Two Years to a Less Stressed You!
November 16, 2010 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Let's say someone wanted to go a community college and take a 2-year/certificate program of some sort with the end goal being to get a very stable, well-paying job... what would be their best bet?

My boyfriend/fiance/spouse-type person has been doing sales since straight out of high school and he's finally hit the wall. Grand discussions over what he'd like to do are fruitless because he says he doesn't care what he does, as long as there's stability and financial security. I don't know how to help since I'm pretty much the exact opposite ("Hey, let's spend all our savings on a TACO TRUCK! and drive around the city making TACOS until we get bored!!!!"), so I'm turning here.
He has 10+ years of sales experience and a desire to never, ever work in sales again. So we're thinking we can manage a way for him to go back to school for a while and do... something? Something that will lead to something good? Ideas?
posted by logic vs love to Work & Money (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Any ideas for potential careers that could leverage years of sales experience without actually involving sales would also be most appreciated!
posted by logic vs love at 8:25 PM on November 16, 2010

Seems like a shame to throw away ten years experience. What does he like to do that's sales related?
posted by nomadicink at 8:27 PM on November 16, 2010

posted by bardic at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are a gazillion CC degree/credential programs that lead to stable but fairly low-paid jobs (eg HVAC, electrician, etc) -- all of which, if combined with experience in sales, can become stable and quite well-paid jobs. You can earn $12.50 an hour as a non-union HVAC tech (that's starting wage where I live), or a lot more than that if you work for one of the larger companies and are the person who goes out, talks with major customers, prepares bids, etc.

So the answer, if he is looking for more money, may be to combine his sales experience with some technical or industry-specific training, perhaps at a CC or perhaps on the job.
posted by Forktine at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2010

Accounting/CPA licensing? Not technically sales, but decent income. Sales/client-focused knowledge comes in quite handy.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:53 PM on November 16, 2010

If he has the aptitude for it, any kind of programming or IT will let you make a lot of money, and there will always be work.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:02 PM on November 16, 2010

Nuclear energy. Or, really, any kind of energy.
posted by General Malaise at 9:07 PM on November 16, 2010

Radiologic tech?
posted by Mr Mister at 9:08 PM on November 16, 2010

Nursing programs are VERY full in the US right now. Health sciences programs in general (not just nursing) are just very competitive at the moment. I don't mean to say don't try if the idea excites your SO, but he should be prepared to work very hard to get into even community college programs.

CPA is not a 2-year deal (states require higher level coursework for the certificate), but bookkeeping and non-CPA-requiring accounting careers are also a possibility through community college courses.

I could go through a list of everything I know at my CC, but that won't help your SO as it appears you're in San Fransisco and not mid-Michigan. :) So I would suggest browsing, for example, the City College of SF's catalog. Maybe some of the degrees and certificates listed will spark something for him?
posted by asciident at 9:16 PM on November 16, 2010

While a two year community college program can do a lot of good towards "stable", it isn't sufficient for "well-paying" compared to a reasonably successful sales career.

The best career paths which can get a strong start in two years are nursing, accounting, and IT. All three of those are stable jobs in fields that are very resilient and very far removed from sales. Nursing takes a certain passion for the job, along with a tolerance for a terrible and disrupting schedule for years. Accounting usually means working towards a CPA, which is absolutely a four year endeavor. IT takes an aptitude for both machinery and software along with ongoing education as time goes by, but it's probably the easiest to get a foothold in with a two year degree.

Honestly, I would go for IT. If he has a decent tolerance for low level grunt work, he can get an entry level help desk position with little more than comfort using computers. From there, a two year program and two years of experience in the field puts him in a good position for advancement and a livable salary. Accounting would be second, it's the field of choice for people who love stability and despise risk.
posted by Saydur at 9:17 PM on November 16, 2010

What has he been selling? Is it possible for him to stay in his industry but not in a sales role? 10 years of industry experience will pretty much trump a two-year degree every time.
posted by sanko at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depends on what there is a market for in our area. In our industrial area, welding is big. Nursing programs are packed, and IT is popular too. Frankly, I like your taco truck idea best!
posted by MsKim at 9:32 PM on November 16, 2010

I'd see if the there is a GIS program to get into...
posted by schyler523 at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was doing some career researching earlier. The following list is from the September 2009 list of High Opportunity Occupations
in British Columbia
(2-page PDF). It may translate to south of the border.

