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Government Shutdown Proves the Value of a Career Backup Plan

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As the 2018-19 partial government shutdown approaches its one-month mark, each of the 800,000 federal workers missing their paychecks is out at least $5,000, according to a New York Times analysis. President Donald Trump has guaranteed back pay to those employees, but they still won't see a dime until after the shutdown has ended – and as of now, there's no end in sight.

Federal workers might consider preparing a backup plan for these situations – options for part-time work to keep the paychecks coming in, when the government isn't writing them.

Making a Plan

South Carolina resident Frank Ruopoli, who works as an illustrator and graphic designer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), realized the need for a backup plan after the 16-day furlough in 2013 hit his family hard. NPR reported that Ruopoli obtained his emergency medical technician (EMT) certification to prepare for any future government shutdowns. While working at NOAA, he volunteers as an EMT with a local rescue squad. Now that yet another shutdown has put him out of a job, however, he's found part-time work as a paid EMT.

Ruopoli told NPR that his EMT work has helped ease the financial impact of the shutdown on him and his family. Other federal workers interested in taking similar preparation measures might also look into fast-tracked certification programs, to help them land temporary work should the worst happen – again.

Fast Health Care Certification Programs

Certified health care workers enjoy high demand across the industry, so federal workers who want to secure a backup plan and do it quickly might pursue one of the following certifications, each of which can take less than a year to complete:

  • Phlebotomy Technician: These professionals prepare blood for lab testing, and can obtain the proper certification in one to two months.
  • Pharmacy Technician: Workers in these roles assist patients both in-person and over the phone, and support licensed pharmacists in their practices. Certification takes three to four months to complete, but entails lots of information.

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  • Cardiographic Technician: These technicians work with doctors to analyze electrocardiogram (ECG) results, which pertain to heart problems. Certification takes two to three months.
  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist: These professionals ensure healthcare institutions process bills and insurance properly. Certification programs for these positions can take anywhere from four months to a year to complete.
  • Surgical Technologist: Nine to 15 months in a certification program can land you in the operating room as a surgical technologist, preparing equipment to ensure a sanitary environment.
  • Medical Assistant: Health care workplaces of all kinds hire these professionals to handle clinical and administrative tasks. Certification takes nine to 12 months to complete.
  • Electroneurodiagnostic Technologist: These professionals record electrical activity in the brain and nervous system and work to analyze the results. They can obtain certification in one year.
  • Dental Assistant: Professionals in these roles perform administrative and laboratory tasks in dental offices. Certification takes one year to complete.

Other Quick Certification Options

Federal workers who would prefer to prepare backup plans in fields other than health care have plenty of options to choose from, as well, with median annual salaries ranging from $25,000 to $54,000. Check out the following short-term career training programs:

  • Commercial Drivers: These professionals drive trailers or other large capacity vehicles to transport goods and materials. They must complete a written test and a road test at a commercial driving school, and earn a median annual salary of $42,480, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Training programs take two to six weeks to complete.
  • Hair Stylists: Training programs to become a hair stylist typically take nine to 10 months to complete, requiring 1,000 to 1,600 hours of training for licensure, depending on the state. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $24,900, according to the BLS.
  • Massage Therapists: Become a massage therapist in one year of training, usually comprising about 500 hours of study at a state-approved massage therapy school. These professionals earn a median annual wage of $39,990.
  • Personal Trainers: These professionals create and implement fitness plans for their clients, and can obtain certification in six to 12 weeks. Personal trainers earn a median annual salary of about $39,210.
  • Wind Turbine Technicians: These are some of the highest-earning professionals who can obtain quick certification. Wind turbine technicians maintain equipment and facilities that generate power through wind, testing equipment, diagnosing problems and replacing and repairing parts. Training takes anywhere from three months to two years, and workers can earn a median annual salary of $53,880.

About the Author

Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, Calif., and holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.

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