The Best Jobs for Making a Career Change at 40

Dayton Uttinger
middle aged businessman with hands in pockets

The average American will hold roughly 12 jobs during their working career according to a labor market report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People between the ages of 35 and 44 held an average of three different jobs, as well as nearly two different jobs between the ages of 45 and 52. 

It is not uncommon to start a job or career at the age of 40, and keeping an open mind about your career goals can inspire you to seek out your next employment opportunity. This article will provide a list of some of the best jobs to pursue if you are making a midlife career change, with additional insight to consider while you make the change. 

Table of Contents

Benefits to Making a Midlife Career Change

There are many reasons people choose to seek a new career. You may feel personal dissatisfaction with your career field. You could be moving or experiencing changing financial needs. Or, your company may be closing or downsizing. Regardless, making a career change may bring many benefits. These include:

  • Feeling confident about your ability to perform the job.
  • Your experience may not be directly transferable, but will give you a competitive edge.
  • At 40, you are still in the middle of your working years. While it might seem like time is against you, it is on your side.
  • You can experience a great lifestyle change that could be beneficial to your physical and mental health. 
  • You have the opportunity to renegotiate pay for a possible increase in a new position or at a new company.

While starting a new career is challenging at any time, getting a fresh start with your employment may be an ideal situation. Don’t let a lack of direct experience or a degree hold you back. There are many ways to seek out new employment opportunities, especially if you are willing to pick up a certification on the way to your new job.

The 10 Best Careers to Start at 40

Here are some careers that can be easy to transition into in your 40s:

1. Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

If you’re good with people and you like to plan, becoming an event planner might be the way to go. You can jump into it with little more than a cell phone and some good connections. Plus, event-planning careers are expected to grow much faster than average. In 2020, the average salary for an event planner was $51,560. 

The typical qualifications for event planners include excellent time-management and organization skills, and experience with public relations or hospitality. As an event planner, you may need to have some budgeting, negotiation, and management skills. 

2. Fitness Trainers

If you’re dedicated to fitness, your age might actually be an advantage in this field. Older people get personal trainers too, and they’ll be more likely to trust your experience than someone’s youth. 

You can spend your days helping other people better themselves. Fitness trainers and instructors make over $40,000 on average per year and the job outlook is increasing much higher than average, at 15%. 

You may need to pursue a certification for this job depending on where you live and work, and you can earn some certifications online. Your daily duties may include creating exercise regimens, helping your clients with their health goals and performance, and keeping them motivated.

3. Translators or Interpreters

Speaking multiple languages is a very marketable skill. Even though there is translating software these days, it’s a long way away from replacing humans. Translators and interpreters made an average of $52,330 per year in 2020, and the job outlook is growing at 20% — much faster than average. 

As a translator or interpreter, you may be able to work in a variety of industries, making this career truly varied. Your job duties may entail translating conversations in business, education, or personal settings, translating documents, or researching terms when necessary. 

If you are not a native speaker of the language, you will need a degree, certification, or linguistics accreditation. 

4. Executive Administrative Assistants and Secretaries 

Executive administrative assistants and executive secretary careers are available in a vast diversity of industries, making this position a great opportunity to explore a new industry while using skills that include high levels of organization and multitasking. 

The typical duties of the career include handling information requests, performing routine administrative functions, performing research or preparing statistical reports, as well as managing correspondence and scheduling. The average annual wage for executive administrative assistants and secretaries was $65,230 per year in 2020.

5. Dental Assistant

Depending on where you live, you may be able to become a dental assistant through on-the-job training, or you may be required to pursue certification through an accredited program. The job outlook for dental assistants is growing faster than average at 7%, and in 2020, the average pay was $41,180 per year.

Your duties as a dental assistant may include assisting in providing patient care, taking X-rays, managing records, and scheduling appointments.

6. Patient Care Technicians 

Patient care technicians perform similar duties as certified nursing assistants, but may also provide additional medical services such as performing ECG and EKG readings or drawing blood. To become a patient care technician, you’ll typically need certification from a patient care technician program. 

Patient care technicians also make similar wages to those of nursing assistants and orderlies — roughly $30,830 per year, as of 2020. This career choice can be intrinsically valuable, as you are assisting patients in their diagnosis and medical attention. You may also need high-level communication skills, as you will often speak with patients and their families about their medical care and plans.

7. HR Manager

A career in human resources management can be quite lucrative. HR managers earned an average of $121,220 per year in 2020. Management positions in HR often require related specialist administrative job experience. Some positions may require certification, or a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

HR management positions are available across a range of industries. The primary functions of the position include planning and coordinating for staffing, recruitment, and hiring. HR managers also often act as a liaison between employees and the employer. Additionally, they ensure that the company is in compliance with employment laws and other legal responsibilities. 

8. Project Manager

If you have excellent communication, organization, and time-management skills, a career in project management might be a great option for you. Oftentimes, project management jobs are less focused on educational qualifications and are more interested in your valuable experience, but it depends on every industry and job posting. 

In 2020, the annual average salary for a project manager was $84,290. If you can manage deadlines, make sure that all moving parts of a project are in order, and maintain essential communication to keep things running smoothly, project management may be able to take you into any industry you desire.

9. Veterinary Technician

If you love working with animals, a veterinary technician position could be an intrinsically valuable career change. The job outlook for veterinary technologists and technicians is growing much faster than average, at 16%. The average annual pay for this position was $36,260 per year in 2020.

While the job may bring you great joy to work with animals, you may also encounter emotionally demanding experiences. Typically you must complete a postsecondary program after completing a four year degree to become a technologist. A technician may only require a two year associate degree. In most states, you will also need to receive some level of licensure or certification. 

10. Independent Contractor or Entrepreneur

If you already have a highly valuable skill set, or perhaps a business idea you have been waiting to explore, you may consider becoming an independent contractor or entrepreneur. 

The evolving digital landscape of gig work, side hustles, remote work, freelancing, and digital nomads offers plenty of opportunities for independent contracting. Taking hold of these opportunities may allow you to pursue your dream job of becoming an entrepreneur and managing your own business.

Tips for Changing Careers at 40

The following sections provide sage advice for seeking a new midlife career.

Set a Clear Goal for Your New Career

Given that you could be facing a bit of a challenge, it’s important that you create a battle plan before you quit your current job.

Figure out exactly what you’re missing from your career, and how you’ll be evaluating your new one. You need to know what you’re looking for in order to find it. This might be simple if it’s an increase in salary, but it’s helpful to name less-concrete things like “meaning” or “more time with family.” 

Once you have a clear set of goals, you will be better able to assess opportunities and specific job openings to determine if they represent progress for you.

Research the Jobs in Your Desired Career Field

It’s not enough to just know what you want out of a career. You’ve got to make sure that there is demand, and that you have the skills needed to be a competitive candidate. 

If you do have to go back to school, then you need to know what sort of degree will be required and how long that will take you to achieve. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start.

Also, it’s important to look into what each of your prospective jobs actually entails. Compare the job description of your current job to what you actually do. See how different they are. Try to talk to people in the field and read interviews to get a good idea of what you’ll actually be doing.

Take Modest Steps to Get Started

Talking to people in the field will also help you network, so if you do look for work in the area, they can point you in the right direction.

See if there are some free online courses you can take, so you can get a feel for the field. This will let you know how much work you’ll have to do to catch up to industry standards.

At this point, create a clear to-do list of what you need to accomplish to get your foot in the door. The more detailed, the better. Start with the small steps before you really commit. Career changes can be very expensive, and you don’t want to switch only to realize you should’ve done more research.

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