Changing Careers at 40

Are you considering a career change at 40? Just the thought of it might seem overwhelming, but starting a new career at 40 is not as difficult as you might think. Plus, there are strong arguments as to why you should consider it. Maybe the right career can help you achieve what you’re looking for, whether it’s higher salary potential, better career growth, or something that’s more fulfilling. Or perhaps you just crave something different.

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The following sections explore some of those concepts to help you consider and then make a career change at 40. Note that all employment data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Examining Your Current Situation

Why might you want to make the career change at 40? Answering that question helps you determine whether you should follow through with the idea, and if you decide on making the change, it can help you focus on your goals. After all, a hasty career change at 40 into the wrong field can result in a lot of frustration and stress.

The first step is to consider is why you’re considering a new career in the first place. Of course, the reasons can vary, but clarifying your reason or reasons will help you move forward in the right direction. If you’re disappointed about your salary, career growth, or both, then you can take a closer look at occupational statistics that can guide your decision. If you’re looking for a more meaningful career, then you can target careers that focus on helping people. If you’re simply getting restless in your current position, you can look at careers that offer variety and the opportunity to switch roles.

It’s important to note that some of those reasons can have a negative impact on your career and emotional health. If you’re less engaged in your career than you used to be, your work likely suffers, and you could be undermining your opportunity to make more money or move into a better position. Much more important is the effect that all of this can have on your health and personal life. The dissatisfaction that can result from unhappiness in your career can add a great deal of stress to your life. Feeling “stuck” in your career or any major aspect of life can impact your relationships, sleep, self-esteem, and more.

If you decide that the career change at 40 is something you want to do, it’s natural to feel anxiety around what happens next. That’s often what prevents a lot of people in difficult situations from pursuing a better career and achieving their goals. They have a tough time overcoming the what ifs around leaving what they know. The concept of analysis paralysis — over-analyzing something so much that a solution is never reached — is all too familiar for a lot of unhappy professionals around this age.

The next steps are to identify your dream career and then to create a reasonable, actionable plan to get there. Take a look at the next two sections for more information on the best midlife career changes and how to make a career change at 40.

The Best Midlife Career Changes

A major milestone in making the career change at 40 is to identify what career you’d like to pursue. There are a seemingly endless number of possibilities, but here are some highlights from three major employment fields.


Changing careers to business opens up several lucrative, in-demand options across subfields like accounting, finance, human services, management, and sales. For instance, management occupations earn a median annual wage of $102,590, which is the highest of any major occupational group. There’s something for everyone, though. Management and human resources are ideal if you enjoy interacting with people. If you’re more of a numbers person, consider accounting or finance. Marketing is ideal if you enjoy creative and analytical areas like graphic design and market research.


Changing careers to nursing allows you to help patients in a variety of settings. You’ll be able to make a difference in people’s lives who are experiencing various illnesses and injuries. It’s a fulfilling career that offers good pay and job outlook. Registered nurses earn a median annual wage of $70,000, and employment is projected to increase 15% by 2026. You’ll also have the option of pursuing advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) positions, or executive- and management-level careers.

Social Work

Changing careers to social work is all about helping people who need it most. As a social worker, you’ll help individuals in at-risk populations, and you’ll assist with prevention and early intervention efforts to impact change at broader levels. The median annual wage for social workers is $47,980, and there’s plenty of room for salary growth in certain industries. For instance, social workers working in hospitals earn $58,490, and those working in local government earn $52,900. Social workers have strong career growth, with a projected employment increase of 16% by 2026.

How to Make a Career Change at 40

Considering changing careers at 40 might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Many soft skills and common technical skills are applicable to most careers, and plenty of people are able to make a career change at 40 with no degree. However, those seeking their place in a specific field or a management role may consider earning the right educational credential to pursue a new career.

Getting the Education You Need

Embrace online learning options. There are several affordable, reputable online degree options that can make a midlife career change a possibility. Just think about what it would look like to return to a traditional school where you, even if you attended part-time, would have to travel to a college or university two or three days a week. Would that fit into your current work and personal schedule?

With online education, going to school can work with your schedule. You can enjoy studying when and where you want. An online learning environment makes it easy to get the education you need for your career change at 40. Attending class is as easy as logging in, and then you can interact with your professor and peers on your computer.

A lot of online programs work asynchronously, which means that you don’t even have to be online at certain times, such as to watch a live lecture. Instead, you’ll simply read course material and look at any other study material you need when it’s convenient for you. There will be due dates for your assignments, but you can complete them at any time you’d like, as long as it’s by the due date.

Online learning makes it easy to get the education you need to achieve your goals. By taking advantage of an online program, you can make a career change at 40 a reality.

Searching for Your New Job

Once you complete your degree, it’ll be time to start your new career. Don’t overlook the connections you’ve made during your degree program. From your peers to professors, you may be able to network and get a lead on a new job, or at least use them as references. Also, many colleges and universities can help you look for opportunities once you’ve graduated. Several online degree programs excel in connecting their students and graduates with jobs.

Update your resume to reflect the skills you’ve developed in your degree program. You should also brush up on writing cover letters, as that will give you the opportunity to explain your passion for a new career that combines your past experience with new knowledge. That’s something you can continue to expand on in phone and in-person interviews.

Overall, changing your career at 40 doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it’s possible. Take things one step at a time to achieve your goal of a new career. After all, it could be what you need to find that missing “something” in your life.

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