It’s only natural for you to take stock of your life and career when you hit 30, and you might find that it’s time to get a degree. Whether you have no college, a partial degree, or already have a degree but want to change careers, your 30s are a great time to go to college. Now’s the time to move forward with your career plans and get the type of career you’ve always wanted.
The average person in America changes jobs between 10 and 15 times in their career, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some are doing the same job with a different employer, while others are embarking on an entirely different career path. The reason for changing careers varies from person to person, and your situation is different from another’s. Maybe you want to travel and want free or discounted travel benefits. Maybe you value a predictable 9-5 weekday-only schedule. Maybe you want more flexible hours and want to work from home. Or maybe you’ve been downsized and need to find out what’s next for your career. Figure out what’s important to you, and then you can look at the right major.
When looking for the right degree and major, and then the right job, consider your overall career goals. Questions you should consider include the average pay rate, typical work/life balance, expected job growth in your chosen field, and any perks that you would find appealing. When looking for the right degree and major, and then the right job, consider your overall career goals. Questions you should consider include the average pay rate, typical work/life balance, expected job growth in your chosen field, and any perks that you would find appealing. You also need to consider the amount of education required, whether you need a 2-year degree or a doctorate for your dream job.
A few good industries for people considering midlife career changes include education, healthcare, technology, marketing, and business administration. Within these fields, there are a wide variety of roles to fit your skills, interests, and education. Examples include:
When you talk about careers in education, most people automatically think of K-12 teachers, but there are a number of other roles besides classroom teaching.
Academic Advisor and School Counselor – An academic advisor provides guidance to high school or college students, and help them on their academic path. Academic advisors (also called school counselors or academic success counselors) help students select and apply for colleges, determine career paths, and navigate the academic system.
Job opportunities for career advisors and counselors is anticipated to have above-average growth over the next 10 years of about 11 percent. The average salary is $58,120, and the position requires 4 to 6 years of college. Most counselors are required to have a master’s degree and a credential or certification for school counselor. If you’re planning to work in higher education, it’s a good idea to have a specialization in career development. You might also be required to hold a state certification.
Advisors and counselors help students with behavioral challenges, analyze data such as attendance records, and advise students based on their needs. They help students develop skills to support their growth such as time management or social skills. Counselors administer aptitude tests and work with teachers, students, and families to help plan academic and career goals.
College Professor – If you want to work with older students, then college professor might be your path. The salaries are typically higher as well, with the median annual salary for a higher education career averaging $80,560. Expect above-average job growth of around 12 percent over the next 10 years.
College teachers create lesson plans and assignments, teach classes, and grade papers. They help advise students about academic goals and courses, and work with other teachers to develop the school curriculum. They are also required to stay current on developments in their field of study, and some colleges may have requirements for publishing research.
College teachers may also have the advantage of being able to work remotely, as more universities are now offering online educational programs for student. This career path generally takes at least 2 to year years of post-graduate education. Most traditional colleges require at least a master’s degree, and possibly a doctoral degree. Getting your doctorate can seem overwhelming, but if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can easily build on that to get your master’s or doctoral degree, especially if you’re staying in a related area of study.
While there are some areas, such as hard sciences, that strictly require a Ph.D., some fields and colleges have alternatives. If you don’t want to go all the way to a doctoral degree, there are many schools, including state, private, and community colleges, who will hire professors who have a master’s degree and have demonstrated expertise in their area of study. This can be especially helpful if you’re seeking a career change but want to stay in the same field. For example, if you’re an accountant now, you might teach accounting to college students.
Healthcare is a stable and growing field, with a wide variety of majors to choose from, even ones that don’t require patient contact. So even if you’re squeamish about blood, or don’t want sick people coughing on you, there are still plenty of healthcare career opportunities.
Medical Administrative Assistant – If you want to work in healthcare but not with patients, you might enjoy working as a medical secretary or medical administrative assistant. Medical secretaries set appointments, create medical charts, handle billing, and manage medical reports. They work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, outpatient facilities, dentist offices, and more.
You can also work your way up to an office manager, which could include supervision and training other employees and managing office expenses. The median salary for a medical secretary is $39,000.
To succeed in this environment, you need strong clerical skills and basic medical terminology knowledge, so expect to spend around 2 years in school. There are entry-level positions available to applicants who only have a high school diploma, but obtaining specialized training can help you get hired and promoted faster. Many technical schools and community colleges provide degree or certification programs for medical administration duties, teaching basic clerical skills and the necessary medical terminology.
Nursing – There’s always a strong demand for registered nurses, with options ranging from LPN(licensed practical nurse) to RN (registered nurse) to BSN (bachelor of science, nursing). The projected job growth is steady and consistent, making it a stable career choice worth going back to school for. Nurses provide patient care, education, and support to patients in doctors’ offices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, or home healthcare.
The median annual salary and time requirements vary according to degree level. LPN: 2 years, $48,820
RN and BSN: 3-4 years, $75,330
Nurses monitor their patients’ health, administer care, and provide comfort and assistance such as bathing. They report patient status and concerns to doctors and keep keep records on patients’ health.
There are also nursing specialties that would require more time in school but also have higher earning potential, such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. These advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) positions require a master’s degree in the role, plus passing a national certification test and obtaining state licensing. Job prospects are extremely high, with expected growth of 45% over the next 10 years. Median salary for these specialized nursing roles is $117,670.
They perform exams, create care plans, perform diagnostic tests, and diagnose health problems. APRNs analyze test results, prescribe medication and treatment, and consult with doctors as needed.
