Rebecca Kern

If you're in a dead-end job or concerned about your growth potential, you may want to consider furthering your education or training. Advancing in your current field or transitioning into a new career may mean getting a program certificate or an associate's or bachelor's degree. The majority of these programs can be completed online so that you can keep your day job while preparing for your new one.

When switching careers, it's important to look for fields that will see employment growth. Healthcare and education are expected to have some of the largest growth over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.

In healthcare, registered nurses may see 22 percent employment growth, with more than 1 million new and replacement positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are three routes to become a registered nurse: a four-year university program for a bachelor of science in nursing, a two- to three-year plan for an associate's degree in nursing, or a three-year diploma program from a hospital. In order to practice, you need a state license. Nurses with at least a bachelor's degree will have more job opportunities, according to the BLS. For a bachelor's degree, RN-to-BSN programs are offered through traditional ground-based universities and online schools. Those who want to be a nurse and have a bachelor's degree in another field can attend an accelerated BSN program that takes 12 to 18 months. The median salary for registered nurses is $62,450. To become an advanced practice nurse, you'll need a master's degree. The accelerated master's programs award a BSN and an MSN and take three to four years, or two years for those with a BSN. These nurse specialists will be in high demand, especially in inner cities and rural areas, according to the BLS. Many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement. Several federal and state government programs offer scholarships or loan forgiveness to nurses working in underserved areas, according to the American Nurses Association.

Now Hiring

Another growing field is education, where employment for primary, secondary, and special education teachers is expected to increase by about 14 percent over the next decade, with 1.7 million new and replacement jobs, according to the BLS. The median salary for these positions ranges from $47,100 to $51,180. The educational requirements include a bachelor's degree, usually in an undergraduate education program, and a state license to teach.

For those who want to teach but don't have a bachelor's degree in education, there are alternative teaching certification programs offered in every state. These programs have grown exponentially. About 62,000 teachers were certified through alternative routes, making up one third of all new teachers hired in the United States, says Emily Feistritzer, president of the National Center for Alternative Certification. Science, mathematics, special education, and English as a second language are subject areas with the greatest need for new teachers, according to the Department of Education's Transition to Teaching program. To learn more about alternative teaching certification programs, you can visit NCAC's website at or your state's department of education website.

In addition to retraining to make career changes, career coaches suggest experiential learning. VocationVacations, founded by career consultant Brian Kurth, offers people considering a career transition a two-day mentoring experience with one of the company's 500 mentors in more than 180 careers. Adult internships also are popular. One website that offers adult internships and part-time work is, says Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career - Your Essential Guide To Succeeding In The Real World.

While transitioning careers may require re-education, there are many jobs where you can use your current skills. "Moving into a growth field doesn't necessarily mean changing your functional responsibility and changing your profession," Pollak says.

How to Transition to a Growing Career

Transitioning from bookkeeping, accounting, or auditing clerk; personal finance adviser to Accountant or auditor: Bachelor's degree in accounting or related field; credentials such as certified public accountant.

Transitioning from a computer programmer to computer software engineer: Bachelor's degree in a software engineering, computer science, or computer-related field.

Transitioning from a dental assistant to a dental hygienist: Associate's degree or certificate from an accredited dental hygienist program and state license to practice. Bachelor's or master's degree to research, teach, or practice in public-health programs.

Transitioning from a teacher assistant to an elementary, middle, or high school teacher: Bachelor's degree, usually from a teacher education program, and state teaching license; private schools do not require a state license.

Transitioning from a physical therapist aide to a physical therapist: An associate's degree from an accredited physical therapy school, and state license to practice.

Transitioning from a nurse's aide or home health aide to a registered nurse: An associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or diploma from an accredited nursing program.

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