How To Jumpstart A New Career In As Little As Two Years

Two-Year Degrees

Ready to give your career a little push? One of these two-year degrees might be all you need to move forward.

By Diana Bocco

You're well aware that to jump-start your career, you'll likely need to spend some time in school. But if the thought of spending the next four or more years in the classroom sounds unappealing, perhaps you should turn your attention to a program that you could complete in as little as two years.  

In fact, more and more people are jumpstarting their careers by pursuing two-year degrees, says Alan Corey, a career consultant and the author of the book "The Subversive Job Search." The reason is that many students are choosing shorter degrees to avoid the debt that often accompanies recent college graduates with four-year degrees, according to Corey. Plus, shorter degrees allow you to jump into a career much quicker, Corey says.

Ready to learn how you might get started? One of these seven degrees could give you the skills you need to go after a new career in as little as two years.

Degree #1: Associate's in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

If you want to pursue a health career with a world of employment opportunities, an associate's in diagnostic medical sonography might be what you're looking for. The best part is this health degree could be completed in as little as two years.

What You'll Learn: Diagnostic medical sonography students will learn about using ultrasound equipment and creating images that doctors use when making a diagnosis, says the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education. This program might include classes in human anatomy, microbiology, abdominal sonography, and ultrasound physics, the College Board says.

Why It's A Good Choice: According to Shannon Ydoyaga, interim director of the Health Careers Resource Center for the Dallas County Community College District, sonography is becoming a highly sought-after degree. Why is that? Ydoyaga  says that "there's a high demand right now for hands-on medical work to assist in the treatment of patients and work in a number of job settings, including hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and even geriatric health-care services." As a result, the demand for sonography graduates has never been higher, Ydogaya adds.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Sonography Program.

Career Options: According to Ydogaya, graduates from a sonography program can work in a number of fields, from gynecology to obstetrics to vascular sonography or neuro-sonography.

Degree #2: Associate's in Computer Science

If you thought the only way to get started in the computer field is with a four-year degree, think again. An associate's degree in computer science can be a smart, quick choice to get your foot in the door.

What You'll Learn: In a computer science program, students might acquire experience debugging programs and writing code, says the U. S. Department of Labor. They will also get the skills needed to learn computer languages.

Why It's A Good Choice: Corey believes a two-year computer science degree might even be more competitive in the workplace than degrees that may take longer to obtain, like a bachelor's.

Why? An associate's degree in computer science will not only cover technology basics, but most likely will also present the hot new programming languages and technological advancements and methodologies at the moment, Corey says. "In a two-year program it's easier to change course material quickly to cover the most recent in-demand skills needed to enter the labor market," he explains.

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

Career Options: Graduates of a computer science program can work as technical support specialists, programmers, and more, according to Corey. "Acquiring an associate's degree in computer science will give you just enough balance of the basics to be able to get up to speed in pretty much any work environment," Corey says.

Degree #3: Master's in Business Administration

Have you always been interested in business management and have prior real-world business experience to bring to the table? If so, an MBA, or master's in business administration, can be just what you need to take your career to the next level. Plus, an MBA can take as little as two years to earn.

What You'll Learn: In an MBA program, you'll take courses in economics and accounting, decision sciences, finance, marketing, and organizational behavior, says the Princeton Review, an organization that offers test preparation services.

Why It's A Good Choice: "People with an MBA have a far less chance of becoming part of the unemployment statistic," says Lee Weiss, director of pre-business and graduate programs at Kaplan Test Prep. That's because more and more employers are now seeking MBA graduates, says Weiss. In fact, a large percentage of business-related jobs today could not be secured without an MBA or graduate management education degree, Weiss adds.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right MBA Program.

Career Options: Graduates from an MBA program can find employment in human resources management, business management offices, operations management, and even real estate management, according to Weiss.

Degree #4: Associate's in Paralegal Studies

If you're interested in working in the legal field and want a way to get started as quickly as possible, going to law school to work as an attorney is probably out of the question. However, an associate's in paralegal studies could get you ready to work in the field in as little as two years.

What You'll Learn: Students enrolled in an associate's in paralegal studies might take classes in legal research and writing, civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, ethics, and litigation, according to College Board.

Why It's A Good Choice: While law can be an engaging and rewarding career, many people may be unable to commit to the seven years of higher education necessary to become an attorney, according to John Ammerman, paralegal studies program coordinator at Suffolk County Community College. A paralegal degree can be a great alternative career to get your foot in the field of law, Ammerman says.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Paralegal Program.

Career Options: Ammerman adds that a paralegal degree is a great option if you want a career with many employment opportunities. "Upon graduating with an associate's degree in paralegal studies, your options are many and varied," Ammerman says. Not only will you be able to work alongside lawyers, but Ammerman says paralegals have great employment opportunities in corporate legal departments, insurance companies, estate and trust departments of large banks, and title insurance companies.

Degree #5: Master's in Human Resources

If you're interested in a career in HR with a chance for advancement, a two-year master's degree in human resources management might be just what you need.

What You'll Learn: In a human resources management program, you'll take courses on labor economics, business law, leadership, communication and negotiation, and more, says the Princeton Review. You'll also learn how to design effective management structures, compensation schemes, and training programs.

Why It's A Good Choice: Master's degrees in human resources have become especially popular in the past few years because they broaden the career potential for graduates, according to Tatum Soo Kim, who serves as the director of academic services for the division of programs in business at New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. In the past, Kim says human resource professionals were seen as only recruiters or trainers, while the labor market now looks at graduates from a master's in human resources program as people who understand both HR and business management.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Human Resources Program.

Career Options: Graduates of this degree program can expect career opportunities in many areas, from the private sector to government agencies, says Kim. Potential careers include everything from executive recruiter to human resources administrator to job placement specialist, Kim explains.

Degree #6: Associate's in Nursing

If you want to combine your compassionate side with your interest in the health care field, a career as a registered nurse might be a good fit for you. And you don't have to spend years in school earning a bachelor's degree to prepare for this career either.

What You'll Learn: A degree in nursing offers classes in anatomy and physiology, health assessment, adult nursing, mental-health nursing, pharmacology, and psychology, according to the College Board.

Why It's A Good Choice: A nurse only needs two years to acquire an associate's degree and then earn almost as much pay as a nurse who has a bachelor's, according to Nick Angelis, a certified registered nurse anesthetist and the author of "How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School)."

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Career Options: Graduates with an associate's degree in nursing can work as general care nurses, or they can change specialties in the future, switching from cardiac nursing to mental health to emergency care and more, says Angelis.

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