Reinvent Your Career: Going Back to School at 40

Right now, you may be at the top of your game. Your career accomplishments have been satisfying, but a part of you is restless and wants a change. You want the surprise of going in a new direction—whether that’s turning a hobby into a job, starting your own business, or switching careers entirely.

Setting your sights on new horizons means considering going back to school at 40. Choosing to pursue an education, learn new skills, and set new career goals could help you reach heights you’ve never dreamed of before. And right now, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.

Welcome the thought of pursuing something different and exploring something unfamiliar. You’ll be stepping out and raising your self-confidence because you’ll be reinventing yourself and your career.

In this guide, we’ll discuss:

  • The Reasons You’re Thinking About Going Back to School at 40
  • Factors to Take into Consideration
  • Popular Degrees and Promising Career Paths

middle aged student on laptop

The Reasons You’re Thinking About Going Back to School at 40

You probably never thought you’d be going back to school at 40, but now you’ve come to face the many reasons why you should. For one, you’ve noticed how technology has replaced and redefined many roles and processes. It’s gotten harder to keep up with the new programs being introduced and adapt to shifting demands in your workplace. With all of these changes, a new career or job title has caught your eye and now you’re considering going in a completely different direction with your career.

It’s also possible that you’re satisfied with your employer but don’t meet the educational requirements—that next promotion is just slightly out of reach. So now could not be a better time to learn new skills, gain relevant expertise, and ultimately reinvent your career.

Keeping up with Changes in Technology has Gotten Harder.

Technology is becoming a serious threat to the existence of certain jobs. For many, automation’s takeover could require learning a completely new skillset and pursuing an entirely different career.

For instance, an “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” report issued by the Executive Office of the President in December of 2016 estimated that automated vehicle technologies could replace or alter 2.2 million to 3.1 million existing U.S. jobs

The debate over whether technology will create more jobs than it destroys will continue on. To not be a casualty—and reinvent your occupation identity—pursuing a higher education could be an invaluable safety net.

Becoming More Educated is About More Than Completing a Degree.

It’s about gaining the skills and expertise you need to stay one step ahead of the competition. And it’s about moving your future forward.

  • According to a nationwide survey by CareerBuilder, nearly one third of employers are raising their education requirements for new hires.

If you don’t have the minimum education requirements, you may be passed over for a job interview. With ageism a very real obstacle in the job market, employers are wondering if older candidates:

  • are willing to embrace change
  • possess computer skills
  • can maintain the speed and productivity of younger candidates

With an education, you can show employers your willingness to leave your comfort zone and enter the college campus, hit refresh on your computer skills, increase your speed with tougher tasks, and stay productive.

Advanced Education May Lead to a Promotion or Career Advancement.

Loud and clear CareerBuilder survey results:

  • 36% of employers said they would be unlikely to promote an employee who doesn’t have a college degree.
  • 27% of recruiters are looking for master’s degree holders for positions that used to only require a four-year degree.

A higher education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity—not just to get hired but also promoted within an organization—for job candidates of all ages.

Redirect Your Career with Education.

A new direction means a change of focus. The first step to pursuing a career in a new direction could mean investing in education.

  • 26% of undergraduate survey respondents and 19% of graduate survey respondents pursued online learning to pursue careers in a new field.

It’s been said that “it is never too late to be who you might become.” Who you are right now has been leading up to the person you may soon become, and that person may soon be pursuing a new career, a new direction, and new goals. Embrace the changes and reinvent yourself!

Potential Challenges to Consider when Going Back to School at 40

Going back to school at 40 will come with its own unique set of potential challenges. From balancing family responsibilities with work deadlines and school assignments, to making the mental transition to student life and figuring out finances—it’s easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than getting discouraged, consider the many unexpected potential solutions. College students today are taking advantage of the latest apps that are helping them with time management, to focus during studying, and to manage finances. So get the help and resources you need to succeed as a college student and enjoy your studies.

Potential Challenge: Fulfilling Family, Work, and School Responsibilities

Parental responsibilities, work schedules, and coursework deadlines can conflict and make managing your daily activities harder than it used to be.


Many helpful time management and organization apps are available to college students going back to school at 40.

Organize your tasks with:

  • Remember the Milk | Get help tracking assignments and prioritizing coursework by due date with a task list app.
  • MyLifeOrganized | Set tasks based on an email with an app available for Windows, iOS, and Android.

Improve your concentration with:

  • Focus@Will | Based on the latest research from neuroscience, scientifically designed music will help improve focus, reduce distractions, and maintain productivity.
  • Focus Booster | Get help tracking time and staying productive with an app geared towards students, employees, and freelancers.

Potential Challenge: Transitioning to Student Life

It’s true that the majority of college students are under the age of 25 and going back to school at 40 could at first feel awkward and unnatural.

  • According to NCES, in 2015 there were 11.8 million college and university students under age 25 and 8.1 million students 25 years old and over.


To make a smooth transition into student life, it’s important to change your own mindset—realize that regardless of age, students attend college with the goals of achieving a higher education and securing a well-paying, stable job.

A few tips to help you thrive in your time of transition:

  • Expect to feel anxious – The discomfort is natural since you are leaving your comfort zone.
  • Realize that you are beginning a new chapter – Recognize that a door has closed and welcome new experiences.
  • Embrace positive thinking – Don’t focus on the collapse of old patterns—create new ones.
  • Identify the opportunities – Find ways to experiment with being bold, more assertive, and confident in moving ahead.
  • Make a plan to keep moving – Don’t get too comfortable in your new routines—expect changes to keep coming.
  • Get encouraged – We are social beings and need the support of friends and family—don’t try to go it alone.
  • Stay realistic – Accept difficult days but don’t let them hold you down; you’ll need time to regain your self-confidence and adjust to new responsibilities.

