Have you heard? Changing careers is totally in. Gone are the days of holding one job in a professional lifetime. Unlike your parents who may have worked at one company for decades, you’re less likely to stick to the same job—or even the same career or industry—for the long haul. And the good news is, you don’t have to.
These days, career changing is becoming just as common as job hopping (although, here at The Muse, we like to refer to it as career building), and depending on what field you’re interested in transitioning into, you may be able to make the jump without too much blood, sweat, and tears. While some popular second careers may require a specific degree and credentials (nursing comes to mind), there are plenty of other roles that people with a variety of backgrounds can transition into with a splash of business savvy and a peppering of skill building. Check out the six high-paying options below.
1. Data Scientist
It turns out that not only is data science a lucrative job (we’re talking a national salary average of $118K, according to Glassdoor, with the minimum a healthy $76K), it’s also a broad one. Because data science (a relatively new title and function), can be divided up into several different roles—data engineering, data research, data visualization, and more—there’s a decent chance that your background relates to the field in some way. Whether you’re an engineering major, a former graphic designer, or someone on the business side who’s taken an interest in analytics, if you know what kind of position to look for within the crazy-growing industry, you’ve already got a leg up.
Plus, because it’s such an unmoored opportunity, if you get in now, chances for success are huge. According to one data scientist I spoke with, knowing what you can do for the company (especially if the organization isn’t exactly sure what it wants or needs) can give you the edge you need. All you need to do is have the background to support your ideas, and, well, if you’re not sure you have that, look into bootcamps, part-time classes, or workshops from companies like Byte Academy. These outfit you with the skills you need and can give you access to a strong network and career guidance. The most enticing part is that you won’t even necessarily have to quit your job and drain your savings to attend grad school.
2. Social Media Manager
Love using innovative mediums like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Pinterest to tell compelling stories? Are you devoted to building your personal brand and cultivating a strong following—and an even stronger community? Have you always loved witty remarks and writing the perfect click-able sentence? Want to get paid for it? Well then, this could be the new job you didn’t even know you were looking for. While not all social media managers start out making the big bucks, salaries in the major markets can reach six figures. And as the need for influential leaders in this arena continues to increase, so too will the average salary. In many industry circles, you’re nothing without your social media strategy, and companies big and small realized this yesterday.
The first step in breaking into this field is making sure your personal social accounts are up to par. Of course, being a good social media manager is about more than getting likes on your personal vacation photos; pay attention to companies’ social media strategies, homing in on what’s working and what they could do better.
Better yet, look for opportunities to volunteer to manage the social accounts of nonprofits or small businesses for a few months—many organizations could use the help, and it will give you experience outside of your own profiles to talk about. Use your findings and analysis to help you make the move and show companies why you’d be a great fit for the job.
Nonprofits, educational institutions, hospitals, and the like need money to survive—and are willing to pay nicely for someone with the skills to bring in the bills. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the middle ground salary can range from $65K-$75K, but that range says nothing of top-tier fundraisers who can clock in at half a million or more, according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Convincing people to give generously is obviously a huge part of the job, so having a background in sales or marketing can be impactful as you attempt to transition into this field. That said, fundraisers also must be able to build relationships to recruit volunteers and donors, manage donor accounts, make financial projections, manage multi-layered projects ranging from large campaigns to donor events, and ultimately communicate the core message of the organization and inspire people to help. It sounds like a lot, but there’s a good chance you already have these skills from past jobs, volunteer work, or even extracurriculars. For example, your graduate school leadership role managing volunteers for the quarterly clothing drives can speak to your experience in recruiting and carrying out a mission.
And of course, make sure you believe in—and show your passion for—the mission of the organization you’re applying to. If you can’t convey this to interviewers, how will you be able to convince donors?
4. Software Engineer
It may not be a stretch to say that everyone is looking for a good engineer—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software engineers are among the occupations with the largest projected job growth for this year. But you probably already knew that. What you might not have known is how common it is for people without a traditional background in the field to successfully make the shift. In a 2015 survey of developers by Stack Overflow, a whopping 48% of respondents never received a degree in computer science.
So how do folks make the switch? This is definitely a field where you need very specialized skills that you probably haven’t picked up in your current role. That said, these skills are very learnable; in the Stack Overflow survey, 41.8% of respondents report being self taught, and 27.4% attended a bootcamp such as Byte Academy, an online class, or an industry certification program, avenues that provide built-in structure, mentorship, and connections with companies that are hiring. Many respondents also reported learning via on-the-job training; consider seeing if there’s an opportunity to start to learn some of these skills as part of your current gig.
Whichever route you take, make sure to practice a lot with projects that you can show off to hiring managers—with engineering jobs, the proof of your abilities is in the pudding (or the coding, as it were).
5. Market Research Analyst
It’s all anyone can talk about, right? (Next to engineering, that is.) In this ever-competitive consumer world, there’s never been a greater need to understand buyer motivation. If you have experience analyzing data, writing data reports, or collecting data, you have some of the skills needed for market research analysis—and, what’s more, you could stand to make a not-too-shabby $85K as you get promoted in the field.
But it’s not all about the data. Do you boast an impressive background in sales or client relations? Is your reading comprehension something worth bragging about, and are you curious, imaginative, and methodical? If so, you may possesses some of the job’s qualifications.
Start by looking at your current company and seeing what kinds of marketing tools it has in place. Don’t be shy about asking questions! Demonstrate your attention to detail, your ability to think critically, and your sincere interest in data analysis. Seek market research opportunities within your organization, or get out there and start to market yourself (bullet point those essential characteristics and personality traits). If moving into the marketing department of your organization isn’t feasible, start identifying a few supplier or client-side companies you’d like to work for and network like your career transition depends on it. It just might.
6. Financial Planner
Now here’s a job where it often pays to have some life experience under your belt, making it a fantastic choice for the career-changer. In fact, a Forbes article discussing the career notes that a 2009 poll by the Financial Planning Association found that a whopping 88% of financial planners and advisors report having worked in a different industry prior to their current gig. It’s not just business and econ majors who go on to become financial planners; psychology degree holders, for example, are often considered well-equipped for work in this industry, which involves plenty of numbers, yes, but also legit people skills.
The fact is, people need help managing their money, and if you excel in this field, you could be looking at a salary hovering around $90K. You will need a sales mentality, and you do have to be willing to undergo some specialized training as well as test-taking if you want to be licensed to sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and insurance. Fortunately, if you’ve ever taken a course in investments, taxes, or risk management, you might be ready to start reaching out to financial firms. On the other hand, if you’re someone who is dying to work for herself, know that many financial advisors are self-employed—consider whether you could use your knowledge to start helping your friends with their finances and build a client base from there.
You could also consider looking for roles in the emerging field of financial technology (fintech). Startups in this area are growing fast and hiring all sorts of people, so they might be a good way to get your feet wet in the industry. Attend a fintech event to start to network and learn more.
Making an industry leap doesn’t have to be the stuff of your dreams. It can be your reality. With a little research, plenty of networking, and analysis of your skills and experience, you are on your way to making that career change you’ve been talking about for months.