11 Midlife Career Change Ideas That Don’t Suck

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Want to know what’s wrong with most lists of midlife career change ideas?  They SUCK!  That’s right; I said it.  That is unless you inherited a large sum of money, don’t need to rely on a realistic income or you relish the idea of starting a four-year degree program in your forties or fifties.

Many similar lists describe great, high paying positions requiring a bachelor’s or master’s degree or are full of jobs that almost anyone can qualify for, but the pay is lousy.  My guess is, you have a pile of bills to pay.  I understand.  There’s a mortgage, car payment, food, medical insurance, and cell phone plan to contend with every month.  Some midlifers are also footing the bill for their kids’ college tuition.  Ouch!

So, let’s get real.  In order for the majority of midlife career changes to be possible, they have to be long on financial rewards and short on educational requirements.  Face it, if you’re reading this post, you’re no spring chicken.  Sorry.  Yet you still might be looking at over twenty years of full-time employment.

How do you make the most of the time you have left in the workforce and still make a decent wage?  By choosing a new profession that pays at least $40,000 annually and won’t take more than two years of additional education to qualify for.  That’s a tall order, but not impossible to fill.  So, without further delay, here are my 11 midlife career change ideas:

1. Surgical Technologist:

Scrub techs, as they are sometimes called, prep patients and operating rooms for surgery.  In addition, they sterilize instruments and supplies and hand them to surgeons during procedures.  Obviously, to be a good candidate, the sight of blood shouldn’t make you light-headed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for this position is a surprising $44,330 and the job outlook for the next several years is good.  Training programs of one or two years are available at community colleges and vocational schools. Learn more from the Association of Surgical Technologists.

2. Wind Turbine Service Technician:

You weren’t expecting that one, were you?  With the expansion of the green energy industry, job openings for this position are on the rise.  If you don’t mind working several hundred feet in the air in tight spaces, this could be the career for you.  There are even offshore wind turbines to be fixed and maintained if that tickles your fancy.  The typical annual salary for technicians is $51,050.  An associate’s degree from a tech school or community college is required.  Most companies will offer and require additional on-the-job training.  For further information, go to WindTurbineTechnicians.net.

 3. Paralegal Assistant:

No, you won’t get to make objections in court or make an emotional closing argument to a jury as a PA.  They work behind the scenes conducting interviews, drafting documents and verifying information for lawyers in their firm.  While the legal field is not as glamorous or dramatic as shows like Law & Order would have you believe, this is a respectable position with a median pay of $48,810 .  An associate’s degree or certificate in paralegal studies is required.  ParalegalEDU.org has additional details on the courses and training you may need.

4. Licensed Practical Nurse:

LPNs usually work in hospitals and are supervised by registered nurses.  Duties include taking vital signs, administering medications, changing dressings, and performing CPR in emergencies.  Is it just me, or does this sound remarkably similar to the job description of a parent?  Yes, but the pay is better.  The median salary for an LPN is $43,170 per year but varies by region.  Training programs at colleges take one or two years to complete and most states require licensure.  Due to shortages in certain locations, employers may even offer a signing bonus, tuition reimbursement or other incentives.  Get additional facts from the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses.

 5. Computer User Support Specialist:

That title is a mouth full, don’t you think?  Otherwise known as help desk technicians (HDTs), they troubleshoot and provide assistance to computer users, usually via phone or email.  These specialists identify and solve hardware, software, and operating system problems for people within their company, clients or end users.  HDTs are the techy super-heroes you call after banging your head on your keyboard in frustration.  They make a good median salary of $51,470 per year.  Education requirements vary widely.  Many employers ask for a bachelor’s degree in computer science while others only require a two-year degree.  For information on how to become a computer user support specialist, click here.

6. Social Media Manager:

Yes, you can earn a decent living by becoming media and tech savvy.  That will be handy when you want to spy on your kid’s Instagram account.  A thorough understanding of programs like PhotoShop and social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is a must.  Larger companies will require a bachelor’s degree in marketing or communications.  However, some smaller businesses will accept a two-year degree.  Classes can be taken to fill in any skills gaps you have.  For a list of several certification courses, click here.  Candidates with little experience or education should not expect to make the median salary of $47,190.

 7. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer:

This might be my favorite of the health-related jobs on this list because it pays well and involves almost no handling of body fluids.  Yay!   A medical sonographer operates equipment that creates images through the use of sound waves.  The images are recorded and given to a physician to aid in the diagnostic process.  This field requires at least an associate’s degree and certification or licensing from your state.  The median salary is a whopping $63,630 per year.  Learn more through the American Registry for  Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

8. Court Reporter:

Stenographers or Stenotype operators, as they are often called, produce transcripts of court proceedings using voice writing equipment or machine shorthand.  The 2015 median pay for this position is decent at $49,500.  Great listening skills are a must.  In other words, chatter boxes need not apply.  Candidates must complete a court reporting program at a community college or dedicated court reporter school.  CourtReporterEDU.org can answer any additional questions you may have.

