What is a Second Career?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A second career may be defined several ways. Some people work at one career directly after college, and then find 10-20 years down the line they’re not all that happy with their career choice. They may decide they’d like to focus their energies elsewhere and embark on a different job path. This might take them back to school for training in a different area, or they might stay in the same type of businesses in which they’ve worked before but choose to work in a completely different area. An accountant, for example, might decide to look for jobs in human resources instead, but at the same company.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

Sometimes, a second career is defined as a job or career you take on after the age of 50, or after you’ve retired from your first profession. In many cases, in order to take retirement or social security payments, you may have to leave your current job. But as quality of life increases for people in their 50s, and as longevity increases, many people are not satisfied with retirement at such an early age, and would like to work as long as they can. Economic concerns, such as too little retirement pay, may inspire others to embark on a second career.

Making a job shift or career change in mid-life to later life can be challenging, since as we age we tend to acquire more economic responsibilities. We may have children to care for, house payments to make, and plenty of debt that must be considered when we jump from one career to another. If you’re considering a career change, it’s a good idea to examine the types of careers that will allow you to make the income you still need to support yourself and your family, and possibly job training opportunities that allow you to continue to work while you train, or that are of short duration. A lucky few have made enough money so that they can well afford to jump from a high paying job to a low paying one, like going from head of a successful software company to junior high math teacher. Most other people need to take into account the financial ramifications of choosing a second career.

Since many people do feel that need for a second career at some point in life, there are a variety of training schools, professional colleges, and accredited colleges that offer certificate or degree programs with flexible hours for people who work. Classes or training may take place at night, over weekends, or sometimes even online. They can be pricey, especially when you’re looking at private accredited colleges, but they can train you for a second career while you can still work in your first career.

For people of retirement age, starting a second career can be a little bit more challenging. Age discrimination can exist in certain fields, and some people balk at working for managers who are significantly younger than them. Sometimes managers feel uncomfortable hiring or supervising employees old enough to be their parents. Though age discrimination should technically not exist in the workplace, there are plenty of retired people who attest to the difficulty in finding work.

One great resource for people considering a second career after retirement is the American Association of Retired People (AARP). They have listings for members on the most “age-friendly” companies to work for after you retire. Evaluating such companies and fields where age discrimination is least present can help you make decisions about what your next career move should be.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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For people who have the opportunity, I think being a small business owner is a great second career after years of working for a boss. For example, my father retired from a career as a supervisor in business several years ago. He found that retirement was not for him, so he opened a used car lot. He has always loved cars, and he understands business from his first career, so this type of business has been a perfect match.

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