The information technology and health care industries are clamoring for more skilled workers. How can you become one of them?
Everyone dreams of a career with a handsome salary, one promising boundless growth and loads of opportunities. But these careers belong to a privileged few, and they demand years of nonstop study and training. Right?
The fastest growing careers, such as IT jobs and health care jobs, offer good pay and are crying out for more skilled workers with technical know-how and soft skills. They’re not just open to recent college graduates. They’re accessible to career-changers, too, and getting started doesn’t always require a four-year degree, experts say—but you must be dedicated, willing to devote time and energy so your foray becomes a success. The fastest growing careers don’t always mean easy careers.
Prior to getting started, research your options and find out what the fastest growing careers entail.
“Before you make a choice of what job you want to do, it’s important for adults to job-shadow or find out as much as possible about the job,” notes Dr. James Jacobs, president of Macomb Community College in Michigan. Basing your decision on information from TV or friends isn’t sufficient, he says.
Health-Care Jobs: Nursing
Nursing is one of the fastest growing careers. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, by 2010 the United States will be short almost 406,000 nursing jobs. By 2020, the shortage is projected to swell to more than 1 million. Fahmeen Faruki, a nursing counselor at Northern Virginia Community College’s medical campus, says a common point of entry into nursing is taking a certified nursing assistant job.
“You can take classes at a vocational or community college. The second tier is to take an LPN job [licensed practical nurse]. These classes are also offered at vocational or community colleges,” Faruki explains. “One great thing about nursing as a career is that it has a built in procedure to advance in small manageable steps. From CNA to LPN to RN [registered nurse] and beyond. You can get started in nursing in as little as 75 hours of training to become a CNA. With another 35 hours you can work in home health. It provides an excellent opportunity to explore nursing as a career.”
If you decide to pursue registered nursing jobs, there are several paths you can take:
• Study for an associate’s degree at a community college; typically two-three years;
• Pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university; about four years, depending on your educational background;
• Go for a diploma through a hospital-based program, generally three years.
Experts say community colleges are a smart choice for workers seeking a fast-track into a career, whether that means IT careers, health care jobs, nursing jobs or otherwise.
“They’re [community colleges] more oriented toward the workforce, they are serving adult learners coming back to school for a career-related reason,” says David Fischer, project director for workforce development and social policy at the Center for an Urban Future in New York.
Community colleges also offer flexible evening and weekend class schedules—a bonus for working adults juggling families and other responsibilities.
If you want to join one of the fastest growing careers, look no further than IT careers. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, 1 million computer and IT careers and IT related jobs are expected to be added to the U.S. workforce by 2014, but U.S. universities will only graduate enough candidates with computer science bachelor’s degrees to fill 50 percent of those IT careers.
What better incentive do career-changers need to opt-in to IT careers?
Some experts say a bachelor’s degree is the best bet for succeeding and advancing in IT careers—and there are fast-track options. According to spokesperson Dan Dement, all of DeVry University’s bachelor’s-degree offerings are fast-track; the degrees can be earned in as little as three years with year-round course scheduling.
Others say skills and tenacity are critical.
“Enthusiasm is the single biggest thing here. If you have an aptitude for technology and you like learning and exploring on your own, that’s the way to jump in,” Fischer explains. He suggests a good place to start could be with the IT department at your current employer, where you have an understanding of the content.