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Six Quick-Change Careers

Six Quick-Change Careers

By Larry Buhl

If you want to make a career change but think that doing so would take too much time or be too difficult, you may not have been contemplating the right careers. Jobs in many satisfying, well-paying and growing fields require less preparation than you might think.

These six quick-change careers can be ideal for people who need a new career path but don't have years to spend on earning new degrees. Some require only volunteer work and self-teaching to get in the door; you can prepare for others in your spare time before you make the leap.

Wellness Coach

Similar to fitness coaches, wellness coaches support clients in their efforts to quit smoking, reduce stress, eat better and avoid lifestyle-related diseases. Wellness coaches can find work with larger companies, clinics and health insurers, although most are hired directly by a client. Those with two years' experience in the field can earn from $25 to $50 and up per hour, according to Margaret Moore, founder of

What You'll Need: Right now, no formal degrees or credentials are required, says Moore. "People who enter the field have a passion for wellness, often starting with their own personal struggles to overcome physical problems, and they immerse themselves in learning on their own," she says. She adds that this career is ideal for a mid-career professional who doesn't mind working part-time while building a practice before jumping in full-time.

More Information: Institute of Coaching and

Personal Chef

If you're a great cook but can't stand restaurants, you might consider working as a personal chef. You could earn between $200 and $400 per day, although the pay rate depends on what you negotiate with your clients. Private chefs may also receive free lodging, meals and transportation. It could be a cushy job or a very demanding one -- it all depends on your boss's needs and temperament.

What You'll Need: You have to know how to cook well; where you gain that knowledge is not so important. Organizational skills and trustworthiness are helpful. It's also wise to get some additional training in areas such as sanitation, safe food handling and storage, economical use of ingredients, and basic accounting. You'll need to network with wealthy (and busy) people to find jobs.

More Information: American Personal & Private Chef Association

Patient Advocate

The complexity of healthcare has created opportunities for professionals who can educate patients and family members about dealing with healthcare providers, doctors, insurance companies and so on. The patient advocate, a liaison between the patient and the system, is most often self-employed, but some work for hospitals, clinics and insurers. Salaries range from about $25,000 to more than $70,000.

What You'll Need: A thorough understanding of hospitals, insurers and patients is necessary. Advocates often come from the business side (insurance and billing) or the medical side (nursing is common). Others are social workers or even people who have navigated the healthcare industry for a loved one.

More Information: National Patient Advocate Foundation

Prospect Researcher

Many nonprofits rely on researchers to find likely donors; the researchers uncover information about a wealthy prospect's hobbies, likes and dislikes, and past donations. Salaries range from $30,000 for newbies up to $80,000 for seasoned pros.

What You'll Need: It helps to have volunteered for a nonprofit, but if you have a strong record of business development, or if you've done political-campaign research and outreach, you'll have a leg up. Strong research skills and social media savvy are required.

More Information: Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement

Solar-Energy System Installer

One of the most promising entry-level green-collar jobs has recently had a boost from federal and local solar tax credits. Any mechanically minded or green-oriented person can make a good installer. Starting pay is about $12 per hour and rises to about $20 for those with a few years' experience. Installers can earn more by becoming supervisors who bid for jobs, coordinate product and labor at job sites, and help workers solve problems.

What You'll Need: Installers need sun block, good overall health and physical stamina. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners offers classes and certification. Training and an apprenticeship can take about two years -- less if you have a background in renewable energy, electrical systems or construction. Jobs can be found with roofing companies and building contractors.

More Information: North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

Emergency Manager

Federal, state and local governments, as well as hospitals, universities and some corporations, now use full-time emergency managers to evaluate risks, prepare for disasters and plan for recovery from disasters. Specialists in large cities can pull in nearly six figures a year, while a county worker in an area with a low population might make do with a small stipend.

What You'll Need: The field is becoming more formal, but right now no specific degree or credential is necessary for most jobs, according to Pam L'Heureux, president of the International Association of Emergency Managers. "Any skills you already have, such as planning, writing documents, computer programming, and even archiving can be useful,"  she says. She adds that the best way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer for the local or county emergency-management offices or fire departments.

More Information: International Association of Emergency Managers

[Source: Salary estimates are from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and/or professional organizations.]

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