Retraining for a new career in your 50s and beyond

Are you 50 plus and want to stay in work, but feel the time is right for something new? Retraining may be for you.

Happy mature woman


More and more people are working later in life but sometimes they choose to either ‘downsize’ their careers to something less stressful and more flexible, or choose to do something entirely different.

Time to retrain?

Retraining can vary widely, and will largely depend on the kind of role that you are looking to get into. 

For example it could mean something as simple as a home learning course, where you receive a certificate of competency in a new software or similar at the end of the course. 

Alternatively it could be a re-entry or returner programme which has been specifically set up to provod

Retraining covers a lot of different options, depending on the role that you’re interested in. It could mean studying for a university degree , or it could be a vocational course such as pet grooming, plumbing or photography. Some courses, such as getting into teaching later in life, might allow you to learn on the job.

For some jobs, you won’t necessarily need formal training, but would have to gain experience in a new field in order to make a go of it as an alternative career. 

Perhaps you want to move from office work to gardening – your training could come through volunteering to work with an established gardener or community garden group. 

If you have been out of work for a year or more, returner and re-entry programmes are becoming more and more common amongst corporate employers. These courses don’t always guarantee a job at the end but can give you a refresher in certain skills and boost your confidence in getting back to work. 

What will it cost?

The cost depends on your chosen field. Studying for a degree or post graduate qualification, for example, usually involves tuition fees. If you search around, however, you might be able to find funding options to help you with the cost.

Different colleges and universities will have different fees depending on the course, so it’s worth taking some time to examine the options.

Fees also vary for vocational courses. Check out the prices for courses at your local colleges – or you can find a distance learning course online. 

Why retrain?

You need to spend some time examining your motivations, but with luck retraining can enable you to discover a brand new career that you love, plus it may give you more flexibility in your working life that you need or desire. 

Just make sure you are confident that your proposed career move is the right one for you and that you can comfortably pay for the training – as well as potentially not earning for a while while you retrain.

Finding opportunities

Even if you don’t have a new dream career in mind, you can still explore retraining opportunities – searching on line for affordable training courses could give you the inspiration you need. You could also consider talking to your current employer, if you have one. Most employers are keen to keep good people and some will encourage people to move around the organisation. Perhaps there are opportunities to do something a bit different, but still within the comfort zone of your current employment?

Go for it!

If your heart is set on a change, go for it. Like most decisions in life, you’re more likely to regret NOT making a change than you are trying something completely new.

Comments [9]

  • Jacqueline Prentis says:

    Im looking to retrain in office work, due to health issues, iv have never done office work before, but i need to find something that doesnt involve heavy lifting, im only contracted to 12hrs aweek, but my husband earns lot more than me, so money could be a problem, I dont know if my husband wage matters, thisis the first time iv looked into anything.

  • Steve smith says:

    I am 71 this year and would like a part time job maintenance/site services or vehicle restoration. I worked as a electrical mechanical body engineer for Special Vehicles for Land Rover for 46 yrs.

  • Beverley Smith says:

    I am looking to study Finance or HR. My background is admin but I am not sure which courses are accessible part time and accredited.

    Thank you.

  • Derek says:

    I wish to return to gas servicing after 20yrs in management, all old qualifications were ACOPS not ACS

  • Deborah leonard says:

    I have just turned sixty and want to learn new skills like digital skills that I can work from home because of a health condition

  • Lucy Cowell says:

    I did just this, I was 49 when I applied for a totally different role from anything I’d don’t before but followed a dream. The new role offered full and continued training. I took a substantial pay cut to begin with, but have definitely recouped the benefits less than 3 years down the road. No regrets and absolute love what I do now, even if it scares me occasionally too!

    • lucy standing says:

      If it helps, there is a not for profit organisation called Brave Starts which helps people do this. There are free drop in sessions with career coaches, lots of networking events and courses, a monthly newsletter sharing opportunities and it costs nothing to join.

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