THE BLOG
11/22/2016 11:34 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2017

How to Identify an In-Demand Career Field When Returning to School

Do you feel like you’re in a dead-end job with very limited growth potential? Well, the best solution may be to go back to school for a couple years to obtain a degree that will allow you to launch a promising career an in-demand field. Do you know what to do?

Three In-Demand Career Field Qualities

Think back to when you were a child and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Well, choosing a new career field is a lot like answering this question. What do you want to be in three to five years? The answer to this question will likely depend on a number of factors.

Specifically, you should evaluate the following when choosing a career field:

1. Lifestyle

Most people start their search process by looking at pay, but you should avoid making pay the main priority. Here’s why: Money can only provide so much satisfaction. In order to truly enjoy your job, you have to love what you do.

With that being said, begin by thinking about lifestyle. You need a career path that allows you to enjoy work-life balance, feel comfortable, and spend time with people you like. Here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:

  • Will this job allow me to travel?
  • How much time to I get off per year?
  • Do I get the chance to work remotely?
  • How many hours per week is normal?
  • Is there a lot of upward growth potential?

By asking questions like these on the front-end, you can find a job that’s practical and satisfying in more ways than one.

2. Pay

While pay may not be the first thing you should think about, it’s obviously important. You probably don’t want to accumulate $150,000 in student loan debts if you’re going to be making just $30,000 per year. Run the numbers and consider the cost of education against the income earning potential. Does it make sense? How quickly will you break even? Answers to questions like these matter.

As a rule of thumb, student loan debts should never exceed eight percent of your gross earnings. You can use a calculator like this one to learn more.

3. Industry Projections

“Take time to explore different fields of study, so you know what field you’re interested in and why,” Careertopia points out. “Before you get too deeply involved in one specific area, consider the options that will be open to you once you graduate. For example, if you take a degree in biology, you might be committing yourself to several years more of graduate school.”

You need to have some long-term perspective. Just because a job looks promising now, remember that it may be three, five, or seven years before you’re actually in a position to obtain that job. Look at industry projections and don’t make a decision based on a whim.

Top In-Demand Fields for 2016 and Beyond

When you evaluate lifestyle, pay, and industry projections, you’re sure to make an educated decision. Instead of just choosing a career based on one factor – such as pay – you’re considering the big picture. This ensures you aren’t making a choice based on an isolated emotion.

While you’ll reach your own unique conclusion when looking at lifestyle, pay, and industry projections, the numbers show that the following career fields will be in high demand over the next couple of decades.

1. Allied Healthcare

According to Rush University, more than half of the U.S. healthcare workforce is in an allied health field and the demand for professionals in these occupations will only grow in the future.

Allied health professionals fall into two basic categories: technicians (assistants) and therapists/technologists. Technicians are those who are trained to perform certain procedures, such as cardiovascular technicians or medical assistants. Education typically lasts just two years for technicians.

Therapists and technologists require much more extensive educational training. Examples of these allied health professionals include anesthesiologists, neurodiagnostic technologists, and pathologists’ assistants.

2. IT

One of the fastest growing fields is information technology. Popular IT jobs include project managers, software engineers, and network and security engineers. The average salaries for these jobs range from $90,000 to $100,000.

And while IT jobs are currently in demand, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. IT will undergo tremendous growth over the next 5 to 10 years, which will increase earning potential exponentially.

3. Engineering

As many industries, such as healthcare and entertainment, undergo massive changes, engineers will become even more sought after than they already are. Some of the most in-demand job positions will include manufacturing engineers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers.

The great thing about becoming an engineer is that you’ll continually be challenged. Engineers rarely do the same thing for very long. There will always be some new development or technology coming down the pipeline.

4. Data and Analytics

“Almost all companies are now aware that data-driven decision making is critical if they want to succeed,” data scientist Nelson Bor says. “Many are still trying to staff with the talent shortage in full force, and I expect to see even more teams getting on board this year as they hurry to catch up to the rest of the market.”

All signs are pointing toward massive growth in big data and analytics. If you want a career that’s full of potential and always challenging, then become a data scientist. You won’t regret it.

5. Content Marketing

Finally, there’s content marketing. As more companies shift their attention to digital marketing and understand the importance of producing original content, the demand for skilled marketing writers is only growing.

The content marketing industry is projected to generate $313 billion in revenue in 2019 and venture capitalists have invested more than a billion dollars in content marketing startups since 2006. That should perk your ears up.

Hit the Books

In order to find your next career, it may be necessary to return to school. But if you’re planning on going back to school, make sure you’re doing your due diligence and researching the right opportunities.

The last thing you want to do is go back to school and end up in another dead-end job with limited growth potential.