This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. By clicking ‘Close’, you consent to our continued use of cookies. For more information please read our cookie policy.

Close X

Changing career in your 30s and 40s

Older lady

While many people in their 30s and 40s feel like pursuing something new, few take the bold step to completely change their career. It’s a daunting prospect, but knowing where to start is often the most difficult point. Here are a few tips to help you explore your options.



Some people have a clear idea of what they want to pursue; others just know they need something new. Evaluating what you like/dislike about your current role will help to identify the type of job you’ll find most fulfilling in the future. Think about what would make your working life more enjoyable; consider what your ideal job would entail day-to-day and pinpoint what interests you. Changing career is a big decision so you need to be confident that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options you can start researching different businesses and careers. Even if you’ve got a specific role in mind it’s important to research it to understand how best to break into the industry:

  • Look at job profiles on employment websites to understand what skills and qualifications are required.
  • Explore different roles within the industry and assess how they link together – you may need to work your way up.
  • Are there volunteering opportunities that could help you gain relevant skills?
  • Do you have any connections already working in the industry that could help you get started?
  • Think about how your current skills can be transferred to your dream role. You may find that you can make a change in a less drastic way by side-stepping into a new department.
  • Evaluate salaries for this industry – consider that you may have to start at the bottom. Are you prepared to drop your income level?
  • Starting a new job is one of the most stressful things you can do1, so be sure that you’re ready for this life-changing decision.

Get qualified

Education is one of the biggest catalysts for change and a degree can give you the credentials to apply for a wider range of jobs. If you haven’t been to university then a degree can open new doors and give you the knowledge and confidence to pursue a new profession. If you’ve already studied a subject at undergraduate level but now have a different interest, you may be able to study a conversion course or Masters degree to help you break into your chosen field. Returning to the classroom can be intimidating but you’re not alone – mature students make up around a third of the UK’s student population2.

There are also lots of flexible study options that allow you to get to grips with a new subject while maintaining the income and security of your current position. Studying online is a popular option for ‘career-changers’ as it allows you to effectively manage the cost of obtaining a degree and you can fit study around your existing work/family commitments.

Here at University of Essex Online, we offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate online part-time courses in subjects including business, law, criminology and health. Download our prospectus to learn more.

Be realistic

Don’t feel like you’ve wasted time in your current role. Age and experience are great assets. Employers are looking for well balanced, knowledgeable individuals and combining your experience with a formal qualification will make you stand out in the graduate job market. However, you should be realistic with your new career expectations. If you’re in a high-powered position in your current industry you may have to start from the bottom and work your way up again.

Volunteering, networking and starting in an entry level job are other ways to break into a new industry. Do your research to work out what options suit your needs. There’s more to consider when you’re older as your decision may affect family and you’re more likely to have financial commitments. Once you’ve made a plan, you need to tell your friends and family. If you’re already successful in your current field they may find it difficult to understand your motivations – having a plan and showing you’ve put thought into the decision will show loved ones that you’re serious about your new career choice.

If you’re looking for a change but are not in the position to climb a new career ladder from the bottom, consider compromising. Try going into a role in a field somewhere between your current sector and your dream role. This will give you the financial stability and authority you’ve worked towards, whilst giving you room to grow into your new role. This gives you the potential to move into your desired field at a later date. Changing career can be a journey, rather than a new chapter.

Go for it

Making a career change is a life changing event but it’s becoming increasingly common for people to have two or three different careers in their lifetime. Changing career takes dedication and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but work is such a big part of our lives that it is important to pursue a role that you find fulfilling. Many of our alumni have used their online education to switch careers and have never looked back; you can read their inspirational stories here. Switching career isn’t easy but if you’re really set on something new it is achievable!