The tech economy has heated up and seems to be back to 2000 era levels. The unemployment rate for technology is down to 2.5% so I don't talk to my colleagues too much about changing careers.
But a few years ago, it was a different story. A lot of time was spent worrying about what to do when we all lost our jobs programming and analyzing and dba'ing. I knew some people who had sort of armageddon nightmares of starting a carpet cleaning business or even a QuickTrip (although this idea seems golden if you can find property). But most of the time we settled on two career paths: law school or an MBA.
The hardest part about leaving IT is leaving the relatively decent salary that goes along with programming, testing or admining. If you move to consulting or marketing or something like that you end up at the bottom of the ladder and take a big pay cut. Lawyers and business suits have a good potential to start off at or above the pay level of an IT position.
The idea is that you can get either of these special degrees while keeping your day job and finally transition off to a good job once you're ready (or forced to). I live in Atlanta, so there are a lot of education choices available. For law school, there's Emory, Georgia State, University of Georgia and Mercer. For business school the list is similar but also includes Georgia Tech. Most major cities will have a similar selection. If you're lucky enough to live near New York, Boston or San Francisco then you are extra lucky and have the best selections in the world.
If you end up with a law degree you can easily pick up IP/Trademark law, or use the high-stress experience and tech skills to do well in real estate, immigration or labor law.
If you end up with an MBA, you can go into accounting, management or the kind of consulting that gets you a signing bonus and 50 weeks of travel each year.
There must be other careers out there that pay well and utilize the same problem solving and ever changing skill sets that IT professionals use. I'm sure that as soon as the next downturn starts I'll have time to discuss this with my fellow co-workers as we wait for the next round of layoffs.