Planning Your Second Career

Whether by choice or out of necessity, Americans are working longer. Roughly 63% of workers say they plan to work past retirement age on a part-time basis, and another 11% will work full time.

Many of these people will seek new careers as they extend their working years. These second careers, or encore careers, provide continued income during retirement while allowing individuals to pursue work that is personally fulfilling. In this article, we take a look at a few important considerations when planning a second career.

Key Takeaways

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Identify Your Skills and Interests

Many people who embark on a second career do so not just for the money, but for the opportunity to stay productive and do something about which they are passionate. Identifying your skills is often easier than narrowing down your true interests and passions. Because you may be in your second career for the next 10 or 20 years, it's important to figure out how you can combine your skills and interests into work that is rewarding.

Ideally, you should begin planning your second career while you are still working. This will give you time to plan your next act while you still have the security of a paycheck. This may include keeping avenues open with your current employer and expanding your professional network.

When searching for your passion, it may be helpful to reflect on what you enjoyed doing as a child, and what career "dreams" you had as a young adult. Think about what you would do if money were no object. Allowing yourself to dream a little can help point you in the right direction.

Education and Training

Your existing skill set may not match your interests, and you may have to learn new skills through education and training. Professional programs, graduate schools and community colleges cater to people with work and family obligations, They offer evening, weekend and online classes to provide students with the flexibility they need.

You may be able to complete the necessary coursework while still working in your current field. As an added bonus, you may be eligible for tuition reimbursement through your current employer.

In addition to updating your skill set, you may need to revitalize your resume, focusing on relevant work and experience. If it has been a while since you've written a resume, consider a resume coach who can help you write a well-organized resume that showcases your expertise, experience and accomplishments.

Where the Jobs Are

It can be helpful to consider fields that exhibit strong job growth when refining your second career. According to, a non-profit website that provides information for people pursuing encore careers, most job opportunities fall into five categories:


According to a MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures survey, 30% of people in second careers are working in education. Despite budget cuts in many school districts, jobs are still available in math, science, special education, and English as a second language. Other roles in the K-12 setting include adjunct teachers, coaches and mentors, content advisers, project coordinators and tutors.


The healthcare industry is expected to expand significantly over the next decade as boomers age and increase demand: estimates indicate a 16% increase between 2011 and 2020. Emerging jobs such as community health worker, chronic illness coach, medications coach, patient navigator/advocate and home modification specialist add depth to the more traditional careers available in healthcare.


Although "green" jobs may be difficult to find, they represent an area of growing interest for people pursuing second careers, and changes in the production and consumption of energy may lead to an increase in the number of jobs available. While many green jobs require specific technical skills, there are job opportunities for professionals without specific environmental backgrounds, such as those who have worked in project management, architecture, engineering, accounting, human resources and marketing.


As of September 2017, 31% (nearly 600,000) of the career employees of the federal government are eligible to retire, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Because of its aging workforce, the government is facing labor shortages in key skilled positions, including administrative roles, the medical and health field, and security and law enforcement. To browse government jobs, visit or your state's employment website.


While many non-profits have struggled since the financial crisis of 2008, the country's 1.6 million non-profit organizations employs about 10% of the workforce in the United States. As one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the last 10 years, non-profits provide job opportunities for a wide variety of workers, including accountants, artists, attorneys, carpenters, computer programmers, designers, educators, electricians, event planners, fundraisers, human resource professionals, managers, marketers and many others.


The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) refers to the growing number of individuals who are 50-plus and turning to small business ownership as "encore entrepreneurs." According to the SBA, 33% of workers between the ages of 35 to 49 are self-employed, and that figure increases to 51% for workers who are 50 and older.

Entrepreneurship provides the opportunity to turn a lifetime interest or hobby into a personally rewarding and potentially profitable career.

Visit and search for "encore entrepreneur" for tips on starting and running a small business, as well as financing options.

The Bottom Line

A second career can provide opportunities whether you are worried about outliving your retirement savings, or you want to stay productive and do something meaningful later in life. After decades in the workforce, many people have the knowledge, energy, talent and time to devote to a new career that can provide both a paycheck and a purpose.

The best time to start planning your second career is before you retire; that is, while you are still working in your "first" career. This will give you the time you need to plan, research and make important decisions regarding your second act. Being proactive about the process, rather than expecting things to just "fall in place," can help ensure a productive and fulfilling second career.

Article Sources
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  1. Gallup. "Most U.S. Employed Adults Plan to Work Past Retirement Age."

  2. MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures. "Encore Career Survey," Page 9.

  3. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject," Download ".xlsx."

  4. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employment Projections: 2019-2029 Summary."

  5. U.S. Government Accountability Office. "Federal Workforce: Recent Trends in Federal Civilian Employment and Compensation."

  6. Urban Institute National Center For Charitable Statistics. "The Nonprofit Sector in Brief."

  7. John Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. "The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report," Page 3.

  8. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Encore Entrepreneur: Introduction to Starting Your OwnBusiness."

  9. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. "Demographic Characteristics of Business Owners," Page 2.

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