Career Change at Middle Age

Posted by Dr. Al Lee

"Career change at middle age." Just the words seem daunting, but in our ever-changing job market and the current economic downturn, more and more people are switching careers, some by choice, and others out of economic necessity.

One common route to a career change is further education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, back in 2006 employees with a graduate or professional degree earned an average salary of $80K, while those with bachelor's degrees earned an average of $55K; that's a big difference in pay. If you're interested in heading back to school, check out online degree programs in the PayScale Education Center.

How would a new degree affect your salary?  Find out with the PayScale Salary Calculator.

Career Change Motivation

Some middle-aged folks might feel awkward going back to college. Visions of being the only 40-something in a sea of 20-somethings may make you feel uncomfortable, but according to the U.S. Department of Education, almost 20 percent of all first-year graduate students are 40 or older. Even former President Bush had a midlife career change: from oil exploration to baseball team ownership to politics.

Loans and Grants for Career Change

How to pay for graduate schools is an important concern. For some lucky workers, your employer may pay for some of it. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 25 percent of all graduate students (40 and older) receive employer aid averaging about $3K a year. This is when your employer pays for schooling that will aid in your contribution to the company.

Here in Seattle, both Boeing and Microsoft have generous tuition payment programs; my former colleagues at Microsoft often used that benefit to earn MBAs from the University of Washington.

Career Change Scholarship

When it comes to financial aid packages, there is no age limit, and you can go to grad school part-time. While filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), keep in mind that federal aid guidelines don't include home equity or retirement accounts, and some of your savings - usually $40K to $50K - is not counted when applying for aid. In addition to $20,500 a year in Federal Stafford loans (via the FAFSA), there are also various scholarships and grants offered by private foundations.

Organizational Change Job Description

There are other ways to change careers without going back to school. suggests: "Identify unfilled needs and volunteer to do them while in your current job. You may be saddled with extra work temporarily, but it may get you into the new area or a promotion." Another way is to start your new career on weekends and weeknights.

Retirement Jobs: After 50 Career Change

While middle-aged folks are switching careers, their older counterparts are going back to work. According to an article on about retirement jobs, those over 50 can find employment listings at  Older workers may face age-related bias, but there are many companies looking to hire older workers such as, American Red Cross, the Peace Corps, Wells Fargo, Citizens Bank and Borders Books.

How would your salary change if you changed careers? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.



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