Find a New Career at 40

Turning 40 is a wake up call to a lot of people. One of the things some people start to question is their career path. If you are looking for a change, there are plenty of great careers waiting for talented people.

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Career to Start at 40

There are many reasons why you might be looking for a new career at 40.  Maybe you’ve been a stay at home parent, or are just tired of your current job. Perhaps you’ve been laid off, and it’s time to move on.  Regardless of your reasoning, there are plenty of people starting new careers in their 40s.

That, coupled with the fact that many people are now working until a much older age, you can still have a long career in a new field.

No doubt, many people may feel like they are too old to start a new career at this age.  But you do have enough time to change and successfully move in another direction.  Even if that takes some additional education, there’s no reason to think it’s not possible.

We’ve compiled stats from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) to see what people in this age range are doing.  After looking at the overall numbers, we derived a list of what we think are some of the best jobs for a new career at 40.  Our criteria included jobs with good salaries, low-medium education requirements, and high levels of satisfaction.

Table of Contents

Software developer

Why did we choose it?  Plenty of training and education available; Great job market; High paying salary

What’s the pay?  With an average base pay of $88,556 according to Glassdoor, this is a very lucrative job as well.  In addition to that base, you can expect anywhere from $1,000-$17,000 in additional compensation.

software developer salary chart

Who would be good at it? If you have an analytical mind, like to solve problems, and are good with math, you might be a good developer.  You may think this trade is too tricky to learn, and while it isn’t easy, some people catch on to it fast.

Being a developer is just one of those things certain people were born to do. Only because you haven’t tried it before, doesn’t mean it won’t have a knack for it.

It’s worth the shot, given that it is one of the most in-demand jobs in the world today.  There are over 753,000 people in the U.S. from the age of 35-55 employed as software, applications, or systems developers.  This number will continue to grow along with the continued growth of technology.

Cybersecurity Specialist

Why did we choose it?  Demand is increasing at a fast pace; online training can be completed in less than 12 months.

What’s the pay?  According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a cybersecurity specialist is $107,000. Entry-level pay is going to be lower than this, but that’s a great average, and the upside is even better.


cybersecurity specialist salary chart


Who would be good at it? People with technical skills and analytical minds are going to be the best fit as cybersecurity specialists. Similar to other technology jobs, you should feel comfortable using a computer, and it’s a bonus if you have tried some coding.

Being in this line of work should mean you enjoy keeping up with the latest technological trends and threats. It’s critical in today’s world for companies to be up to speed with how hackers might try to gain access.

Read more about this career…

Data Scientist

Why did we choose it?  Data is key to most big businesses; demand and salaries are expected to increase in this field.

What’s the pay?  The average salary is between $124,000 and $153,000, according to Salary.com. That’s another high paying job considering you can now get trained in a short period of time.

data scientist salary ranges

Who would be good at it? You should be excellent with numbers and logical thinking to consider a job in this field. It’s another career where you can benefit from having experience in the coding or computer fields, but you can certainly learn from scratch. Problem solving is also another critical skill as much of what you do is geared to finding solutions for your client.

Read more about this career…

Elementary School Teacher

Why did we choose it?  We need great teachers; Good benefits; It can be gratifying work

What is the pay? According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $56,900.  Along with this, many teacher’s unions have negotiated fantastic benefits to go along with your salary.

Who would be good at it?  Look, if you want to get rich quickly, explore another career path.  But if you are changing careers because you want to help others, this is something you should investigate.

Educating children in this age range is extremely important to their development and overall future.  If they fall behind early, it can be tough to catch up later in their lives.

There’s no reason to sugar-coat the fact that teaching can also be very challenging.  A person pursuing this path should be very patient and undoubtedly enjoy spending time with children.

One of the good things about pursuing a new career at 40 is you may have a better sense of your ability to deal with children at this age.

Web Developer

Why did we choose it?  High demand; Good Salary; Great for flexible work and freelance situations.

What is the pay?  Glassdoor shows web developers with an average salary of $70,840.

