If you’ve ever thought about changing careers to chase a dream – or are thinking of doing so to pursue a better paying, more reliable line of work – one thing that’s likely prevented you from making the leap is the idea of going back to school. Totally understandable. You have bills to pay, after all. Perhaps you have a family to support. Maybe you feel guilty about giving up on the job you have, and pausing your life to go to several years of college just isn’t realistic or appealing.

Here’s the good news: You can make a career change without having to get a bachelor’s degree. Here are a few ideas to help you do so.

Talk with your employer.

One great way to change careers without taking too much risk is to do it at the company where you already work. If you work at a large company, you might try searching your company’s current job openings on your intranet, talking with your human resources representative, or even talking with your current boss about other opportunities. Perhaps your company has a management training-type program. If you’ve proven yourself to be a reliable, committed worker, your employer may be willing to give you a chance at something new or different.

Start moonlighting.

Entrepreneurship is a dream for many, but it’s not a bad idea to test the waters before you jump into the deep end. If you dream about making your hobby into a business, give it a try on the side for a while. Many people who start businesses first do a test run while receiving a paycheck elsewhere. It’s a good way for you to 1) make sure you really enjoy it as a profession and 2) ensure there is a market for your product or service.


I’ve talked before about the importance of networking – when you’re looking to make a change, tap into your network. Ask former colleagues, schoolmates, and bosses if there are openings at their organizations and if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you there. It might be easier to persuade a former coworker or boss to give you a shot at doing something different than it would be to an unfamiliar prospective employer. And keep in mind that a true career change might not happen overnight. If you’re in finance and want to try out marketing, you may need to start at the bottom or take on a few small projects and prove yourself first. But let the people in your network know that you’re interested in doing something different.

Pursue a Career-Specific Associate Degree or Certificate.

Certainly, some careers will require training, but you may be able to get that training in far less time than a bachelor’s degree would require. Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees are designed to get people educated, trained, and into jobs quickly. While A.A.S. programs include some classes that will transfer to four-year institutions, they’re intended to be terminal degrees that prepare students for a certain vocation. Often times, they prepare students to enter skilled or paraprofessional occupations in high-demand fields. Here at FRCC, you can choose from a wide range of A.A.S. degrees, including Business, Computer Information Systems (CIS), Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, Electro-Mechanical and Energy Technology, Medical Office Technology, Multimedia and Graphic Design, to name a few.

Certificates, too, are a great way to gain skills in a short amount of time. Whether you want to explore a different field or are ready to dive into a totally new career, certificates are a fairly low commitment because they are usually only a few classes. FRCC offers many different certificates that can help you switch career gears quickly. Examples include Enrolled Agent (accounting), Basic Laboratory Animal Care, a range of Automotive Technology certificates, Dental Assisting, Emergency Medical Technician, GIS, Nurse Aide, and many, many more.

You can definitely change careers without going back for a four-year degree, but it may take a little creativity, persistence, and patience (I know from experience…I did it myself). If you successfully made a career change without going back to school, how did you do it?

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