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Best jobs to retrain for at 50

Starting a new career at any age can be daunting, particularly when you're nearing 50 and other colleagues may be considering retirement. But there are lots of exciting opportunities to consider.

If you’re looking for a new challenge, or interested in trying something new, you may want to consider retraining and learning a trade. It’s never too late and can be hugely rewarding.

Whether you’ve got some earlier trade experience or just looking to learn on the way, this guide is for you.

We’ve put together a list of the best jobs to retrain for at 50 and included an overview of benefits and qualifications needed to help you decide.

Career change ideas at 50

While there is no consensus on what the ‘best’ career path is for someone in their 50s, learning a trade is definitely one of the smarter choices.

There are countless opportunities for qualified tradespeople in the UK right now.

With courses available and life experience valued, there are plenty of opportunities out there for you to consider. The following list is by no means complete and gives an overview of some of the best options. Ultimately your decision will be based on personal circumstances and the experience you have gained to date.

Building surveying

Those who have worked in an engineering field will feel at home moving into building surveying, but even those with no experience will enjoy this job. Tradespeople in this field inspect all visible and accessible parts of a building, including roofs, walls, floors, windows and doors, chimneys, garages, basements and outbuildings. They will give clients advice on the structural integrity of a build and will make suggestions for improvements where needed.


  • The work is not desk bound so you’ll be on site and not tied to your screen
  • This role is very varied and no two days are the same
  • Graduate building surveyors can expect to earn around £22,000-£26,000. With a few years’ experience you’ll earn in the region of £28,000-£50,000 and at senior level this can rise to £70,000 or more

Experience or qualifications needed for building surveying

  • The quickest way to become a building surveyor is to study for a building surveying undergraduate degree that’s been approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and/or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). This takes three years of full time study.
  • You can also move into this field by studying for a building surveying postgraduate ‘conversion course’. This also needs to be approved by RICS and/or the CIOB and can last either nine months or a year full time, depending on the type of qualification.
  • There are a few building surveying apprenticeships available and many of these apprenticeships are organised through the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust
  • You’ll typically work towards a professional qualification known as chartership awarded by RICS.
  • If you’re looking for an entry-level job instead, you could apply for a building surveying technician job with a higher national diploma (HND)


Carpenters are always in demand, so you’ll have no problem finding plenty of paid work once you’re qualified.


  • You can start your own business and be your own boss
  • More flexible working hours
  • A satisfying career that you truly enjoy as you can see your designs come to life
  • Great personal and professional development opportunities

Experience or qualifications needed for carpentry

  • There are fast-track training courses that allow you to learn the skills and gain the essential qualifications required of a carpenter in a few weeks, allowing you to bypass the traditional college course route.
  • You’ll need to be good with your hands and comfortable using different tools.
  • Some up-front costs will be needed for machinery, tools and workshop space.


Training to be an electrician is a worthwhile move as there’s lots of earning potential and it’s often not as physical as other trades.


  • Flexibility – with the current skills shortage, it’s possible to find work as an electrician virtually anywhere in the UK
  • Be your own boss – qualified electricians can pick the jobs that suit them, with this freedom allowing you to pick your schedule
  • Great trade for starting up your own firm – get started with that here.

Experience or qualifications needed for electricians

  • Training as an electrician once took up to three years as it required studying in college and undertaking an apprenticeship in order to qualify. But now there are courses available that are designed to get you qualified in as little as six months.
  • Once you’ve been trained online and got some experience, you’ll do a final assessment. If you pass, you’ll be able to legally trade as an electrician and work on a wide range of projects.


Plumbing is a common profession to retrain for at 50 – the potential earnings are a big reason why. Like electricians, this trade is always in demand and there’s the opportunity to work on some impressive projects.


Experience or qualifications needed for plumbers

  • Your two main entry routes are to become a plumber’s mate or complete a fast-track plumbing course. It’s best to retrain through a course if you want to increase your earning potential and land a job quickly.

Gas engineers

Gas engineering is a highly rewarding profession with excellent career prospects. Working with gas requires training beforehand, but once passed you’ll be an approved engineer in high demand.

Plumbers often retrain as gas engineers in their 50s due to the increased salary and ability to attract a wider client base. But even if you have no prior trade experience, it’s still a great option for those interested in a challenge.


  • Excellent salary
  • High demand in all parts of the UK
  • Ability to start up your own firm
  • Stable market and easy route to self-employment

Experience or qualifications needed for gas engineering

  • You’ll first need to take a gas engineering course and become Gas Safe registered – this involves training for assessments which can take as little as 25 weeks with experienced training providers.

Jobs for 50 year olds with no experience

Trade businesses offer something very different and exciting for those who have spent several years in the same career. With demand so high for trained professionals, many of the requirements are now being relaxed to get more people into work. This is a great opportunity for people who have little or no experience in a trade-related field.

The same can be said for those that do have experience under their belt but are considering learning a new trade. While this may sound daunting at first, you’ll soon realise that many of the skills you’ve learned in another job will apply to your new career, especially if you’re keen on setting up your own business.

Job training programs for over 50s

There are many training academies that offer accredited training courses for different trades. Some will get you qualified in a short space of time, while others may need more of your time to get passed.

Either way, there’s no shortage of options and it’s very likely there’s something nearby, so you won’t have to travel too far. You can explore the available options through the National Careers Service which offers apprenticeships or a skills health check to help you plan your next career path.


What is the best career to start at 50?

There isn’t a single answer to this question, as it will depend on what you enjoy, how much you want to earn and if you’re willing to study again. That said, retraining for a new role in your 50s is becoming very common, so don’t feel discouraged by being a latecomer to a new trade.

What new jobs can I do at 50?

The sky’s the limit! But just make sure you’re happy with the physical demands of some jobs. Plumbing, for example, is harder on the body than building surveying, so keep that in mind when choosing a new direction.

What is a good second career for someone over 50?

Finding the ‘right’ career is never easy but trades offer a good balance of earning potential and variety. Transferable skills and life experience will also set you up for success if you’re keen on running your own company.

Is 50 too old to start a new career?

Never. There are loads of options, even for people with little experience, and age shouldn’t be a factor. As long as you’re keen and physically able to complete the work, you’ll find great success in your new career.

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