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Refocus Your Career Path With These 10 Vocational Occupations

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 2/21/2011

You don't need a four-year degree to take up a new career path. Vocational training can help you learn the skills you need in less time and with a much smaller investment.

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    a Sailor from the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), speaks about Navy customs to Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training C 

    In today’s current employment state, the best vocational occupations present the most practical paths for entering a career field. Getting acquainted and becoming adept with the actual work processes present no-nonsense approaches for comprehending the disciplines required for fields of specialization.

    However, be well aware that contemporary vocational careers are no longer confined to acquiring knowledge for procedural skills and manual processes, but also technological competence. Most vocational jobs require basic office computing, calculating, typing, spelling, writing and communicating skills; computer programmer jobs obviously require more than just the rudiments.

    In deciding to take this route, it would serve you best if you build your vocational career plans on jobs that have greater room for advancement or more avenues for employment. Always take into consideration the volatility of today’s business conditions and how employment can be affected by the quick changes brought about by technology.

    The following sections provide information about technical careers that are presented in their order of ranking as the top ten best vocational occupations.

    Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kleynia R. McKnight from Wikimedia Commons

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    1. Computer Programmer

    800px-Multimedia Workshop 2009 016 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    Entry-level positions in computer programming qualify graduates with an Associate Degree in Computer Science or Computer Programming. The task is mainly to provide programming support to the skilled computer technician; hence knowledge of several programming languages can easily qualify an applicant for this job. You will be tested for C + +, Visual Basics, Java and JavaScript since they are fundamental and widely used, particularly for software programming.

    Another important aspect is an in-depth understanding of database development and its languages since a database management system has become essential in most present day work environments.

    An aspirant should have a well developed working knowledge about installing operating and network systems as they allow multiple office workers to connect to the central hub of the office main computer system. This includes familiarity with different types of routers and their uses for different networking purposes as well as adeptness with Ethernet cables and other hardware requirements for networking.

    Versatility is the key in order to qualify and expand your avenues for initial employment in this particular career field. Raise your awareness that as an aspirant for this job, you will be competing with fresh graduates of the four-year computer sciences or programming courses. Most computer oriented companies hire programmers based on competencies; hence, if they cannot find the right candidate from local sources, they also consider outsourcing the job to foreign countries.

    Salary and Benefits:

    Average annual salaries range from $40,840 to $47,130.

    Best US Cities to Find the Best Salary Offers:

    (1) Denver, Colorado (2) San Francisco, California (3) Raleigh, North Carolina (4) Indianapolis, Indiana (5) Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (6) San Diego, California (7) Los Angeles, California (8) Charlotte, North Carolina (9) New York, New York and (10) Washington, District of Columbia

    The computer programmer job is touted as the best vocational occupation because numerous job opportunities are constantly emerging from almost all business sectors. Don’t forego your plans for completing a bachelor’s degree course because it will serve as your ticket for career advancement.

    Image Credit: Erik Moeller from wikimedia Commons

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    2. Licensed Practical Nurse

    504px-Nurse checking triplets 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    This requires completion of Licensed Vocational Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse training in a community college or a nursing career center plus a certification that you have passed the NCLEX-PL exams administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. These are basic qualifications required for LPNs or LVNs working in the general areas of healthcare.

    LPNs are tasked to provide the basic bed care needs of patients, handle basic medical instruments like thermometers, stethoscopes, hypodermic needles, sphygmomanometers, nebulizers, oxygen-supply apparatus, tracheotomy tubes and the like with little or no supervision. In doing all these tasks, keep in mind that you will be required to perform them not only with competency but also with utmost gentleness, tact and discretion.

    Image Credit: Mike Blyth from Wikimedia Commons

    More information is provided on the next page for the Licensed Practical Nurse job, as the second best vocational occupations currently in demand.

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    If you want to choose a career from the beset vocational occupations, learn about the qualifications for a licensed practical nurse and a respiratory therapist. These are the second and third jobs ranked as the best vocation occupations you could consider for your career plans.
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    Licensed Practical Nurse (continuation)

    Basic computer literacy and competencies are now required since most doctors and nurses make use of databases for storing and retrieving pertinent medical information. As an LPN/LVN, you are to record your patient’s historical data, patient-care observations and the patient's behaviors by providing clear and concise details in a well written and grammatically correct documentation.

    Salary

    Hourly salary rates range from $16.311 - $21.66 plus an overtime pay rate of $23.01 to $31.84.

