that employers usually prefer applicants who've studied public relations, journalism, communications, business, or English.

Dead-End Job #3:
Computer Repairer

You'd think that anything with "computer" in the title would be a soaring success as a career choice. But that's not the case for computer repairmen and women. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor says that careers in computer repair are only slated to grow only 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations.

Why Avoid It: Margolin says that with much of technology going to the "cloud," an IT professional with only limited skills in repair may find the job market challenging.

In addition, Nolin says that because it's often expensive to fix a device, many consumers are usually just upgrading instead of repairing when something goes wrong.

Alternative Career:
Computer Programmer

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These professionals write code to create software programs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And unlike computer repairers who only know one skill, they may debug programs as well as update and expand existing programs. That adaptability might be why the Department of Labor projects this field will increase by 12 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Why It's A Better Choice: "These people are in demand, big time," says Nolin. Because so many of the things we use every day are computerized, this job is here to stay, she says.

And Margolin adds that this career is on the rise, because there simply aren't enough programmers in today's IT-focused market to satisfy the demand. "If one has great programming skills, he or she is likely to have many potential opportunities available."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Education Options: The Department says that most computer programmers have a bachelor's degree. However, some employers might hire you for this position with an associate's degree. The Department adds that most programmers earn a degree in computer science or a related subject.

Dead-End Job #4:
Travel Agent

Travel agents definitely had their moment in the spotlight. But unfortunately, this career is only projected to grow by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor reports that the ability to research trips online will continue to suppress demand for this career.

Why Avoid It: Our experts say this occupation, like so many others, is being replaced by DIY technology platforms.

"You can research every aspect of a trip, including the off-the-beaten-path local hangouts, quiet B and Bs, alternative transportation methods, as well as the way to get there - all from one of your gadgets," Nolin adds. "There's just no need to use a travel agent in this day and age."

Alternative Career: Paralegal

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If you've ever watched a legal show, you've seen a paralegal's work front and center in the courtroom. They're the ones responsible for researching laws, investigating case facts, and writing reports to help lawyers during trial, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The best part? This career is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, says the Department of Labor.

Why It's A Better Choice: This is a high-growth, low barrier-to-entry job that can pay big bucks, Nolin notes.

"Consider that some of the largest, most prestigious law firms in the country are laying off lawyers, mainly because they are too leveraged," she says. "But paralegals are increasingly performing tasks previously done by lawyers, and you can see how this field is enjoying tremendous growth," she adds.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Paralegal Program.

Education Options: The Department says that there are several paths paralegals may take to prepare for this career: an associate's degree in paralegal studies, a bachelor's degree in another field with a certificate in paralegal studies, or an unrelated bachelor's degree with on-the-job training.

Dead-End Job #5:

Librarians probably play a huge part in your childhood memories, but with a U.S. Department of Labor-projected job growth rate of only 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, it's likely that "memory" could be the only role left for librarians to play.

Why Avoid It: Nolin says that this is a dying occupation simply because information now is so readily devoured using technology.

Plus, she says that federal funding for new libraries is basically non-existent, and job growth is expected to follow suit.

Alternative Career:

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You might wonder how a career as a nutritionist has anything to do with a career as a librarian, but hear us out. It comes down to the organizational skills librarians have that would translate well to this career.

"I had a client who said that her work with the library's organizational systems and her attention-to-detail helped her navigate the complex medical systems used by doctors and nurses to organize and manage their patients in her new career as a nutritionist," Nolin says.

You can look to a nutritionist to help you explain nutrition issues, develop meal plans, or help you reach a specific health-related goal, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And with a job growth outlook of 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, you can also look to this as a career that's definitely not a dead end.

Why It's A Better Choice: "With our aging and waist-expanding population, the number of people who visit a nutritionist to help address health issues is exploding," says Nolin.

"In the U.S., nutritionists have a place to call home in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, mental institutions, hotels, airlines, cruise ships, prisons, and so on. Basically you can find a nutritionist in any place where large masses of people are being served food," she adds.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Nutrition Program.

Education Options: Most nutritionists have a bachelor's degree in dietetics, food and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related field, in addition to receiving supervised training through an internship. Most states require nutritionists to have a license.

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