How to change careers in your 50s

There is a growing trend for people to change careers in their 40s and 50s. How can you go about it?

older woman in her 50's discussing her career options


It’s estimated that by 2030 a half of all UK adults will be over 50. It’s a factor of our ageing population, but also that we are staying healthy for longer and 50+ employment rates are increasing.

We’re also seeking new challenges and inspiration from our work, which is creating a growing trend for people to change careers in their 40s and 50s. With the ‘job for life’ long gone, we’re taking control of our careers. 

If you’re considering a career change in your 50s, read on for advice and suggestions on how to approach it.

Why seek a new career at 50?

In choosing a new direction, think about the reasons why you want to change your career. Perhaps you need a change of pace? Some people want to work less in their 50s and make time for hobbies and other interests, while others feel that they want to step up a gear and take on new challenges and responsibilities.

Are you seeking more flexibility – in working hours or location perhaps? Or is it simply that you’re ready for a change after a long time in your current role? Perhaps you’ve been a stay-at-home mum who now needs a new focus.

Choosing a new career over 50

If you’re not sure what you’d like to do as your new role, think about what you enjoy about work, the skills you have and what you’re passionate about. Are you happy to be managed or would you prefer to be your own boss? 

Many people in this age group seek to do something more creative, more rewarding or more ‘worthwhile’ with their time. 

Career ideas for the over 50s

Teaching is an increasingly popular choice for people in their 50s – whether it’s in schools, in college or university, or privately. It’s an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience, and take pleasure in seeing others learn. 

People often seek to work in the charity sector, both as volunteers and as paid employees, while others set up their own businesses and become their own boss.

If you’ve spent a good amount of time in the business sector, you have a number of options including interim work, where you lend your expertise for a short term contract to help businesses overcome certain challenges. Many people over 50 seek non-executive director positions too, where you sit on the board of a company to help it make strategic decisions for the future. 

If these ideas don’t appeal, think about your passions. Would you like to work with children or animals, or focus on your creative skills like sewing, art or crafts? 

Or do you want to do something completely new, in which you might have no experience at all?

Apprenticeships for the over 50s

If you want to take up a totally new career, the Government is actively targeting people aged 50 and over to encourage them to take up apprenticeships. More than a tenth of people in apprenticeships today are aged over 45. 

There is a vast range of opportunities on offer, at different educational levels, and in many different fields from agriculture to banking. You can explore the opportunities on the government website.

Change careers in your 50s – what to consider

Once you’ve found a new career that appeals to you, take a little time to think through what it will mean in practice. Will you need so save up to fund the training, or pay the bills while you’re learning your new trade? 

What impact will the new role have on your life at home – will you have less time to cook and clean, or more spare time to fill? 

How will you approach handing in your notice? Many employers these days are very supportive and may even allow you to continue working while you retrain or start setting up a business. 

There are lots of good sources of advice online, so do your homework and get planning! 

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