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Back to the future? Top careers worth going back to school (even after 40)

By Rose Kennedy #local-all

When you’ve already got too much stress and too little time, why would you want to go back to school in your 40s? The quick answer: It’s all about upping the happy.

If you’re not happy with your job, you should make a change, explained Career FAQ’s Vivien Luu.

“The future of our workforce is changing, and as our working lives increase, it means that by the time you’re in your 40s, you’ve got another 20 or possibly even 30 years ahead of you,” she said. “So, if you’re not happy in your career, now is the time to do something about it.”

As for going back to school’s effect on your ability to pay bills or care for your kids or elderly parents, those things need to be taken into consideration before you’re stuck. “But they shouldn’t hold you back either,” Luu said. “They’re a challenge, not an obstacle.”

But not just any degree is worth the upheaval, cost or burning of your remaining time on earth. When you’re older than 40, you should look at these five degrees and their associated careers first.

Executive administrative assistant: According to Lifehack, this job is one where a person’s ability to handle people and be calm and professional is very valuable. A good degree for this position would take up to four years to earn, and a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts degree in a business-related field are the best bets.

“An executive administrative assistant handles clerical tasks for their businesses on advanced levels,” according to Life Hack. “In addition to carrying out clerical tasks like filing and call routing (as an entry-level administrative assistant would), executive assistants often prepare critical reports, documents, and oversee/train lower-level staff.”

Pay: The position pays an annual wage of $59,400 on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial analyst: “Unlike an accountant who focuses on the taxes and records side of a business, a financial consultant often deals with stocks and investments and guides both businesses and individuals in financial decisions,” noted Elite Brand Ambassador and Lifehack columnist Kileen Robinson.

While it would require a four-year degree, you’d have what Robinson calls “a generous amount of freedom when choosing a degree field” that would lead to a financial analyst spot. “Typically, a four-year degree in either economics, statistics, finance, or even mathematics can be suitable for this career path. Whichever path you may choose, a wide variety of fields are open to you as more often than not, all types of businesses need the expertise of a financial analyst.”

Pay: The salary alone makes this a worthwhile educational pursuit: the median is $84,300, or $40.53 per hour.

Web developer: If you’ve got your eye on the clock and the calendar, a web developer is a good choice for a career change that involves further education, according to Lifehack.

“Web developers can work as part of a design or marketing agency, work as freelancers, or even start their own businesses creating websites for other businesses and professionals,” Lifehack noted.

Future web developers can pursue an associates degree or a four-year degree in web design to set sail on that career path. A good mix of graphic design and coding for web courses can help start this career as well. It’s not unusual for many web developers to be completely self-taught, which is definitely something to consider to save on time and money on a degree.

Pay: A professional web developer who designs websites “soup to nuts” earns a median salary of around $67,990 per year.


Dental hygienist. When you’re an over-40 worker looking for a career with flexibility for balancing work and family, health care is usually a good field to consider, according to Seattle Pi. One particularly solid choice: dental hygienist, where you clean teeth and educate patients about oral hygiene. The field is growing by 38 percent annually, Seattle Pi added. “This salary is even more impressive because two-thirds of hygienists work only part-time and enjoy flexible scheduling. To become a dental hygienist you’ll need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene.”

Pay:  Full-time jobs have average salaries around $68,250 a year.

Training and development specialist: This career is “practically tailor-made for someone with good communication and presentation skills who’s contemplating a mid-career switch,” according to AARP, typically earning a degree in human resources or business. It’s projected growth rate is 28 percent, according to AARP.

Pay: The average salary is $55,150.