Manufacturing Managers
Police Officers (Except Commissioned)
Senior Managers–Financial, Communications Carriers and Other Business Services
Information Systems Analysts and Consultants
Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers
Transportation Managers
Industrial Electricians
Senior Managers–Trade, Broadcasting and Other Services
Managers In Social, Community and Correctional Services
Forestry Professionals
Contractors and Supervisors, Heavy Construction Equipment Crews
Economic Development Officers and Marketing Researchers and Consultants
Software Engineers
Managers In Health Care
Stationary Engineers and Auxiliary Equipment Operators
Supervisors, Finance and Insurance Clerks
Correctional Service Officers
Registered Nurses
Contractors and Supervisors, Carpentry Trades
Administrative Clerks
Computer Engineers
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:18 PM on November 16, 2010

I don't understand how he could have done something he hates so much he's willing to walk away, but now doesn't care what he goes into. He should at least talk with a career counselor.
posted by xammerboy at 10:41 PM on November 16, 2010

I would second accounting (per melissasaurus). Not the exact same situation, but I left college with not a lick of accounting/business classes, but with a mind for organizing and math. Accounting doesn't have to lead to a CPA - tons of businesses need basic bookkeepers, office managers, controllers, etc. and accounting simply gets you the right language. Sounds like he probably has plenty of office/desk experience - if he's not allergic to math about money, he should take an intro level accounting class, see what he thinks. I'm oversimplifying here, but if a business is making money or losing money, the owners always need someone to tell them. Law firms also pay accountants decently.

And I was able to get all my CPA education requirements via evening/online classes. Requirements vary by state, but it is very attainable.
posted by dngrangl at 10:41 PM on November 16, 2010

If there were stable, well paying jobs that could be guaranteed from a two-year community college degree, there would a lot less unemployed people out there right now. In SF, nursing is probably the most sure-fire option, although as already mentioned those programs are heavily impacted across the country right now. I know petroleum technicians are in very high demand, but most of those programs and jobs are down South or up in Alaska. As mentioned above, electrician/HVAC/plumber have very good job prospects, but it takes time to work up the ladder from journeyman. EMT or wilderness first responder (park ranger, ski patrol, mountain rescue) might be something worth taking a look at. Also, long-haul truck drivers still make pretty good money, although the hours can be brutal and it is not a lifestyle for everyone. In the same vein, getting your CDL or license for industrial equipment can offer some things. A two year degree in IT isn't useless, but technical expertise is not exactly hard to come by in the Bay Area and he would have a lot of competition for jobs.
posted by sophist at 10:57 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a LOT of demand for dental assistants in SF right now. I have been looking into the Dental Assisting program at CCSF because I have a useless liberal arts degree from a fancy college that doesn't mean shit in this economy.

According to the CCSF site, Dental Assisting is not an impacted program, which means admission is not competitive. There is decent potential for career growth--your husband can get certified in more procedures or work in dental office management, reception, or administration. Or with his background in sales, he could work for companies that produce and distribute dental equipment.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 11:35 PM on November 16, 2010

One that doesn't come up often: Professional Estimator / Construction Estimator / Quantity Surveyor. The path to becoming one is fairly ill-defined; a trade background helps, but I know a couple here in Australia who have no hands-on trade background - just a diploma-level construction engineering education plus a couple of years of on-job mentoring or a paid internship.

Looks like the situation may be similar in the US, with a 2 year community college degree in construction or building science being one path. Presentation, people skills, basic accounting-level math, attention to detail, and computer skills seem to be the key attributes.
posted by Pinback at 1:29 AM on November 17, 2010

I think it's great that he's decided sales isn't for him and is ready for a change.

You said that he doesn't care what he does as long as it pays and is financially stable, but that doesn't seem true. Wouldn't he stay in sales, then? It pays well and a good salesperson will almost always be financially stable.

What I'm saying is that it's probably not a great idea to chuck one career because you hate it for anything-that-is-not-that-thing (with the criteria that it pays well) because then you're gonna be back where you started.

He should do some research about what he WANTS to do, otherwise in 3 years he'll be saying, "Why the heck did I decide to get this stupid ______ certification when I hate this job? And I was making more money in sales."
posted by dzaz at 3:14 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The best paying medical services jobs, which is where the economy is headed as the boomers age would be Respiratory Therapist, Physical Therapist, Physician's Assistant, and Dental Hygienist. Whether he would like to do any of these things is a personal choice.

