Career Switches That Could Make You More Money

Lucrative Career Switches

Just because you've started down one career path doesn't mean you can't switch to a new career - and up your salary in the process.

By Jennifer Berry

Feeling stuck in a low-paying job can be awful - but you might be able to do something about it. There are jobs you can transition to that could offer you a higher salary than your current career. Interested in making a mid-career switch? The first step is figuring out what you might enjoy doing.

"Pull out [some] paper and write what you'd enjoy doing in a work setting," says Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast.com, a job board ranking jobs and openings, and JobsRated.com, a website ranking the 200 best and worst jobs. When you're done, you should have a job description of your ideal job - as well as your ideal salary. Determining where you want your career path to head is the first step you can take toward pursuing a high-pay career.

"My advice is that if you are even thinking about making a switch, then it's worth getting serious about the exact steps you'll need to take to make it happen," says Will Little, co-founder & CEO of Code Fellows, an organization devoted to training talented people to fill software engineering roles in Seattle. That could mean interning for experience, going back to school to update your education, or even trying to transition into your ideal position within your current company, he adds. These are just a few smart career moves you could make that could help you earn a more impressive paycheck.

Bottom Line? You don't have stay in a low-paid job you hate. It's possible to move into a new career - and moving into a new occupation could even mean a higher paycheck. Keep reading to learn more.

Career #1 - Software Developer

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Median Annual Salary:* $90,060

If you're a technically savvy person looking to make a mid-career switch, preparing to pursue a career as a software developer could pay you big dividends down the road.

Switching Could Pay Off: "Software developers earn a high salary, because, at a fundamental level, there is extraordinarily high demand for them in the job market," says Little. Beyond that, he adds, your previous business experience - even if it wasn't in coding initially - could help you in your transition.

"If you ask executives what kind of engineers they are looking for, you'll often hear phrases like ‘well-rounded' or ‘experienced with business, professional, and coding skills'," says Little. "In other words, companies are looking for software developers who have experienced life from enough angles to bring a unique perspective to the team."

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Do you like solving puzzles? As a software developer, you could be the creative mind behind a computer program, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. You might develop an application, design how the application will work, and maintain and test software to make sure it works correctly.

Prepare For The Switch: According to the Department of Labor, software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field such as mathematics. However, some employers may prefer a master's degree.

Career #2 - Accountant

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Median Annual Salary:* $63,550

If you enjoy working with numbers and are eager to shoulder some big responsibilities for a company, you could prepare to pursue a great-paying job as an accountant.

Switching Could Pay Off: Why does this job offer such a nice salary? Well, as Lee points out, "This is an important position." Companies need great accountants to manage their finances, pay their taxes, and even strategize with leadership on how to reduce waste and maximize profits.

As far as making the transition mid-career, your current work experience might help you get a foot in the door. What kinds of skills do you have that might transition nicely into the role of accountant? "If you're going from being bookkeeper to accountant, it isn't a big leap," says Lee. "Otherwise, you might have to go back to school."

But even if you do need more schooling, your previous work experience could help when it comes time to look for a job in this field. In fact, Mullen suggests looking for a position within your current company. As she points out, you probably have a good idea of your company's goals, products, and services. Knowing the needs of your company could put you at an advantage when pursuing an accounting position there.

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As an accountant you could be responsible for everything from examining your company's financial operations to paying your company's taxes properly and on time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prepare For The Switch: The Department of Labor says most accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, although some employers like to hire applicants with a master's degree in accounting or business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.

Career #3 - Dental Hygienist

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Median Annual Salary:* $70,210

You don't have to be a dentist to earn a great salary in a dental office - so if you're looking for a job where you can help people, this is one switch that could give you a healthy boost to your wallet.

Switching Could Pay Off: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow from 2010 to 2020 by 38 percent, much faster than the rate of other occupations.  In other words, the demand for skilled hygienists with the right training drives the high salary of this job.

And there's more to this career than money, as Lee points out. "Most dental hygienists enjoy doing this job," Lee says. Unlike dentists, "When the day's over, they're not on call so they don't have to think about work, they don't have long hours, and they're in demand without being too stressed."