    Job Availability

    Jobs abound in almost all US states. However, you can find the highest hourly-salary offers in the following US cities: (1) Austin, Texas (2) San Antonio, Texas (3) Dallas, Texas (4) Los Angeles, California (5) Houston, Texas, and (6) Atlanta, Georgia.

    Licensed Vocational Nurses who acquire their training and hone their fields of specialization under the supervision of registered nurses have the most potential for career advancements by completing the four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Passing the NCLEX-RN competency exams and state licensure tests to become a full-fledge and licensed registered nurse will open up more career opportunities that pay higher salaries and benefits.

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    3. Respiratory Therapist

    800px-Pediatric polysomnogram 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    A respiratory therapist works as an assistant to a physician when performing medical tests and administering tests to patients suffering from breathing difficulties. The respiratory therapist's tasks include providing the precise measurements of oxygen or other types of gas concentrations in the patient’s blood as well as measuring blood alkalinity or acidity levels. These measurements will be used as bases for developing a treatment program for the patient.

    Competencies can be acquired and developed by completing the training skills learned by way of an Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy or Associate Science in Respiratory Therapy. Completing this training course is necessary to qualify for the test administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care in order to become a duly recognized Certified Respiratory Therapist.

    Salary

    Hourly salary rates that range from $19.64 to $26.76 plus overtime pay rates of $28.08 to $41.13.

    Job Availability

    The top ten US cities that offer the highest hourly-salary rates are: (1) Sacramento, California (2) San Jose, California (3) San Francisco, California, (4) Modesto, California (5) Washington, District of Columbia (6) Los Angeles, California (7) Minneapolis, Minnesota (8) Fresno, California (9) New Haven, Connecticut, and (10) Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Those who would be interested in advancing their profession as a respiratory therapist will do well by taking on two more board-administered examinations which will earn the successful examinee a certification as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Continuance of a college education to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy will qualify him or her as the hospital’s Respiratory Therapy Manager. Another alternative is to pursue related courses and specialization to complete a nursing degree in order to qualify and pass the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse.

    Image Credit: Robert Lawton for Wikimedia Commons

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    4. Paralegals or Legal Assistants

    401px-Guantanamo court room display system 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    This is a fast-paced type of career that requires quick thinking abilities, keen memory and adeptness in utilizing advanced computer applications for data management. Much of the job requires research work to support the in-house attorney’s legal arguments, defense and case presentations. Paralegals will find a wide range of experience working in a law office since most of the attorney’s investigative legwork is directed, prepared and developed by a paralegal assistant.

    To land an entry-level job as a paralegal, you should have at least completed an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science Degree. Fields of specializations include real estate, litigation, contracts, insurance, bankruptcy or medical malpractice. A certification issued by the National Association of Legal Assistants increases your potential to land the best paying paralegal jobs in your chosen field.

    Salary and Benefits

    Average starting annual salaries for paralegals range from $31,860 to $47,721, which include bonuses and profit-shares. However, the salary range may tend to vary according to the size of the company or the ability of the company to provide higher compensation and benefits.

    Image Credit: TF Guantanamo photo by Army Spc. Shanita Simmons for Wikimedia Commons

    Find more information about paralegals on the next page; followed by the medical assistant job as the 5th best vocational occupation.

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    Gain insights into what it takes to become a paralegal, medical assistant or radiology technician--these jobs are ranked 4th, 5th and 6th among the best vocational occupations popular today.
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    Paralegals or Legal Assistants (continued)

    Job Availability

    Paralegal jobs are highly in demand in law firms, government and other public offices, real estate agencies, planning and development firms or on litigation teams or units.

    U.S. cities where you can find firms and offices with the highest salary offers for paralegal or legal assistant jobs are: (1) San Jose, California (2) Irvine, California (3) Oakland, California (4) San Diego, California (5) Sacramento, California (6) White Plains, New York (7) Santa Rosa, California (8) West Palm Beach, Florida (9) Dallas, Texas (10) New Haven, Connecticut.

    Paralegal or legal assistants who feel confident they can tackle the rest of the work performed by lawyers as well as pass the bar exams can pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related field, usually political science, history, economics plus courses in business ethics and social responsibilities.

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    5. Medical Assistants

    Domen, assistant director of the Naval Medical Center San Diego Medical and Surgical Simulation Center checks the heart and lungs of the Mobile Adult Trainer mannequin 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    The broadening of professional careers gave rise to vocational careers such as medical assistant, as the job became necessary to provide technical support to medical practitioners and advanced practical nurses. Experience and skills may qualify an individual for this job, but most top-paying employers prefer candidates who are accredited or certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants. The best way to hurdle the qualifying examination and earn the title “Certified Medical Assistant" is to finish a two-year Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Science degree.

