Making a major career change is a wonderful opportunity for personal and professional growth. Whether you're feeling stuck in your current job, ready for a new challenge, or looking to follow your true passion, embarking on a fresh career path is within your reach.
Read on to find out how to know it’s time to change careers, actionable steps to take, and some career ideas to consider.
What Does a "Career Change" Mean?
A "career change" refers to the decision to transition from one profession or field to another. It signifies a significant shift in your professional trajectory. Often, career shifts are driven by factors like dissatisfaction with your current job, new interests, or a desire for better opportunities. You may need to acquire new skills through further education or get certified in a specific field to make a career change.
How Do You Know If It's Time to Change Careers?
How do you know when it’s time for this major shift in your professional life? It mostly comes down to what you, as an individual, want out of your career. Signs that it’s time to consider a career change will vary from person to person, depending on your current job and future goals.
For some people, a tell-tale sign that it’s time for a change is experiencing more stress about their professional lives than usual. Most jobs come with a certain level of stress, but if you’re suddenly experiencing more work-related anxiety than normal or you’re dreading going back to work on Monday, it might be time to think about changing careers.
For others, it might be more of a growing dissatisfaction with your current career. Some other signs you might notice that can help inform if it’s time for a career change include:
- Lowered self-esteem, increased self-doubt, and feelings of stagnation related to your job
- Staying in it only for the paycheck
- Looking at job listings
- Imagining yourself in a different career
- Frequently feeling drained and bored at work
- Losing interest in your regular work-related tasks or responsibilities
- Jealousy of others’ careers
- Feeling like you’re not valued at work
- Feeling like you’d leave your job today if you could
- Friends and family noticing negative changes in your personality
You deserve to feel content and fulfilled with the work you do. If your job no longer gives you a sense of satisfaction, it’s probably time to take the next steps toward a career that’s a better fit.
How to Change Careers: 5 Tangible Next Steps
You now know you’re ready to make a career change but aren’t sure how to do it. Follow these steps to get started so you can find a career you’ll love.
1. Take Some Time for Self-Reflection
To embark on a successful career change, begin with some self-reflection. Take the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses. A good place to start is considering which aspects of your current job you enjoy and what you wish you could change. It can also help to reflect on your passions and what makes you happy in a professional setting.
Visualize your ideal day in this new career. Envision the activities, emotions, and surroundings that would make it enjoyable for you. Doing so can provide valuable insights into the type of work that fulfills your needs.
Remember, your professional life is intertwined with your values and goals. Consider how your career can complement and support the life you want. Choose a path that aligns with your overall vision.
2. Choose a New Career/Role
With so many new career options out there, how do you narrow it down to a few realistic choices? Especially for those who might be starting from square one — like if you haven’t changed jobs in years — there can be such a thing as too many choices.
If you know someone with a career you find interesting, start by talking to them about their job, including how they got there, what they like about it, and what a typical day might include. Go online and research your interests — there may be jobs related to things you already love doing. Or volunteer somewhere you can explore your options. For example, if you love animals, you might consider volunteering at your local zoo or animal shelter to get a sense of what working there would be like.
Another way to find options is a career test. For someone seeking a career change but unsure of where to begin, a career test provides structured guidance and objective insights, offering suggestions for potential new roles or industries that may suit their profile. Remember, the results of a career test are just suggestions. If you feel drawn to a particular field or career that isn’t included in your test results, listen to your gut.
Here are a few free online tests to get you started:
- The Princeton Review Career Quiz
- O*NET Interest Profiler from the U.S. Department of Labor
- Truity’s Career Aptitude Test
- 123 Test’s Career Aptitude Test
3. Research Any Necessary Certifications/Degrees
Research whether your chosen field requires any certifications or degrees you don’t currently possess. If a specific degree is needed, it's important to be aware of this early on and factor it into your plans. Seeking guidance from a career coach can also be beneficial in assessing your skills and determining the best path forward.
Utilize online learning platforms to gain knowledge and skills relevant to your new field. These resources can enhance your marketability and prepare you for a transition.
Once you know what certifications or degrees you need, outline a clear plan that includes steps for education, certification, skill development, networking, and gaining practical experience within the industry. Establish a timeline for completing each of these steps to stay on track.
