First-time college students enroll in school for many reasons: to learn, to meet new people, to get away from their parents, to finally feel like adults. Their approach to picking a major can be just as haphazard. They may focus on interesting classes or the ability to have compelling debates rather than which jobs will make them the most employable at graduation.
If you’re going back to school as an adult, you’ve probably already worked a few jobs. You may have raised children, gotten married, and juggled the myriad responsibilities of adulthood. You know yourself—what you’re good at, what you struggle with, and what you need to be happy. We think these six jobs offer significant opportunity and would be worth going back to school for in 2021. So weigh your options and find the right fit.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how important nurses are, but even before the pandemic, nursing was a great career bet. Nursing is one of the fastest growing careers in the country, thanks to a labor shortage and a healthcare system that increasingly recognizes the incredible value of health practitioners. Today’s nurses can serve in numerous roles, depending on their education and training. Entry-level nurses may work in clinics or offices under the supervision of doctors or surgeons. With more training and education, some nurses can practice independently, depending on where they live.
No matter what you’re interested in or how you prefer to work, there are several options for you to choose from. For example, nurse practitioners fill many of the same roles as doctors, and they command high salaries. Similarly, midwives support low-risk women through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. They may work in hospitals, birth centers, or medical offices. If you prefer to work with older patients who are navigating through the challenges of aging, becoming a geriatric nurse may be a great fit. You can also promote better mental health as a psychiatric mental health nurse, or tend to newborns and children as a pediatric nurse.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of registered nurse careers will grow 7 percent between 2019 and 2029, which means a career in nursing offers plenty of job security. In 2019, median annual earnings for a registered nurse were $73,300 per year, though those with the most skill and experience can command much higher wages. Traveling nurses could pick up additional shifts across the country, making hefty overtime rates on top of their salary.
SNU’s School of Nursing is a great place to start your nursing career. Adult students who aren’t ready for full-time learning might choose a bachelor’s degree in general studies, then later pursue graduate-level training in nursing.
Every company needs business experts, from the smallest family operations to the largest multinational conglomerates. In 2016, the National Association of Colleges and Employers emphasized that graduates with business-related degrees, such as business administration, were in the highest demand.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a faster-than-average growth of 5 percent between 2019 and 2029 for careers in business and finance. Median earnings vary depending on the role you choose, but often approach or exceed six figures.
You don’t have to enjoy crunching numbers to have a fulfilling career in business. After all, there are plenty of different organizations committed to just about everything, from caring for pets and supporting aging seniors to managing finances and banking. And if you’ve ever thought about going into business for yourself, a bachelor’s or master’s can offer you the credentials you need to get more lucrative prospects.
A business degree can also complement another career. Real estate brokers, accountants, financial analysts, and other experts with business degrees may command higher earnings and earn more credibility because of their additional business expertise.
SNU’s bachelor's degree in business administration prepares adult students for the many challenges and triumphs of life in business. For returning students who have seen the power of quality healthcare during the pandemic and who hope to run quality health systems, a master of business administration in healthcare could be a great option for grad school.
Beyond healthcare, an MBA can take your career to places you never thought possible. Whether you want to enter your new career with a competitive edge or simply advance your career, earning an MBA is one of the best strategies for accomplishing your goals.
Management and Leadership
Anyone who’s ever had a bad boss knows that good leadership is an important skill that can make or break an organization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations in management will grow 5 percent between 2019 and 2029. Median earnings vary from company and company and role to role, but are often well over six figures—especially if you opt to ascend the upper rungs of the corporate ladder.
SNU’s organizational leadership degree offers more than just a basic rundown of life as a manager. It prepares you to be a visionary leader so you can grow companies into something greater. SNU also offers a master's degree and doctorate in leadership, which will provide you with a structured path to becoming a sought after strategic leader.
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a tidal wave of mental health issues, including massive increases in depression and anxiety. This crisis has shown the importance of mental health for overall well-being. Counselors and therapists are indispensable.
