7 Creepy, Crawly and Just Plain Spooky Careers

October 31st, 2016 by

Crime Scene Decontamination. Shows like “CSI” or “Bones” give us a glimpse into the horrors of crime scenes. What they don’t show you are the people who clean up when the investigation is done. A crime scene decontamination technician specializes in removing splatter and hazardous material after accidents and crimes. If you have the stomach for it, this can be a stable career choice.

downloadForensic Entomologist. Nothing creeps or crawls more than insects. A forensic entomologist studies all things slimy and crawly, looking at life cycles, morphology, population size and genetics to gather evidence in murder cases. Get ready to carve up cadavers and spend a lot of time around maggots.

Mortuary Science and Embalming. A mortician is in charge of preparing bodies for burial, which starts with embalming and can also involve facial reconstruction so the deceased appears the way they did in life. This spooky career also involves the most compassion. A mortician is also responsible for comforting the grieving family and making the funeral process as easy as possible.

Forensic Psychiatry. This is one of the spookier careers on this list. The concept of “Silence of the Lambs” comes to mind, where there is no ghoul or monster, just a man. A forensic psychiatrist is tasked with exploring the criminal mind and understanding why some people do horrific things. They evaluate criminals and provide treatment to those who need it.

Mining. If you’re claustrophobic or afraid of the dark, stay away from this career. There are few worse places to be for someone scared of tight, dark spaces than a narrow mine shaft. That combined with reminders that you could potentially be trapped (remember the 33 miners in Chile?) definitely qualifies this career to be on the spooky list.  

us_navyBomb Squad Technician. While police departments are using robots for bomb disposal at an increasing rate, there are still plenty of instances where a bomb squad technician is needed. This career requires courage, a steady hand and the ability to overcome thanatophobia (the fear of death itself) — a fear shared by just about everyone. This can be a very noble profession, but definitely a scary one.

Field Epidemiologist. In my opinion, this is the creepiest job on the list. Epidemiologist study microorganisms, bacteria and viruses. Field epidemiologists are often employed by the CDC to go to “hot zones” to study outbreaks and prevent them from becoming a full-blown pandemic. Wearing little more than a hazmat suit, an epidemiologist gets close to bodily fluids, germs and dead bodies on a regular basis. Nothing is scarier than being attacked by something you can’t see and the threat of a biological apocalypse.  

Happy Halloween!

Interested in one of these creepy careers? Here are some courses that can help you get started:

Careers in Criminal Justice

Careers in Social Work

Careers in Psychology

U.S. Military


In the News: The Makerspace Movement

October 28th, 2016 by

In 2014, the White House hosted the first Maker Faire, a festival dedicated to creativity and invention. The festival sparked an interest in hands-on learning, creating the makerspace movement which has since spread to schools and libraries around the country.

The basic principle of a makerspace is to put learning in the hands of the student. It gives teachers a new way to inspire students and help them develop their critical thinking skills.

16155735298_affa3a9540_bThere is no specific plan in a makerspace, the main focus is on hands-on experimentation, exploration, building and collaboration. Any amount of technology can be provided, the only criteria is students are involved and interested. Activities can range from building robots out of boxes, 3D printing circuit boards or using virtual reality (VR) technology to explore the globe.

Makerspaces get kids interested in exploring STEM fields. They incorporate technology into a school’s curriculum in a way that helps kids develop their critical thinking skills. A makerspace is flexible and teaches students using project-based learning which is proving to be more effective at motivating students to learn than any other system. The flexibility of a makerspace gives students the time to think critically and understand what they are learning. Students can take apart computers and put them back together like puzzle pieces and learn to code in a way that makes sense to them.

Letting kids work in makerspaces seems to be the best thing schools can do to teach them invaluable skills for jobs that likely don’t exist yet. By changing the way kids learn today and turning them into “makers,” makerspaces potentially will change the way they’ll live and work in the future.

Want to brush up on your critical thinking skills? Next Step Academy just released a NEW course! “Introduction to Critical Thinking


Careers in Hospitality: Restaurant & Hotel Management

October 26th, 2016 by

A career devoted to hospitality can take you all over the world, literally. With lodging and food establishments being the pillar of communities and tourist locations all around the world, you will always be able to find a job. If you enjoy being a leader and want to spend your career helping people, then this might be the career path for you.


