The traditional career path included training at the beginning of your career, and then consistent work in a field you’ve effectively mastered. Most people received that training in their early twenties, either in college, on the job, or both. When they reached 40, they were experienced in the field they would continue to work in until retirement.
In today’s job market, many people take a non-traditional path. They don’t necessarily complete all of their schooling before jumping into a career and learning more as they go. Some end up going back to school to further their knowledge, while others might seek more training so they can completely change careers.
The average worker changes careers seven times in his lifetime — at least, that’s what career counselors tell you. In reality, there’s no evidence to back up this claim. Instead, statistics show that the amount of time a typical worker spends at one job has not changed significantly since the late 1990s.
What has changed is the average age at which workers seek career training. Recent trends in Fortune 500 companies — as reported on by Money Magazine — show an increase in demand for older workers and more opportunities for job training for people over 40.
The report also suggests that in the years before retirement, you can prepare for your post-retirement job by getting career training in a new field or by updating your technology skills to continue in your current industry.
According to a report by CNBC, employers in certain fields actually value older workers — even ones who are new to their industry. The experience of working for a couple decades shows employers your excellent work habits. Older workers are more likely to stay at a job longer and tend to learn new skills more quickly than their younger counterparts.
The CNBC report lists several good options for career choices that people over 40 might choose. Many of them involve working with people, like financial advisor, personal trainer, and tutor. Some of the more surprising options are social media strategist and information technology specialist.
Although older workers may not have the skills needed to do these jobs, with the right training they can be very competitive job candidates.
The Best Careers to Start at 40
Starting a new career after 40 is not such an unusual move anymore. There are several fields an experienced worker could enter, and with some training, excel in. Unlike entering a field at 20, however, an employee over 40 has a limited time to make an impact, so choosing the right field for your new career is important.
There are a number of details to consider when deciding on a new career, but one of the most important is the job market. As the job market shifts from traditional areas like manufacturing and opens up new opportunities in technology or healthcare, for example, you want to understand these trends when choosing your new career.
Given the shortened timeframe, the best careers to start at 40 are those in fields with good employment opportunity projections. Some of the largest job growth in the next couple decades is expected in these four areas:
- Clergy — Stressful times bring people closer to faith organizations, and in this country, the number of faithful is growing. There are many opportunities for paid positions in various faith-based organizations, and the median salary for clergy members stands at over $75,000. The requirements for entering these positions varies greatly. In some religions, clergy must have advanced degrees, but in others a strong vocational calling is the only qualification.
- Education — School districts across the country continue to experience teacher shortages. While teaching does require formal training, there are many places where it’s possible, with a bachelor’s degree, to get that training while you’re working and earning a salary. Along with teachers, teaching assistants and other support people are also needed. Without a bachelor’s degree, it’s possible to start in one of these positions and work your way up while you train. In addition to public schools, there are private and parochial schools in need of teachers and other staff, including tutors who work one-on-one with students or in small groups.
- Healthcare — A wide and constantly growing field, healthcare encompasses everything from neurosurgeons to home health aides. Opportunities in healthcare continue to proliferate as more research is completed and additional treatments and therapies for various diseases are discovered.If you already have a medical background, you may consider changing your focus within the industry. Without a medical degree, you can still begin a career in healthcare after 40. Many positions are available that combine training and practical experience. There are also short training courses offered at colleges that can get you working in the field in just a couple of months.
- Eldercare — The aging Baby Boomer population will require more care-providers than are currently available. There are a number of different areas of elder care, from healthcare and personal care to shopping and meal preparation. Older people need help caring for their homes and driving to appointments, for example.The number of organizations that provide these and other services to older Americans is growing, as is their need for skilled employees. You may already have the skills you need to move into the elder care industry. If not, you can easily get some training and then put your new skills to work taking care of older people.
Looking at the job market in just these four categories gives you a lot of options for your new career. You may only be limited by your ability to imagine yourself doing something different with your life!
Making a Career Change at 40
One of the best advantages to starting a new career at 40 is experience. Whether you use your work experience or go into a completely different field, you have a broader worldview than you did when you were 20. Employers are looking for more mature workers to lead their teams. Older workers are generally more reliable and bring better interpersonal skills.
After 40, you have a better idea of what you want, what you’re capable of, and how to succeed in life. Getting out of a job that doesn’t challenge you and into something you can actually enjoy doing is the type of move you should be making at this point in your life. People over 40 are ready to take charge of their lives, embrace new challenges, and do what they love.