Sales success means lots of ability with personal contacts, but the only personal contact jobs not in sales such as customer service or surveying are generally poorly paid.
posted by ptm at 3:57 AM on November 17, 2010

At my CC, radiology tech pays the best of the two-year certificates but it is difficult to get into.

Welding and CNC operator are in high demand; they don't pay quite as well as radiology tech but are stable, steady work locally that there are never enough people for.

The students in the "hospitality" program also do reasonably well -- once you get into cooking, catering, hotel services, etc., there's a fair amount of room for advancement on merit without necessarily requiring a BA or other degree. But the hours are weird and the entry-level salaries are crap.

His BEST bet, especially if he doesn't know what he wants to do, would be to continue to work sales while knocking off a "General Studies" CC degree with kick-ass grades that will let him transfer to a solid, known state university, and then take his two NOT-working years to get his BA (or BS or whatever). California CCs probably have agreements with the state system that X credits are guaranteed to transfer if you get a C or above or whatever. He will have a lot more options with a bachelor's, and I'm a little concerned that he doesn't know what he wants to do, just what he DOESN'T want to do. But that requires him to tolerate two more years of working sales, and four years of schooling rather than two. But he will have many more program options at a state u, a chance to take some different classes and discover if there is something he WANTS to pursue, and a bachelor's degree that opens up a lot more career options.

Second best bet, I'd say, would be to take a year while still working to take a few different classes and see if anything in particular strikes him as awesome. Or if he discovers, as people sometimes do, "OH MY GOD, I will do anything, including work sales, to keep working and not have to go back to school." Worst-case scenario, he knocks off a couple of credits early and saves up a little more money to pay for the time off from work.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:04 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Saydur: "Honestly, I would go for IT. If he has a decent tolerance for low level grunt work, he can get an entry level help desk position with little more than comfort using computers."

The problem with this is that CCs are notoriously bad at teaching IT. At least mine appeared to be. Before selecting a program, do yourself a favor and ask a counselor who the top three firms students get jobs with are. Give them time to look it up, if need be. Then maybe verify that answer with dept faculty or LinkedIn, and check what those firms are currently hiring for, and what the offered wage is. This isn't the sum of opportunities a degree offers, but it's a good sanity check on a difficult field to evaluate.
posted by pwnguin at 6:34 AM on November 17, 2010

Fiberoptics, if the professor at my community college is to be believed. The US has one of the more underdeveloped fiberoptic networks in the developed world and there are now real moves to change that but there's a serious lack of technicians. You can get a certificate within a year or two from a photonics program like this one.
posted by Anonymous at 6:53 AM on November 17, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles a lot of data on this kind of thing. This article (see linked PDF) is kind of old (it is from 2002-2003 and the data is from 2001) but may still be a good starting place for thought, and if you dig around on those sites you might find newer info. If you search something like jobs associate's degree on google you will get tons of articles on best jobs with 2 year degrees but there's a lot of link spam chaff to sort through. If I were trying to answer this question I would be putting my research hours into the BLS sites first, since it seems to be the source most of the actual data in the newsy articles anyway.
posted by nanojath at 7:56 AM on November 17, 2010

posted by Kololo at 8:25 AM on November 17, 2010


What does he not like about sales? And what has he been selling over 10 years? Some insight into these two questions would help a lot so more industry specific non-sales jobs could be suggested.

He's going to start out making less than he makes now, whatever he decides to do. People knock sales all the time, but if you're good at it, you make a decent living. Sort of sales / but not really - he could be a manufacturer rep. For instance I might work for OfficeWorld - we sell (distribute) Pendaflex products. Pendaflex has a rep that visits us. She is in "sales" in a broad sense, but she really just keeps up relations as opposed to hard selling to end users.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2010

Your boyfriend might benefit from looking at career information online and doing a career interest assessment, as he would if he visited a career counselor. Let me suggest O*NET, a service of the Department of Labor. O*NET can be kind of overwhelming, so here's a suggested path:

1. First, go to the Career Exploration Tools page and select "Interest Profiler" from the dropdown menu, or just go directly here.
2. Download the Interest Profiler Instrument and the Score Report.
3. Complete the Profiler and add up all the scores in the colored bands, as shown on the last page.
4. Use the Score Report to generate the three-letter code that indicates his top three areas of interest (mine, for example, is SEI/A: Social, Enterprising, and a tie between Investigative and Artistic).
5. Now, the fun begins. Go here and select any of the six interest preferences. On the next page, use the three dropdown menus to select the letters in his code, and click Go. The links lead to Summary Reports for each profession; the reports include required training/education, wage and hiring forecasts, typical tasks, etc.
6. Repeat the search by mixing up the letters; I might search SIE, IES, IAS, SAI, etc. This generates lists of jobs that draw upon the same interests, but with different priorities.

That should give him some ideas and some info to help frame his career search. Good luck!
posted by catlet at 10:39 AM on November 17, 2010 [17 favorites]

If he has the aptitude for it, any kind of programming or IT will let you make a lot of money, and there will always be work.

Don't look for a job that can be sent overseas too easily. Programming- there are jobs out there, but a lot of them got sent to India years ago. IT is more stable- you can't ship the office computers to India to get fixed.

Radiologic tech?

The market is flooded, there are no jobs out there. Check out the forums for horror stories. Also be wary of programs that require you to get licensed at the end as not all schools will give you the credentials needed to get licensed- do your research very carefully here.

Nursing programs are VERY full in the US right now.

But from what I hear, the demand for nurses is still high, so it may be worth it to compete. Again, do your research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles a lot of data on this kind of thing.

This is true, but you have to watch out for that- people flood the low hanging fruit programs (the ones that seem easy and high paying) and the market gets saturated. What's worse is that many of these are for-profit schools that charge tens of thousands for tuition.

A lot of these programs are little more than longstanding scams and they use high-pressure sales tactics, bait & switch, and all sorts of things to get you to sign up for their expensive programs- which often don't lead to the jobs they promised on the other end.

See this article in the NY Times.

In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt
Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty....

For-profit trade schools have long drawn accusations that they overpromise and underdeliver, but the woeful economy has added to the industry’s opportunities along with the risks to students, according to education experts. They say these schools have exploited the recession as a lucrative recruiting device while tapping a larger pool of federal student aid.
It's a problem so rampant that the federal government is stepping in.

New Federal Rules Set on Career Colleges
After receiving 90,000 public comments, and making 82 changes, the Department of Education will release its final rules Thursday to require career colleges to disclose graduation and job placement rates, end misleading recruiting practices and ensure that only eligible students or programs receive federal student aid.
There are a ton of people right now in exactly the same situation your boyfriend is in- looking for a 2 year school that will get them a stable career. Unfortunately jobs too work in a supply/demand commercial environment and once the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there's a high-paying, in-demand job that requires only a 2 year program, everyone goes for it, and "educators" take advantage of that to turn a profit.

In New York City we have a weekly paper called The Cheif which caters to civil servant positions- mailmen, subway workers, etc. These tend to be union & fairly stable jobs. Why not look into civil service or some other union job. Or why not look into a 2 year apprenticeship as, say, a plumber.

To be honest, I think the best chance at stability in this economy is to sell dreams, packaged up as two year programs with stable jobs at the other end.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2010

I'm not sure what wall he hit, but I'm going to guess it's something along the lines of he is tired of hearing no or tired of wild swings in income.

If that's the case, I'd consider training sales people instead of being a sales person. It will trade on the experience he already has, but should be more predictable and steady than sales. There's also sales management although you may be expected to be a producer in that role.
posted by willnot at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2010

Nursing programs are VERY full in the US right now.

But from what I hear, the demand for nurses is still high, so it may be worth it to compete. Again, do your research.

Things may be brighter for new grads in OP's market, but the "demand for nurses" has mislead many a potential nursing student. The demand is generally high for experienced nurses. Lots of new grad nurses are running into a big, hard wall when they graduate and realize no one's hiring a green nurse.
posted by asciident at 9:35 PM on November 19, 2010

I know you mentioned, "not sales" but has he looked at possibly working a a product rep for the company that sells to the distributor. Sometimes those positions are not commission, and it can be more helping the distributor make the sale with technical information etc (at least in industrial supply sales, which a friend works in).
posted by ejaned8 at 6:07 AM on November 22, 2010

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