A career in hospitality management starts with an associate’s degree, which typically takes about two years to complete. An associate’s degree provides a strong understanding of the business and managerial aspects of running a restaurant or a hotel. Over the course of this degree you will learn management, safety and sanitation, event planning and accounting.8230196669_bcc2216f9d_b

You may want to consider going for additional education and completing a bachelor’s degree to help you with future job growth, however this isn’t necessary to have a successful career in hospitality.

A certification is not required to become a hotel or restaurant manager, but employers look favorably upon those who complete one. The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) offers certifications in multiple fields of hospitality and completing a certification will demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to service.


Hospitality management comes in a spectrum of work environments. From restaurants and hotels, to bars, catering services, resorts, theme parks and more. Day-to-day tasks will vary based on the industry you choose to work in, but typically include accounting, hiring and managing staff, planning events and providing excellent customer service. Overall, your job is to provide a positive experience for guests and patrons to ensure they have the best time possible at your establishment.

Salary and Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary of hotel managers as $49,720 in 2015 and the average salary of food service managers as $48,690.

Growth in the hospitality field is average at 5 percent growth over the next decade. While the field isn’t growing rapidly there continues to be a high demand for professionals in the industry.

Want some more information on careers in hospitality? Take Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Hospitality: Restaurant & Hotel Management” course!


Showing Gratitude in Business

October 24th, 2016 by

There will be many times over the course of your professional development where it is respectful and useful to send a thank you letter to show gratitude. This could be to a potential employer after an interview, at the completion of an internship, to a teacher who has been a significant role model or to someone who has agreed to write you a reference. There is no downside when it comes to taking the time to be thankful for opportunities and guidance.

thank-you-515514_960_720The value of saying thanks. Sending a thank you letter, first and foremost, will make you stand out. If you’re trying to gain employment, an interviewer will look more favorably upon the candidates that chose to reach out and say thanks over those who didn’t. Thank you notes can also help build and maintain strong connections. Upon leaving an internship, a thank note could ensure you are asked back as a permanent employee in the future. Regardless of the circumstances, people respond well to being thanked and are more likely to give you opportunities if they know you are grateful for their help.

Make it personal. This starts by addressing the letter appropriately, especially if you are writing a post-interview thank you note. Don’t just address the note “To whom it may concern,” learn the name of who interviewed you and address them specifically, “Dear Mr/Mrs last name.” You should also avoid generic phrases. Give specific details highlighting what you’re thankful for, why you are thankful and how their time will help you grow in the future.

Choose the right medium. A handwritten letter is more personal and shows that you put a lot of thought into the process of saying thank you. In most cases, this should be your first choice. However, there are exceptions. If you have exceptionally bad handwriting, a word processed letter may be a better option. Sometimes you may not have a physical address, especially with a professor, in which case email is an acceptable choice. Email is also acceptable if most of your prior communication has occurred via email.

Proofread. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if you are typing your thank you letter or emailing it, proofread it several times before you send your final draft. Autocorrect doesn’t catch everything and one small mistake could ruin the effect of the letter. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes, so consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread your letter as well.

Send a gift. While inappropriate in certain situations, such as a post-interview thank you, a gift can be a little something extra to show how much you appreciate the time someone spent helping you. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something small to show the person you value them. For example, a gift card to the campus coffee shop for a professor, or offering to take a business reference out to dinner. A small gesture to accompany your letter can show your genuine appreciation.

Need some help proofreading? Next Step Academy’s “Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit” for useful tips and editing advice.


In the News: Microsoft Boasts Smartest Business Apps

October 21st, 2016 by

This week, Microsoft launched a new suite of business applications called Dynamics 365, which will officially become available November 1.

Dynamics 365 takes elements from pre-existing Microsoft products such as Dynamics CRM and several enterprise resource planning (ERP) software applications. The functions fulfilled by Dynamics 365 handle the front and back end of office processes, managing inventory, manufacturing processes and finances.

microsoft_logo_2012_modifiedThe key to Dynamics 365 is the built in AI features. Microsoft is adding “smarter” technologies that it’s been working on for years and Dynamics 365 runs on Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform. The “smarter” apps are able to better predict what a user wants to do based on previous actions and make recommendations, similar to the way Amazon suggests items to customers based on previous searches.