Web Developer – Web developers, or digital designers, are professionals who completely design a website from start to finish, with a median salary averaging $77,200 a year. There is often overlap between the roles, but there are some differences. Web developers create and then maintain websites. Digital designers develop and test websites and the interface layouts and functionality to ensure usability.
Both roles have to be skilled in graphic design as well as coding, because they often create both the back end (technical coding) and the front end (design and customer facing) parts of the website. Because of this mix of skills, there are different routes to pursue this career path, and it typically takes 2 to 4 years. One of the most common paths is to get an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in web design, but many choose to take a mix of web courses focused on coding and graphic design instead. In fact, many web developers are entirely self-taught, which can save you both time and money. You might freelance, start your own business, or work with a marketing agency. Web developers also work in management consulting, publishing, and advertising.
Information Security Analyst – Information security analysts help companies and businesses protect their information and data. They are responsible for creating and planning ways to combat cyber-security threats from hackers, and earn an average of $103,590. Information security analysts are also highly sought by the U.S. government and military, so if you have (or can get) security clearances, you can earn above the median. Jobs outlook is much higher than average, with a 33% growth rate expected over 10 years.
Analysts typically have four-year bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field such as computer science, programming, or information assurance. Employers are often seeking niche experience as well. For example, if you have experience or a degree specialization in finance technology, it’ll be easier to get a job working for a financial institution. This is a potentially a great way to let your previous career experiences count, even if you’re changing careers.
Analysts monitor their networks for breaches and investigate any violations that occur, install protection software such data encryption and firewalls, and prepare reports on any breaches. They periodically perform mock attacks on their own systems to look for weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and they must stay current on this rapidly changing attack methods.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist – This is a newer but steadily growing field. Search Engine Optimization Specialists combine web development, advertising, and market research skills to succeed. They use search engines’ algorithms (such as Google) to drive traffic to clients’ websites, helping increase views, social media engagement, and/or sales. SEO specialists change their company’s website to better utilize key words and search terms, so they rank higher in search results and help potential clients find them.
Average salary is around around $47,300 and typically require 4 years of college. SEO is an ever-changing field, so there aren’t specific degree programs because it would change too quickly. Instead, you’d major in digital marketing, business, or data analytics. You’d also need to take frequent ongoing education courses such as digital marketing courses or certifications.
Public Relations – Public relations specialists help develop and maintain a positive image for their clients. These are typically businesses, but many public figures and celebrities also have PR specialists, either working directly for them or through their agencies. PR professionals handle press releases, social media campaigns, and announcements, and they may also handle press conferences or interviews. PR specialists can earn an average income of about $62,810.. This career requires a 4-year bachelor’s degree in communications, business, journalism, or public relations.
Typical responsibilities include responding to media inquiries, help clients communicate with the public, write speeches and schedule interviews, and monitor the client’s social media perception. PR specialists can also work with Marketing to evaluate the client’s advertising programs to ensure compatibility with the company’s public relations campaigns.
Human Resources Manager or Specialists – This are administrative roles for businesses, handling the employee aspects of a business. HR Managers often work with higher-level executives to plan strategies for recruiting and hire employees, while serving as a liaison between the employees and the employer. HR Specialists are lower-level HR employees who handle recruiting, screening, interviewing, and placing employees. They also work on compensation, benefits, training, and employee relations. Depending on the size of company, specialists might focus on one or all of these areas.
Both HR Managers and HR Specialists generally have a four-year Human Resources bachelor’s degree, plus strong communication and interpersonal skills. This is another good arena to use your previous industry experience such as team management or customer service. HR Specialists can earn $63,490, while HR Managers can earn $121,220 per year.
Common tasks include identifying employment needs, interviewing applicants, verifying references, and performing background checks. They maintain employment records and paperwork, communicate with applicants, and process employment papers when an applicant is hired.
Project Management – Project Managers are just what they seem: someone who helps manage large, complex projects to completion. If you have outstanding organizational and management skills, you might consider this career path. Project managers handle multiple aspects of a project including internal communications, deadlines, contingency plans, scheduling milestones and meetings, budgets, and managing dependencies. If one part of a project is delayed, for example, they are responsible for knowing what other pieces must also be delayed and for how long, communicating with stakeholders, and researching other options.
Project management generally requires 4 years of college, but there are flexible paths. Typical majors include business management, marketing, or computer science. Depending on the field you choose, you might also need specialized education such as engineering or architecture so you understand the projects you’re managing. Median salary for project management specialists is around $84,290.
The role can vary depending on the project, but the primary responsibility is to organize all the parts of a project to help make sure it runs smoothly. Typically project managers use spreadsheets to organize projects, track paperwork such as contracts and invoices, and maintain files for quick access by the project team. Project managers must have strong communication skills, conveying to internal and external stakeholders, and managing everything from big-picture long-term goals to the daily minutiae such as meeting notes. They also develop reports and presentations to help other team members focus on their strengths. For example, you want the architect to work on the building design rather than creating a slideshow for the client. Other duties might include monitoring expenses, projecting case flow, budgeting, and ensuring quality standards are met. They may even do admin tasks like bookkeeping, billing, or ordering supplies. In short, they do everything to ensure a project stays on track.
While it might seem intimidating to start or go back to college at 30, you’re really in a great position. Now you probably have a better idea of your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and what you want out a career. This helps narrowing your majors and field of study a lot easier than it might have been at 18. Even better, you probably already have valuable work and life experiences, which can help both your educational and your career paths. Whether you’re starting an entirely new path or just want to progress farther in your current career, now’s a great time to get started!