Jobs that impress strangers and make your parents giddy with pride may not be the best for you. Whether you're starting out or changing careers, lesser-known alternative careers may offer lower pressure, better hours and greater personal satisfaction. Here's a look at seven hidden-gem careers:
If you love to teach but prefer adult students to kids:
Corporate trainers teach employees skills, technologies and protocols. A bachelor's degree is required. A technical, business or psychology background plus a certificate are helpful. The median training and development specialist salary was $52,120 in May 2009, according to the BLS.
If you're a wiz at finance and investing but wary of Wall Street:
Personal financial advisors are often self-employed, so you'll need entrepreneurial skills. Strong math, accounting and problem-solving abilities are helpful. According to the BLS, the median personal financial adviser salary was $68,200 in 2009. Income depends on the size and wealth of your client base, according to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.
If you want to do something different with your engineering degree:
Sales engineers are technical resources who articulate how business and technical employees can use technology and equipment. You'll need good communication skills, a bachelor's degree in engineering and some sales experience. Unlike most engineers, you'll be able to pull in (sometimes hefty) commissions. The median annual sales engineer salary was $83,190 in 2009, according to the BLS.
If you love investigating but you'd rather wear a lab coat than a badge:
Forensic science technicians investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. A bachelor's degree is required. Legal knowledge and lab experience are great assets. The median forensic science technician salary was $51,480 in 2009, according to the BLS.
If healthcare is your passion but you don't want to be a doctor:
Radiologic technologists work with doctors and perform complex imaging procedures such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and mammography. An associate's degree and state certification are required. The median radiologic technologist salary was $53,240 in 2009, according to the BLS.
If you have a law degree but a high-pressure job at a law firm is not for you:
Corporate attorneys work for companies and advise on legal rights, patents, contracts, property interests, SEC compliance, reporting requirements and IPOs. The hours are not arduous and although you won't get super-rich, the pay is good: The median attorney salary was more than $113,000 in 2009, according to the BLS.
If architecture is your passion but you want an under-the-radar career:
Urban planners look at the bigger picture of land use and growth of urban and suburban areas. Local governments employ most urban planners. A career change from architecture is not simple: You'll need a master's degree from an accredited program in urban or regional planning or a related field, such as urban design, environmental planning or geography. The median urban planner salary was nearly $62,000 in 2009, according to the BLS.
Transitioning to an Alternative Career
If you're concerned about the time and expense of retraining for these hidden-gem careers, experts offer some advice:
Research the Field: Certified veteran coach and career expert Deborah Brown-Volkman recommends carefully reading all job descriptions in your area of expertise to get a good idea of industry trends and in-demand skills before you make a career change.
Use Your Insider's Knowledge: It's easier to make a career transition within your field, says career information expert and author Laurence Shatkin. "In almost any industry where you have insider's knowledge you can make a change within that area and maybe earn more," he says.
Keep Updating Your Skills: "Even people who switch to in-demand careers shouldn't forget to update their skills," Brown-Volkman says. "Updating is not career training, and doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive."
Start Where You Work: Often it's easier to make a lateral career change within your organization, according to Shatkin. "The people at your workplace know you and presumably like you," he says. "If they need someone in the position you want, they may even train you on their dime."