SubscribeAvailable Now
Fabian Vivier. Photo by Matt Nager.

22 Savvy Ways to Jumpstart Your Career

The clever ways local academic institutions are helping Coloradans upskill into the state's hottest industries.

|

Colorado’s economy is good. Really good.

We’ve got the seventh-fastest job growth rate in the country. Plus, we’re a top 10 state for venture capital (as a percent of our GDP) and in the top five states for small-business innovation research grants. Yep, we’re calling it a boom—and, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, there are nine industries in the nine-county metro Denver region that are driving our state’s roaring economy.

So if you’re thinking it might be nice to actually love what you do, now could be a fortuitous time for a career move. Not just because there are jobs to be had, but also because local institutions are developing programs to arm people with the knowledge they need to snag their dream jobs. From certificate tracks and graduate degrees to boot camps and one-off courses, we found 22 continuing education opportunities to help you learn new tricks of whatever trade happens to pique your interest.

1. Aviation

Image credit: Audrey Shtecinjo/Stocksy

Your dream job: Managing airport operations
Program to consider: Airport Management Certificate, Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver

Why now? Aviation was the region’s fastest-growing industry in 2017, with employment growth of nearly six percent—more than five times faster than the national average. The biggest contributor: Denver International Airport, which was recently deemed the country’s best large airport by the Wall Street Journal.

The coursework: Designed specifically to prepare you for the American Association of Airport Executives Certified Member exam—which you may need to secure an airport management gig—this six-course program covers everything from aviation security and law to airport business operations. Choose from online, traditional, and hybrid courses. “One important thing,” says Jeffrey Price, professor in the Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science at MSU Denver, “is that when people get into this program, they also get into the community.” In other words: foot in door.

The upshot: You’ll be exposed to the intricacies of working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and elected officials to manage a local airport, and you’ll get familiar with airport layout and planning, safety and security strategies, and emergency management.

Advertisement

Success Story

Fabien Vivier (pictured above), 28, was pursuing a career as a pilot at MSU Denver when he realized the financial burden was too heavy. After transitioning to earn his Airport Management Certificate, he nabbed an internship at Centennial Airport during his final semester and was then hired there as an operations specialist. Roughly three years later, he took a job as an airport planner at DIA, where he’s been ever since, handling the future needs of—by WSJ standards—one of the best places to catch a flight in the nation.

2. Bioscience

Image credit: Clique Images/Stocksy

Your dream job: Designing cutting-edge medical devices
Program to consider: Master of Engineering, Biomedical Engineering Specialization, at Colorado State University Online

Why now? More than 700 bioscience companies, including those working in medical devices and diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology, call the Front Range home, and the sector boasted a 7.5 percent job growth rate in the metro region (compared to 5.4 percent nationally) between 2011 and 2017.

The coursework: Most complete the 30-credit program, accessed entirely online whenever the student’s schedule permits, in two to four years while working full time elsewhere. “This degree is meant to work at the speed of the student,” says Stuart Tobet, director of the School of Biomedical Engineering. “A common theme for all the program’s applicants is that someone in the family was sick, and they want to use this skill set to prevent a similar problem in the future—to make a difference in health care.” Fair warning: Several hefty prerequisites (four semesters of calculus, some physics courses, and at least a semester of a life science) are required to enroll.

The upshot: Depending on individual focus, graduates will understand biomaterials’ properties and learn how to design prototypes via 3D printing; they may also apply physics and mechanics to biological functions, like analyzing a person’s gait to develop an innovative fit for a prosthetic or conceiving a new shape for a heart valve.

Advertisement

3. Financial Services

Image credit: Travis Rathbone/Trunk Archive

Your dream job: Keeping tabs on money that’s not your own
Program to consider: Graduate Certificate in Accounting Ethics and Auditing at CSU Online

Why now? The Denver metro region is the largest financial services center between Chicago and LA. The field (finance, investments, and insurance) employs more than 101,000 workers in the nine-county metro region, and industry employment here grew 10.7 percent over the past five years.