Each user is charged 70 dollars per month for all of the sales, customer service and field services applications included in Dynamics 365. Comparatively, Salesforce (one of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 competitors) offers a low-end bundle starting at 70 dollars, with their most popular bundle costing users 150 dollars.

The new focus on business applications from Microsoft and strategically standard pricing means Microsoft will compete more rigorously with Salesforce and other companies offering business applications in the future. This is a great opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to access vital business applications without having to break the bank.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Entrepreneurship” course to learn how to be successful in your business ventures.


Asking for References

October 19th, 2016 by

Whether you’re applying to a new school or a new job, at some point you may need a reference. This could be a written reference submitted with an application or a contact a potential employer will reach out to. In either case, there are guidelines to follow when asking someone for a reference.

Make sure you ask. If you’re asking someone to be reference that a potential employer is going to call, make sure you remember to actually ask! Otherwise, they may be totally unprepared for the phone call. This can reflect poorly on you on both ends and you may not get the shining reference you were hoping for.

Ask the right way. For a professor or past employer, an email is a sufficient way to ask for a written reference. However, make sure you ask the right way. Tell them about the school or the position you are applying for, how the opportunity will help you build your future and make sure you emphasize how grateful you are for their help. Sign the email with “Thank you for time and I look forward to your response” or something similar. If the reference is going to be called, you may want to consider asking them to be a reference with a phone call as well.

Give enough notice. Start asking for references before you start applying for jobs, internships or schools. Especially when you’re looking for jobs, the hiring process can be quick, so it’s good to nail down references ahead of time.

If you know you a need a written reference by a certain time, it’s good to give the person you ask a minimum of two weeks to write it but typically don’t give them longer than four. You want to give them enough time to write a good reference, but you don’t want to give them so much time they forget. It’s also a good idea to give them a deadline of a  week or two before you actually need it, giving you a little extra time just in case.

Follow up. After your written reference has been submitted or you’ve submitted your application, send a note or email thanking your reference once again for their help. Also make sure you tell them each time you use them as a reference so they can be prepared. When you land the job, are accepted to your dream school or receive an internship, make sure you follow up once again telling your reference the outcome. This is a great way to maintain a relationship and they’ll love to hear how they helped you achieve your goals.

Before you send an email asking for a reference, brush up on your professional writing skills with Next Step Academy’s “Business Writing” course!


Transferring to a Four Year College

October 17th, 2016 by

It still feels like the fall semester just began, but if you’re considering transferring to a four-year school next year it’s already time to start the application process. Here’s how to get started:

6260836872_3581b1512d_bChoose a school. Beginning the college search all over again may seem like a daunting task, but it’s often easier the second the time around. You’ll likely already know the best resources and college search websites available. Also, look back at the schools you considered the first time and see if any of those are still a good fit.

Most two-year schools also have a transfer center that can provide you with information and help you find the best options for your major. Once you’ve considered all of your options, choose at least two to apply to.

Do your research. This is another area where your school’s transfer center can be a big help. You need to make sure the schools you want to apply to have an articulation agreement with your current school and will take the credits you’ve already earned. This will ensure you stay on track to graduate two years after you transfer.

Know the requirements. You’ll need to verify that your GPA is high enough to transfer and whether there are any supplemental materials needed to apply. Depending on your major, you may need to submit a portfolio or collection of previous work. If the school or program you are applying to is highly competitive, you may also want to consider asking professors to write you a reference.

Apply. Mark application deadlines on your calendar and make sure you submit all of your materials on time. Most schools allow you to track your application online, but if you don’t receive a direct confirmation from the school that your application was submitted, you may want to send a follow up email to make sure the school got it.

Need more transfer advice? Take Next Step Academy’s course “How to Transfer to a 4-year School


Five Careers That Require Two Years of Training or Less

October 12th, 2016 by

Post-secondary education is a requirement for most career paths, but not every career requires a four year degree. There are plenty of stable and well-paying jobs that only require a certification or an associate’s degree. These careers can be a great option if a four year degree isn’t something you are interested in or able to pursue.