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Excited about helping people stay healthy? As a dental hygienist, you might clean teeth, look for signs of oral disease, and provide preventative dental care, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prepare For The Switch: You'll typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene to enter this field, according to the Department of Labor, although they do note that certificates, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees in dental hygiene are also available - though less common among dental hygienists.

Career #4 - Medical and Health Services Manager

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Median Annual Salary:* $88,580

Working in the medical field but wish you could take on more managerial tasks? Preparing to pursue a career as a medical and health services manager could help you transition into a career with more responsibility - and a higher salary.

Switching Could Pay Off: "This is a higher level position," says Lee. That higher level responsibility is one of the main reasons this job pays so well - and should continue to as we face changing demands on health care providers. "The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires a higher level of sophistication in the medical world," Lee says. She explains that the skills required to be a manager in this field are higher than ever before. And all of that translates to higher pay.

What about switching to this job mid-career? "It might be harder to make a career transition if you don't have some medical experience already, but if you do, this could be a good way to move from the front line to a managerial role." The good news is, there are a wide variety of positions for medical and health services managers, and recent changes to healthcare in this country could open some more doors for future managers.

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As a medical and health services manager, you might plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services in your facility - or you might manage a specific clinical area or department, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Prepare For The Switch: You will typically need at least a bachelor's degree in health administration to get started, according to the Department of Labor. However, master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration also are common.

Career #5 - Market Research Analyst

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Median Annual Salary:* $60,300

If you love digging into research - and love the idea of a fast-paced marketing job - preparing to pursue a career as a market research analyst could be one way into a fun new career and a higher salary.

Switching Could Pay Off: "This job pays well when you can gather data and turn that info into actionable insights - that's strategic thinking," says Shannon Mullen, executive recruiter and founder of Mullen Marketing Search. "People who make a lot of money in market research can really see usable insights and help their clients decide what to do."

What about making this switch mid-career? "If you have relevant experience, you can slide sideways much easier without a huge pay hit," says Mullen. Work in social media, web analytics, or any position where you're pulling insights out of information could help prepare you for the switch, she says.

Without that experience, Mullen recommends going back to school and focusing on any major where research is foundation of the work. "Take as many research classes as possible," she advises.

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Psyched about diving into big data? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as a market research analyst you might study market conditions, monitor and forecast marketing trends, gather data about consumers, and convert complex data into understandable reports.

Prepare For The Switch: If you're ready to make this switch, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field. Many have degrees in fields such as statistics, math, or computer science. Other market research analysts have a background in business administration, one of the social sciences, or communications, according to the Department of Labor. Many market research analyst positions that involve more leadership or technical research require a master's degree. Schools offer graduate programs in marketing research but many analysts earn advanced degrees in statistics, marketing, or business administration (MBA).

Career #6 - Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

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Median Annual Salary:* $65,860

With the changing face of healthcare, preparing to pursue a career as a diagnostic medical sonographer could launch you into an exciting medical field - and a career with a great paycheck to boot.

Switching Could Pay Off: "This is a career that is - in many ways - a lot like dental hygiene in that you need to have very specific training," Lee says. Add to that the fact that this is a career that's booming, and you'll start to understand why sonographers can command such a healthy salary. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to grow by 44 percent from 2010 to 2020 - which is an incredibly high rate.

So how can you make this career switch? If you've done any customer-oriented work, that experience could help you as you transition into this role, where you'll be interacting with patients on a day-to-day basis. But, as Lee points out, to make this switch, you'll need the specialized skills you can only get by going back to school for sonography.

"For this work, you have to learn how to use the equipment and how to interpret the results," says Lee.

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Ready for a great medical career - that doesn't require the years and years of medical school it takes to pursue a career as a doctor? As a diagnostic medical sonographer, you might use special imaging equipment to assess and diagnose various medical conditions, according to the Department of Labor.

Prepare For The Switch: The Department of Labor notes that diagnostic medical sonographers need either an associate's or postsecondary certificate. Colleges offer both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in sonography. Employers prefer a degree or certificate from an accredited institute or hospital program.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.

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