1. Accountant/Financial Manager
Duties include preparing financial reports, processing payroll checks, invoicing and tracking down delinquent accounts. Some firms will ask you to monitor checking and savings accounts and track credit card bills, too. If you have the qualifications, you may be in charge of helping to prepare annual tax returns. Many of these positions are virtual, but some are on-site as well. Employers run the gamut, from start-ups and small businesses to churches and local nonprofits.
Median pay: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2015, the median hourly wage for accountants and auditors is $32.30.
Qualifications: A degree in accounting or business is helpful, but not required. The most common certification is certified public accountant (CPA). The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants administers the exam. CPAs are licensed to offer a range of accounting services, including tax preparation. Other skills to have in your kit: knowledge of financial and accounting computer software such as QuickBooks. Familiarity with Word and Excel is expected. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers lists jobs and offers a national certification for bookkeepers, which may help you land a job if you don't have practical experience. Networking with local business groups, industry associations or Rotary clubs for leads is probably your best approach.
2. Medical Records Transcriber/Medical Coder/Billing
The nitty-gritty: Computer proficiency, word processing skills and a fast internet connection are tools of the trade. You don't need a formal background in medicine; instead, a familiarity with diagnostic procedure lingo and medical abbreviations, as well as an ease working with electronic health records systems, is required. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information technician jobs employ about 189,930 people.
It can be tedious to transcribe dictation to electronic written reports. There can be background noise, phones ringing and mumbled speech by doctors as they orally review physical exams, emergency room visits and chart rundowns. Increasingly, voice recognition software is used to transcribe these recordings, but computer-generated documents are often riddled with errors and require careful editing. Fast turnarounds, usually within 24 hours, are part of the game. Employers range from doctors' offices to hospitals, but given the nature of the job, you're not limited by geography. You might live in Virginia but work for a medical practice in Miami. Medical coders and billers receive emailed patient data from a hospital or doctor's office, determine the correct medical code used by health insurance companies to process patient claims, then return the information for processing.
Median pay: BLS reports that as of May 2015, medical records and health information technician jobs pay a median hourly wage of $17.84.
Qualifications: A background in health care will give you a leg up, and some employers offer training for entry-level positions. Certification is not required but is advisable. Certificate programs include coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues relating to health care documentation, and English grammar and punctuation. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers the registered healthcare documentation specialist (RHDS) and the certified healthcare documentation specialist (CHDS) certifications and provides a list of online programs. Medical billers and coders can train via online courses or certificate programs offered at community colleges. Coursework covers the ins and outs of coding as well as HMO/PPO network contracts and reimbursement/denial analysis. Check to see where program graduates have landed jobs, and ask potential employers which certificates, if any, they require.
The nitty-gritty: This position is perfect for a "people person" with a deep network of industry contacts developed over decades. For instance, if your career has been in banking, health care or IT, you'll have an understanding of what certain jobs demand and where to look initially for candidates. But be warned: These days, you must also be nimble, searching social media sites such as LinkedIn for potential candidates. Lots of schmoozing — in person, by phone and virtually via Skype and similar video apps — is an integral part of the recruiting process, so strong interviewing skills are a given, along with an enthusiastic, self-motivated work personality. Aside from possessing a flair for razzle-dazzle salesmanship, you'll analytically examine résumés to pinpoint qualified candidates who meet job requirements, which requires an expert no-nonsense eye for detail. You'll also need to rely on your instincts to decide if a job candidate has that intangible ingredient for which the employer is searching. Some travel may be required.
Median pay: Recruiters, also called human resources workers, earn a median hourly wage of $28.06, according to the BLS. That said, many recruiters are paid on commission, based on a percentage of the annual salary for the job placed.
Qualifications: There are no specific degree or certification requirements. A bachelor's degree in business administration, human resources or a related field, or equivalent experience, can be a plus. It's crucial, though, to be conversant in the field for which you're recruiting. Even if you have no related professional experience, a background in customer service or sales can work in your favor.
4. Social Media Specialist
The nitty-gritty: This one's not for the Luddites in the crowd. Everyone from small-business owners to creative types realizes they need a social media presence to increase their customer base. But not everyone has the knack or the time to smoothly navigate the sites. Managing social media is a huge time sapper, especially for neophytes. That's where you step in to build your client's professional brand by attracting followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook, then enticing them to click through to the company's website and, ultimately, become a customer. Some of the fun of managing an online brand — whether it is a person or a business — is choosing what content to feature on social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
Duties may include keeping a site fresh by posting timely blogs or other news content that you ghostwrite or edit for your client. You'll chime in with online discussions and industry news as your boss's alter ego, retweet other people's posts that reflect positively on your client, and swat back spam when necessary. The majority of adults are using social networking these days, according to research by the Pew Research Center, so little wonder that businesses of all sizes are waking up to the fact that they must attract new customers through social media. It's nonnegotiable.
Median pay: While BLS doesn't (yet) have a separate category for social media managers, it groups the work along with marketing specialists, who earn a median hourly wage of $29.88.
Qualifications: Expertise in tapping social networks and knowing how to use them is the heart of this job. This is a skill you learn by doing it day in and day out, so you can stay abreast of the ever-changing platforms. Most jobs are generated by word of mouth or referrals. But if you're a newly minted social media specialist running your own show, tap into your moxie and seek out a local small business in need of a social media presence. Initially, you might accept a few clients pro bono to get a referral list for paying customers. For an overview of the major social media sites and to learn the latest ways to use social media as a marketing tool, you might enroll in a community college social media certificate program.
5. Adult Education Teacher
The nitty-gritty: You'll rely on your communication skills and steady patience to make the most of this position. As an adult literacy or high school equivalency diploma teacher, for example, you'll work with students of all ages from different cultural, economic and educational backgrounds as they learn English as a second language or earn their diploma. If you have a passion for teaching, it can be pure magic. The main reasons behind the rising need for this educational niche: continued immigration to the United States, and an aging population increasingly seeking out encore and second careers and turning to adult education programs to make the transition.
Median pay: $24.17 per hour, according to the BLS.
Qualifications: Most states require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Although a bachelor's degree in any field is acceptable, some employers, such as community colleges, have a preference for hiring teachers with a master's degree or graduate coursework in adult education or English as a second language (ESL). Some states also require adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers to have a teaching certificate to work in government-run programs; others require certificates specifically for adult education. For more information, contact your state's director of adult education from a list compiled by the U.S. Department of Education.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.
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