How Old Is Too Old for a Career Change?

Changing careers is never too late. In reality, many people change occupations in their latter years. Still, you must consider your priorities in order to determine whether it is worthwhile. With the rapid change in the way we live and do business due to the impact of technology, restarting your profession is unquestionably worthwhile for many people. In this article, we will discuss the pros of changing your professions in the latter part of your career and discuss the opportunity cost of not doing so.

Key Takeaways

Changing careers is never too late. In reality, many people change occupations in their latter years. Still, you must consider your priorities in order to determine whether it is worthwhile. With the rapid change in the way we live and do business due to the impact of technology, restarting your profession is unquestionably worthwhile for many people. In this article, we will discuss the pros of changing your professions in the latter part of your career and discuss the opportunity cost of not doing so.

In the distant past, it was customary to pick a vocation or employer, remain loyal to it for many years, and then retire with a souvenir as compensation. But this is no longer the case. People are changing occupations more frequently these days, and they are doing it in historic numbers.

There are many benefits to changing professions, from boosting your career to new heights to refocusing your efforts on something you may be passionate about. 

Even if short-term financial sacrifices could be involved, most people have no regrets about going for a career change because it eventually returns better dividends and makes them happier in the long run.

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So let’s look at the practicality of a career change and see if it is something you should consider.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

How old is too old for a career change?

Is it too late to change careers at 40? Or 50 or 60? 

We are always told that there is always time to start anything new. On the other hand, societal forces encourage us to stick to the job path we have selected and to avoid making snap decisions that can backfire.

However, according to a poll conducted, the majority of American workers, almost 52 percent, are considering changing jobs, and as many as 44 percent have concrete plans in place to do so.

It also turns out that most people who change careers are happy with their decision. The big question however is if there is ever a time when it is too late to change occupations?

With technology advancing at an exponential rate the majority of us will change careers numerous times during our lifetimes. In order to succeed in some way, it's critical to stay up with the times and to be adaptable and flexible.

There may come a period in your life when you feel the need to entirely alter your career at 40 or older, regardless of whether you are a business owner, independent contractor, tradesman, intellectual, or professional.

To truly evaluate career change as an option we have to first understand why people consider changing careers in the first place.

Recommended reading: The ultimate guide to successfully changing careers

Women Sitting on a Red Coach Looking at a Laptop Together
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator from Pexels

Why people change careers

It can seem counterintuitive to give up everything you've worked so hard for in order to advance professionally or become an expert in your field in favor of a brand-new career. However, there are actually numerous reasons for major career changes among people of all ages. 

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) discovered a range of reasons for changing careers. A need for more money, according to nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) drove them to look for a new job. Other popular reasons for switching to a new career were dissatisfaction (20%), layoffs (17%), relocation (11%), and health (9%) respectively.

Let’s look at some of the important motivators:

1. Earning Better Pay

79 percent of workers who changed careers, according to Indeed, did it primarily to increase their income. People often start having families in their 30s, and as they advance in age, making money becomes a natural motivator. Additionally, annual salary increases for many professions don't keep pace with inflation.

Life is getting incredibly expensive, thus it seems sensible that people would look for professions that would pay them more in the long term after leaving their current positions.

Maybe, after an extended career, you've achieved the pay ceiling in your chosen field. No matter how much time and effort you put into your work and improving your talents, after a certain point, there is typically only a small amount that you can gain in the majority of industries.

2. Burnout due to excessive work-related stress

Workplace stress varies greatly depending on the job. Stress has a negative impact on your relationships with others as well as your physical, emotional, and mental health. 

Burnouts can be brought on by overworking yourself and having to work in stressful, fast-paced circumstances. These negative effects multiply when you spend a long career under such conditions and you should reevaluate your professional choices even if you are at a later stage in your career.

A worker's physical and mental health might suffer greatly if they are required to consistently meet deadlines and targets, put in long hours, and worry about their job security. Consequently, more individuals are choosing occupations that offer better work-life balance.

72 percent of respondents in a study of older career switchers said, "Since changing occupations, I feel like a different person emotionally." 65 percent of respondents answered, "Since changing occupations, my stress level has lessened."

3. Lack of passion

People occasionally base their professional decisions on factors like money, what their parents believe they should do with their lives, and social influences. When they reach their 40s and 50s they end up having regrets and saying things like, “I hate my career.”.

Even at this age, changing to a profession that you are enthusiastic about might be extremely gratifying. Some people yearn for this kind of fulfillment and to go to work every day with anticipation. Switching to something you are passionate about is a common reason for a career change.

4. A desire to work at more fulfilling jobs

The desire to make a difference is one of the most frequent motives for career changes as you get older. Working for the greater good can bring a sense of fulfillment to the individual that other jobs simply cannot. 

Opportunities in charitable work, education, healthcare, and environmental work are frequently sought after by those looking for a more fulfilling profession.

5. Working for a dying industry

You spend a good few decades in an industry and now realize that that industry is reaching the end of its life as is your career. 

There simply isn't as much money in some industries as there once was, and some are actually in rapid decline. Consider the print media - with the advent of social media and other digital ways to consume content, print is dying fast.

Fewer and fewer people buy a printed newspaper anymore, most of them choosing to read their news online. The good news is that you already have many skills that you can easily transfer to digital media because at the end of the day it is still about creating content.

6. Getting older

Some occupations depend heavily on your youth. Professional athletes, models, and occupations requiring a lot of physical activity are all typical examples. In these fields, you might need to start looking for alternatives before you reach a particular age and start struggling.

