Career Advice Blog

Before Making a Midlife Career Change 5 Things to Think About

by champions1 in Career development 25/07/2016 0 comments

Transitioning to a new career can be difficult at any age, but making a midlife career change comes with additional challenges. For many reasons, changing your career when you are in your 40s and 50s is much harder than doing it when you are in your 20s or 30s. When you are middle-aged, you have more responsibilities, like a mortgage and your children’s college tuition, to consider. You may be hesitant to risk a stable career for something uncertain.

After spending, at least, a couple of decades in one career, you may have an established reputation. It will be hard to start at the bottom again. Here are five things you should think about before you make a midlife career change.

1. How Much Education and Training Will You Need?

You may have chosen a new career that requires very little retraining. If you can simply transfer your current skills to your new occupation without having to acquire any new ones, all you will have to focus on is your job search.

When you are looking toward entering a career that requires a whole new skillset, however, you will probably have to go back to school or undergo some other kind of training. Are you willing to put your energy into it? How long will it be until you can actually start working? When you are in your 20s, or even your 30s, that may not be a big concern, since you have many years ahead of you to work. If you are in your 40s or 50s, you must ask yourself how long you want to keep working. Will you have to spend a great deal of time training for a career that you will only work in for a short time? Will the return on your investment be sufficient?

2. Can You Withstand the Financial Costs of a Career Change?

A career change can be costly. If you have to continue your education, tuition is very expensive. Even if you can afford it, balancing work and schoolcan be difficult. You may have to cut your hours at your job to complete school in a timely fashion. Are you ready for a pay cut? A new career often means starting at the bottom. That could come with a much lower salary than the one you are currently earning.

3. Do You Have Your Family’s Support?

Going through a major transition like a midlife career change requires a lot of support from those around you. If your family isn’t on board, it will be difficult to succeed in this endeavor. Before you embark on such a big change, talk to your spouse and children. Everyone will have to pitch in to make this transformation possible. There may be less disposable income for doing things like taking vacations and buying new things. Your spare time will be taken up with preparing for your new career. Family members may have to help with household chores.

4. What Is the Typical Age of People Working in the Field You Are Considering?

Some industries are filled with very young workers. The only people even near midlife, may be those in management. Will they be willing to hire you for an entry-level position if you are in your 40s or 50s?  Sure, age discrimination is illegal, as it should be but that doesn’t stop those in charge of hiring from committing it. Your only recourse will be to file charges against those employers who refuse to hire you. That is probably not what you had in mind when you decided to embark on a career change. You wanted to enter a new career, not a battle. Before you move forward, thoroughly investigate the occupation you are considering and the industry or industries that would employ you. Talk to people who work in it to find out if you have a decent chance of getting hired.

5. How Long Will It Take to Become Established in Your Desired Career?

When you begin a new career, your first job will likely be an entry-level one. After doing that for a year or two, you will probably be able to apply for a higher level position. Your prior work experience might help you advance faster than your much younger colleagues who are just starting out, but it may not. Your experience in this new career may be all that counts. It may take quite some time until you are able to do the type of work you wanted to when you made the decision to switch to this career. Ask yourself if you will be satisfied with that. Your answer may depend on how far away you are from the age you want to retire.

By Dawn Rosenberg McKay is a career planning professional with two decades of experience. She is the author of several books on this subject.

You can read more about Dawn at her Google Profile: Dawn Rosenberg McKay


Dawn has been the Career Planning Guide on since 1997. She ran a job and education information center at a large public library for over five years, working with clients who were going through career transitions, such as career change and job loss. Dawn also assisted new high school and college graduates during the transition from school to starting a career. She has led workshops on resume writing, job interviewing, networking and job searching on the Internet. Dawn is a member of the National Career Development Association (NCDA). She is also the author of The Everything Practice Interview Book and The Everything Get-a-Job Book, both published by Adams Media, as well as several civil service test preparation books that were published by Peterson’s and Pearson Education.


Dawn completed the Career Development Facilitator Certificate Program at Hofstra University in 1999. She also earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Hofstra and a Master’s Degree from the City University of New York – Queen’s College.

Dawn Rosenberg McKay

A significant part of our lives revolves around work. Through the Career Planning Site, I will provide you with resources that will help you have a career that is satisfying and fulfilling.

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