Switch careers in your 40s and 50s

Career change

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.

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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).

Published: 12 September 2013
Last updated: 12 September 2013

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