Switch careers in your 40s and 50s

The figures make for startling reading: unemployed people over 50 are less likely than any other age group to find work in the next year, according to think tank Policy Exchange. At the end of 2011, there were 189,000 over-50s who had been out of work for a year, meaning that 43% of unemployed people over the age of 50 were long-term unemployed.

With statistics like these, it's no surprise that most people are far too nervous to entertain the idea of switching careers later in life. "It's a frightening prospect for many people," says Maite Barón, employment coach and author of Corporate Escape: The Rise of the New Entrepreneur.

"Very few people in their 40s or 50s had the support they needed to get them on the right career path when they were younger, so accountancy or law has become their life. It usually takes an external event, such as redundancy, for them to ask what they are doing with their life. But you can create the career you wanted when you were 20."

Escaping the rat race

Many people who retrain have been made redundant; others simply want less stress and less responsibility. Some wish to start their own business.

Karen Meager, director at Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy, says some job sectors are more popular than others when it comes to older workers retraining. "The main careers people are interested in retraining for later in life are coaching itself, consulting, holistic health therapy, psychotherapy, and counselling."

Teaching is also a career more accessible to people wishing to retrain later in life, as is setting up an online business. Here's our look at four of the major job sectors where people are most likely to retrain.

Retirement start-up guide: You're never too old to start a business

1. Management consulting

There are currently 10,806 management consultant vacancies in the UK, up 1% since 2012. The average salary for these roles is £45,419 - up 0.7% since 2012 and up 3.7% in the past six months.

More than two thirds (67%) of these vacancies are located in the South West and South East of England, while only 12% can be found in the North East, North West and Scotland.

How to get the job...

Skills: Numerical, problem-solving and analytical; strategic planning ability; flexibility; ability to cope with pressure and challenges; commercial awareness and understanding of business environments.

Training: The IC Level 7 in Professional Consulting award is the basic level, while the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) award is more advanced.

2. Psychotherapy/counselling

There are currently 5,896 psychotherapy vacancies in the UK at an average salary of £37,190 - up 0.2% in the past six months. The average advertised salaries for psychotherapists in London are £48,346 - 30% higher than the national average for this role. More than a third (39%) of these roles can be found in London, while only 2% are in Wales and Scotland has 1%.

How to get the job...

Skills: Self-awareness, sensitivity and empathy; a broad-minded, non-judgemental attitude and a respect for others; a sense of humour; an understanding of equality and diversity issues.

Training: Different types of training include cognitive behavioural therapies, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies, humanistic and integrative psychotherapies, systemic therapies, hypno-psychotherapy and experiential constructivist therapies.

3. Teaching

There are currently 21,255 teaching vacancies in the UK, an increase of 8% since 2012 but down 1% since July 2013. The average advertised salary for these roles is £26,149 - up 4% year-on-year. The roles with the highest number of job ads are teaching assistants with 3,164 positions, tutors with 3,073 positions and those in further education with 2,032 ads. Italian, German and primary school teachers are in the least demand.

How to get the job...

Skills: Classroom experience; experience with children; familiarity with the national curriculum for your subject; enthusiasm, motivation, commitment and strong communication skills.

Training: All teachers need further training to achieve qualified teacher status (QTS) for England and Wales, or teaching qualification (TQ) in Scotland.

4. Setting up an online business

Search engine Adzuna is seeing more start-up jobs being advertised in the UK than it has ever seen before. There are 2,982 start-up jobs in the UK, up 10% since 2012. The average salary is £33,044 for these jobs.

How to get the job...

Training/Skills: Entrepreneurialism; business experience or training; accounting skill; motivated and self-starter; able to add value and keep up with a fast-paced industry.

All job data courtesy of Adzuna (adzuna.co.uk).

More about

Your Comments

Dont do it!!
We live in an ageist society.
Retired at 50. 2 degrees later and no job in the last 3 years.
Sent of hundreds of CV and never hear another thing. It soul destroying.

IanBarnett is right.
The society is ageist.
You just have to look at any business to see the ages of the people who work there. Look at that call centre in Swansea that was on the TV recently. Apart from the boss, I didn't see a single person there who was over 30.
I have applied for over a thousand jobs and have got nowhere. I have university degrees and everything.
If you are over 50, forget it. You are washed up.

To Ian & Uncle P
I completely agree with you and am sick and tired reading articles which recycle the same useless advice over and over again.  After years of working in various clerical roles I was made redundant from my role as a Senior PA at a major bank, for the last four years I have made countless job applications and attended interviews for jobs where I would have been welcomed with open arms 10-15 years ago, with no success.  I don't want to pass the blame on to my age but what alternative should I entertain ?  Should I consider retraining ?  I tell you why not....
In order to make ends meet during this time I have undertaken everything including temping in a call centre and all manner of temporary clerical roles, time and again I find myself working alongside people of my age and thereabouts who, like yourself Ian and Uncle P, have far better qualifications than I, over the last four years this has included an unemployed surveyor, teacher, law graduate and physiotherapist, their one hindrance...their age...so where is my incentive to retrain ?  I agree with you both, forget all the advice...50 and you're on the scrap heap and that's a fact !

It is not necessary to put your date of birth on CVs. I noticed a huge difference in the level of interest I received when applying for roles, when I removed my DOB info, along with the dates re the actual years I was in education, and lopped a few jobs off from thirty years ago (they were irrelevant anyway). This made is pretty impossible for the person in HR to guess how old I was - so if they WERE refusing me, it wasn't down to my age. Having worked in HR, I was determined to not be refused for interview on the basis of my age.
Once you are at the interview, (although they may have been expecting a younger candidate), it's up to you to show your energy and commitment levels rival or surpass those of your younger competitors! And remind them of the advantages of your age; you are not (in most cases) going to be taking time off with baby or primary-school related issues, (small companies really struggle with this), you can work late to achieve deadlines (no bedtime stories to read etc), how many older (60 plus especially) clients/customers who are incredibly relevant to many businesses (investment, accountancy services, insurance, home owner related products - the list is endless) PREFER to deal with a more mature person, find them more trustworthy and easier to deal with, and respect and relate to them more - all VERY desirable attributes in customer service and sales roles.
Oh, and you are not going to be checking your personal texts/Facebook/Twitter 5000 times during your potential employers working day either, (although of course you are confident and au fait with all types of technology!!) 
In fact, I'm not sure why they would want to appoint a young person!