The coursework: You’ll need an undergrad degree (a foundation in financial services helps) before taking these three graduate-level courses, which meet Colorado CPA licensure requirements. In a one-semester online format, the certificate program will put you on the CPA track or bolster your skills so you can job-hop within the financial sector.

The upshot: You’ll walk away with a solid grasp of accounting ethics, forensic accounting and fraud auditing skills, and familiarity with the latest accounting information technologies. Employer options range from financial institutions like banks and investment firms to corporate offices—think retail and hospitality chains—to mom-and-pop startups. “As an employer, hiring or promoting a person with this certification gives you an employee with a broader, deeper understanding of accounting that can only enhance your business,” says Amy Smith, senior director of CSU Online.


The Softer Side

Sometimes all you need to revamp your career are a few interpersonal skills and a little self-reflection.

Advertisement

If you’re struggling with…competing priorities, changing your workplace culture, networking or negotiation skills, and inclusiveness and diversity issues
Try: The Executive Education workshop series at the University of Colorado South Denver

If you’re struggling with…managing effectively, conflict resolution, and stressful transitions
Try: The Authentic Leadership Program at Naropa University

If you’re struggling with…bad habits at work, weak professional relationships, feeling present and committed to your job
Try: The Living Mindfully Mastery Badge through CSU Online

If you’re struggling with…rebooting your career after age 40, planning a transition to retirement, shifting direction, or upward mobility late in your career
Try: The Focus Forward program at the University of Denver


4. Broadcasting + Telecommunications

Image credit: Jeremy Leibman/Trunk Archive

Your dream job: Reporting breaking news
Program to consider: Drone Journalism course at MSU Denver

Advertisement

Why now? In 2017, our region had the fifth-highest concentration of broadcast and telecommunications employees out of the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. Though handheld cameras haven’t quite gone the way of the dinosaurs—yet—being competent with all the latest gadgets in an evolving field is a no-brainer for journalists eyeing future employability. Multimedia newsgathering is simply part of the gig these days, and these remote-control drones aren’t anything like the $40 Target versions. The FAA has a hefty list of federal safety and security regulations you must comply with, including a certification/licensure requirement for commercial use.

The coursework: Launched in fall 2017, the class is part of an undergrad degree program, but MSU Denver journalism professor Kip Wotkyns says eight students this past semester were working professionals auditing the course—largely to prep for getting the required license. “We were only the sixth in the nation to offer a class like this,” Wotkyns says, “so it was very much cutting-edge. Maybe even bleeding edge, in the sense that we had no textbooks or infrastructure.” Wotkyns devotes the first half of the semester to preparing students to pass the FAA Knowledge Exam for a commercial license; then he focuses on drone ethics (e.g., off-limits footage for remote-controlled aerial activity) and putting together editorial packages.

The upshot: Under the licensed supervision of their “pilot-in-command,” students get extensive experience capturing video from a drone and exit the course knowing how to do interviews and voice-overs—and are able to put it all together using video-editing software.


Idea Central

When inspiration strikes, these programs can help you live your dream.

Dream: Launch a startup
Program: Demystifying Entrepreneurship & Startup to Scaleup two-day workshops, CU Boulder

Advertisement

Gives you the tools you need to develop a strategic business plan, effective marketing techniques, problem-solving strategies, and expansion resources

Dream: Give back to your community
Program: Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility, CU Boulder

Equips you to conceive, propose, and implement sustainable company-wide efforts to impact important causes

Dream: Bring a creative vision to fruition
Program: Creative Technologies & Design program, CU Boulder, or Inworks Initiative, CU Denver

Both teach you innovative product design via maker labs and methods such as prototyping with 3D printers

Advertisement

Dream: Take your work international
Program: Certificate in Global Issues, DU

Shows you how rapid globalization is affecting communities and prepares you to handle different cultures, systems, and challenges both here and abroad

Dream: Influence young people
Program: ASPIRE to Teach program, CU Denver

A licensure program that pairs paid classroom time with personalized online instruction and one-on-one coaching from a CU Denver faculty member


5. Beverage Production

Image credit: Sam Kaplan/Trunk Archive

Your dream job: Owning a brewery
Program to consider: Certificate in Applied Craft Brewing at Regis University

Advertisement

Why now? Because Colorado. And beer. Colorado has the fourth-largest beverage production sector in the country—and although craft brewery openings were down a bit in 2016 and 2017, there appears to have been a solid rebound in 2018. Experts say the market isn’t necessarily saturated—just increasingly competitive. All the more reason to make sure your skills are less amateur home brewer, and more top-shelf professional.