    Salary

    As a medical assistant, the hourly salary rates offered range from $10.77 - $14.54 with overtime pay rate ranging from $15.31 - $21. As a Certified Medical Assistant, your hourly pay rate is higher and will range from $11.58 - $15.19.

    Job Availability

    You can find high hourly rate offers in the following US cities: (1) San Jose, California (2.) Seattle, Washington (3) Washington, District of Columbia (4) St. Paul, Minnesota (5) Anchorage, Alaska (6) Boston, Massachusetts (7) Denver, Colorado (8) Hartford, Connecticut (9) Minneapolis, Minnesota, and (10) Portland, Oregon.

    A certified medical assistant’s career direction is elevated by taking up additional courses and become a licensed practical or vocational nurse. As skills and training are enhanced, he or she can proceed with a full nursing career and become a registered nurse by completing the required courses to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Thereafter, more career advancement opportunities will be available once she passes the NCLEX-RN examinations.

    Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Greg Mitchell for Wikimedia Commons

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    6. Radiology Technician

    120px-FMRI Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    An individual who finds work in this profession can be a radiology technician if his competency qualifies him to perform work using x-ray, ultra-sound, CAT or ECG equipment that provides the doctors with scanned images that the latter will use as bases for their diagnoses. As such his qualifications for the job meet the Radio Technician standards through the certifications he earns for each competency.

    However, due to advancements in technology and the development of medical equipment and devices that do not make use of ionizing radiations, the individual who is qualified to perform tasks using such apparatuses are called a radiology technologist. Hence most top-paying employers prefer to hire a radio technologist from a radio technician.

    As such, his qualifications include the ability to produce clear three-dimensional images using computed tomographers (CTs) or two-dimensional shots of internal images using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. Currently, medical practices consider these equipment and devices safer than traditional tools that use ionizing radiation technology.

    That being said, a completed two-year degree for the related science course and a certificate of accreditation from the American Registry of Radiological Technologist will give you a better edge in order to qualify for this occupation.

    Salary

    Hourly-salary rates range from $14.78 - $20.81 for radiology technicians and $17.64 to $24.67 for the radiological technologist.

    Job Availability

    Radiology technologist job seekers will find high offers of hourly-salary in the following US cities: (1) San Diego, California (2) Los Angeles, California (3) Chicago, Illinois (4) Phoenix, Arizona (5) Miami, Florida (6) Denver, Colorado (7) Houston, Texas (8) Charlotte, North Carolina (9) Tulsa, Oklahoma, and (10) Seattle, Washington.

    Image Credit: Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License by wikimedia Commons

    Please continue on page 4 for more on best vocational occupations; the graphic designer is next.

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    Find out the qualifications required to become a graphic designer or dental assistant--these jobs are ranked 7th and 8th of the best vocational occupations in demand today. Learn about the salaries and qualifications for these careers in this article by Bright Hub's Ciel S. Cantoria.
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    7. Graphic Designers

    800px-Art Director and Graphic Designer, Peter Cocking, on utilizing white space at Digital Design Talks Spaces 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    Entry level jobs for graphic designers will qualify graduates of community colleges for their competencies in certain areas of specializations in visual communication, computer drafting and design, or web developing and design. As a graphic designer, knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, i.e. Photoshop and Illustrator, which you can use at different levels, enhances your qualifications for the likeliest chances of getting a job.

    Most graphic designers work on a part-time basis as part of a project team. Others, however, augment their income by networking with other industries or professionals to acquire more contractual assignments that they can perform at home.

    Annual salaries range from $30,775 to $47,186 including bonuses

    Job Availability

    The likeliest places to find this job are in the following US cities: (1) New York, New York (2) San Francisco, California (3) Washington, District of Columbia (4) Los Angeles, California (5) Kansas City, Kansas (6) Houston, Texas, and (7) Albany, New York.

    A career as a graphic designer will provide you with promotional advancements if you finish a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design, in order to have a higher-earning salary as a senior graphic designer or as art director.

    Image Credit: Flickr: Digital Design Talks: Spaces for Wikimedia Commons

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    8. Dental Assistant

    800px-US Navy 030620-N-8937A-002 Lt. William Peterson (left) of Branch Dental Clinic Sasebo, Japan drills a cavity while his dental assistant, Miho Otubo, ensures the area remains clean Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    Dental clinics need dental assistants to provide in-house dentist support by cleaning and sterilizing the dental tools used by dentists and dental hygienists. Most dental work on patients is performed with their assistance, which includes record keeping, taking x-rays, preparing materials for mouth impressions and processing of insurance requirements.