[older person worker photo]

When is it too late to change careers?

According to a study by the American Institute for Economic Research, "New Careers for Older Workers", 82% of survey participants said they successfully transitioned to a new career beyond age 45.

The truth is: you really are never too old to try new things, become engaged in new hobbies, meet new people, or begin a new job. It may sound cliche, but sometimes age is genuinely only a number. 

Having said that, there are other factors associated with age that may make career changes challenging as you get older.

Your desire to change careers may not actually be hampered by your age, but rather by other issues that frequently arise as you get older. Typical age-related issues are:

Your health

Your health usually declines as you get older, but it can also be attributed to your genes and some of your lifestyle decisions throughout the years. Some of your new work options could be influenced by poor health. For example, you may not want to take up jobs that are physically challenging or very stressful.

Your expenses 

As you get older, you might get married, get a mortgage on a house, and have kids. All of these expenses add up, and by the time you reach 45 or so, you might realize that your life has cost much more than it did when you were 22. 

This may become a barrier to taking up new opportunities. A lot of people look for stability after they cross 50 and you will have to evaluate your financial position before you can risk a career change.

Your goals

Your goals will change as you get older. Some people decide that they finally want to travel while others want to spend more time with their family. 

Sometimes, taking on a massive career change later in life can make it more difficult for you to achieve certain goals.

Two important Unmudl tips for changing careers:

Even though exploring an entirely new career path after the age of 50 can be daunting, there are some ways to reduce anxiety and enjoy the process. Here are two things that will help you tremendously when changing careers in the latter stages of your life:

1. Transferable Skills:

If you have had multiple jobs, keep in mind that you have developed many marketable skills over the years. Make a list of your acquired skills and determine what you are good at so that you can present yourself to employers. 

Don't overlook general skills, which are essentially transferable skills applicable to a variety of occupations. Reading and writing skills, management skills, technical skills, and communication skills are transferable to a variety of positions and industries.

2. Developing New Job Skills:

Is a lack of specific job skills preventing you from starting a specific new career later in life? 

Investigate online training programs and local resources that will help you acquire relevant job skills that will make you more marketable to a new employer, or that will assist you in starting your own business so you can work for yourself until retirement. Below we have listed 5 options that might interest you.

Three people looking at a laptop screen
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

What options do you have for a career change as you get older?

Changing careers is dependent heavily on what you are passionate about and what skills you can transfer to your new job. However, as you get older some job switches are better for you than others. For example, you might want less physically demanding or less stressful jobs.

We are recommending some courses in varying fields that can help you change careers to better-paying jobs at an older age.

Download Checklist " 10 Simple Steps to Smooth Job Change"

Front End Web Development

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? If the motivation is right, you just might. The average Front-End Developer salary in the United States is $119,224 as of May 27, 2022.  If you have a bit of a creative streak this career will give you plenty of opportunities to let your creative juices flow later in your career!

This Front End Web Development Bootcamp will teach you how to create the creative aspects of the appearance of a website. You will learn how to design the site's layout and integrate graphics, and other content like video.

Technical Writing

As they progress in age, a lot of people want less physically demanding jobs and this technical writing certificate course fits the bill perfectly. Technical writing is a highly rewarding career in terms of both job satisfaction and monetary compensation. You may also want to go through our guide on how to get into technical writing with a certificate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for technical writers in the United States in 2021 will be $78,060.

Related: What is the difference between technical writing and business writing?

Excel for Data Analysis

Sometimes you feel you are stuck at a job or a position for a very long time simply because you lack a certain skill. A Microsoft Excel certification can open up many opportunities for career advancement even at later stages in a career. 

The average Data Analyst salary in the United States is $69,541 per year and goes up to $106,609

Going through Excel Core for Data Analysts certification training might offer interesting prospects if you have the opportunity to work with a lot of data. Our Excel Data Analyst Ultimate Guide will also show you how an Excel certification can help you get into a new career in data analytics.

You may also want to read: Top 10 Ways to Improve Microsoft Excel Skills in 2022

Project Management

Perhaps you have been stuck in a trade for a very long time taking orders from project managers as an Electrician or a plumber? Whatever the trade may be, a surefire way to move up the ladder (and get a lesser physically demanding job later in your career) is to get into management yourself.

As of April 26, 2022, the average annual salary in the United States for Project Managers in the construction industry is $110,599.

This project management for beginners course may be your ticket to management. If you are interested then our guide to the best project management podcasts for beginners will also be very helpful.

Private Pilot Ground School

This option is somewhat left field but it is something that a surprising number of people have always wanted to do… fly! 

If you have been stuck at a desk job for a long career then it’s never too late to set yourself free and soar the skies. The median annual wage for commercial pilots in May 2021 was $99,640.

The Private Pilot Ground School course covers the theory and includes an Instructor Endorsement, which is required to take the exam. This 35-hour online course will help you pass your FAA Written Exam and become a private pilot.

Final Word

More than half of all Americans are dissatisfied with their current job. While younger workers may be more willing to change jobs, older workers may believe that the only option is to "stick it out" until retirement. 

It's a common misconception that you are too old to get a new job after a certain age, it's "too late" to change careers you may hear often. However, the opposite is true. With the average retirement age rising, many people over the age of 50 may still have 15, 20, or even 30 years of working life ahead of them, and in this article, we have reviewed all the relevant issues of a late-stage career change.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is 45 too old for a career change?

What age is too late to change career?

Is it worth going back to college at 50?

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