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6 Careers Worth Going Back to School For

Want to blaze a new career path while also utilizing the skills you have from your current gig? An expert's top choices of new careers

Hand drawing arrows, blackboard, Careers worth going back to school for, Work, AARP

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We asked jobs guru Dr. Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., author of The Sequel: How to Change Your Career Without Starting Over, which high-growth, in-demand occupations he’d recommend for people over 40 who are seeking a new career and are willing to hit the books.

Regardless of whether you’re only able to commit to a certificate program or you’re willing to go all the way to a master’s degree, Shatkin has a suggestion that may be right for you.


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Industrial-organizational Psychologist

Average Salary: $94,720

In a nutshell, industrial-organizational psychologists study workplace behavior to help boost productivity, as well as improve upon employee placement and training.

For obvious reasons, Shatkin believes this is a great job option for seasoned workers who are transitioning into this line of work. “Someone over 40 can use previous experience in the workplace to suggest topics for research, and provide insights that [more] green workers would not perceive,” says Shatkin of individuals who earn a master’s in industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology.

Other positives? “Unlike many psychologist occupations, this one does not routinely require a doctorate,” says Shatkin, adding that the job growth rate for industrial-organizational psychologists is a not-too-shabby 35 percent.

See also: 10 Careers Worth Going Back to School

Personal Financial Advisor

Average Salary: $66,580

According to Shatkin, the projected growth rate for this occupation is 32 percent — and it’s a particularly good fit if you already have some background in finance or insurance.

“Word of mouth is the main way advisors find clients, and seasoned workers who transition into this career benefit from having a better network for making such contacts,” says Shatkin. “The work can also be readily shifted to a part-time basis, so easing gradually into retirement is an option.”

Most personal financial advisors have a degree in finance, economics, accounting or business. And depending on the products that they sell — such as stocks, bonds and insurance policies — personal financial advisors may be required to obtain licenses issued by state boards.

You can boost your credibility by applying for certification. To become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), advisors must have a bachelor’s degree, pass an exam and have at least three years of relevant work experience.

Training and Development Specialist

Average Salary: $55,150

Aside from the healthy, 28 percent projected growth rate for training and development specialists, Shatkin says that the vocation is practically tailor-made for someone with good communication and presentation skills who’s contemplating a mid-career switch.

These professionals create, conduct and evaluate employee-training programs for corporations, financial institutions and government agencies.

“By teaching skills to others, you can leverage your knowledge of a field, but also build on people skills developed over a previous career,” he says. “And many work arrangements are possible, from an in-house trainer to a self-employed trainer.”

Training and development specialists typically earn a degree in human resources or business. Individuals who want to work for government agencies need to take additional civil service examinations.

For an added advantage in the job market, you can take the American Society of Training and Development’s exam for Certified Professional in Learning and Performance Certification (CPLP).

Recreational Therapist

Average Salary: $41,060

It’s all about motivation for these therapists — their job is to get injured patients moving again by using music, sports, art and games as inspirational tools.

“Recreational therapists normally only need a bachelor’s, but someone might transition into this career by getting a master’s,” says Shatkin, noting that employers prefer therapists who are certified. “You can utilize previous experience with a sport, art, dance or some other recreational activity — and the work demands compassion and interpersonal skills that older workers may have developed.”

To get National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, candidates must pass a written exam, and log at least 480 hours at an internship. The organization also offers specialized certification in physical medicine/rehabilitation, behavioral health, geriatrics, community inclusion services and developmental disabilities.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Average Salary: $33,310

“Human health care is the best field for workers over 40 because it is America’s largest and fastest-growing field,” says Shatkin. “It’s possible to work at many different levels of education and skill, and many jobs don’t involve patient care.”

Most technicians specialize either as medical coders or cancer registrars, and demand for them is high — by 2020, this workforce is expected to expand by 21 percent.

“Interpersonal skills — not to mention computer skills — developed in a previous occupation can be helpful,” adds Shatkin.

Once you’ve completed the two-year associate’s program, most employers require professional certification, which involves passing a written exam. Certification can range from a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) to a Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR).

Psychiatric Technician

Average Salary: $28,470

These professionals work under the direction of psychiatrists, registered nurses and other mental health experts to monitor patients with psychological or developmental disabilities in a wide range of settings — from drug rehab programs to prisons.

“The work is less physically demanding than nursing,” says Shatkin of the vocation, which typically requires taking a one-year certificate program. “And mature workers can bring compassion and shared life experiences to the job.”

Before they can work unsupervised, most psychiatric technicians need to complete on-the-job training while shadowing seasoned technicians — a process that can take a few weeks to several months.

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