Lucrative Career Switches: Paralegal, Dental Assistant, and More

Lucrative Career Switches: Paralegal, Dental Assistant, and More
Make a lucrative career switch in two years or less by earning a degree or certificate as a paralegal, health information management, dental assistant, and pharmacy technician at your community college.

Whether you need to switch careers to find a more lucrative position or simply want better job stability than your current place of employment, a community college is a good place to start. These two-year schools can help you change career tracks much faster than a traditional four-year school, and many offer career placement services to high-demand industries in the area. Check out these career options that require two years of training or less if you are getting ready to make a big switch.


Those who are fascinated by the field of law, but don’t want to spend the next few years of their life in school, can find their niche as a paralegal. This professional works alongside lawyers, conducting research, writing briefs, and interacting with clients. According to Yahoo Education, those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field of study may be able to earn a certification to work as a paralegal in as little as a few months. Another option is to pursue an associate degree in paralegal studies, which takes just two years to complete.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average annual salary for a paralegal in May 2010 as $46,680. Predicted job growth for the industry is estimated to be around 18 percent between 2010 and 2020. This position is typically found in a law firm, corporate legal office, or government agency.

This video explains how to become a paralegal.

Health Information Management

Health information management is a rapidly expanding field, as clinics, hospitals, and physician offices work to bring their records into the electronic age. These professionals have a working knowledge of medical coding and terminology, as well as a knack for technology. Education Portal states that jobs as a health information management specialist typically take anywhere from six months to two years of training, and many community colleges offer programs in this specialty area.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average annual salary for a health information technician at $32,350 in May 2010. The average growth for this field is expected to be around 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. This position often finds professionals working in hospitals or doctors’ offices, although direct patient contact is generally minimal.

This video offers an overview of careers in health information management.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work directly with patients, educating them about proper oral hygiene and performing basic patient care. These professionals may also handle the administrative end of the dental office, maintaining patient records and scheduling appointments. Specific duties will vary based on licensing requirements in each state. Entry-level positions can often be attained with a certificate that takes one year or less to earn or a two-year associate degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the average annual salary of a dental assistant at $33,470 in May 2010. Average job growth between 2010 and 2020 is predicted to be around 31 percent. Many dental assistants assume full-time positions, but some can opt to work part-time as well.

This video offers a look at what a dental assistant does.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work directly with pharmacists in dispensing prescription medications and working directly with customers. This position may be found in a hospital, grocery store, and drugstore. Pharmacy technicians can often get their foot in the door of this industry with one year of training or less. Many community colleges nationwide offer training and certification programs in this field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a pharmacy technician in May 2010 was $28,400. Positions are available on both a full-time and part-time basis. Growth in the field is expected to remain at a fast and steady rate of around 32 percent between 2010 and 2020.


Those interested in moving into the health care field or transferring positions within the industry often consider the nursing profession. Nurses offer the first line of patient care in hospitals, clinics, and some physician offices. Job responsibilities might include coordinating patient care, educating patients and the general public on health care concerns, and performing administrative duties. This profession can often be entered with a two-year associate degree, especially for those already working in the healthcare industry who want to make a change.

The median annual salary for registered nurses in May 2010, was $64,690, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth in this industry is expected at a rate of around 26 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Tips for Making the Switch

For those turning to community college to make a career switch, they can rest assured they won’t feel alone on campus. According to Monster, 60 percent of the 12.4 million students attending community college today are over the age of 22. Those figures were based on a 2008 report by the American Association of Community Colleges. Today, with the recent recession putting more professionals out of work and in search of new positions, that number could indeed be even higher.

Career Cast reports that it has become more than a necessity to switch careers; it has actually become a trend. There are few reasons today to stick with a job that is unsatisfying or unstable. Professionals now have the option of making a change at any time during their working years. However, before you make the leap, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of profession am I capable of doing?
  • What is my special temperament best suited for?
  • Where can I market myself best, based on my previous experience?

By answering these questions, professionals can get an accurate idea of the careers that are the best possibility. At that point, it is simply a matter of finding a community college in the area that offers a program in that specific area of interest.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @communitycollegereview

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