Changing Careers Guide

Changing your career can be exciting but also stressful and intimidating. You might have some fear as to what will happen during the transition, especially if you don’t know where to start or if your background is in a different field. Depending on where you are in life, you may be hesitant to switch careers but don’t want to be stuck in a job that isn’t enjoyable.

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So, what can you do to successfully make a career change?

Motivations for a Career Change

Whether you are seeking a change of pace or simply want to be happier, there are many things that can prompt a career change. You may be:

Having the career that you want affects many parts of your life, relationships, and health. While working in a job you aren’t passionate about, moving into another field can seem appealing.

  • Losing satisfaction in your work
  • Uninterested in your job altogether
  • Questioning the purpose of your role
  • Feeling that your career is no longer fulfilling
  • Too familiar — and bored — with what you do
  • Ready to learn something new
  • Stuck in a dead-end job with a lack of career advancement opportunities
  • Realizing that you don’t want to do your boss’s job
  • Simply trying to survive in your current position instead of flourishing
  • Burnt out and feel drained from long hours at the office
  • Stressed beyond typical levels
  • Disagreeing with your coworkers or management

No matter which of these reasons you relate to, determining how to change your career can positively impact your life.

Choosing the Right Career

The first step to figuring out how to change your career is to find one that fits you best. The career path you went into straight out of college may not have perfectly suited your personality or interests, so how do you determine what you should be doing instead? How do you begin if you have no idea what to do?

The thought may cross your mind that you should simply stay in the same role but change companies. Even though this may seem like a logical solution, it might not actually solve the issue of what is making you unhappy with your current job in the first place.

You need to determine what is causing the unhappiness and ask yourself some questions.

  • Do you know what you would rather be doing?
  • What are your values and personal mission?
  • What strengths do you have that could help you through a career change?
  • Are there any obstacles that are keeping you from pursuing a new job?

One way to discover a new career path is to reflect on what you have done in the past and figure out what you enjoyed. You may be able to turn your passion into a career. Next, do some research. Learn about every aspect about your potential career field. Conduct searches online through job boards or the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These resources include information for a variety of careers in the following areas:

  • Salary information
  • Job responsibilities
  • Required educational background
  • Required skills
  • Additional skills that can help you stand out

Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions during your career search. Contact recruiters or talk to those who currently work in those positions. See if you can gain deeper insight about the occupation by job shadowing for a couple of hours one day. As you learn more about your potential next field and career, you will find out what challenges you may face every day and see if the job is still ideal.


Once you have determined which career path to pursue next, enrolling in some classes or an online degree program can help boost your credentials. Being able to show that you have some knowledge of the field you’re pursuing demonstrates to potential employers that you aren’t just changing careers for no reason. It displays your passion and enthusiasm. You can also gain real-world experience through freelance opportunities or volunteer work.

Also, find others who will support you throughout your job transition. Not only will they lend an ear or give you helpful advice, they will also hold you accountable to ensure that you take all of the necessary actions. Having a support group is also helpful if you have children or other responsibilities. Have them understand that your decision to change careers will make a positive impact on all aspects of your life.

Career Change Ideas

Nearly any field can be your next when you decide to move into a new career. For example, you can move into business, social work, or nursing roles. What career you choose to pursue can also change depending on your age. You might wonder what happens when you change careers at certain points in your life. Is going into another profession ideal if you are 30 years old? What if you’re 40 or 50?

No matter which route you take, you will need to update your resume and cover letter so you can better market yourself to employers in a new industry.

Manager welcomes new employee to his team while his other direct reports smile.

Changing to a Business Career

Business careers are in high demand, with employment expected to increase 10% through 2026, according to the BLS. The median annual salary, $67,710, is twice the average for all other occupations.

Moving into the field of business can be enticing because there are a variety of professions to choose from:

You also might possess many skills that can transfer into one of these roles, making your career change a more natural transition.

Young man shaking an older mans hand

Changing to a Social Work Career

Social work is a rapidly growing industry. In fact, the BLS predicts that employment for social workers will grow 16% through 2026 — much faster than the average for all careers. In this field, you can work with individuals or groups, in administration, or even advocate for change on a large scale.

If you’re thinking about moving into social work but don’t believe you have the right background for it, don’t worry. According to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), you don’t need a Bachelor of Social Work degree for admission to a Master of Social Work program. You can enter a MSW program with a bachelor’s degree in any field, which will give you a diverse background that may help you be stronger in certain roles.

Changing to a Nursing Career

With the aging population, nurses are in high demand. Along with median salaries that are much higher than the average for all occupations, the employment outlook for nurses is exceptionally strong. For registered nurses, employment is expected to grow 15% through 2026. Employment for advanced practice registered nurses — such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners — is expected to grow 31%.

Within a few years, you can switch from a non-nursing career to a nursing role, especially if you take an accelerated online degree program. Whether you earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field, you will gain the advanced skills you need to thrive in a medical setting.

What Age is Ideal for Changing Careers?

Through various stages of your life, you may think about changing your career and consider how you could do so.

Transferable Skills When Changing Careers

As a working professional, chances are you already have many skills that you have gained throughout your work experience that can be applied to a career in another field. Having transferable skills can help make transitioning into a new career easier and faster, and depending on the employer, it can sometimes be substituted for additional formal training.

Determine which skills you have and compare those with what employers in your new field are seeking. For example, if you have worked in retail for several years, your customer service skills can transfer to a front desk receptionist position at a doctor’s office. If you feel as though you don’t have any transferable skills, continuing your education may be more ideal.

How an Online Degree Can Help You Change Careers

Whether you are considering changing into a career in a completely different field or are realizing that your priorities have changed throughout the years, an online degree can help you reach your professional goals.

Offering more convenience than one on campus, an online degree program can be ideal if you are balancing your current full-time job with your studies. With a flexible schedule, you can work around your professional and family commitments and study during the morning hours, late at night, or during weekends. Many online programs can also be completed at your own pace.

Online degree programs help you build on skills you currently possess, which you can immediately apply to your current job. Through your program, you will also have the opportunity to network with your peers and potential employers within your new field.

If you are unable to find an on-campus program near you, it might be easier to find one online. Conduct some research before choosing a degree path and find out what educational background or credential is needed for the career you want. You might be able to find a program that offers both certificate and degree options, so that you can earn the certificate first and pursue the degree later if necessary.

Additionally, you should look at what comes with the online degree program you choose. Does the school offer career services? Online career services — like career advising or counseling, resume assistance, and job search help — can benefit you by providing a stronger outcome upon graduation. Also, make sure the program is through a reputable school. Is the online program accredited, and do the instructors have prior experience in the field?

An online education can be the perfect tool to help you through a career change. No matter your age or background, you can find a field that aligns with your goals, boost your credentials, and become happier and successful.