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There are some vocational professions that may only require a two-year program to make that vertical career move. Here are some two-year moves, along with salary, education and job growth info provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The Two-Year Move to Advancing Your Career

After dropping out of college, Gabe Sonnier worked as a school janitor at Port Barre Elementary in Port Barre, La. for 20 years. As he explained to CBS News, whenever he stepped in a classroom, he felt as though he should be teaching in it rather than cleaning it. So, he went back to school. After years of balancing his janitorial job, a demanding school schedule, and his family, Sonnier went from custodian to teacher, and then, last fall, after getting his master's degree online at Arkansas State, he became principal of the school.

Going from custodian to principal might sound daunting, because with at least four years of college, a year of student teaching, at least a few more years spent teaching, and then two more years for a master's degree, it can be. But not everybody needs to go from college dropout to master's degree to move up the ladder in the workplace. There are even some positions that may only require a two-year program to make that vertical career move. Here are some two-year moves, along with salary, education and job growth info provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Vocational Careers

Legal Secretary to Paralegal or Legal Assistant

What they do

Legal secretaries carry out clerical and administrative tasks in a law office. They may prepare legal documents and correspondence under the direction of a paralegal or lawyer, answer phones, set appointments and more.

Paralegals and legal assistants conduct research, draft legal documents and file them with the courts, assist lawyers with exhibits and evidence before and during trials, prepare trial notes and interview clients and witnesses. Their work may vary depending on the size and specialization of the organization where they work.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • Legal secretary: high school/ $42,390
    • Legal assistant or paralegal: associate degree OR bachelor's degree with certification/ $47,570
  • National job growth for paralegals and legal assistants, 2012-2022: 17 percent

Home Health Aide to Registered Nurse

What they do

Home health aides provide in-home comfort and care for disabled, impaired, elderly or ill clients. They may assist in personal care, prepare meals, run errands or organize transportation. In some states, they may also administer medication or check vital signs.

Registered nurses record patient information, assist in diagnostic tests, administer medication and treatments, advise patients on follow-up care and more. Examples of nursing specialties include neonatal, critical care, labor and delivery, and cardiology.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • Home health aide: high school or less/ $21,020
    • Registered nurse: associate degree (ADN) OR bachelor's (BSN) OR diploma in nursing/ $66,220
  • National job growth for registered nurses, 2012-2022: 19 percent

Veterinarian Office Receptionist to Veterinary Technician

What they do

Receptionists answer phones, manage incoming and outgoing mail, and greet and escort clients and other visitors. They are often the first person a visitor may encounter at a place of business.

Veterinary technicians record animals' vital signs, administer medication, help perform diagnostic tests, perform laboratory tests and communicate information to animal owners. They work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • Receptionist: high school/ $26,410
    • Veterinary technician: associate degree/ $30,500
  • National job growth for vet techs, 2012-2022: 30 percent

Physical Therapist Aide to Physical Therapist Assistant

What they do

Physical therapist aides work under the supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They clean treatments areas, set up equipment and direct patients to the proper treatment areas.. They may also perform clerical duties.

Physical therapist assistants typically have more direct patient contact than PT aides. Under the supervision of a physical therapist, they may help patients with exercises, administer some forms of therapy, observe and record patient progress and discuss treatment with patients.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • PT aide: high school/ $24,310
    • PT assistant: associate degree and licensing/ $53,360
  • National job growth for physical therapist assistants, 2012-2022: 41 percent

Retail Salesperson to Computer User Support Specialist

What they do

Retail salespersons process payments, keep stores tidy and organized, and assist customers in locating and selecting products.

Computer user support specialists help people with computer problems in a variety of settings. They diagnose and fix computer problems, install and upgrade hardware and software, and instruct people on product usage.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • Retail salesperson: high school or less/ $21,140
    • Computer support specialist: associate degree or bachelor's degree/$46,620
  • National job growth for computer support specialists, 2012-2022: 17 percent

Medical Receptionist to Medical Records and Health Information Technician

What they do

Medical receptionists typically greet patients, accept payments, set appointments, answer phones and escort patients to examination rooms.

Medical records and health information technicians assign clinical codes for reimbursement and analysis, act as a liaison between the billing office and the health clinician, and help ensure that patients' medical information is accurate and complete.

Salary and career info

  • Education and national median annual salary, BLS 2013
    • Receptionist: high school/ $26,410
    • Medical records and health information technician: postsecondary/professional certification AND/OR associate degree/$34,970
  • National job growth for medical records and health information technicians, 2012-2022: 22 percent

And just for fun, let's see how Principal Sonnier did:

What they do

Custodians perform light and heavy cleaning duties, help ensure facilities are in good condition and perform minor repairs and improvements.

Elementary school teachers have a variety of responsibilities, including planning lessons, assessing student progress, communicating with parents, and recognizing learning problems and challenges in students.

School principals supervise school faculty and staff, hire and evaluate teachers, manage school budgets, and represent their school at community and school district meetings.

Salary and career info

  • Custodian: less than high school/$22,590 median annual salary, 2013, nationally
  • Elementary school teacher: bachelor's and certification or license/ $53,590 median annual salary, 2013, nationally
  • Principal: master's plus license/ $88,380 median annual salary, 2013, nationally

The Excuse Busters

Back-to-school excuse buster #1

"I can't afford it." If you've become a trusted staff member at an organization, you may be able to receive tuition assistance and/or reimbursement from your employer. Some companies have policies in place, but even if your company doesn't have a set policy, you should still ask.

Back-to-school excuse buster #2

"I don't have time." While some or all of your classes may be online, you may still need to attend class during your normally scheduled work times. If this is the case, speak to your boss and see if some flexibility can be built into your schedule. Semesters typically last four months or less, so the schedule change may only be a temporary, and you may become a much more valuable employee with your new degree.

While making the decision to return to school, remember Principal Sonnier's words: "Don't let your situation you're in now define what you're going to become later. It's not from where you start, but how you finish."


Sources:

"Computer Support Specialists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151151.htm

"Computer Support Specialists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm

"Elementary and High School Administrators," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119032.htm

"Elementary, Middle and High School Principals," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm

"Home Health Aides," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311011.htm

"Home Health Aides," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides.htm

"Janitor and Building Cleaners," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes372011.htm

"Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm

"Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm

"La. Principal's Success is a Lesson in Perseverance," CBS News, February 7, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/louisiana-principals-success-is-a-lesson-in-perseverance/

"Legal Assistants and Paralegals," Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm

Legal Assistants and Paralegals, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm

"Legal Secretaries," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436012.htm

"Medical Records and Health Information Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292071.htm

"Medical Records and Health Information Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm

"Physical Therapist Aides," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes312022.htm

"Physical Therapist Assistants," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes312021.htm

"Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm

"Receptionists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes434171.htm

"Receptionists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/receptionists.htm

"Registered Nurses," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm

"Registered Nurses," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

"Retail Salespersons," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes412031.htm

"Secretaries and Administrative Assistants," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/secretaries-and-administrative-assistants.htm

"Veterinary Technologists and Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm

"Veterinary Technologists and Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm