The independent, trusted guide to online education for over 23 years!

Changing Careers: Pros, Cons & Best Practices

Employee considering changing careersIt’s never too late for a change but you must weigh the pros and cons before changing careers.

Whether you want to make more money, have more free time, or work in a more fulfilling role, a career change is often a great idea.

According to a report from the American Institute for Economic Research, 82% of “late-in-career changers” were considered successful in their shift. In other words, if you plan appropriately, you have (statistically speaking) a better than four-in-five chance of succeeding when you change careers.

Those are promising numbers!

And what’s more, it may be easier than you think! With the right preparation, a positive mindset, and perhaps just a little online education, you can find a top-quality career that helps achieve your goals.

It’s never too late, so let’s learn more about how to change careers so you can find the right path for your future.

What Do We Mean by “Changing Careers?”

When we discuss how to change careers, we’re not just talking about finding a new job. We are talking about completely changing the type of work you do, including changing the industry.

In other words, we’re not talking about going from being an accountant with Jones & Smith to an accountant with Alan & Brooks. We’re talking about being an accountant with Jones & Smith, then becoming a truck driver, a software programmer, a nurse, or an engineer.

It’s not about finding a new job, it’s about completely overhauling your career and finding a new direction for your future.

Pros & Cons of a New Career

Before you make the leap, you need to think long and hard about your change. There are, of course, clear benefits and disadvantages to making this shift…

Pros to a Career Change:

Chance to Increase Income
Plain and simple, one of the most common motivators for people making a career change is money. When you change not just your job, but your entire career, you can select an industry or profession that has better salaries. Nothing is guaranteed, and a lot will depend on the specific career you select (you could change careers and have a reduced salary) but money remains one of the top motivators for moving into a new career.

Advance Career
Maybe it’s not the money that’s an issue, but career advancement. Staying with the same organization, or even staying in the same industry, could limit your chances for promotion, but choosing a new career may open new opportunities for advancement. Perhaps you want a leadership role but, for whatever reason, they are hard to come by in your current career. Changing careers could lead to a new chance at leadership.

Fresh Environment, aka the “Change of Scenery” Theory
In the spring of 2013, baseball player Jake Arrieta was a struggling pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. The talented hurler had been bounced around from the minors to the majors, but could never channel his immense talent into sustained success. Eventually he was traded in a multi-player deal that placed him with the Chicago Cubs, where, for whatever reason, he thrived. As a Cub, Arrieta pitched two no hitters, led his league in wins in 2015, won a National League Cy Young Award (best pitcher), and won two games in the dramatic 2016 World Series. This outstanding success led directly to a three-year, $75 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

What happened?
There could be many explanations, including new training or coaches, but many have credited the lift to a phenomenon in sports often referred to as the “change of scenery” theory. Sometimes, it seems, players thrive when the move to a new town and a new team. Perhaps this same theory could apply to your situation. If you feel your job has stagnated, dulled, and become too routine, perhaps a change of scenery, including a change of careers, could be right for you.

Move to a Situation with Less Stress
Too many people work in stressful settings. Even if the money is good, stress can lead to a variety of health issues that make the job unbearable while reducing your quality of living. To escape stress, many people decide to change careers and seek a different path. You may find that the money is reduced, but the overall benefit to your lifestyle could be worth a career change to a more comfortable, stress-free setting.

Cons to a Career Change:

Commitment Can be Questioned
It’s not really a fair critique, but some will question your commitment when you shift careers at age 50. Employers will wonder why you left your previous job and will be nervous that you may leave their company just as quickly as you arrived. Hiring employees is time consuming and expensive, so employers want to know they are hiring someone who will stick. This stigma, while not at all fair, will likely be the first hurdle you need to overcome.

Expose Yourself to Modern Job Competition
Yes, when you move careers, you have the chance to move up the ladder. (Perhaps the ladder you’re on isn’t quite long enough.) But you also expose yourself to competition, competition that you haven’t had to deal with since the last time you looked for a job, which may have been decades before. Landing a job in today’s employment market requires new approaches to searching, resumes, and interviewing, so you must be prepared to deal with new competition on an ever-changing playing field.

You Could Enter a Worse Situation
As the cliche goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. But sometimes the grass is perfect right under your feet. The hard truth is, you may enter a job situation that is worse than your current career. You may enter a career with fewer openings, or take a position with far more stress than you originally thought. “Worse” can be defined in a variety of ways, but you may become nostalgic for that comfortable job you used to hold.

Prove Yourself All Over Again
In your current career, you are established, respected, and confident. You’ve worked hard over the years to earn a reputation as one of the leaders in your company; maybe even in your entire industry. Are you ready to start from the bottom and prove yourself all over again?

What Career is Right for Me?

So you’re ready to make the leap into a new career. Now you need to decide where you are going. If you are dedicated to creating a new path for your life, you need to choose which path to take. This decision, for some, is easy. For others, it takes weeks, months, even years of deep, thoughtful contemplation.

First of all, we should emphasize the importance of committing to a change. Make it a top priority in your life, not something that you might do this weekend maybe if you find time. Make your career shift a priority or it will never happen.

But how can you possibly decide on a new career? It’s a complicated issue, but we would encourage you to simplify the decision by separating it into two factors: internal and external.

