7 Careers You Can Switch To Without Earning Another Degree

Jul 23, 2013 -

Need a career change? Whether you’re a seasoned professional out of a job or a 20-something ready to take your next step, you’ve got to start a new career. Right. Now. You just don’t have the time (or the cash) to start from scratch with a new degree.

So, how can you hack the system? Find careers with short training time or jobs you can prepare for while holding down a day job. Check out these seven quick-change careers:

1. Web Developer

Web developers design and create websites.

What you need: You don’t need a formal degree in computer science to nab a gig in this industry. If you’re interested in sticking your toes in the coding waters, there are free massive open online courses, like Udacity’s Intro to Computer Science, and online classes (Codecademy.com is a favorite) you can try.

If you’re ready to commit 100 percent, consider an intensive boot camp, like those offered by Code Fellows, which include a money-back guarantee if you don’t land a $60k job offer.

Average salary: $76,000

2. Patient Advocate

Patient advocates help medical patients navigate the healthcare system.

What you need: Right now, there aren’t any national standards to become a patient advocate. There are increasing numbers of certificate programs, but in-the-trenches knowledge of hospitals and insurance companies can also get you started. If you have a background in business, healthcare, social work or have even navigated the healthcare industry for a loved one, you’re on the right track.

Average salary: $35,000

3. Social Media Manager

Social media managers engage customers and raise brand awareness by creating active social media profiles on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What you need: Since social media is an emerging field, even the experts have only been doing it for a few years. There are a couple of great books on social media marketing that can help you learn the basics—check out The Zen of Social Media Marketing. Consider taking a few classes or a short certificate course in marketing to brush up your communication skills. And, of course, stay up to date on new trends and technology.

Average salary: Varies widely

4. Massage Therapist

Massage therapists manipulate muscles to help clients get rid of aches and pains.

What you need: Massage therapists usually complete a program that requires around 500 hours of study and experience. However, requirements vary by state, so check out your local standards before committing to a class. Preparing for this career can be a good side project while holding down a day job.

Interested? Check out this list of massage programs near you.

Average salary: $35,000

5. Energy Consultant

Energy consultants (also known as energy auditors) inspect buildings and homes to help save energy by finding areas of inefficiency.

What you need: For this job, engineering or construction know-how is helpful, but certainly not essential. You should get certified, which usually involves a six-week training course.

Average salary: $65,000

6. Pharmacy Technician, Medical Assistant or Dental Assistants

Whether you’re dispensing prescriptions in a pharmacy, performing clinical tasks in a hospital or processing an X-ray in a dentist’s office, these three jobs keep the healthcare system running smoothly.

What you need: The education requirements for these three careers vary from state to state, and range from on-the-job training to certificates. For example, dental assistants are usually required to take a one-year certificate program. If you’re interested in healthcare, these can be great positions to get your foot in the door—without breaking the bank on student loans.

Average salary: $28,000 - $34,000 (depending on specialty)

7. Technical Writer

Technical writers take complicated information and put it into easy-to-understand language for instructions, user manuals and more.

What you need: Technical writers come from all kinds of backgrounds. You usually need a bachelor’s degree, but it can be in almost any area. More importantly, you need to be knowledgeable about the field you write about—whether it’s Web development, engineering or healthcare.

Jump into tech writing by taking on related tasks at your current job or brushing up writing skills with some college courses. Also check out I’d Rather Be Writing, a great blog dedicated to tech writers and new trends.

Average salary: $63,000

Are you looking for a quick-change career? Tell us your plans in the comments.

All salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover strong careers and connect with the right education to achieve their goals. Follow her on Twitter at @InsideJobs!