Thinking About a Career Change at 30?

What You Need to Know Before You Take Your Next Step

30 year old coworkers talking
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It may feel like you have been working forever, but at age 30, it hasn't been that long since you began your career. You probably chose this occupation almost a decade ago, if not earlier, when you didn't know as much about yourself as you do now. If you are having doubts about whether the choice you made is still right for you—or if it ever was—this is probably the best time to make a career change.

Why Is Age 30 a Good Time for a Career Change?

At age 30, you will likely work for at least 35 more years if you, as many people do, retire at 65. It is becoming increasingly common to keep working longer due to financial need. For that reason alone it makes sense to find an occupation you actually like, but it would be better if you choose a later retirement because you are happy working. 

Making a career change at any age will, without a doubt, affect your life, relationships, and even health. Hopefully, the impact, once you get past the stress of the transition, will be positive, as you move away from doing work you dislike, toward a career you find satisfying.

Changing careers becomes increasingly more difficult, but not impossible, as we get older. That is because our responsibilities typically increase with age. Many individuals, however, don't have as many responsibilities at age 30 as they will potentially have when they turn 40 or 50.

Millenials are putting off many of the life changing events that require more career stability. For example, the median age for marriage in the United States is now 29.9 for men and 27.9 for women ("Median Age at First Marriage." American Fact Finder. United States Census Bureau. 2016). According to the Pew Research Center, among young adults ages 25 to 34, 58 percent were unmarried in 2012, with the vast majority of them (85 percent) having never been married ("Record Share of Americans Have Never Married." Pew Research Center.

September 24, 2014). Though the average age for having a first child is just 26.2 ("Births and Natality." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. 2015), many people are delaying having a child until they are over 30. 

Expenses are also lower for 25 to 34-year-olds than for those who are older. They spend $6,200 per year on food and $17,200 on housing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( "3 Reasons You'll Spend More at 40 Than at 30." CNN Money. August 3, 2016). If you are looking for the best time to make a transition, this can be it. You can, of course, do it later on—many people do—but doing it now will be easier than a midlife career change.

How to Embark on a Career Change at 30

Once you decide to make a change, your next order of business will be to decide what career to pursue. Don't be discouraged if you don't know what you want to do next. There are steps to take that can help you figure it all out. 

The first thing to do is learn about yourself. This part of the career planning process is called a self-assessment, and during it, you should look at your personality type, interests, aptitudes, and work-related values. You may have done this previously, but you should do it again now.

You're more mature at 30 than you were in your late teens or early 20s, and your responses to the assessment tools will probably be different now. As a result of completing this step, you will have a list of occupations that are a good fit based on your traits.

Your next step is to explore the occupations on your list. Whether you think you know what career you want to pursue—even if it's something you've always dreamed of—or it's one you've never thought of before, learn everything you can about it. Get the facts about job duties, job outlook, earnings, and educational and training requirements. Evaluate each of your options so you can decide which careers are suitable for you and which are not.

Consider every factor. Learn about typical job duties because if you don't actually like the tasks you have to complete every day, you probably won't enjoy your work.

While money isn't the most important contributor to job satisfaction, you should make sure your earnings will at least cover your expenses and allow you to live the way you desire. Also, look at the job outlook so that you can make sure you will be able to get a job when you are ready.

It is essential to put education and training into the equation when choosing a career. Since, at age 30, you have many years of work ahead, it's not necessary to cross an option off your list simply because it will take a few years or more to meet the qualifications. Your decision will come down to how much time and effort you are willing to make, and, of course, finances.

Your transferable skills are another thing to consider. Over several years of working, you have probably acquired talents and abilities that you can use in a variety of other occupations. Some employers may even allow you to substitute them for formal training. If they do, it will make your transition a lot easier and faster. If you have to choose between a career in which you can use the skills you currently have and one that requires additional schooling, you may decide to pick the former. It will certainly allow you to get into your new career sooner. Since time is on your side, however, you can certainly take the longer route.

Some Drawbacks of Changing Careers at Age 30

Making a change often comes at a cost, regardless of your age. If you have your eye on a career that requires additional schooling or training, you may have to quit your job to free up your schedule. That means you may be unemployed until you are fully prepared to enter your new occupation. 

You will also have to be able to fund your education. Before you embark on a career change, make sure you have savings or another means of financial support. It may be worth spending a little more time in your current occupation in order to save up the money to finance your transition.