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Ceiling Busters: 4 Paths to Career Advancement

Hitting a career plateau can be unsettling and disappointing. You know you've hit a plateau when you've gone as far as you can in your job and you find it unchallenging and well below your earning expectations.

Continuing education can be a real tonic. By adding a certification or advanced degree in your field, you can become more competitive for advancement or find fresh interest in a profession that has gone stale. Online career training or college degree programs can take as little as a year, while some educational pathways take a little longer. But the flexibility of online learning means you can meet your work commitments or family obligations while injecting fresh energy into your professional life.

If you love your field, take a look at these fast-growing careers and advanced training that can boost your challenges, responsibilities, and earnings.

Health Care: Medical and Health Services Managers

If you've gone as far as you can go with your existing health care training, consider taking a new degree to move into management. For registered nurses, convert your associate's degree into a bachelor's degree to qualify for teaching or leadership roles. RN to BSN programs can add skills that interest hiring managers.

Or enroll in an online master's degree program in health services administration, business administration, or public health administration to move into human resources, operations, or facility management. Job openings for health care managers are predicted to increase by 16 percent during the 2006-2016 decade.

Earnings: The median 2008 wage was $80,240, with top-tier salaries at $137,800.

Business: Management Analyst

Backed up against the wall in your business life? Become a consultant. Jobs for management analysts are expected to grow by 23 percent between 2006 and 2016. More than a fourth of all management analysts are self-employed contractors. That means you're the boss. To qualify, enroll in an online master's degree or MBA program in information technology, marketing, finance, human resources, or management.

You can build upon your experience and training in your current field, while preparing to lend your knowledge through your own consultancy or a management services company. This ceiling-buster career serves organizations across the entire business spectrum. Management analysts are hired to help streamline business processes, helping organizations become and remain profitable. Some take long-term positions with government agencies.

Earnings: The median 2008 wage was $73,570, with top-tier salaries at $133,850.

Education: Post Secondary Teachers

You've reached the top-end of your profession and still find it wanting. You're sure you know the business so well you could teach it. And here's a good reason why you should: Jobs for postsecondary teachers are expected to increase 23 percent between 2006 and 2016. Qualifications for educators vary by institution.

For most colleges and universities, you'll need to return to school to complete a Ph.D. in your specialty. Community colleges and trade schools may hire instructors who hold a master's degree, and some vocational schools will allow teachers to combine an undergraduate degree with extensive professional experience.

Earnings: Salaries vary greatly by institution. The middle 50 percent earn between $39,610 and $80,390, with top salaries reaching more than $113,450.

Computer Technology: Database Administrator

You've worked the help desk long enough. Perhaps you've built and massaged databases for several years and the bachelor's degree you earned a few years ago in computer science now seems like common currency. Now's the perfect time to keep your day job and enroll in an online advanced degree program in technology, or an MBA degree program in IT management.

If you're looking for rapid career growth, consider that jobs for computer scientists and database administrators are slated to increase by 37 percent from 2006 to 2016. Add some certifications along the way in dedicated software to build a rock-solid ticket.

Earnings: The median 2008 wage was $69,740, with top-tier wages of $111,950.

Considering the upside of these professional roles, it makes for sound career strategy to seek advanced training. The scheduling flexibility of online college degree programs make it convenient for professionals to remain in their jobs while training for advancement. And some employers will reimburse you for tuition and books. Goodbye, plateau.

by Woodrow Aames, www.FindtheRightSchool.com

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