Career Advice

5 Steps for Making a Career Change Without Going Back to School

Switching careers can be a daunting task since you have to start the entire process from scratch while also having to deal with a lot of anxiety about being able to find something new that is good enough for you.

In many cases, shifting to an entirely new career might require you to go back to school and get a degree or certificate in certain relevant courses. This can end up adding significantly to your expenses.

In this situation, is it possible to make a career change without going back to school? There certainly are several options that you have that you can look into when it comes to building your knowledge and gaining new skills without formal education.

5 Steps for a Career Change Without Going Back to School

People between the age of 18 and 54 tend to have around 12 jobs in total by the time they reach the upper age limit of this range, marking several changes in their jobs and possibly their careers.

It is not possible to keep going back to school each time they change careers, so it is safe to assume that this kind of change is possible even without another formal degree.

There are several steps that you can take when it comes to making a career change without going back to school. You can go through some of them below.

Do Your Research

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The starting point when it comes to changing your career without going back to school is to carry out a good amount of research so that you can become clear and thorough about the requirements for the new career that you are considering.

In this case, if you are just starting to think about changing your career, then the first thing you should do is explore your options. List down some ideas that you have so that you can look up their requirements online. You can do this by listing down some of your interests and skills so that you can conduct relevant research.

This can allow you to gain some clarity about the educational requirements that each career tends to have and whether you can manage without it. Make sure you also look into whether not having a formal degree or certificate in that career field will make a difference to how you will get paid for your work.

You can also take into account certain aspects of your current job position and career that you enjoy and what you do not enjoy. This can help you narrow down certain kinds of jobs even further.

In case there are certain careers that require you to go back to school, you can try contacting some people to figure out if there are some alternatives that will give you the knowledge that you need.

Use Transferable Skills

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You should make good use of the transferable skills that you might have accumulated over the years in your current or previous career and how they can give you an advantage in your new career.

In many cases, employers tend to consider your experience level if you do not have a higher degree of a certain level. In this sense, you can begin the process of figuring out what your skills are.

To do this, consider your current or previous career role and what it requires you to do on a daily basis. You can then make a list of these skills so that you can get a clearer idea about the skills that you have gathered.

Next, you can figure out the skills that you will need for your new career. Look into career descriptions online and list down their required skills next to the skills that you already have.

Compare the two and see which skills from both tend to match well. Based on this, you can then use your existing skills to perform your role in your new career. Make sure you highlight these transferable skills in your resume and interviews.

Build Your Knowledge

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With the kind of digital world we live in today, there are now diverse ways in which you can build your knowledge without needing to go back to school. This can put you on par with other candidates in the same career that you want to switch to.

Some ways in which you can build your knowledge without going back to school include the following.

  • Online Information: There is endless information that is available to you online just with a few taps or clicks. You can easily take advantage of this and carry out your own relevant research so that you can learn new things about your new career.

    Read blogs, research papers, articles and go through the reading list of university courses so that you can find those resources online.
  • Online Courses: You do not need to pay thousands of dollars to attend school again just to build up your debt or expenses even more. You can simply register for online courses, whether free or nominally charged so that you can learn the same content while also getting a certificate at the end.

In fact, many 0f these online courses are taught by university professors themselves.

  • Books: You can read several books about your new career field so that you can build your knowledge even more. This kind of regular reading habit can also inculcate several other traits such as discipline, absorbing information and seeing different perspectives.

Gain Experience

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Another way to help you successfully move on to your new career without going back to school is by gaining a good amount of experience in the field. There are several ways in which you can do this that you can go through below.

  • You can undertake part-time jobs with a particular company so that you can learn the ins and outs of the field.
  • You can apply for internships or learning programs that can allow you to gain some insight into what you will be required to do. Make sure you check the age limit for such programs before applying as many might only be available for young adults.
  • Volunteer your time with a certain organization that can allow you to develop some skills and experience required in your new career. This can then help you find a job that will pay you for services better if you can display this kind of skillset and initiative.
  • You can start your own small projects or ventures to learn as you go. For instance, you can start your own blog where you can write and post about things relevant to your career. This can also help you gain a following that can also provide you with some constructive criticism, advice and feedback.
  • You can look for temporary freelancing projects or contractual work.

Carrying out these tasks can not only help you gain experience but can also allow you to earn some money while you are at it.

Build a Network

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Finally, another great way to learn new things about your new career can be to establish your own network of professionals. Do not hesitate to contact professionals or companies in your potential career so that you can set up a meeting with them where you can ask them questions and figure out what you need to know.

This can also allow you to get some more contacts from them so that you can be directed in the right direction.

Speak to other people who have undertaken this kind of career change so that they can help you figure out what you can do without needing to go back to school. You can also seek some help from university professionals or administrators in case they can direct you towards some resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Get Paid Less If I Change Careers Without Going Back to School?

As long as you have all the required skills, knowledge and experience that you can prove and display, you should ideally not get paid any less. Make sure you confirm this on your own by asking job professionals and companies or other relevant people.

You should take good advantage of your transferable skills and try to gain as much experience as possible to avoid reduced pay.

What Is the Best Job for This Kind of Career Change?

There is really no right answer to this. As long as you carry out all of the aforementioned steps, you should be able to settle into your new career smoothly. If some jobs in this new career are strict about formal education, then confirm this beforehand.

Is It Worth Going Back to School at a Later Age?

In case your new career absolutely requires you to go back to school, then it is quite okay to do this no matter how old you are. However, you will need to pay attention to the expenses involved and see if you can afford them.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know about the steps involved in making a career change without going back to school, you can begin and get through this process by ensuring that you are on par with others in the same career.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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