 9. Occupational Therapy Assistant:

OTAs work under the supervision of an occupational therapist.  Duties include guiding patients through exercises and making them cry.  Or, perhaps that was just my own personal experience.  In any case, they provide treatments to clients, monitor progress, and report the results to the therapist in charge.  OTAs earn an impressive median salary of $54,520 and need only an associate’s degree in occupational therapy assisting and state licensing.  Not a bad return on investment.  The American Occupational Therapy Association has more details.

Related Reading: 25+ Terrific Gen Xer, Midlifer, and Boomer Blogs to Love

10. Criminal Investigator:

Remember the campy detective shows you grew up with like Magnum P.I. or Charlie’s Angels?  Well, this career rarely involves car chases, black-tie events, or bathing suits.  Bummer.  Private investigators gather information through interviews, court records, surveillance, and the internet.  They report their findings to law enforcement, corporations or the individuals who hire them.  The median pay for this job is $45,610 per year.  The education needed can vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.  Professional Investigator Magazine lists the license requirements for each state.

11. Dental Hygienist:

I personally get the heebie-jeebies when I think about reaching into someone else’s mouth, but maybe you are mentally tougher than me.  If you are on the fence about this one, know that the median pay is an eye-popping $72,330.  That might get you to say, “Open wide!”  Hygienists clean teeth, make dental impressions, remove orthodontic appliances and perform a host of other tasks.  You will need to complete a two-year degree in dental hygiene and get a state license.  Learn more through the American Dental Hygienists Association.

Well, there you have it, my list of 11 midlife career change ideas that don’t suck.  What do you think?  Did I leave off any well-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree or more?  Let me know in the comment section below.

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11 Midlife Career Change Ideas That Don't Suck is a great list of jobs that take 2 years or less of college & pay at least $40K. Awesome!

71 COMMENTS

  1. At 60, I’m recreating everything. I never thought of most of these… definately going to look into Crimminal Investigator. It’s really very boring because lots of research is involved – right up my alley.

    • Helene, that social media manager might be just the job for you! Your insightful and witty social media commentaries – from tips on yummy desserts to the throes of weight loss, from the challenges of keeping passion in a marriage to the hilarious tales of your fun and furry friends – a career that would take advantage of your considerable skills.

  2. It is so great to see some good options for a career change that are achievable in just a few years! I am a big proponent for finding something you love if you aren’t in love with your current job.

  3. Interesting ideas for a midlife career switch. I became a yoga instructor in addition to a blogger during my life after 50. It doesn’t pay the bills, but love being able to follow my passions during my retirement, especially after always following the paycheck for 35+ years.

    • Thanks, Judy. It’s sad that the jobs that we are the most passionate about seem to pay the least. I’m so glad you have found yoga and blogging. They are two of my favorite activities!

  4. Wow! I had no idea dental hygienist made that kind of money. I’m close to the end of my working life so my next career is going to be ‘retirement.’ But I might look into something part time to keep me out of trouble. Great post.

    • Thanks, Tamara. I would love it if you shared this list with the people you speak to about career change. I want it to give a little hope to them.

  5. We are very grateful that all of our children looked at and studied job opportunities before start their college education. All of them have great paying positions that they are very happy working in everyday.

    • Hello, Candy. It is so important to look into and study job opportunities before you start your training, whether you are 18 or 50 years old. I’m so glad you taught your children well. It sounds like it has paid off!

  6. I went from law to luxury travel advisor in my 50s. It’s an excellent choice. My target market is 40+. Older people trust those in their own age bracket for travel advice. A 25 year old does not travel the same way a 50 year old does. This career choice is age proof.

    • Wow, Wendy. I love the idea of being a luxury travel advisor. It sounds amazing. I know I don’t want to travel like a twenty-something. No more camping and sleeping on the ground for me, thank you very much! Perhaps you will inspire a few readers to look into this career. I am grateful you shared.

    • Congrats Wendy! I was a travel agent (& then also worked for an airline) for quite a few years before staying home with my kiddos. The industry has changed tremendously! Any advice on how to break back into it? I’d love to hear more about your transition~

      • Hi Liz,
        You are right on target when you say the travel industry has changed tremendously. I recently made the transition from the corporate world to an independent travel rep, not to be confused with a travel agent. I help people become part of a phenomenal travel community so they can vacation more for less, make memories with their loved ones and check off their bucket list destinations. I’d love to connect with you if you want to know more.

    • Thanks for sharing that suggestion, Haralee. So many of the decent paying careers of the future are going to be in the medical field. I didn’t know medical coders were paid over 40K per year.

