How Prevalent are Career Changes?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than half of working Americans were contemplating a career change1. Layer on top of that more than two years of a global pandemic that ushered in new opportunities to work from home, coupled with mounting pressures placed on frontline workers, and it’s no wonder that in 2022 even more working adults are seriously considering switching careers. And with record job openings across nearly all business sectors, there are plenty of places to consider going.
What are Common Barriers to Career Changes?
While new data suggests that about one third of Americans ages 25 – 44 have changed career fields at least once, making a wholesale career change is not an easy proposition2. Would-be career changers face many barriers, including educational, financial, childcare, and time to name just a few. Many careers require specialized training that can range from certification to multi-year degree programs. That often means working adults must balance the demands of their current jobs with the rigors of attaining new or additional education.
While a great investment in the long run, the cost of attaining needed education can feel prohibitive for workers who don’t have a lot of discretionary income. In fact, according to zippia.com, 57 percent of employees in one survey said their top barrier to making a career change was lack of financial security. Many would-be students may not have the margin to add the cost of tuition to their current living expenses, not to mention the cost of books, lab fees, and technology requirements.
Many working adults also have childcare and/or eldercare responsibilities that complicate the already complex prospect of making a career change. For many, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to maintain the status quo and strive for something better.
How Can the Education Community Support Career Changes?
With so many workers thinking about changing careers, it behooves educators, employers, and policymakers to consider ways to support career transitions.
1. Providing Tuition Assistance
New data shows that 38 percent of undergraduate students are over 25 years old, 58 percent work while attending school, and 26 percent are raising families. Such students may be more averse to taking on student loan debt than traditional students who are likely to be younger and have fewer financial obligations3.
Particularly in instances where nontraditional students may not qualify for other forms of traditional financial aid, scholarships and grants may be their only viable option for tuition assistance.
To make matters worse, some career changers may have lingering student loan debt from education attained for their first career. These circumstances can feel insurmountable to someone looking to change career tracks. On the flip side, this creates an opportunity for educators, employers, and community groups to step in by providing grants, scholarships, tuition assistance, and repayment assistance programs that can make all the difference.
Several new, innovative platforms such as Dolr can make it easy for students, educators, employers, and families to work together to tackle student loan debt. Specifically, Dolr gives students the opportunity to earn cashback on spending while allowing friends, family, employers, and schools to contribute to the student’s debt repayment as well.
2. Offering Flexible Schedules
Additionally, given the time constraints and family responsibilities that might complicate students’ ability to attend classes, providing flexibility at school and work can be essential to any career transition. Specifically, educational programs that offer remote options with flexible scheduling are easier for non-traditional students to navigate. This means making course materials available online to be accessed at the student’s convenience. When course materials can be accessible early in the morning or late at night while family members are asleep, students have more opportunities to participate. This also means providing timeframes for turning in assignments and taking exams, as opposed to requiring students to be present either in person or online at a one specific day and time.
Sometimes it’s not feasible to provide instruction entirely online. In these instances, providing evening and weekend options might be the difference between whether a working professional can pursue new/additional education or not. For instance, a chemistry lab session requires in-person attendance. If the lab portion of the chemistry course has evening and weekend options, it will provide the much-needed flexibility and accessibility to working students.
3. Partnering with Community-Based Organizations to Address Barriers to Work
Adding schooling to an already full work and family schedule can be especially daunting. Childcare and eldercare responsibilities can pose barriers to additional education, training, and career transitions. While most career changers will rely on family and friends to provide care when they cannot be present, some lack social circles that can provide this level of support. Recognizing this need, some community colleges have begun offering on-campus childcare services4. It’s important to note that while having a childcare option on campus can be helpful, additional fees for this service may result in increased financial strain on students. In these cases, grants and other sources of financial aid to cover the cost of childcare may be necessary.
Alternatively, community-based programming may be another solution. Community centers and other service organizations, such as churches and YMCAs, frequently offer after-school programming that could allow a parent several hours of uninterrupted work or study time.
Making a career change requires a great deal of effort, time, risk, and flexibility on the part of employees. Most adults will need some amount of flexibility from both their school and employer. They will need options and opportunities for financing their education. They also will need support from families, friends, and their community.
By understanding the barriers that stand between would-be career changers and their new professions, the education community and employers can work together to support students as they transition to new industries.
Workmorphis provides a full suite of services to help organizations across the U.S. revitalize their workforce, including workforce planning strategies, skills transformation, diversified workforce pipeline strategies, employee support and empowerment, and more.
Connect with us at 877.999.7717 or email@example.com to offer your insights or learn how we can help you transform your workforce.
Meet the Authors
Mandy Minick is the Principal and Founder at Minick Public Relations, LLC in Columbus, Ohio. For over 20 years, Mandy has built public relations and communications acumen from nearly every angle—as a reporter, working in state government, representing for-profit businesses, advocating for non-profit organizations, and as press secretary and chief communications officer for the Ohio Department of Education. Here she served under two state superintendents of public instruction as they navigated a statewide school-building closure and helped to guide and support the education system through the challenges and aftermath of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Mandy holds bachelor’s degrees in English/Journalism (B.A.) and Mass Communication/Public Relations (B.S.) from Miami University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Carmel College of Nursing and was privileged to serve oncology patients at The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital. She enjoys tackling amateur home improvements, reading biographies, and listening to podcasts.
Emily Fabiano is the founder of Workmorphis, a cross-sector workforce consultancy helping organizations build a more resilient workforce to thrive in a changing economy. Fabiano has deep experience in workforce transformation at the government level, working at the cross section of workforce strategy, economic development, and public policy. With a keen understanding of the unique challenges facing today’s and tomorrow’s workforce and the ability to communicate across sectors, Fabiano brings a new level of understanding and collaboration required to connect industry and education and prepare people for jobs.
Nicholas Klein focuses on project execution and policy strategy at Workmorphis. He is an expert implementer who specializes in decoding the public workforce system to help employers and employees compete in a fast-changing labor market. Passionate about advancing policies that create economic mobility, Klein believes that great strategies create new opportunities and prosperity potential at all levels throughout workplaces, from ownership to entry-level. Klein is a two-time graduate of The Ohio State University, recently earning his Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and his BA in Political Science. In between, he worked in the entertainment industry. His favorite things include action-adventure video games, history, indie and Americana music, and science fiction movies.
- According to 21 Career Change Statistics : How Often Do People Change Jobs? – Zippia
- According to EdX Survey Finds that about 1/3 of Americans ages 25 – 44 have Completely Changed Fields Since Starting their First Job Post-College
- According to Print (luminafoundation.org)
- Finding Childcare on Community College Campuses (communitycollegereview.com)