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Five Career Moves That Pay Off

Five Career Moves That Pay Off

By Jen Hubley Luckwaldt,  

What career moves really pay off in terms of career development and salary? 

Online salary database asked people about their jobs today versus their jobs five years ago. By comparing the two answers and adding in information about education and other career-advancing factors, it’s possible to figure out with a fair degree of certainty what a given worker will be doing in five years. From the data, it’s clear that some career moves can be lucrative.

So how can you advance your career like others have? It depends on the job family you’re in, says Katie Bardaro, analytics manager at "Anything in sales, consulting, finance, connections help you advance,” she says. “If we're talking about the healthcare  world, you can really jump up in pay or opportunities with higher levels of education."

The following list highlights five career moves that pay off, according to’s calculations, with sometimes more than 100 percent wage growth in five years. In addition, all of the higher-levels jobs on the list have healthy projected growth rates between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Registered Nurse Registered nurses do the bulk of patient care, from assessing patient health problems to administering medication. RNs have at least an associate's degree and are licensed by the state. Many start their careers as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), who work under the direction of RNs or other nursing staff. CNAs have certification and training, although not an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing.

Susan Spicer, supervisor for Tompkins County Mental Health Clinic in Ithaca, New York, advanced from nursing assistant to RN after earning an associate's degree in nursing. She first contemplated a career in social work, but nursing suited her better.

"I decided to make the leap for a variety of reasons,” Spicer says. “I knew I would have more control over my career, and I understood I would make more money."

Find certified nursing assistant jobs | Find nursing jobs

2. Nurse Anesthetist
  • Current Pay: $147,000 
  • Job/Pay Five Years Ago: Registered Nurse / $50,500 
  • Increase in Pay: 191 percent
Registered nurses who go on to become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) become specialists in administering and monitoring anesthesia to patients before and during surgery. They also oversee postoperative recovery.

RNs who wish to become CRNAs need a bachelor’s degree and at least a year’s nursing experience in an acute-care setting. They then must graduate with at least a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program and pass a national certifying exam.

Find registered nurse jobs | Find nurse anesthetist jobs

3. Relationship Manager
  • Current Pay: $72,900
  • Job/Pay Five Years Ago: Personal Banker / $34,400
  • Increase in Pay: 112 percent
Personal bankers answer most of your questions about your bank account. They help you open new accounts, fill out paperwork and generally translate bank-speak into English. Relationship managers are the king and queen of the personal bankers. Their job is to develop and maintain relationships with clients and to supervise workers in banks, brokerage firms, and insurance or credit departments. While no further education is needed to move from personal banker to relationship manager, staying in the field and boosting your experience allows you to make the leap.

Find personal banker jobs | Find relationship manager jobs

4. Education Consultant 

Elementary school teachers who want a career change can become education consultants, working with schools and publishers to develop curricula and educational materials. Consultants do not necessarily need additional education to transition from teaching. A master's degree and classroom experience is enough, although it's helpful to have experience in an office environment.

Christy Golden, an education consultant in New York City, made the leap from the classroom to consulting in 2001 as a way to support teaching. "I still believe that there is no more noble profession in the world," Golden says. Now, though, she earns more money and has a more flexible schedule.

Find elementary school teacher jobs | Find education consultant jobs

5. Recruiting Coordinator
Human resources assistants keep track of personnel records, compile reports and generally make sense of employee data. Recruiting coordinators find, screen and assist in hiring the employees that generate all that data. Recruiting coordinators don't necessarily require additional education beyond the four-year degree required for human resources assistants. Experience in HR is the key to landing this job.

Find human resources assistant jobs | Find recruiting coordinator jobs

Source: All salary data and pay comparisons provided by online salary database Salaries listed for the job from five years ago are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with zero to five years of experience, and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing. Salaries listed for the current job are median, annual salaries for full-time workers with five to eight years of experience in their respective career or field. All salaries are calculated in today's dollars.

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