    • Hmm, DLB. That is a challenge. Perhaps you could train to be a virtual assistant. I’m not sure how much money they make, but it might be fun and challenging for you. Let us know what you come up with. We would love to know.

  7. These are such great ideas! I’d totally be a court reporter or social media manager. I’ve always been a mega-fast typer…so court reporting could be right up my alley! 🙂

    • You know, Stefani, I can’t type fast at all! So, court reporter would NOT be my first choice. Being a social media manager sounds pretty good to me, though. Thanks for sharing your comments with us.

    • Hi, Shirley. I have no idea if the salaries are comparable in South Africa. If you ever find out, let me know. I would be very interested. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey, Jennifer. I like a few of these career options as well. It’s so much nicer to like what you do for a living. Transition is difficult, but it’s better than staying in a job you don’t like. Thanks for the comment.

    • Hello, Andrea. It is a varied list, for sure. It just took a bit of research to narrow down the best choices. I found most of my info through the resources mentioned within the post. Thanks for your input.

    • Hey, Jane. Yep, some jobs/employers I looked at were very particular and some were surprisingly lax about their requirements. Research, research, research!

    • Hey, Sarah. I noticed that too. There were no social media channels when I first started out, but I could get into that field now. That would be pretty hip. Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it.

    • Hey, Shari. They really are wonderful options for people who don’t want to or can’t spend the time and money to go back to school for four years. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate it!

  8. Incredibly usefu, AND practical, AND realistic. I like your little cold water in the face opening, because we all need a little honest self talk before heading into the next chapter. Really well put together.

    • Hello, Susan. Thank you for the kind words. I tried my best to have realistic careers on this list. I’m pleased you found it useful. I appreciate your input.

  9. Hi Jen. Good for you for reminding us all that there are always more options out there if we pay attention. I’m thankful I’m not in the marketplace myself but I will be sharing these with some people who might be looking for a change. Thank you. ~Kathy

    • Hey, Kathy. This is one of my favorite posts on my blog. It was actually fun to research and turned out well. I have even given this list to my niece who just graduated high school. Thank you for your feedback. It’s great to hear from satisfied readers.

  10. Thank you so much, I was expecting that predictable list of: housesit, blog, start a craft business, and got so much more! At 42 I went from System Support Specialist to Psychotherapist and now, at 53, adding Writer/Blogger to the resume. I’m so glad we have options to reinvent and reinvest in midlife and beyond!

    • Hey there, Pam. Yeah, I tried to stay away from the predictable jobs on this list. We do have more options than house sitting and crafting, although those jobs are fine too. Thank you for your input. I love it.

  11. This a really great list, Jen! I’m taking the summer off to spend with my kids and work on my website and may never go back to work, but if I do, Social Media is one of my favorite ideas! And Private Investigator! I’m also looking into becoming a travel agent. We midlifers have plenty of choices!!

    • Hi, Valerie. I can’t wait to see your new and improved website. The one you have now is pretty darn good. Social Media sounds like something I could switch to also. We DO have plenty of choices. Thank you for sharing.

    • Yeah, Paula. Wind turbine mechanic is dead last on my list. Those suckers are LOUD too. If you have ever been close to them, you know they are tall and intimidating! Not suitable for people who have any phobias at all. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thak you For this article! I too am trying to figure it all out! I’ll be 40 in October and I’m scared! Mostly cuz I HAVE TO find a way to help earn income for our family! Everyone keeps asking me why. They say “you’ll be so busy in the “chauffeur” years you shouldn’t sweat it! But their dont understand! I need “Mo Money”! Loved your ideas and I have looked into a few! The Dental Hygenist is most appealing for me! Although as i have done some further research I have read that the market it pretty saturated and the wages/ benevits are suffering as a result in a lot of states. I woder does anyone else know any more about it? I would love yo exlpore tjis option but worry about that aspect of what I’ve read?

    • Hi, Megan. Don’t be scared of turning 40. I got myself a little worked up over it and then, on my birthday, I woke up and realized the world was just the same as it was the day before. As for your career, I am pleased you are doing the research necessary for your location. Too many people decide on a career path before investigating the educational and geographic realities. Keep on reading and exploring. You will make an informed decision if you do. Good luck!

  13. who ever you are thanks so much am a graphic web designer i worked hard and smart past 2 years . now am 23 i am fedup this kind of IT jobs . actually i have a passion to do this works but the reality of this job is not good . clients ,10 hour more infront of computer . really i cant pay the bills and everything . still i dont have any savings . am not going to upgrade my skills that is waste of time i know now . now am thinking a career change to lab technician but i need to go back to school and study 2 year . am confused without a job study full time is a problem . i want a job for next 20 years or more so definitely i cant stay in IT field so i will change my career

    • Hello, Sreeraj. Good luck to you in your career change to a lab technician. I hope you can find a way to go back to school for it. Thank you for your feedback on this important topic.

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