Should You Change Careers in the Same Industry or a Different Industry?

The truth is that any career change has risks. Whether you should change careers in the same industry or a different one depends on your current role, goals, and the risks you’re willing to take. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. You want to weigh them in the context of your career to make an informed choice.

Key Takeaways

The truth is that any career change has risks. Whether you should change careers in the same industry or a different one depends on your current role, goals, and the risks you’re willing to take. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. You want to weigh them in the context of your career to make an informed choice.

Why should you change careers at all? 

Changing careers makes sense when your current role no longer suits your goals. You also experience these benefits: 


The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank reported that people who frequently switch jobs have a faster wage growth rate than those who don’t. That’s because If you stay at the same company, your basic salary will likely only increase by 3 to 5% annually. 

You’re in a stronger position to negotiate your pay when you join a new company and industry. The new company will be more willing to pay you higher because of your experience.

Diversified skills

Changing careers naturally leads you to have diverse skills. A broad skill set is highly valued in today’s economy. Let’s say you’re an IT administrator who becomes a web developer. 

Having IT administrator experience means your employer won’t have to micromanage you. You’ll already know how to navigate a digital ecosystem. 

To be an even better web developer, you could also check out this course

Better networks

Your network is your net worth. 

And what better way to expand your network than by connecting with people in different industries? Changing careers to a new industry will grant you access to a whole new suite of professional networks. 

You’ll be able to use these new connections to expand your career. 

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Faster career growth

Not all careers progress equally. Some stagnate—others plateau. You may even feel that you’re not sufficiently advancing in your career. Maybe you’re not suited to your current industry. Maybe the industry itself is stagnating. In either case, you’ll probably benefit from changing careers.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

The advantages of staying in the same industry 

Let's say you've decided to change your career. Naturally, the next question is whether to change your career in the same or a different field. These are the benefits of remaining in the same one. 

Smaller skill gap

Different fields demand different skills. 

Being a software engineer is different from being a salesperson, which is different from being a financial advisor. Sometimes the skill gap between industries is too vast to justify the leap. That skill gap could be in technical skills or soft ones.

The skill gap in different careers within the same industry is naturally smaller. It's easier to go from being an accountant to a financial advisor than from a software engineer to a doctor. 

An accountant doesn't need too many skills to become a financial advisor. But a software engineer who wants to be a doctor will have to go to med school. 

If you need new qualifications to find a new role, you could try courses at Unmudl.

Easier switch

Related to the last point: it's just easier to stay in the same industry.

Not only do you already have most of the skills you need, but you also have experience and contacts. Experience and contacts that probably aren't useful in a new industry. 

Say you're a mechanical engineer who wants to become a digital marketer. Your engineering experience won't be that useful for marketing. You'll have to start from scratch. 

Worse still, your progress in engineering would mean little in marketing because of how different the two fields are. Assuming you make the transition, you'll have to learn everything about

Of course, the ease of switching among industries varies depending on what you're already doing and what you want to do. It's easier to switch between related industries, like architecture and engineering, than different ones, like medicine and marketing. 

Suggested reading: the complete guide to a career change

Less financial uncertainty

Changing jobs costs both time and money. Depending on how experienced you are and whether you have dependents, it may be financially unsound to change careers. It's especially financially unwise if switching to a new field requires you to obtain new knowledge, skills, and/or qualifications. 

You could probably afford the switch if you're young and without dependents. But if you're older and have children, you might place your family in a difficult position. The closer your current and desired fields are, the easier the transition will be.

But if they're drastically different–like engineering and accounting– you won't immediately earn as much as you did before. It might even be several years before your income in the new field equals what you received before. Depending on your priorities, that may not be the worst thing.

Your current career could help with the new one.

Diverse skills and experiences are generally valuable. But they're especially valuable within the same industry. Say you're a mechanical engineer who works in industrial manufacturing. You're familiar with the manufacturing process. You know how it works. What it looks like. And what its problems are. 

And let's say you decide to become a CAD (computer-aided design) engineer. The new job involves designing the machines that perform the manufacturing process. Your previous experience as a mechanical engineer will be a huge asset for this transition. 

You already know how the plant works. You have a more accurate perspective of the production process and its limitations. So you'll likely design more practical machines. 

Your employer will know this too. And they'll consider you a better CAD engineer because of your mechanical engineering experience. The same is true for many other career transitions. 

Laughing businesswoman working in office with laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The disadvantages of staying in the same industry 

Staying in the same industry has its benefits. But there's also something to be said about staying in your comfort zone. These are the potential risks of staying in the same field:

You're limited to your industry

Not all industries are equal. Some have better growth and opportunities than others at any given time. Some demand more work. Some demand less. Some don't have a chance of surviving another wave of automation. Others will last a long time. 

When you stay in an industry, you're gambling that it's the best long-term bet for your goals. It might not be. Suppose you're an HR professional who earns $55,000 annually in a construction company. You take this course and decide you'd much rather be a marketer. Smart choice. 

