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17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40

17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40

Making a career switch is no easy decision, especially when considering the change at 40 or older. You might be wondering which careers are really worth going back to school for at this stage in your career and if the time (and money) spent seeking a degree or certification is worth the payoff.

Luckily, there are several fields worth the mid-career return to school whether income, job security, happiness, or fulfillment at work is your focus for making the switch.

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up 17 careers across 6 fields with help from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that are absolutely worth the investment of returning to school.[1]

Healthcare

1. Registered Nurse

With a stable and constant projected growth and a median salary of $70,000 per year,[2] nursing is a secure career choice worth returning to school for.

To succeed in this field, expect to provide care, education, and support to patients with varying medical needs within hospitals, physician’s offices, and/or through home care.

Time in School: 2 to 4 years

Nursing students can shoot for an associate’s degree in nursing (2 years), a nursing-school specific diploma (time varies), or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (4 years).

2. Medical Administrative Assistant

If you prefer to work in the medical field without direct contact with patients, then a career as a medical secretary may suit you well. The median salary of these professionals is around $34,610 per year.

Medical secretaries do more than just set appointments. Often, this role also handles medical reports, billing, and creating medical charts. Successful candidates for this position will need a strong grasp on clerical skills as well as basic medical knowledge of terminology, technology, and procedures.

Time in School: Around 2 years

While entry-level positions may be offered to those with only a high-school diploma, taking specific training can help an aspiring medical administrative assistant land a position faster.

Many community colleges and technical schools offer programs specific to medical administrative duties, where students learn the basics of administrative work, as well as the specific medical technology they will need to succeed in their roles.

3. Physical Therapist

Another fantastic option within the Healthcare field, physical therapists can earn a median salary of around $86,850 per year. A successful Physical Therapist will help patients manage pain and improve physical movement due to injuries, illnesses, and after procedures.

Time in School: Around 7 years

To become a physical therapist, you will need to earn a doctorate in physical therapy (3 years) in addition to a Bachelor of Science Degree (4 years). If you’re just starting fresh with no prior college education, many degree programs offer a 6-year degree program to complete all requirements from start to finish.

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While on the longer end of time from starting education to completion, the job satisfaction and salaries reported by America’s physical therapists make this career well worth the wait.[3]

Technology

4. Software Developer

The tech industry won’t be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, as tech continues to take over the workforce, this career is a secure, safe, and even lucrative choice when considering a career switch.

The median salary for a software developer is currently around $103,560 per year. To earn that salary, expect to be creating programs for devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and more!

Time in School: About 4 years

Successful software developers often earn a Bachelor of Science degree in either computer science or software engineering. If you have an associate’s degree, you may be able to complete a Bachelor of Science degree program in as little as two years.

5. Web Developer

A web developer is just as it sounds—a professional who designs websites from start to finish for a median salary of around $67,990 per year. Web developers can work as part of a design or marketing agency, work as freelancers, or even start their own businesses creating websites for other businesses and professionals.

Time in School: 2 to 4 years

Web developers need to be well-versed in both coding and graphic design, as they often create both the back-end and the front-end of a website themselves. due to this balance of skills, there are actually many routes one can take to jump-start a career in web development.

An associates degree or a four-year degree in web design is highly common in this field, but a mix of graphic design and coding for web courses can help start this career as well. It’s not unusual for many web developers to be completely self-taught, either, which is definitely something to consider to save time and money.

6. Information Security Analyst

With a median salary of around $95,510 per year, information security analysts help protect the information and data of their business and organization clients. These professionals are often planning and creating strategies to combat cyber-security attacks with both businesses and consumers in mind.

Additionally, information security can be a highly lucrative career when working in conjunction with the U.S. military, where those with security clearances can earn at or well above the median salary.

Time in School: Around 4 years

Information security analysts typically earn a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in a tech-related field such as information assurance, computer science, and/or programming.

One thing to note: Employers often look for experience within their given niche. For example, a financial institution looking to hire an information security analyst is more likely to hire one with experience in finance technology. This is an excellent chance to make your past experience work for you, even within a new career.

Finance

7. Accountant

Accountants (and auditors) work with financial reports, taxes, and records. Their job is to ensure all financial information, whether for a business, professional, or individual, is accurate and that taxes are paid properly and promptly. If you’re considering a career as an accountant, expect to see a median salary of $69,350 per year.

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Time in School: Around 4 to 6 years

Many auditors and accountants have a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Alternatively, there has been a shift in employers preferring those with a master’s degree, either in accounting or a related field in business. A bachelors degree will set you back about four years, and a masters degree about two.

8. Financial Analyst

Unlike an accountant who focuses on the taxes and records side of a business, a financial consultant often deals with stocks and investments and guides both businesses and individuals in financial decisions. The median salary for a financial analyst is $84,300, or $40.53 per hour.

Time in School: About 4 years

Pursuing a career as a financial analyst creates a generous amount of freedom when choosing a degree field. Typically, a four-year degree in either economics, statistics, finance, or even mathematics can be suitable for this career path. Whichever path you may choose, a wide variety of fields are open to you as more often than not, all types of businesses need the expertise of a financial analyst.

Education

9. Elementary School Teacher

A career in teaching can be a rewarding and secure choice, as elementary school teaching positions are at an average growth rate that is predicted to stay more or less the same in future years. While starting salaries may be low for new teachers, the median salary for elementary teaching positions is $57,160.

Time in School: At least 4 years

In addition to a bachelors degree, elementary school teachers must also obtain a license or certification issued by the state in which they work. Expect a fair amount of continuing education to account for curriculum changes and new teaching materials over time.