Potential Challenge: Budgeting for College

The security of a 9-to-5 job is, well, secure. But the doors of opportunities opened by a higher education make the financial investment worthwhile.

As a college student, you’ll need to keep track of your finances:


  • Personal/college savings
  • Scholarships and grants
  • Student loans
  • Part/full-time job


  • College tuition and enrollment fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Parking fees
  • Transportation


Fortunately, many budgeting tools, online calculators, and apps are available to help adult college students understand expenses and income and maintain financial health.

  • PearBudget Online | A simplified budgeting tool based on the envelope method of allocating funds to categories and making spending decisions based on available funds.
  • | A tool to create a budget, track and pay bills, and check your credit score.
  • SplashMoney | A budgeting tool that allows you to track and analyze spending with customizable reports and charts.

There are also options to consider—like online or part-time programs—that tend to be more flexible and allow you to continue working while going back to school.

Popular Degrees and Promising Career Paths for Students Going Back to School at 40

A career change at 40 is a bold move. You’re leaving your comfort zone and setting your sights on new horizons. You’ve already achieved success in your current career, and now you’re ready for new challenges and opportunities.

When 40-somethings search for new careers, various factors should be considered: job stability, financial rewards, and excitement for a new field! Climbing the corporate ladder is no longer appealing. At 40, you’re ready to learn a new skill that will land you a well-paying, stable job that—last but not least—will involve doing something you love.

You’ve seen many changes revolutionize industries such as health care, finance, and design. But you’re also thinking about how you can turn your lifelong hobby into a career. A natural aptitude for design, fitness, or managing money could be a sign pointing to your next career. So consider the following positions before deciding on a college major and make a wise career change at 40.

Registered Nurse

Why: Be a part of the solution to the anticipated shortage of nurses in health care.

  • What they do
    • Administer medicine and treatment and coordinate patient care
    • Assess patient conditions and record symptoms and medical histories
    • Communicate and collaborate with doctors and other health care professionals
    • Perform diagnostic tests and analyze results
    • Educate patients and their families on managing and preventing illness or injury
  • Potential income (2016 median salary) – $68,450
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026) – 15% (much faster than average)
  • Related degree – Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Administrative Services Managers

Why: Apply your management experience at a higher level.

  • What they do –
    • Plan, direct, and coordinate an organization’s supportive services
    • Maintain facilities and supervise activities such as recordkeeping, mail distribution, and office maintenance
    • Make recommendations to improve the efficiency of business operations
    • Create goals and deadlines for a department or office
    • Ensure facility compliance with environmental, health, and security standards
  • Potential income (2016 median salary) – $90,050
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026) – 10% (faster than average)
  • Related degree – Bachelor’s degree in management and leadership

Interior Designer

Why: Apply your eye for great design in a creative career.

  • What they do –
    • Design interior spaces for functionality, safety, and visual appeal
    • Determine a project’s requirements and create a timeline
    • Select decorative items, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, plumbing fixtures, lighting, colors, and materials
    • Communicate with general building contractors to implement plans
    • Ensure successful execution and client satisfaction
  • Potential income (2016 median salary) – $49,810
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026) – 4%
  • Related degree – Bachelor’s degree in interior design

Personal Fitness Trainer

Why: Turn your life-long hobby of exercising into a career.

  • What they do –
    • Lead, train, and motivate individuals in classes or exercise activities
    • Work with individuals across all ages and skill levels
    • Ensure clients are properly using equipment and exercising with correct techniques
    • Make recommendations and provide resources about nutrition, weight control, and lifestyle habits
    • Administer emergency first aid when needed
  • Potential income (2018 median salary) – $58,219
  • Estimated job growth –  10% (faster than average)
  • Related degree – Bachelor’s degree in exercise science


Why: A relatively stable, in-demand position for all businesses and organizations.

  • What they do –
    • Prepare, examine, and maintain financial records
    • Compute taxes owed and prepare tax returns
    • Make recommendations to reduce costs and increase profit margins and revenue
  • Potential income (2016 median salary) – $68,150
  • Estimated job growth – 10% (faster than average)
  • Related degree – Bachelor’s degree in accounting

Financial Manager

Why: A critical position for all businesses.

  • What they do –
    • Create financial reports that include financial statements, forecasts, and business activity
    • Direct and oversee the organization’s investment activities
    • Develop strategies to meet the organization’s long-term financial goals
    • Analyze market trends in order to maximize profits and identify opportunities for expansion
    • Supervise employees working on financial reporting and budgeting
  • Potential income (2016 median salary) – $121,750
  • Estimated job growth (2016-2026) – 19% (much faster than average)
  • Related degree – Bachelor’s degree in business or finance

Reinvent your Career by Going Back to School at 40

The familiar has gotten old and something different is calling your name. Welcome the surprise of learning something new, embrace change in yourself, and reinvent your career.

To learn more about how you can start the process of going back to school for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, research your options and contact an enrollment advisor today. The future begins with you, and with the encouragement and support of your family and close friends, and along with guidance from an enrollment advisor, you’ll be well prepared to take that next step and pursue a higher education.

Here are some other resources to consider when taking the next step towards going back to school:
Student Loan and Tax Information
Scholarships and Grants for Adults
Statistics about Adult Students
Maryville Online


Technology Review


Chicago Tribune


Fast Co.

Learning House


Psychology Today

BLS Registered Nurse

BLS Administrative Services

BLS Interior Designers


BLS Personal Care

BLS Accountants


Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.