As part of Education Lab IQ, Janet Carson, whose youngest child will be in college next year, asked where she could get help finding resources to help her starting a second career.

Share story

(Editor’s note: As part of the back-to-school season, Education Lab asked readers what was on their minds this time of year. This is the fifth response we’ve answered — find the others at


As part of our Education Lab IQ series, Janet Carson asked where she could find resources to help her find a second career.

“My last child is a high school senior this fall,” she wrote, “and I’m going to need to transition from at-home-mom to working again.”

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and City University of Seattle. Learn more about Ed Lab 

She said she had no idea what she wanted to do, “but I know whatever training I do needs to be relatively quick and practical so I can be working (and helping pay my kids’ tuition bills and saving more for retirement) within a year or so.”

The good news for Carson is that there’s a state agency devoted to helping people answer this question — the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.

A good first step is to use its free quiz to help you figure out your interests and skills, then match them to groups of careers. The site also shows how much various careers pay and the level of demand among employers, said Marina Parr, spokeswoman for the training board.

It’s worth getting an understanding of the labor market in your area. You can find interesting data about what’s hot, and what’s not, on the state Employment Security Department’s website. Its employer demand reports will tell you what types of occupations employers are looking to fill. They’re reported by county, so you can drill down to your area of the state and find out what’s in greatest demand.

If you need extra training or educational skills, the website for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges offers a search of all the programs it offers.

Most programs have rolling admissions, and the offerings include short-term certificates (which can be earned in less than a year), long-term certificates, and associate degrees that can be earned in two years if you’re taking a full-time course load, said Katie Rose, communications and marketing associate for the community college board.

Just like your college-bound children, you also may be eligible for financial aid to pay for college classes, Rose said. Fill out the federal form known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to get the process started.

If you’re in King County, you probably already know what jobs are hot — the top occupation is software developer, and a host of other tech-related fields are also in high demand, including web developers and computer systems analysts.

Teachers are also in demand — and if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can earn a master’s degree in 18 months and be ready for the classroom, Parr said.

But there are also a number of faster ways to earn a limited teaching certificate or become a temporary teacher; the rules can vary from district to district.

If you live in booming Seattle or its surrounding suburbs, you won’t be surprised to find that construction is on a roll. With three to six months of training, you can earn an entry-level welding certificate and make more than $36,000 as a starting salary, Parr said.

Healthcare is another industry in high demand; a two-year degree in radiologic technology could lead to a paycheck of more than $56,000 a year, Parr said.

Or take a look at the Employment Security Department’s list of occupations that are in demand, by region. This gives you a long list of different types of occupations that are hot — as well as those to avoid because they’re falling out of favor.

Parr also recommends going to your local WorkSource office, where you’ll get free help creating a career plan, writing a résumé and prepping for interviews. The office can let you know about training programs you might qualify for. In King County, there are seven WorkSource Centers, including three in Seattle.

Community colleges also have career and employment centers, which can help you narrow down job searches, refine a résumé or practice for an interview, Rose said.