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Careers Worth Pursuing—Now

Jobs in these fields are secure and, more importantly, available.

Dreary job statistics keep rolling in, but a few rays of hopeful news are shining through the gloom. Good jobs are still available in some fields.

Some demand an undergraduate degree, but others don’t. None of them requires more than a year of training, and some require considerably less. And these jobs aren’t low-wage positions with no future. They pay an average of $35,000 a year plus benefits, and each of them has good long-term prospects.

If you’ve lost a job and want to get back to work quickly, these four positions may be your ticket to a regular paycheck.

Alternative teacher certification

If you have a bachelor’s degree and yearn to teach, alternative certification is the fast track. About 600 programs have all been established by the states, which have sole authority to certify teachers. These alternative routes, now followed by about a third of teachers hired annually, typically start with a six- to eight-week summer session on teaching basics. When school begins, candidates start paid teaching, working with experienced colleagues.

“Training is often on-the-job,” says C. Emily Feistritzer, president and CEO of the National Center for Education Information and the National Center for Alternative Certification. “It takes about two or three years of teaching to finish” and become a state-certified teacher.

Don’t think this path is inferior to a four-year degree in education. “More and more research shows that the route to becoming a teacher makes little difference in terms of student performance,” Feistritzer says. “Wanting to teach and having the disposition to teach makes a big difference. It suggests teaching is more of an art than a science.”

If you know where you want to teach, Feistritzer advises contacting the school or district. “Find out if they’re hiring,” she says. “There’s no point in going through any teaching program if there aren’t any jobs.” Don’t have a specific school or district in mind? The greatest needs are along the seacoasts, the South and Southwest, and in rural areas and inner cities.

The American Federation of Teachers’ survey of salaries in 2006-2007 showed average pay for new teachers was $35,284, an increase of 6.2 percent from a year earlier, and average pay for all teachers was $51,009, up 4.5 percent. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics describes teaching job opportunities in the next 10 years as “good to excellent.”

Medical coding

Despite the recession, certified medical coding is a hot job. Certified coders apply the correct diagnostic and procedural codes on insurance paperwork that pays medical providers. They work in a variety of health care settings, from doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities to hospitals and surgical centers.

Medical coder training “can be done within a year, and most people do it within nine months,” says Rhonda Buckholtz, a professional medical coder with multiple specialty certifications who is also director of business and member development at the American Academy of Professional Coders.

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