Who would be good at it? As with a software developer, if you’re mathematical, but also have a creative side, this can be a fulfilling job.  Web development is usually considered a bit easier than software, especially given a large number of website builders, and Content Management Systems to use as a starting point.  So you may be able to get into this career more easily.

Another of the great perks of being a web developer is the number of people doing this job remotely.  If you are looking to make money while working from home, take a look at becoming a web developer.

You’ll find in today’s world there are thousands of people doing this job, and earning a great living as freelancers.  Check out websites like Upwork.com, and you’ll see a large market for freelance web developers and a lot more.  Because there are so many small companies looking for part-time help, it’s a great time to look at this profession.

Read more about this career…

Registered Nurse

Why we chose it?  15% industry growth expected by 2026; High median pay;  Typically good work environment

How much does it pay?  The median pay for a registered nurse was $70,000 in 2017 according to BLS.

Who would be good at it?  It goes without saying you should have a passion for helping others in this field.  Being a nurse can be stressful, and aggravating, so patience, and calm under pressure are good traits.

Another thing that can be common, especially for nurses in a hospital setting is working non-standard hours.  If you are someone who enjoys the night shift, nursing is a field that has a demand for around-the-clock workers.

The type of work you do as a registered nurse can vary greatly depending on where you land a job. If you end up giving this a shot, make sure you have a plan for what type of institution is your ideal employer.  You don’t want to go through all the schooling, to find out you don’t enjoy the work at the end of the day.

That said, if you find the right placement, this new career has the potential to be very fulfilling.

Medical Assistant

Why we chose it?  High industry growth of 29% through 2026; Good base pay; lower educational requirements

How much does it pay?  With a median pay of $32,480, it is a good-paying position if you don’t want to go back to school.

Who would be good at it?  Medical assistants help with many different tasks in various medical environments.  Those tasks can range from administrative to assisting in a clinical setting.   Regardless, having excellent organizational skills is something that is very helpful in this role.

Starting a new career at 40 can be daunting when thinking about the educational requirement.  That’s why a medical assistant is also an excellent job if you’ve decided that spending a lot more time in school is not an option.  While you may need to get a certificate for some of these jobs, much less schooling is required to become a medical assistant.

Sales Representative

Why we chose it?  Low barrier to entry; Good salary;  Flexible work environment

How much does it pay?  The average outside sales representative makes $50,166, according to Payscale.com.  Depending on your employer and talent level, there is a large upper end to the pay range.

Who would be good at it?  If you like talking and come off as trustworthy, being an outside salesperson might be right for you.  Contrary to the Hollywood version of some salespeople as sleazy, a great sales rep presents in a very professional manner.

The trick to being great though is closing the deal, and there’s a great skill to making that happen.  A lot of people can be trustworthy, but not everyone can turn that relationship into sales dollars.  If you’re a person who prides themselves in being a “closer,” then check out sales rep opportunities.

Financial Advisor

Why we chose it?  Great salary; Licensure can be attained along with most bachelor’s degrees; Flexible work arrangements.

How much does it pay?  The median salary for a personal financial advisor is $90,640

Who would be good at it?  You need to be good with numbers.  In an ideal world, you would have a complementary bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or accounting.   That said, remember that no bachelor’s degree is required to get your license in this field.  That’s why it’s ideal for someone looking for a new career at 40.

Being personable is also an invaluable skill set in this industry.  You aren’t just working as a financial advisor behind the scenes crunching numbers.  A large part of your job is working directly with clients and explaining economic concepts to them.   If you enjoy these types of interactions and are a math whiz, give this career some thought.

Real Estate Agent

Why we chose it?  Limited schooling needed; Good average salary; Flexible work environment

How much does it pay?  The median pay for a real estate agent was $47,880 in 2017.

Who would be good at it?  As with all sales-related jobs, being personable is always a good trait to have as a real estate agent.   You also need to be self-motivated to be successful in this career.  The perk of being able to work reasonably flexible hours can also be harmful if you find yourself lounging on the couch too often.