    As in any other vocational profession, a high school diploma, experience and aptitude can qualify a person to apply for competency certifications, which in this case is administered by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. However, due to the increasing capabilities required to perform sophisticated dental work on patients, most dental offices prefer applicants who have acquired at least an Associate Degree for Dental Assistant.

    Salary

    The average hourly-rate for dental assistants ranges from $11.26 to $16.45 plus overtime pay rates of $14.92 to $23.46.

    Job Availability

    Find high-paying dental assistant jobs in the following US cities: (1) Raleigh, North Carolina (2) Seattle, Washington (3) Anchorage, Alaska (4) Washington, District of Columbia (5) Greensboro, North Carolina (6) Cary, North Carolina (7) Charlotte, North Carolina (8) Minneapolis, Minnesota (9) Asheville, North Carolina, and (10) Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Working in large healthcare companies or dental offices presents more room for career advancement, since these types of work environments have different needs for various types of dental assistants. You can enhance your qualifications with other skills like X-Ray Certified Dental Assistant or Expanded Functions Dental Assistant. It follows that the more you increase your capabilities to support the dental team the higher the hourly salary rates offered.

    Image Credit : U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Ian W. Anderson. for Wikimedia Commons

    The last page of this article about the Ten Best Vocational Occupations contains information about pharmacy technician and massage therapist jobs.

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    What does it take to become a qualified pharmacy technician or massage therapist? These jobs are ranked as 9th and 10th of the best vocational occupations. Read all about them in page 5 of this article by Bright Hub's Ciel S. Cantoria.
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    9. Pharmacy Technician

    800px-US Navy 090527-N-7415V-003 Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Katherine Bishop watches pharmacist Teresa Balcos prepare medication for a medical mission at Bang Bang Elementary School Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    Most pharmacy technician employers require certifications from those who aspire to take on the responsibilities of this job. Thus, completing a related two-year course in a community college will prepare an aspirant for two required certifications awarded by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Certificate of Pharmacy Technician. In addition, continuing education is important in order to renew said certifications.

    The job of a pharmacy technician includes counting tablets to be dispensed by the pharmacist as well as labeling bottles. They must keep an accurate file of patients' records and their known allergies; all prescriptions shall be checked against this information. The job is mostly clerical but needs a considerable level of competency for office computer skills since the tasks include processing of insurance claims, preparation of payments due to suppliers, as well as assisting the cashier in processing over-the-counter payments made by customers.

    Salary

    Average hourly salary rates offered to pharmacy assistants range from $9.01 to $12.73 plus overtime pay rates of $13.30 to $19.74.

    Job Availability

    Job opportunities are likeliest in the following top US cities: (1) Chicago, Illinois (2) Los Angeles, California (3) San Diego, California (4) St. Louis, Missouri (5) New York, New York (6) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and (7) Tampa, Florida.

    Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David M. Votroubek for Wikimedia Commons

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    10. Massage Therapist

    398px-FEMA - 18398 - Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino taken on 11-03-2005 in Florida 

    Qualifications and Job Descriptions

    As a one of the best vocational occupations, this type of job is more lucrative if undertaken as a form of self-employment. However, it requires you to have the proper training to perform the massage therapy techniques that will make you highly recommended by word of mouth.

    As a licensed or certified massage therapist, you can find work in day spas, hotels, massage parlors or even cruise ships. However the employers in these sectors prefer applicants who are duly certified massage therapists.

    Salary and Benefits

    Massage therapists earn average hourly rates from $10.91 - $29.18, while hourly tips average out at $2.53 to $8.21.

    Job Availability

    These jobs are popular in the following top US cities where hotels, spas, athletes and/or massage therapy clinics are abundant: (1) Los Angeles, California (2) Las Vegas, Nevada (3) San Diego, California (4) Seattle, Washington (5) Houston, Texas (6) Boston, Massachusetts, and (7) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    To enhance your viability as a professional licensed massage therapist, it would be to your advantage to acquire the latest skills and techniques for muscle and tissue manipulations. Learn the latest instructions on how to make your massage sessions more relaxing and unique by using techniques from different learning fields.

    Now that we've presented the top ten best vocational occupations, your next step is to figure out which of the ten matches your talents or abilities.

    Image Credit: Jocelyn Augustino for Wikimedia Commons