Dental Assisting

Perform a range of tasks including record keeping, scheduling appointments, patient care and taking x-rays.

Average salary: $35,980

Education: Certificate

Registered Nurse

Provide patient care as well as medical advice and emotional support for patients. Nurses work in hospitals, physician’s offices, clinics and other healthcare facilities.

Average salary: $67,490

Education: Associate’s degree


Install, maintain and repair electrical systems for homes, businesses and factories.

Average salary: $51,880

Education: Certification and apprenticeship


Install and maintain heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Average salary: $45,110

Education: Certificate or associate’s degree


Provide hair cutting, styling, manicure and other beauty services.

Average salary: $23,710

Education: Certificate

Salary estimations were based on BLS.gov as of 2015.

The Dos and Don’ts of Productivity

October 10th, 2016 by

You arrive at work coffee-buzzed and ready to get to business. Then sometime after lunch the caffeine wears off and the end of the work day seems further away than it did in the morning. Even if you love your job, it can tough to stay motivated and productive. Here are a couple of ways to stay on-task and focused during the day.

Do: Take regular short breaks

It may sound counterproductive to take breaks in order to be more productive. However, a quick walk around the office or chat at the water cooler helps break up the day and gives your mind a rest. No matter what, always take your lunch break to refuel for the afternoon.

images1Don’t: Reach for another cup of coffee

Drinking coffee in the afternoon can affect your quality of sleep, causing you to wake up feeling sluggish and drinking more and more coffee to compensate. This creates a vicious cycle of poor sleep and caffeine consumption. Studies show that the optimal time to consumer coffee is three to six hours after you wake up. If you wake up at 6:00 in the morning, drink coffee between 9 and 12, but cut yourself off in the afternoon.

Do: Create a to do list and stick to it

At the beginning of each work day, spend a few minutes creating a to do list. Assess how long each project will take and be realistic about how much time you have to complete your list. A checklist can help you remember all the little things you need to do and keep you on track throughout the day.

Don’t: Multitask

When you start a task, make sure you finish it. Do not go back and forth between different projects or try to do multiple things at once. Nobody can truly multitask and it will just leave you feeling burned out. You’ll most likely spend more time working trying to multitask than if you start and finish one item at a time.

Do: Avoid distractions

Keep your work area clear and don’t open up browsers unless you need them. You might say you’ll only check social media for five minutes, but that can easily turn into half an hour. If it helps, there are browser extensions such as Work Mode for Google Chrome that can block websites for a set amount of time. This way you won’t be tempted to check your feed or watch the most recent viral video.

Don’t: Stay late

Finishing up a project after normal work hours once in awhile is okay, but don’t make it a habit. You should have a set time where you pack up and leave everyday. You’ll be more productive and realistic about how much work you can get done in a day if you give yourself limits. If you work from home or have a flexible  schedule, make one for yourself and stick to it.

Need more help staying productive? Take Next Step Academy’s “Time Management” course!


In the News: The Future of Education? New Computer Coding Program Has No Courses or Professors

October 7th, 2016 by

Last week, the first group of students enrolled at 42 USA, the new computer coding program which opened in Silicon Valley.

images-1What makes 42 USA unique is that there are no courses and no professors. Instead, students work in groups to complete projects which are then graded by their peers. Students earn points upon completing an assignment which allows them to move on to the next project, much like levels of a video game. Extra points can be earned by completing extra projects and participating in clubs.

The program imposes no cost upon the students and takes three to five years to complete regardless if the student already has a degree or has zero coding experience. 42 USA is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 30.

In order to enroll, prospective students need to go through a selection process. Applicants need to pass two online logic exams followed by a month-long orientation where they are asked to complete increasingly difficult logic puzzles.

It’s currently unclear how 42 USA will impact current higher education coding programs or how the format will be received. However, this could be a huge change to the teaching of STEM fields and influence the way education structured.

Learn more about degrees in coding by taking our Careers-In course at NextStepAcademy.com


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