6 smart career changes that could boost your pay

Six Smart Career Changes

Focus on making a career change into one of these promising fields with high pay, high growth, or both.

By Danielle Blundell

Do you ever wonder if there's a better job out there for you? Perhaps you're interested in making more money or more opportunities for professional growth. Making a career switch may seem intimidating, but it is possible to leverage your experience and background into a bigger, better opportunity. But how can you decide if embarking on a new professional path is worth it?

According to Laura Rose, business and career management coach at Rose Coaching, the ideal career switch is "a position where you can leverage your current role, earn higher pay, and have high job growth." However, the key is understanding that "it may be difficult to accomplish all of the above in just one switch or move," she says. And that seems to be the case, as some of the best careers to switch into are high-level and may require years of advanced experience. But not to worry, you can start taking steps toward that career path today.

Where to start? Read on to discover new possible career paths  and how you can make a logical switch.

Career-Change #1: Public Relations Manager

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$95,450
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$180,480
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$51,630

You're a people-person who can strike up a conversation with almost anyone. Maybe you enjoy working in customer service or retail, but you're looking for more responsibility as well as marketability. Sounds like you could be the perfect candidate for a gig as a public relations manager.

Why It's An Ideal Switch: For career coach Scott Barlow, founder of Happentoyourcareer.com, a career counseling and advice website, transitioning from a customer service rep job into a public relations manager role takes advantage of both professions' overlapping communication-based skills - only the latter requires a more in-depth mastery, which means higher salaries.

"A customer service representative job can require extensive communication skills and an ability to tailor communication to a situation," says Barlow. While all of that is relevant in PR, he says that the PR manager role pays much more, because it often requires managing much larger projects, programs, and more people than what a customer service rep typically would encounter.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, that's the case, as PR managers are often responsible for drafting speeches and press releases, arranging interviews for an organization's top executives,  and evaluating advertising and promotion programs to determine compatibility with an organization's public relations efforts.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 65,700 jobs

How to Prepare: According to the Department of Labor, public relations managers typically have a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as public relations, English, journalism, business, or communications. They also need related work experience, says the Department.

Career-Change #2: Accountant

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$63,550
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$111,510
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$39,930

Crunching numbers and working with stats is what you were born to do. Yet toiling away as a bookkeeper, bank teller, or in some other job just isn't as fulfilling as you thought, and you know you've got the math savvy and potential to do more. Pursuing a career as an accountant, which is often a higher-paying, higher-growth position, might just be the career that makes the most dollars and sense for you.

Why It's An Ideal Switch: Again, according to Barlow, making the switch from bookkeeping to accounting makes sense, as both positions entail working with numbers,  spreadsheets, and software. The difference, he says, is that accountants are often called on to advise clients and companies, rather than just give them the raw data as a bookkeeper might, and therein lies the higher pay and importance.

"An accountant requires critical thought and analytical and communication abilities to make recommendations or act in an advisor role," he says. The U.S. Department of Labor details the role of an accountant, saying that accountants are often tasked with managing the accuracy of a company's financial statements, computing taxes, and suggesting cost-cutting measures when and where applicable.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 190,700

How to Prepare: Ready to see what it will take to make the jump? Well, according to the Department of Labor, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline first. Certification, such as becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), could improve job prospects.

Career-Change #3: Police Officer

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$55,270
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$89,310
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$32,350

Friends are always telling you that you've got a strong presence and an attitude that says,"Don't mess with me." And that's a good thing to project, because maybe your line of work is in security. But have you ever considered a potentially higher-paying position as a police officer? Being cool under pressure, and authoritative, would serve you well in this field, too.

Why It's An Ideal Switch: Both jobs rely on keen observation, says Barlow, and "some security guards may also gain firearms experience." A combination of those skills could make for an easy transition into the Police Academy. Once completed, advanced training and education in this field typically leads to more pay down the line, adds Barlow.

He explains, "The police officer requires a high degree of training and sometimes physical fitness that the security guard does not."