There’s no shortage of people out there who love to stare at Zillow regularly.  If you find yourself fascinated with real estate, this could be a fulfilling career. 

Also, learning the real estate market might give you the ability to make some investments of your own on the side.

Dental Hygienist

Why did we choose it?  High industry growth rate; Great salary; Medium educational requirements

How much does it pay?  The median salary for a dental assistant is $74,070.

Who would be good at it?  Anyone who loves teeth (smile).  If you are fascinated with teeth cleaning and keeping them pearly white, check out this career.

Not that enjoying white teeth says you’d like to be a dental hygienist, but it’s a start.  In truth, only you can know if you would enjoy doing this.  Being in a dentist’s office, cleaning teeth, and assisting with medical procedures aren’t for everyone. 

It is, however, possible to have this without going to school for a 4-year bachelor’s degree.  That makes it a good candidate for someone looking to switch careers in their 40’s.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Why we chose it? Great salary;  Great work environment;  Medium educational requirements

How much does it pay?  The median salary in 2017 for a diagnostic medical sonographer was $65,620

Who would be good at it?  If you have always wanted to be in the medical field, but don’t have the time and money for med school, this could be for you.  Most people in this industry either work in a hospital or diagnostic facilities specializing in these technologies.

As with other jobs in the medical field, having a proper bedside manner is critical for this job.  You work directly with patients of all ages who are in stressful situations.  Working with them and having a calming effect is a significant benefit.

Steps You Can Take to Find a New Career

Take a Career Quiz or Self Assessment Test

A self-assessment can help identify what careers you might be interested in. There are all sorts of self-assessment tools out there today, from simple to complex.

A good starting point is the skills matcher at Career One Stop. This is a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and has a lot of good tools to help find a new career.

Talk to a Career Counselor

Going one step further and talking with a career counselor can be another good first step. It’s not uncommon for the counselor to have you take an assessment as well, but then you’ll have an expert to help you think through the results.

The only drawback to a career counselor is you’ll probably have to pay for anything beyond an introductory call. That said, the fee you pay is often well worth the help in finding a new career that will make you happy in the long-term.

Decide if You Need Training

Most new careers will entail going back to school for some type of training. The extent of your career change will drive the level of training you need. But regardless, you’ll find many options to earn degrees and certificates that will allow you to get started on your next endeavor.

Here are a few options for re-training:

Online Courses You can earn almost any type of degree using online courses today. Companies like Coursera, edX, and Udacity either partner with well-known colleges or employers to provide degrees of all levels. Check out any of these options if you think learning online is your best option.

Bootcamps – These are highly focused programs typically in a technology-focused field like software programming, web development, or cybersecurity. Bootcamps allow you to get job-ready skills in a matter of weeks in high-paying tech fields

Community College – Community colleges are a great option for people looking for a new career. That’s because they offer a diverse set of programs at an affordable price. Most community colleges will offer programs for high-demand careers like business management, healthcare, technology, and skilled trades. You may find some community colleges also offer online classes, so be sure to explore all these options if you’ve decided online school is right for you.

Career and Technical Schools – Another means of getting focused training is career and technical schools that train you for a specific career. You can find these schools for many healthcare and skilled trade fields. The only caution here is to make sure you can’t take the same program at a local community college. They often have similar programs that cost less money.

The Bottom Line

Realizing you want a new career at 40 can be stressful.  But you should look at it as an opportunity.  You now have the chance to do something you are passionate about, rather than just for the paycheck.

Too many people start down the path of a career directly out of school and never step back to re-evaluate.  Sometimes that leads to great long-term success and a fulfilling career.  But it also can lead to people doing jobs that don’t suit them best.

More people should stop and evaluate what they’re doing for work.  Sometimes in life, it might be a little too late to change a career path meaningfully.  But being in your 40’s isn’t that time.  People are working well into their 60’s, and 70’s these days.  Meaning you can still have a long career, doing what you’re passionate about, not just what you studied in school when you were 20 years old.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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