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6 Great Second Career Options that Pay Off

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By Kate Collier

If you’ve hit your 30s or 40s and you’re thinking about a career change, you’re not alone. It’s pretty common for people to switch careers, especially in their 30s.

“Mid-career changes have an advantage,” says Mary Beth Barritt, assistant director of the University of Vermont Career Center.  “More seasoned job changers generally know about their values. What’s important to you? Where do you find joy?”

As you begin exploring new career options, think about the additional training and education you might need. In some cases, Barritt explains, you might not need another degree. “Some people may just need to take a course or two. Others might sign up for a certificate program,” she says.

To get you started, here are a few career options to consider.

Physical Therapist/Occupational Therapist

If you like working with people and you like science, then check out physical therapy. As baby boomers age, demand will grow for physical therapists, who help injured or ill people overcome pain and improve movement; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 36 percent increase in physical therapy jobs over the next decade. Although you need a doctorate or professional degree, you’ll be entering a profession that pays well; median pay is around $85,400, according to the BLS. You also might consider occupational therapy. The median income for occupational therapists – who work with injured, ill or disabled patients on developing skills — is over $81,910, according to the BLS.

You’ll need a master’s degree to enter the field. If you need more science courses, then consider UVM’s Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program, which helps students pursue medical, dental, veterinary, pharmacy, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, physical therapy and other health professions.

Digital Marketer

Digital Marketing is the most important part of an organization’s marketing mix today, and typically where the largest portion of a marketing budget is allocated. Far more than being able to use Facebook and Google Analytics, Digital Marketers are responsible for analyzing company performance, understanding consumer habits and desires, communicating with clients, researching, analyzing, planning, and executing multi-channel campaigns, and more. According to, Digital Marketers and Digital Marketing Specialists can look to make approximately $50,912 annually, with Digital Marketing Managers earning around $68,234 per year. The University of Vermont is now offering a number of top-ranked, fully online Digital Marketing programs for individuals seeking a career in this growing field.

Project Management

Are you good at getting things done and work well with people? Then explore project management. You might already be managing projects in your current job without getting paid for it. By obtaining project management certification, such as UVM’s Project Management Professional Certificate, you not only can gain credibility and get paid more, you also might be able to find your next job. It’s also a career that pays well: according to the PMI Project Management Salary Survey, the median annual salary for certified project managers in the United States is over $108,200. Project managers can be found in a variety of fields, from architecture and building construction to information technology and health care.

Public Health

If you like science and current issues, and you want to solve problems and make a difference, then consider the ever-evolving field of public health. You’ll work on implementing prevention measures, promoting healthy behaviors and researching global and community health. The field spans a variety of academic disciplines and professions, from epidemiology and biostatistics to environmental public health and health policy.

The three fastest growing jobs in public health include:

  • Biostatisticians, who gather data and oversee surveys;
  • Epidemiologists, who work in health departments, universities, laboratories and out in the field, collecting samples, conducting interviews and laboratory analysis, and analyzing data;
  • Global health professionals, who work with organizations and agencies dealing with disaster relief, immigrant/refugee health, maternal and child health, bioterrorism, disease prevention and more.

The median pay in public health can be $70,820 (epidemiologists), $80,500 (biostatisticians) and more, especially if you pursue management or policy.

End of Life Care Doula

For those seeking fulfilling, unique employment out of the office, consider a career in caring for the dying. In a recent State of Aging & Health in America report, the CDC indicates that the population of American adults over age 65 will double in the next 25 years to about 72 million. The study adds that two-thirds of older Americans have multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, and treatment for this aging population will account for 66% of the country’s health care budget. To address this growing need, UVM established the End of Life Care Professional Certificate.

End-of-life doulas complement the work provided by palliative care professionals and hospice professionals, providing care for patients in hospitals, senior care facilities, and homes. End-of-life doulas support clients with compassionate care in a number of ways, including emotional, spiritual, informational, and physical support, which greatly helps to ease the burdens faced by both the client and the family.

Actuarial Science

Do you love working with numbers? Then try actuarial science, which uses statistics and theory to analyze the financial impact of risk in areas like insurance and pensions. It also happens to be one of the hottest careers right now; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says actuarial jobs are expected to increase 27 percent over the next few years. Actuarial science is low-stress, highly paid (averaging more than $100,610) and requires only an undergraduate degree. You may just need a few more courses to pass the first two or three professional exams and land a job; your employer may pay for your remaining training and exams.

Find more courses, including a masters degree online, workshops, and certificate programs that can fit your lifestyle and help advance your career.