The problem with lists about the fastest-growing professions is that sometimes—okay, often--they’re just not very practical. Everyone knows that healthcare is a hot field, for example. But we’re guessing that while the $500,000 the average orthopedic surgeon earns probably sounds sweet to you, going back to school for 13 years doesn’t. On the other extreme, says Laurence Shatkin, PhD and author of The Sequel: How To Change Your Career Without Starting Over, “the fastest-growing job of all, personal care aid, pays so little that many people aren’t able to live on it.”
So AARP came up with a list of 6 hot jobs for midlife career changers. They’re in fields that are fast-growing, offer plenty of job satisfaction, and require (relatively) little schooling. And while they don’t pay a surgeon’s salary, they do offer plenty of growth potential, and a living wage.
Market Researchers The cry for people who understand why consumers buy what they do is growing all the time, and the BLS forecasts a 41.2 percent jump in the need for marketing research analysts and marketing specialists over the next seven years. It requires a bachelor’s degree. The median salary is $60,570.
Sonography Specialists Those who wield that sonography wand well have their pick of jobs these days, as medical diagnostics become more sophisticated. The number of jobs for sonographers is expected to climb 44 percent by 2020. You’ll need an associate’s degree. Median salary is $64,380.
Event Planners As parties get more elaborate and businesses continue to outsource events, the demand for buttoned-up party and convention planners is skyrocketing: The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the field is growing at 44 percent through 2020, much faster than average. Most have a bachelor’s degree; the median salary is $45,620. Because it is a relatively new function, breaking into the field typically requires less than a year of related work, according to the BLS.
Biz-to-Biz Salespeople Wholesale and manufacturing sales is another fast-growing field. And just because you’ve never worked in sales doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider such a switch, says Shatkin. “You’ve got a lot of knowledge of your field, and likely already speak the language of the industry. Why not use it in a new way?” Too often, career-changers give their assets, like extensive business contacts and deep community roots, short shrift. These assets can be invaluable in sales work, he says. Many positions require just a high school diploma and certification, with a median salary of $56,000.
Green-Business Specialists While there are relatively few people currently working in green energy jobs, the government says the field is growing even faster than healthcare, at a rate of roughly four times faster than jobs in any other sector. Many jobs require specialized degrees in science and engineering, but the demand is also great for more general business skills in sustainability work, including accounting, logistics, HR and other business management areas. “Retrofitting homes and businesses to be more energy efficient is just one example,” says Phyllis Snyder, vice president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, an organization that helps midlife job-seekers translate past work experience into academic credits. And again, because these are new positions, you won’t be competing with people with much longer resumes. These career paths are still emerging, so it's not easy to develop precise salary ranges for all positions. Recycling managers earn a median salary of $42,900 a year.
Physical Therapy Staff While physical therapists are in demand, the educational requirement is a doctoral degree, too daunting for many career-changers. But the need for people who support those PTs is growing even faster. Physical therapy assistants need only an associate’s degree, and earn a median salary of nearly $49,700.
Finally, a CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) report of what companies say they need most should make experienced workers feel warm and fuzzy inside: Some 38% of the companies profiled cite employees with proven management skills, a trend which definitely favors seasoned job-seekers.
“At 40 or 50, people often have more experience than they factor in. That’s why working with some kind of career navigator can help—older workers have far more skills they can leverage into just about any field, if they take a step back and look at potential jobs differently,” says Snyder. “They just need to open themselves to more options.”