Six career switches that could boost your pay

Six high-pay careers
Five dead-end jobs

Turn your current skills into potentially better pay with one of these six career moves. 

By Lia Sestric

You've found a line of work that you love. The only problem is that the pay isn't much to brag about. Don't worry; there is a silver lining.

You don't have to pursue a career in a new industry to make more money. In fact, there are some career alternatives within your field that could offer a higher wage. The career shift could mean going back to school, but it certainly doesn't mean tossing the skills you've developed - along with prior experience - to the wayside.

Are you ready to learn which career alternatives you should consider pursuing? Keep reading to find out how you can prepare for one of these sensible career moves that could lead to some more cash.

Career #1: Bookkeeper

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Median
annual wage*
$35,170
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$21,610
Top 10 percent of earners
$54,310

While a bookkeeper's work is important, they could find better pay as an accountant, says William Knese, chair of the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business (IMA), a world-wide association for accountants and financial professionals.

Higher-Paying Alternative: Accountant

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Median
annual wage*
$63,550
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$39,930
Top 10 percent of earners
$111,510

Those who work as a bookkeeper may already have a natural interest in continuing their education and making a career move to accounting, says Knese. "Management accountants contribute to an organization's decision-making process. It's an exciting role with potential for career mobility and earning power."

Taunee Besson, president of Career Dimensions, a consulting firm in Dallas, also agrees that this is a wise move. "Accounting positions require people who have training and expertise in a broad range of financial areas. Consequently, they are more valuable to their employers than bookkeepers, who are often confined to posting and balancing the general ledger."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Life on the Job: Accountants prepare and examine financial records and assess financial operations to make sure a company runs efficiently, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor says most accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related subject. Some employers do prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting, adds the Department.

Career #2: Registered Nurse

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Median
annual wage*
$65,470
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$45,040
Top 10 percent of earners
$94,720

Undeniably, nurses have the potential to make a reasonable paycheck and are in great demand. But Marty Witrak, dean of the School of Nursing at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota notes that if you're looking for higher pay while staying in the industry, you could trade in your scrubs for an administrative position in health care.

Higher-Paying Alternative: Medical and Health Services Manager

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Median
annual wage*
$88,580
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$53,940
Top 10 percent of earners
$150,560

While direct patient care would be out of the scope of duties with this higher-paying alternative, it could be just as rewarding."It really depends on the individual and what is very satisfying to them about their work life," says Witrak. Although nurses initially enter the profession because of their interest in patient care, she says "a nurse often will discover that he or she has administrative talents or interest." And taking advantage of those talents could pay off with a pay increase, since Witrak says that health care facilities are always looking for people "with a good business head on their shoulders".

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Life on the Job: Instead of providing direct patient care like nurses do, medical and health services managers plan, direct, and coordinate health services, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Education Requirements: The Department of Labor says prospective health care administrators have a bachelor's degree in health care administration. However, master's degrees are common, too, in fields such as health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration.

Career #3: Childcare Worker

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Median
annual wage*
$19,510
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$16,340
Top 10 percent of earners
$29,510

While this job may give you the chance to work with little ones, Besson says childcare workers are usually paid much less than they are worth. But don't worry. There is a logical career move if you enjoy working with children, adds Besson.

Higher-Paying Alternative: Kindergarten Teacher

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Median
annual wage*
$50,120
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$32,450
Top 10 percent of earners
$78,230

Life as a kindergarten teacher would still be filled with children, but you'll be better compensated for your efforts."Kindergarten teachers typically work for institutions whose compensation structure is substantially better," says Besson. "One reason the income differs is the qualifications for the two positions. Kindergarten teachers must have specific educational credentials, while childcare workers may have very few."

Next step: Click to Find the Right K-12 Program.

Life on the Job: Kindergarten teachers teach younger students subjects like reading and math to prepare them for future school, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Education Requirements: All states require public kindergarten school teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, in addition to being licensed, reports the Department of Labor.

Career #4: File Clerk

Median
annual wage*
$26,190
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$17,930
Top 10 percent of earners
$41,230

Unfortunately this profession has a dismal future, as technology now performs most of the same work as file clerks did in the past, says Besson. But fear not: There is an alternative profession that could use your talents.

Career #5: Personal Care Aide

Median
annual wage*
$19,910
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$16,330
Top 10 percent of earners
$27,580

While this work is very important, it unfortunately offers little pay and advancement, says Robynn Anwar, a professor at Camden County College in Blackwood, New Jersey. What should you do instead, then? Try medical assisting, says Anwar.

Higher-Paying Alternative: Medical Assistant

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Median
annual wage*
$29,370
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$21,080
Top 10 percent of earners
$41,570

"Getting the training and earning the certification as a certified medical assistant would be a step forward in the health care field," says Anwar. "It would allow the person to become more marketable, because they would be trained, qualified, and certified with a universal credential that speaks to their capabilities."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Life on the Job: Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks in medical offices, although their roles may vary with location, specialty, and size of the practice, the U.S. Department of Labor says.

Education Requirements: In most states, there are not any formal training requirements to pursue a career as a medical assistant, says the Department of Labor. Although, the Department does say employers may prefer candidates who graduate from a formal program. These programs could lead to a certificate, diploma, or an associate's degree.

Career #6: Computer Support Specialist

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Median
annual wage*
$46,420
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$27,620
Top 10 percent of earners
$77,430

If you feel connected to this technological line of work but want to see higher pay, there is a career leap you can make to significantly grow your salary.

Higher-Paying Alternative: Computer Programmer

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Median
annual wage*
$74,280
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$42,850
Top 10 percent of earners
$117,890

"Moving from computer support specialist to programmer, more commonly known as developer, is a frequent and logical career move," says Bob Makarowski, an instructor of technology programs at Baruch College in New York City.

Makarowski adds that "developer positions offer higher salaries, because there is a broader and more comprehensive level of organizational literacy needed in that position."

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

Life on the Job: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer programmers write code to make software programs. Essentially, they take designs created by developers and turn it into language that a computer can read.

Education Requirements: Most of these professionals have a bachelor's degree, although some employers may hire applicants who have an associate's degree, says the Department of Labor. Programmers commonly major in computer science or a related subject.

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

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