10. Higher Education Professor

If you prefer to work with more mature pupils, a career in higher education can be just as rewarding as you work to help students succeed in their future careers. Additionally, the median salary for a career in higher education is considerable at $76,000 per year.

What’s more, becoming a college professor can also allow you to work from anywhere as several colleges and universities offer online degree programs for their students.

Time in School: At least 2 to 8 years post-grad

Most traditional four-year institutions require professors to have at least a master’s, if not a doctoral degree. Pursuing a doctoral at age 40 might seem daunting, but if you’ve previously completed a bachelor’s degree, you can easily expand this degree into a master’s or even a doctoral degree in a major related to your previous field of study.

Even if you don’t want to spend quite that much time in school, you’re still in luck—many private, state, and community colleges opt to hire higher education professors who’ve earned master’s degree with demonstrated expertise in their field.

11. Academic Success Counselor

If you desire a career in education but prefer to work outside of the classroom, then consider becoming an academic success counselor. These professionals provide guidance and support for students in higher education, helping them navigate the journey to completing their degrees.

The median salary for school counselors (or academic success counselors) is $55,410.

Time in School: About 4 to 6 years

Most schools require counselors to have a master’s degree as well as a certification or credential in school counseling. A good idea is to also specialize in career development, especially if you’re considering becoming a counselor in higher education.

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If you have some previous education under your belt, like an associate’s degree, the time to complete all schooling for a career as a school counselor can take as little as four years.

Marketing

12. Market Research Analyst

With a growth rate of 26% and climbing, a career as a market research analyst is a secure choice for a career change.[4] Even better, these professionals can work in a variety of fields, as several types of organizations often need the skills of a market research analyst to run their businesses.

So just what does a market research analyst do? Typically, this position aims to study and predict trends among a target market for a specific business, helping to predict who to target for sales and how to sell to them. A career as a market research analyst earns a median salary of about $63,230 per year.

Time in School: Up to 4 years

These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in a field relating to market research. Additionally, strong analytical skills, as well as a tight grasp on mathematics, will help the aspiring market research analyst go far.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a similar field, but feel the need to get more education under your belt, a master’s degree in market research is always eye-catching to employers.

13. Search Engine Optimization Specialist

A relatively new career compared to the others in this roundup, search engine optimization specialists blend market research, web development, and advertising to succeed in their roles.

Simply put, they work closely with the algorithms of search engines like Google and Bing to bring traffic to their clients’ websites, where the goal of that traffic can be anything from higher views and more social media engagement to increased sales.

According to Payscale, the median salary for a search engine optimization specialist is around $55,530 per year, and the role boosts an impressive job satisfaction rate.[5]

Time in School: Up to 4 years

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a fast-paced and ever-changing aspect of internet marketing. As such, there aren’t degree programs specific to the role, as the teachings could change in the blink of an eye. Instead, expect to seek a degree in fields such as business, digital marketing, and data analytics.

If you’re considering a career as an SEO specialist, be prepared for frequent continuing education in the form of industry-recognized digital marketing courses and certifications, such as those offered by Google and Hubspot.

14. Public Relations Specialist

Think you can cultivate and maintain a dynamic and positive public image for a business? That’s exactly what the role of a public relations specialist entails.

These professionals are responsible for handling announcements, press releases, and social media campaigns. Public relations specialists often earn a median income of around $59,300 per year.

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Time in School: About 4 years

A career in public relations often requires a bachelor’s degree in public relations, communications, business, or journalism. If you possess strong writing and communication skills, a career as a public relations specialist could be a great fit for you.

Business Administration

15. Project Manager

Those with exceptional organization and management skills would do well to consider a career as a project manager. These professionals manage several aspects of a business from internal communications to team members and, of course, projects. The median salary for a project manager is around $67,280 per year.[6]

Time in School: Up to 4 years

Due to the flexibility of the position, those seeking a career in project management can pursue a degree in a wide variety of fields, such as business management, computer science, marketing, or even engineering, depending on the field you want to work in.

16. Executive Administrative Assistant

An executive administrative assistant handles clerical tasks for their businesses on advanced levels. In addition to carrying out clerical tasks like filing and call routing (as an entry-level administrative assistant would), executive assistants often prepare critical reports, documents, and oversee/train lower-level staff.

Time in School: Up to 4 years

Expect to earn a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in a business-related field. Your field of study will typically be determined by the type of business you wish to work for.

If you desire to work int he financial field, a financial-related business management degree can help prepare you for the high-level tasks expected of an executive administrative assistant.

17. Human Resources Manager

Another administrative role, human resource managers handle the employee side of a business. These professionals specialize in recruiting and hiring new employees for the business and often work with high-level executives on strategy.

Additionally, they act as a bridge between an employer and its employees while managing the relationships of employees as well.

The median salary for a human resources manager is about $110,120 per year.

Time in School: Up to 4 years

A bachelor’s degree in human resources and strong interpersonal and communication skills are required for a career as a human resources manager. Additionally, employers often value varying types of previous work experience from administrative tasks and reporting to customer service and team management.

Final Words

While heading back to school in the middle of your career can seem daunting, you now have a clearer idea of what to expect when narrowing your selection to careers worthy of making the switch.

The best part is, at 40 and older, you’ve already accumulated several years of valuable life and work experience, and can use this experience to guide you through the next chapter, or use it to help give you a boost in your new career.

More About Changing Lifecourse Late

Featured photo credit: Persnickety Prints via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics: Careers in different fields
[2] Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurse
[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics: America’s physical therapists
[4] Bureau of Labor: Market Research Analysts
[5] PayScale: Average Senior Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist Salary
[6] Bureaux of Labor Statistics: Project coordinator

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Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

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