The coursework: The 32-week course, which preps you for an entry-level job in the brewing industry, is held twice a year with sessions on Saturday mornings—meaning you don’t have to quit your day job. In fact, more than 90 percent of students are second-career seekers.

The upshot: From sourcing and checking the quality of ingredients to wort production, fermentation, and the biology of yeast, trainees will learn the scientific processes behind brewing, paired with an intro to the accounting, marketing, and financial skills critical to success in this competitive market. To wit: Five former students won medals at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival.

Success Story

Kelissa Hieber. Photo by Matt Nager.

As head brewer and part owner of Berkeley’s Goldspot Brewing Company, Kelissa Hieber, 29, knows what it’s like to chase an ambition. She moved to Denver specifically to get into the world of craft beer. “I’d been home-brewing for eight-plus years,” she says, “but wanted the professional experience. The business part was huge; I’d never taken a business class.” The program culminates in an internship, which Hieber says was critical for making connections and learning the biz from the inside. Hieber completed hers at TRVE Brewing Company before working her way up at Goldspot.

6. Energy

Image credit: iStock

Your dream job: Exploring oil and gas development
Program to consider: Petroleum SuperSchool at Colorado School of Mines

Advertisement

Why now? Colorado’s natural resources, federal laboratories, and research centers make it a hub of energy development. In fact, the sector employs nearly 53,000 people in the region. And while fossil fuels employment declined 8.2 percent nationally between 2012 and 2017, in the Denver metro region it rose by 4.6 percent, ranking us fifth overall and accounting for more than half of all our energy-related employment.

The coursework: This three-week, full-time summer intensive (July 15 to August 2 this year) immerses you in all things crude oil, including rock and fluid properties, exploration methods, environmental concerns, and production risks. Saturday field trips to drilling rigs and fracking sites are sandwiched between the weeklong blocks.

The upshot: Whether you’re an engineer in need of an oil-and-gas crash course for a job opportunity or a geologist looking to move into the energy sector, you’ll leave Petroleum SuperSchool with a stockpile of petroleum research, extraction and production fundamentals, and problem-solving experience.

7. IT + Software

Your dream job: Fending off cybercriminals
Program to consider: Cybersecurity Boot Camp at the Center for Professional Development at the University of Denver

Why now? IT and software savants rock a skill set that few people just pick up on their own. It’s an expertise that’s critical to both the external identity and inner workings of an organization. Why? Because the inhabitants of planet Earth are producing data at an unprecedented rate. Moreover, the region’s IT and software industry combined grew 32 percent between 2012 and 2017, and employment growth has increased annually for the past seven years. Any organization that handles sensitive digital data needs a way to protect that information, whether it’s an in-house security pro or one of the 5,500 metro Denver companies that provide antivirus software and cyberintelligence packages.

Advertisement

The coursework: This 24-week boot camp is geared toward both tech professionals looking for new roles and amateur tech enthusiasts hoping to make cybersecurity a career. The intense part-time program provides training toward cybersecurity certifications that are of interest to certain local employers.

The upshot: You’ll be able to perform digital forensics to retrieve hidden data, encrypt data, and identify where systems are vulnerable.

8. Health Care

Image credit: Bonninstudio/Stocksy

Your dream job: Practicing patient care in a clinical setting
Program to consider: Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program at Arapahoe Community College in partnership with Centura Health

Why now? Everyone needs health care staffing these days. With more than 222,000 direct workers and a job growth rate of 24 percent in the past five years, health care and wellness is the metro region’s largest employment sector. Plus, Colorado has birthed some of the largest shiny new health care facilities in the country, which provide constantly evolving work opportunities.