There is a myth that after a certain age, it’s hard to learn new things. Actually, people in their 40s are perfectly capable of retraining for a different career. Their personal lives tend to be more stable and they are more intrinsically motivated to succeed. Here are some statistics that may motivate your career change:
- Baby Boomers averaged 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48.
- Teaching elementary school, secondary school, or special education is the fastest-growing occupation for workers over 40.
- A majority of doctors and registered nurses currently in the workforce are over 50.
- Workers over the age of 45 consider changing fields at a rate of 80%.
- The projected fastest-growing fields for older workers are teaching and nursing.
- A national survey found that 82% of respondents made a successful career change after age 45.
Career training can be beneficial to people over 40 because they’re ready to make a change, they’re better able to learn and adapt to new things than their younger counterparts, and they make valuable employees in any field.
Why Are People Choosing a New Career at 40?
In some ways, 40 seems to be the magic age at which people take stock of their lives and make changes based on new priorities. In the traditional career path, at age 40, a worker can be stagnant — performing the same job for the rest of their career. By 40, you may have already achieved the basic milestones in your profession, and in middle management, like in mid-life, people tend to get bored.
There are many reasons people choose new careers at 40, including:
- New learning — One way to spice up your professional life when you reach 40 and things seem stagnant is to learn something new. It may start out as a lark to learn about something you’ve always been interested in, but new learning can turn into a new career. Just the excitement of learning something new can be a powerfully motivating factor.
- De-stress — Many people who are in the middle of their careers are stressed out. The job they do is intense and consumes much of their energy. Their family obligations may take a back seat to fulfilling responsibilities at work. Another birthday or a health scare makes them wonder why they continue doing such a stressful job. Making a career change at 40 to something less stressful can be a life-affirming move.
- Slow things down — As you approach 40 and then 50, you may start to think that your best days could be behind you. You’re so busy achieving that you didn’t notice so much time had passed. Or, you might notice that your energy level is decreasing and you don’t want to participate in the rat-race any more. Changing careers gives you a chance to change the pace of your life and go back and experience the thrill of developing a career from the beginning again. Or, you may simply choose to switch to a career that’s not so competitive and doesn’t require the amount of energy your current job does.
- Chasing a dream — Some people develop a passion for something they do as a hobby. As the years go by, that passion grows. By the time they’re 40, they want to follow their passion into a full-time career. That magic age of 40 means there’s still plenty of time left to start a new career and really accomplish something in it.
Your reason for changing careers at 40 may be personal and unique to your situation. You’re not alone, though. Many people at or around the age of 40 choose to change careers, and work toward success in a new field.
How to Start Your New Career After 40
Not only is career training beneficial to people over 40, but it’s also crucial to a successful career change at any age. Some jobs include training, but you’ll be a much more competitive job candidate if you already have at least some basic education in the required area.
Before finding the right training program, though, you need to make some decisions about what field you want to enter. Spend some time thinking about what you like to do. What aspects of your current job do you enjoy the most? You’ll probably want to find something new that incorporates those. If you like customer contact, for example, you’ll want to choose a new career where you also get to work with people.
The same should hold true for the aspects of your current job that you don’t like. What stresses you out about the job you do now? Are the hours unpredictable or the workload impossible? If it feels unimportant in the wider picture, for instance, then you probably want to choose a new career where you get to help people and make a difference.
In addition to knowing what you like to do and what you don’t like to do, you’ll need to think about what you’re good at. Consider your greatest skills — even if they’re not needed for your current job — and plan a career change around those. Maybe you’re good at reading people, but your current position requires you to stay in the office and simply direct the salesforce. In your new career, you may want a more active role where you interact with people and help them in some way.
Then, you should consider what additional training you may need for your career change. How long will the training take? What will you be able to do once you’ve completed the training? What sort of certifications will employers be looking for? What unique qualifications can you bring to the job?
Timing can be important when making a career change. You may be able to complete some or all of your training while you continue to work your current job, for example. If not, how much of a gap will there be between leaving your current job and being ready to start a new career? You may need to make a plan, and then save up some extra money to get you through the training period, or you may be able to find a new job that allows you to work and train at the same time.
A lot of these questions can be answered by a college that offers the type of training you need and the follow-through required to land a new career opportunity. As you embark on your own journey, consider Vista College.
In addition to clarifying what each training program includes, our staff can help you figure out a reasonable timetable for completing training and being re-employed. Although we can’t guarantee your employment, we back each of our graduates with job search support, advice, and resources.
Partner with us to begin the next chapter of your education, your career, and your life.