6 steps to making a career change

By Reese Nelson

Tired of dealing with irate customers all day? Sick of slaving away at a gig that barely pays the bills?

Just because the job market sucks doesn't mean that you should stay put.

Life is a constant challenge. It's always evolving. So it makes sense that we should be doing the same…by always striving for more.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying you should turn in your two week's notice today, tomorrow, or even next year. Career changes, like any other big life development, take time and should be broken down into doable steps.

If you think a career change is right for you, or just want to learn more about the possibilities, here are 6 steps you can take to starting a new career.

Step 1 - Create a list of careers that pique your interest.
Be sure to follow that up with some research (you'll want to know about average earning potential, for starters) and soul-searching.

Step 2 - Take your list of careers and do job searches for each one.
Be sure to look in your city and any other neighboring areas. Highlight any professions that seem more in-demand than others and cross off any that don't seem to be growing. Also, consider reviewing data from the U.S. Department of Labor, which contains information about careers, education requirements, job growth, and average earning potential.

Step 3 - Next, take that whittled down list of careers and take into account how much time you want to spend preparing. If you want to pursue a profession that does not generally require four years of education, here are some options:

  • Medical assisting is a potentially rewarding career that you could prepare for in as little as one year with a certificate program. The average earning potential: $28,000 per year.*

  • Bookkeeping is another great career that generally does not require a four-year degree. In fact, many employers only require that you have a high school diploma and some accounting classes, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The average earning potential: $32,510.*

  • Paralegals work with lawyers and help them build their cases. I know what you're thinking: working with lawyers?! But if you have a strong sense of justice, this might be a good career to consider. Certificate programs could potentially be completed in as little as one year, depending on your course load, and if you already have your bachelor's degree. The average earning potential isn't bad either: $46,120 on average per year.*

If you think a more long-term education program might be beneficial to you on your job search, consider earning your bachelor's degree.

Step 4 - Once you've settled on a career track, find schools that 1) offer your program; 2) offer it on a part-time or online basis (so you don't have to quit your day job!); 3) are accredited; and 5) have a good Career Services department. You can visit Yahoo! Education for help finding schools.

Step 5 - Congrats! Now you're enrolled and taking your first class… but you're not done yet. In addition to paying attention in class, you should also be networking with your peers and professors - and talking to your Career Services Department.

Step 6 - Start looking for work early. Freshen up that resume. Practice talking about yourself and your accomplishments with a friend or significant other. And get ready to get that job!

While there is no definite path for everyone, we hope these tips will provide some inspiration.

*All salary data is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2009 statistics.

Have you changed careers recently? Share your own tips here on Yahoo! Shine.