The coursework: To address the nationwide shortage of medical assistants (MAs), Arapahoe and Centura Health teamed up in 2018 to launch a work-based training program that condenses what’s normally up to a two-year classroom-based curriculum into a concentrated six-month hybrid program. A combination of 26 weeks of paid, hands-on work at a Centura medical facility and necessary online classroom components prepares students for the National Healthcare Association Medical Assistant certification exam. Successful completion means a transition into a full-time MA position with Centura.

Advertisement

The upshot: Apprentices leave the program competent in everything from patient check-ins and taking vital signs to administering injections and performing EKG and phlebotomy procedures.

Success Story

Joe Lesniak. Photo by Matt Nager.

Joe Lesniak, 45, took a risk when he enrolled in Arapahoe’s Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program. It’d been 25 years since he attended school, and he had no medical background. Having been laid off from a sales gig, Lesniak pondered job possibilities in which his extroverted personality would help him. “I took a test through career services in Jefferson County, and it said I should be in health care,” says Lesniak, who passed his MA certification exam and is now working full time for Centura.

9. Aerospace

Image credit: Audrey Shtecinjo/Stocksy

Your dream job: Building spacecraft
Program to consider: Satellite System Design Certificate, Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder

Why now? Talk about a field that’s hot-hot-hot in Colorado right this second. Recent studies rank Colorado as high as number two in the country for aerospace economy, thanks to the approximately 130 aerospace companies—including contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Northrop Grumman—located in the Denver metro area that directly employ more than 21,000 people.

The coursework: Launched in August 2018, the program offers two options: a distance-compatible track (read: online courses) and a hands-on version held on campus. Each requires a slew of courses, some with names like Spacecraft Design, Fundamentals of Systems Engineering, Space Flight Mechanics, and Introduction to Power Electronics.

Advertisement

The upshot: “You’ll get a basic understanding of the important things you need to do to make something work in space,” says Scott Palo, professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. That includes everything from understanding temperature fluctuations to exploring the radiation environment and how it affects electrons. “You’re not going to be an expert after a few classes,” Palo says, “but understanding the pieces and at least knowing how to speak the language is something you might be able to leverage to go apply for a job in aerospace.”

Success Story

With an undergrad degree in electrical engineering, Les Warshaw, 28, took a job as an electrical engineer with Siemens after college. Today he’s working toward a graduate degree in electrical engineering from CU Boulder. The twist: He’s always had an interest in aerospace, so he’s tacking the Satellite System Design Certificate onto his master’s. “The whole reason I did this was to get into the aerospace field,” Warshaw says. “There’s a correlation between electrical engineering and aerospace engineering, especially when it comes to building spacecraft. [The certificate] is a great opportunity for someone who doesn’t want to commit to a full-time program to branch into the sector.” After his May 2019 graduation, Warshaw will begin a new job at Boulder-based Blue Canyon Technologies, which designs and builds small satellites.


The Future Is Now

Millennials will have roughly 20 jobs in their lifetimes—half of which haven’t even been invented yet. But that’s no reason not to prepare for them with these forward-looking programs.

When tour operators start offering vacations in space, you might want a Space Commercialization Certificate from MSU Denver, because someone’s gotta do quality control on those space vehicles before a bunch of civilians can Yelp about ’em.

When Colorado’s water reservoirs dry up, you might want a Water Studies Online Certificate from MSU Denver’s Innovative and Lifelong Learning initiative and One World One Water Center, because last year was Colorado’s second driest on record, which makes conserving H20 and understanding its complicated role in the West all the more valuable.

Advertisement

When there’s a gold rush to Mars, you might want a first-of-its-kind master’s degree or certificate in Space Resources—aka space mining—from Colorado School of Mines, because figuring out how to harvest the red planet’s precious metals and natural resources could be lucrative—so long as the Martian relatives of Pandora’s Na’vi don’t put up a fight.

When two-bit criminals learn how to doctor video, you might want a training workshop at the National Center for Media Forensics—the only one of its kind—at CU Denver, because we need well-trained folks to keep tabs on the increasing number of people who can tamper with audio and video, which creates the potential for false evidence and viral scams.

Summer Guide

Newsletter Signup

Keep me up to date on the latest trends and happenings around Denver. 5280 has a newsletter for everyone. Sign Up