Internal Consideration

This part of the decision process is all about you. What are your passions? What do you like to do? How do you like to work? Do you work best in groups or on your own? Think about your hobbies; could any of them translate into a real career? For example, if you enjoy reading, perhaps a career as a librarian would be appropriate. If you enjoy working outdoors, perhaps something in gardening, landscaping, or groundskeeping would make you happy. You’ll also want to consider your strengths; are you good at math, leadership, organization, working with your hands, or fixing things? These skills, even if you’re not passionate about them, could guide your next career choice.

External Consideration

Next you’ll want to think externally. During this time, research the various careers that you are considering, with a particular focus on available jobs, growth, and salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a wonderful resource, as they have detailed data on an extensive list of careers.

When looking for your next career, look at a variety of factors that will impact your chances of landing a job and remaining happy throughout your career. For every career you research, look at the information on total job numbers and career growth. If the numbers are low, or if the growth is stagnant, you may be completely qualified for the career but find there are few available opportunities.

You’ll also want to look at the median salary listed by the BLS. Yes, you could certainly earn more than the median, but this will give you a good indication of how much you can expect to earn if you pursue this path. Consider majors that earn top dollar and see if they interest you.

The other information you’ll want to look at is required education. You might find that with a little experience you would be completely qualified for the job. Other positions, on the other hand, may require you to go back to school for four years. Either way, you should know how much education you need to start a new career in a certain area.

How to Change Careers in your Mid-life Years

When you are over 50, shifting to a new career can be intimidating. It may have been decades since you last interviewed for a job, and you may be afraid that your age could hold you back. However, with the right focus, you can use your age as an advantage.

Instead of worrying about your age, play up your experience. You have a lot of wisdom and experience to share, and this can be a significant advantage to potential employers. Make sure they know that if they were to hire you, you would bring knowledge and experience that younger candidates can’t. You might even be able to use your experience towards an online degree.

Another advantage that you have over younger, less-experienced job candidates is an extensive network of connections. There are many modern ways to land a job, ways that often don’t involve actually meeting someone face to face. However, to best way to get the next position is to use your contacts. Ask people you know about potential job openings in the sector where you want to work and use these connections to your advantage.

In many cases, you will be interviewed and, if hired, managed by people who are younger than you, and it can be a challenge to convince managers that you are okay with being supervised by a younger person. Give them reassurance by telling them you are okay with that role and that you respect the manager-employee relationship.

When interviewing, always focus on positivity and energy. You do not want to give the appearance that you are a negative person or that you lack enthusiasm for the work. (You probably are positive and energized if you left your previous career, but employers may not think this way.) Make it clear that if this company hires you, they’ll get someone with just as much drive, passion, and energy as any 20-year-old, plus they’ll get the advantage of your experience and wisdom.

Using Online Education for a Career Shift

Earlier, we discussed researching careers to see how much education you’ll need for a specific position. If you find that you need a large amount of education to land a career, you may assume that attending classes in person, at a specific time, is the only option. After all, that was the only option when you were in your 20’s.

Today, however, online education is changing how people learn, and it’s perfect for someone making a career shift. With online education, you are able to attend classes that fit your specific schedule. You likely need to continue working while you pursue an education, and online classes allow you to study and learn in a way that fits an already crammed schedule. You can work during the day, maybe even care for your kids, then take classes and complete assignments from the comfort of your own home. This also reduces that chances of missing a class, as it is far easier to sit at the kitchen table than to drive to campus.

Prices vary, but online classes can also be more affordable than traditional college. Online programs can eliminate many of the costs that drive up typical classes, such as additional staff and facility maintenance. Also, you won’t have the costs of commuting, further adding to your overall savings.

Another advantage of online education is that you can study just about any subject from virtually anywhere. With previous education, you basically had to be in a certain area to enroll in a program. Say, for example, you want to study engineering, but the nearest top-quality engineering school is 300 miles away; you certainly don’t want to uproot your family life to enroll in this college. With today’s online learning, you can bring an excellent engineering education to your home, giving you a world of opportunity without having to move.

Some people, quite frankly, simply learn better from the comfort of their own homes. There is no pressure to participate in class or be a part of group discussions (although these elements are available in online education), so you can study and learn in an environment that allows you to be comfortable and happy, which is when the best learning will happen!

Perhaps best of all, learning online allows you to keep your job, which is crucial for many people who are looking to change careers. In some cases, getting a college degree requires you to quit your job, which leads many people to avoid advanced education altogether. Juggling the demands of school and work is complex, and it’s even more difficult when you have to attend in-person classes. With online education, however, you won’t have this common problem.

Choosing the Right Online Education for Your Career Change

Every online program is different, and even two programs covering the same academic topic can be vastly unique from each other. This is why you need to take your time and be selective with your choice.

Most importantly, make sure the program is accredited. “Accreditation” is a system of verifying a program’s quality and consistency, and it adds authority and respectability to your degree. Be sure that the program is accredited before enrolling. Be aware of fake accreditation agencies.

You will also want to review the program’s classes to make sure they fit your specific goals for the future. Be sure the classes cover the topics and skills that you need for your career shift.

Finally, check the program’s schedule to verify that the classes are 100% online or if there will be in-person requirements. This is an important part about how you interact with the class, and it can disrupt your overall availability. View a list of the top, flexible online programs for adults.

Additionally, consider programs that waive entrance exams for a graduate level program to avoid the additional time needed to study for the GRE or GMAT.


Online education is a popular way for non-traditional students to complete classes while maintaining a busy lifestyle. View the most popular online degree programs for adults below.

Popular Online Master Degrees

View all online degrees


Related Resources

Cost Rankings of Online Degrees  
Best Accredited Schools for Life Experience Degrees