Marketing managers in the construction industry earn $140,000 annually on average. That's a good income. But you'd make even more if you become a marketing manager in the aerospace and defense industry. They earn $196,000 annually on average. 

A higher income isn't the only thing you'd get by being a marketing manager in the aerospace and defense industry instead of the construction one. You may also have gotten more exposure and better career progression opportunities. 

Industry stagnation

In today's age, you never know which jobs will get automated tomorrow. Did you know we used to have elevator operators? People whose job it was to open and close the elevator for you. Where'd those people go? They were retired because they were no longer needed. 

The same could happen to your job or your entire industry. We all know the petroleum industry isn't going to last forever. We'll eventually have to adopt renewable energy solutions. On the other hand, it's doubtful we'll ever automate TV show hosts. 

The point is that you should factor in whether your career or industry will even survive your lifetime in making your decision. 

Photo by Yan Krukov

The benefits of joining a new industry

Joining a new industry has its risks. But you could also experience a very high return. And if you're in a declining industry with little career growth, it'd be better to jump ship.

These are the 4 main benefits of joining a new industry.  

Better opportunities in the long run

Changing fields means your salary will take a hit in the short term. But it could bounce back in a few years or even go higher than ever. That's especially true if you transition from a stagnating industry to a booming one. 

As an example, it'd be extremely wise to switch to IT and communication technology from the petroleum industry. The former is fast, dynamic, and pays well. In contrast, the energy industry is slower and more hierarchical. So your growth potential is limited. That's not even to mention that green energy is slowly replacing the petroleum industry. 

Of course, this is only true if the new industry has better potential than the older one. That's clearly the case in energy vs. IT. But it's less clear with industries like medicine vs. law. The average doctor earns more than the average lawyer. But top lawyers earn more than top doctors. 

So it's also a question of your goals and how far you're willing to go career-wise.

Better mental health and less stress

Some industries are inherently more stressful than others. Being an animator or an air traffic controller is guaranteed to bring more stress to your life than being a school teacher. Animators and air traffic controllers sometimes work 60+ hours a week in stressful conditions. 

In contrast, most school teachers work 40 hours a week. That's not to say being a teacher isn't stressful. It is. But you're infinitely more likely to have higher stress in some fields than others. Not everyone can handle those higher stress levels. 

If that's you, consider choosing a different industry. You want to avoid poor mental health and burnout as much as possible. High stress even prevents you from working optimally. You'll probably achieve more in a less stressful industry than you ever could in a high-stress one. 

Better alignment with your personality and values

Not everyone is equally suited to every industry. People who like children probably make better kindergarten teachers. People who have strong social skills make better salespeople. And people who like math and computers make better programmers. 

Everyone has different degrees of compatibility with every industry and that's completely fine. You should work in a field that matches your personality and values. 

If you're currently not in such an industry, consider changing fields. You want to work in a field you genuinely enjoy and can commit to long term. It doesn't necessarily have to be a perfect match. 

But there shouldn't be any major contradictions between your professional life and your personality and values. 

The disadvantages of joining a new industry 

Joining a new field has its challenges. Sometimes they might be too much for you. 

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

People could question your staying power

Recruiters don’t like people with frequent career changes. There’s no other way to say it. They prefer candidates with stable career histories. They want to feel that investing time and money in you will yield long-term benefits. And a person who’s previously changed careers isn’t ideal.

That’s not to say no one will hire you. It’s just that recruiters will likely be more skeptical of you. You’ll have to prove your commitment to them. 

You could struggle to adapt to a new environment

Joining a new field takes some getting used to. Being a lawyer is different from being a graphic designer. The working environment is completely different. Sometimes that’s a welcome change. 

Other times, it’s too much. You may not be ideal for the working conditions of your new field. You may be unable to adjust to the new environment. 

Things to consider when making a career change decision

These are a few helpful questions you should ask yourself when making a career change–same industry or not. 

Why am I making this change?

Establish your motives. Your reason for changing careers guides what you should do next. Are you changing jobs because of a conflict of value? Because you don’t experience the progress you want? Or maybe you don’t see a future for the industry. 

Am I committed enough to make the changes necessary?

Switching to a different career is a big responsibility, especially if it’s in a different industry. It could potentially take you years to flourish in a new field. And you may have to drastically alter your skill set. 

It’s worth asking yourself whether you feel comfortable making this change. And if you’re sure you can complete it. 

Can I afford it?

This is the most important question. You need to objectively establish whether you can afford to make the change. Again, it may not be too hard if you’re young and without dependents. But if you’re a more experienced professional with a family to care for, it’s not an easy thing.

Final Word 

Whether you should change careers in the same industry or a different one depends on you. 

Working in the same industry means you’ll face a smaller skill gap for the new position. You could leverage your existing contacts in the industry. And you may even be a preferred candidate because of your diverse experiences. 

Conversely, working in a different industry means a better future if the new industry is booming. You may experience lower stress and have a better alignment between your work and personal values. 

In the end, it depends entirely upon you.

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