Specifically, as stated by the U.S. Department of Labor, you will have to graduate from the local agency's police academy, where you'll learn everything from handling firearms safely to responding to calls for service and more.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Criminal Justice Program.

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 54,600

How to Prepare: At a minimum, the Department of Labor says cops must be at least 21 years old, meet rigorous physical and personal qualifications, and graduate from a training police academy.

That said, according to the Department, a significant number of entry-level positions are filled by college graduates, and many applicants have at least taken some college courses.

Career-Change #4: Graphic Designer

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$44,150
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$77,490
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$26,250

You're the creative type, and integrating text and words into a brochure, pamphlet, or journal barely feels like work to you. Well, instead of being pigeonholed as a desktop publisher, who predominantly works in the dying print medium, why not skill up and expand your artsy horizons as a graphic designer?

Why It's An Ideal Switch: According to Bettina Seidman of Seidbet Associates, an executive coaching and career counseling firm, graphic designers get paid more than desktop publishers because, while their skill sets are similar, graphic design requires more creative conceptualization and idea germination. In essence, designers aren't just cutting and pasting images and words - they're generating the ideas behind ads, commercials, and other materials. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they create visual concepts to communicate ideas that captivate, inform, or inspire consumers.

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

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 37,300

How to Prepare: The U.S. Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required for these positions.

Career-Change #5: Medical and Health Services Manager

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$88,580
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$150,560
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$53,940

Have you found your niche in the health care industry? Or perhaps you enjoy using your organizational skills in administration. In either case, your next professional step could be taking up more responsibility or even a leadership role. Making the switch to medical or health services manager could be a smart move and might be more straightforward than you think.

Why It's An Ideal Switch: In Seidman's opinion, taking on managerial work in the same field is a logical move that pays off financially, and health care administration is no exception to this rule. Plus, Seidman notes that it might require more education and preparation than more clerical or technical positions in health care.

Barlow agrees. The technician may be well-versed in technical and medical terminology and able to navigate common problems for that industry, he says. On the other hand, "The manager requires a higher level of problem-solving and decision-making capability as well as the skill sets to manage programs or lead people," Barlow explains.

And that's just the case, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which says that medical and health services managers not only keep track of a hospital or facility's finances, they also often create work schedules, communicate with members of the medical staff and department heads, and help improve efficiency and quality in the delivery of health care services.

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

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 68,000 

How to Prepare: According to the Department of Labor, the first step in getting this career switch underway is a bachelor's in a subject like health care administration. Master's degrees are also common in fields such as business administration, health services, public health, public administration, or long-term administration, according to the Department.

Career-Change #6: Information Security Analyst

Find Degree Programs
Median Annual Salary
$86,170
Highest 10 Percent of Earners
$135,600
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$49,960

You understand both users' needs and the nuances of technology, but at your heart, you are that computer nerd that could spend hours just looking at data, computer languages, and code. Instead of just wasting your talents behind a help desk as a computer support specialist or another entry-level position, how about switching into a lucrative career path as an information security analyst?

Why It's An Ideal Switch: According to Rose, there are transferable skills between a job as a computer support specialist and an information security analyst that make for a smooth transition. The key here, she says, is likely going back to school or attempting to fill whatever skills gap exists during your spare time and working with a mentor or coach to formulate a plan to pursue this higher-paying career. In an information security analyst position, you should be prepared to provide critical analysis and recommendations to your company.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you could be responsible for planning your company's strategy for security, developing security standards and best practices for your organization, and monitoring your company's network for security breaches.

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

Job Growth from 2010 to 2020:** 65,700

How to Prepare: A bachelor's degree in computer science, programming, or a related field could have you right on your way to pursuing a career as an information security analyst, says the Department of Labor. Some employers may prefer applicants who have a master's of business administration (MBA) in information systems, says the Department.

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

** Projected job growth figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition.

Next Article:

@Yahoo_Education on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

    Find the Right School