People struggle with a wide range of issues, from economic challenges to abusive families. A 2017 study found that 41 percent of people experience a short-term mental health crisis, and an additional 41 percent experience chronic mental health issues. This means that most people could benefit from mental health support at some point during their lives. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates have soared over the last two decades. Suicide is a leading cause of death, with nearly 45,000 lives lost to suicide in 2016 alone. Despite this disturbing trend, at least half of people with mental illness receive no treatment. Many more receive inadequate treatment or leave treatment before they get the help and support they need.
You can join frontlines of the fight against suicide and mental illness by pursuing a career in counseling. Mental health jobs will grow about 25 percent by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Entry-level jobs with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $46,240 per year. Armed with your bachelor’s degree, however, you can pursue even higher pay. Master’s-level therapists earn an average of $49,610 per year, while psychologists can expect earnings around $80,370 each year. Depending on the career you choose, you may also be able to work for yourself by starting and running your own mental health practice.
A degree from SNU in family studies and gerontology is a great way to begin the journey. If you’ve already completed your bachelor’s, consider a master’s degree in counseling, which empowers you to become a licensed counselor working directly with patients.
Technology increasingly connects our world, a fact that shows no signs of changing any time soon. The coronavirus crisis showed that technology can bridge geographic distance, help children learn, and help people maintain close relationships even in unprecedented moments of crisis. Jobs in technology can open doors that didn’t even exist a few decades ago. Computer and information technology jobs earned an average of $88,240 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As you grow in your profession, you may be able to earn much more.
A degree in cybersecurity is an excellent way to start your career in this field. Companies of all sizes need cybersecurity experts to protect their data, and technology companies—including in-demand startups—may snap you up as soon as you graduate.
Aging and Eldercare
The population is aging, especially as Baby Boomers hit retirement. With so many seniors who will eventually need care, a shortage of people who can carry out these responsibilities is inevitable. Jobs in eldercare are among the fastest growing in the economy. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that home health aides will see a 47 percent growth in jobs between 2016 and 2026. These jobs typically pay relatively low salaries, with a 2016 average of just over $22,000.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Eldercare jobs are as diverse as the seniors they serve. Nursing homes need nurses, orderlies, social workers, and other experts to support their residents. Families may work with therapists who specialize in gerontological issues, while communities may contract with gerontologists to ensure their community is ready to serve an aging population.
This means that going back to school and pursuing a degree or training related to eldercare or gerontology may mark the beginning of a lucrative career that can grow with your skills and experience. SNU’s family studies and gerontology program can be a springboard to a new career in eldercare.
Which Career Is Right for Me?
Finding the right career requires more than just reading about which industries are lucrative or growing. You spend about a third of your life at work. Don’t waste that time at a job you hate. If you’re already devoting the time and effort to going back to school, commit to deeply contemplating what the right career might be. The answer is unique to you. To begin your quest, try asking these questions. There’s no right answer, but it is important to be honest with yourself:
- Have I learned anything about my preferred working style from the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Are there any jobs that have become more or less stable because of the pandemic?
- Are there jobs I can choose that would allow me to flexibly work remotely in the event of another crisis like a pandemic?
- What am I most interested in? Is there a career I might enjoy related to my interest?
- What working environments do I enjoy most?
- What do I like most and least about my current job?
- What is most important to me in a job? Do I need to feel important, like I’m helping people or like I have room for advancement? How much flexibility do I need? What about work-life balance?
- Do I have the discipline it takes to be self-employed, or would I rather work for someone else?
- Do I want to do the same job forever, or do I hope to switch careers several times?
- How much do I need to earn to be financially stable?
- Which jobs are in the highest demand in my area?
- What do my friends think of their jobs? Can I seek mentorship from someone who has a job similar to the one I might want?
- How much time and money do I have to spend on my education? Would the additional money I could earn with an advanced degree justify a longer time in school?
- How much support do I have to go back to school?
- Are there any recurring themes in my work performance reviews?
SNU is training a generation of workers to change the world for themselves and their communities. We believe everyone deserves a career they love. If you’re considering a return to school, we’d love to help you make the right decision for your family and lifestyle. To learn more about your options for returning to school, check out our free guide, What to Expect from an Online Degree Program. Contact us for more information on how we can assist.
*This post was originally shared in November of 2019 and has since been updated