Want to know what’s wrong with most lists of midlife career change ideas? They SUCK! That’s right; I said it. Until you inherited a large sum of money, don’t need to rely on a realistic income or 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. For the majority of midlife career changes to be possible, they have to belong 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 over two years of additional education to qualify for. That’s a tall order, but not impossible to fill. So, without more 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. Also, they sterilize instruments and supplies and hand them to surgeons during procedures. 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 surprisingly $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.
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 your career. 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.
3. Paralegal Assistant:
No, you won’t get to make objections in court or make an emotional closing argument to a jury as a P.A. 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.
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. It’s just me, or makes 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 offer a signing bonus, tuition reimbursement, or other incentives.
5. Computer User Support Specialist:
That title is a mouth full. Otherwise known as help desk technicians (HDTs), they troubleshoot and assist computer users, usually via phone or email. These specialists identify and solve hardware, software, and operating system problems for clients, 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 graduate degree in computer science, while others only require a two-year degree.
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 the 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.
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, chatterboxes need not apply. Candidates must complete a court reporting program at a community college or dedicated court reporter school.
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 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 Fantastic Facebook Groups for Midlifers and Boomers
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.
11. Dental Hygienist:
I 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 edge on 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.
Here you have it, the 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 below in the comments.