4. Identify Education Resources to Help You Make the Change
You may have already decided on a new career path in a field like nursing, teaching, IT, or accounting, but you feel overwhelmed by the thought of going back to school. Start by exploring different paths to reach your goals. Here are some options to consider.
Online courses are an excellent way to test out your interest or aptitude in a new career field. You can take courses through an online college or university or an online course provider like StraighterLine. This can be a low-risk and affordable way for you to explore a new field as well as start gaining any new skills or education you need to build a new career.
Your local community college probably has a wide variety of Associate’s degree and certification programs available. They might even offer you job placement or transfer support after you complete your courses.
Online Degree Programs
Many online programs specifically cater to working adults who may already have some college credit and job experience. Look for an online program that will help you maximize the credits you’ve already earned, or talk to an advisor about whether you can get credit for things like previous work experience or military service.
5. Pick & Enroll In Specific Courses to Start Your Journey
No matter where you get your degree, there are required courses you'll have to take depending on your chosen path. Save time and money by taking them with StraighterLine. StraighterLine offers specific courses designed to put you on the fast track to your future career. Here's a list of our most popular careers and degree paths, along with the most commonly required courses students take to get started.
If you’ve got a head for business — or want to develop strong business skills — then StraighterLine’s Business Career Path has courses designed to help you along your journey.
For those who answer the call to become a nurse, StraighterLine has the courses you need to meet many common nursing school requirements.
Companies across industries and fields always need tech pros. Develop the skills employers look for with our programming classes.
- Net+ (CompTIA)
- Introduction to Programming – Java
- Introduction to Programming – C++
- Introduction to Programming – Python
Those interested in a career in healthcare can save time and money by earning credits for many common pre-med classes with StraighterLine’s health and science options.
Prepare to shape future leaders with a career in education. We have courses designed to help you realize your dream of becoming a teacher, whether you strive to teach early childhood or high school students.
- Classroom Management
- Foundations in Early Childhood Education
- Teaching Students With Exceptionalities
6 New Career Paths for Those Looking for a Change
If you’re still not sure which new career path is right for you, here are six popular fields to consider. Note that all salary information was accurate at the time of writing, but these averages are subject to change.
Average base salary: $82,109
Highest base salary: $168,881
A financial planner is someone who guides individuals in handling their finances. You don't have to have a background in business or finance to excel in this role since you can easily gain that knowledge and skills by taking a few online classes. You do need people skills, as you'll discuss significant life choices and finances — a sensitive subject for many.
Average base salary: $99,357
Highest base salary: $157,000
If you've accumulated extensive experience in a specific field, consider becoming a consultant in your industry. Consultants are sought after to optimize company operations. Proficiency in a particular field and effective self-marketing are essential, as you'll likely be self-employed. Consider enrolling in business courses for a solid foundation or opt for field-specific courses to stay updated on recent advancements.
Average base salary: $117,801
Highest base salary: $187,797
While many companies need software engineers, transitioning into this role may seem intimidating if you don’t know any programming languages yet. The good news is that software engineers often self-educate. For a smoother career shift, consider enrolling in computer science or programming courses to gain in-demand skills.
Average base salary: $127,128
Highest base salary: $197,000
The field of data science is both expansive and constantly evolving. In today's tech-driven world, there's an abundance of data awaiting exploration. Data scientists work in various specialties, from analysts to visualization experts. Try IT and data courses to identify the niche that aligns best with your background and interests.
Average base salary: $134,502
Highest base salary: $137,000
If you have a mind for math, consider a career in actuarial work, which involves calculating financial risk. While a degree in computer science, economics, or statistics is good to have, a liberal arts background isn't a barrier — strong computer skills and passing actuarial exams can secure you a position. Taking IT courses is also beneficial.
Social Media Manager
Average base salary: $58,284
Highest base salary: $89,171
A social media manager shapes a company's public image through its social platforms, boosting its online presence and driving business growth. Typically, this role doesn't demand a specific degree. If you have a background in communications, marketing, or public relations, transitioning into social media management could be a promising career shift for you.
StraighterLine Can Help You Change Careers
StraighterLine has online courses that can help you change careers at any stage of your life. Our courses are 100% online, flexible, and can provide you with a more affordable way of getting credits that you can later transfer to a degree program.
Check out our complete list of course offerings today and start working toward a more fulfilling career!