Plan b: 11 'fallback' careers

8. Dental assistant

Job description: Dental assistants work under the direct supervision of dentists and perform a variety of tasks such as sterilizing instruments, making patients comfortable, taking X-rays and even performing office clerical duties.

Training required: Dental assistant certificate programs at community colleges and trade schools take less than a year to complete and offer a certificate. Many states regulate the duties that assistants can perform. Certification is available through the Dental Assisting National Board and is recognized or required in more than 30 states.

Cost of training: Some community college programs offer evening and weekend training programs that can graduate students in only two months. Costs vary by college but typically run $2,500.

Expected salary: The median hourly earnings of dental assistants in 2006 were $14.53, which equates to approximately $30,000 a year for a full-time employee.

Job availability and outlook: Employment in this job is expected to grow 29 percent from now until 2016, which is far higher than the average job growth rate.

9. Massage therapist

Job description: Massage therapists can specialize in more than 80 different types of massage. A massage can be as short as five or 10 minutes or as long as two hours depending on the client's needs or physical condition. Therapists work with all age and physical groups from the elderly and handicapped to athletes. Many massage therapists are self-employed and rely on repeat clients.

Training required: In 2007, 38 states had laws regulating the practice of massage therapy. There are more than 1,500 massage therapy schools and programs in the country that cover anatomy, physiology, organs, tissues and motion and body mechanics. Many states require that therapists pass the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Some massage schools offer training in as little as six months, depending on the certification requirements of the state.

Cost of training: Massage therapy schools vary in quality, but tuition at some of the larger schools typically runs between $4,000 and $7,000.

Expected salary: As of May 2006, the median hourly earnings of massage therapists were $16.06.

Job availability and outlook: As the population ages and more people discover the benefits of massage therapy, the field is expected to increase 20 percent between now and 2016.

10. Medical records and health information technician

Job description: Health care records technicians maintain records of observations, medical or surgical interventions and treatment outcomes. Records include information about symptoms, medical history, X-ray and lab test results, diagnoses and treatment plans. Technicians assemble the information, input it in the computer systems and communicate with other health care professionals to clarify or obtain new information. Duties often vary with the size of the facility where the employee works.

Training required: Many employers prefer an associate's degree and certification as a Registered Health Information Technician. Curriculums for entry-level medical records certificates vary depending upon the state.

Cost of training: Tuition depends upon the level of training involved at local community colleges and can range from $800 to $3,000.

Expected salary: Median annual earnings of medical records and health information technicians were $28,030 in May 2006.

Job availability and outlook: Job prospects are very good and people with a background in medical coding will be in high demand. Employment is the occupation is expected to grow by 18 percent through 2016.

11. Nuclear medicine technologist

Job description: Nuclear medicine technologists operate cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient's body to create diagnostic images. Technologists prepare dosages of radiopharmaceuticals and administer it by mouth or injection, then position and start a gamma scintillation camera that creates images of the distribution of the radiopharmaceutical as it emits signals from the patient's body. Images are then produced for interpretation by a doctor.

Training required: A certificate in nuclear medicine technology is offered at many community colleges and can be obtained in a year or less. Those interested should check the requirements of the state in which they plan to work because some states require additional certification or licensure.

Cost of training: One-year certificate programs generally require the student to take 10 to 15 classes, all of which are billed by the tuition rates of the particular college. On average, that can run from $3,000 to $4,000.

Expected salary: Median annual earnings of nuclear medicine technologists were $62,300 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $53,530 and $72,410.

Job availability and outlook: Employment of nuclear medicine technologists is expected to increase by 15 percent from now through 2016, faster than the average for all occupations.

Note: Training requirements and median incomes provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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