How Much Will a Career Change Cost You?

A moving truck is unloaded as a family moves into their new home at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A moving truck is unloaded as a family moves into their new home at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2004. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

A new job in a completely different career field may fill your soul with joy, but it can also empty your wallet. Estimating the cost to shift into a new field can make the difference between a smooth fiscal transition and a personal budget crisis, so before you make a move, consider and plan for these costs:

Earning a degree

Do you need a degree to launch your new career? Add up the cost of tuition, books and fees. If you're quitting your current job to go back to school, include the cost of daily living expenses, plus the monthly income you won't be earning multiplied by the number of months you'll be in school.

Unused vacation or sick time

Every time you move to a new job, you likely leave behind a little unused sick time and possibly some vacation time. Multiply your daily salary times the days you're not using to see what that's worth.

Trade association membership

Networking is critical when you switch to a new field, so include the membership fee for joining a society in the new field. If you're headed back to school, ask whether there's a student membership rate.

A new credential

Credentials give job seekers a boost. Include the cost of earning one -- such as testing fees, classes and required meeting attendance -- in your career-change budget.

Job-hunting expenses

They're tax deductible, but -- read the fine print -- only when you're seeking work in your same profession. Switch to a new career, and the cost of resumes, postage, phone calls and getting to interviews is no longer deductible. Ouch!


If your current employer provides health insurance, calculate the cost of continuing that coverage through COBRA until you've landed a new job with benefits. What other benefits are you giving up? Stock options? Flexible-spending accounts? Subsidized day care? Will you lose any retirement contributions or pension eligibility? Be sure you include the value of those lost or reduced benefits in your cost calculation.


Does the new profession use software you don't already own and that your employer might not supply? Will you need to pay for some new office equipment, such as a laptop, out of your own pocket?

Outfit yourself

Your old job was button-down; the new field is casual. Deduct the money you're saving by not buying suits. Going from casual to corporate? Estimate the cost of your new wardrobe and add that to your personal bottom line.


Are you going to earn more or less in your new career? Use Monster's Salary Wizard to see what you might earn during the course of your new career. Multiply your new projected annual salary by the number of years remaining in your career.

For those heading out

If your new career will take you to a new city, then you've got other costs and potential savings to consider:

  • Job-hunting trips: Calculate the cost of airfare, hotel, car rental and meals for at least two job-hunting trips. Then if the employer doesn't offer to pay for your relocation, add in another two trips to look for a house; be sure to include travel costs for your family if they're coming on the house-hunting trips with you. The Worldwide Employee Relocation Council (ERC) says the national average cost per house-hunting trip is $1,836.
  • Household moving costs: At least, these might be tax deductible (if the commute to the new job is at least 50 miles away from your residence and you work full time for the next few years). If you own a home, expect moving to cost you $55,165, which includes fees involved in buying and selling a home and shipping household goods, according to ERC. If you rent, expect to pay an average of $16,177 to move, ERC says.
  • Cost-of-living differences: The cost of living in a new city can be a huge financial factor. Figure out whether the new city is going to cost you or save you money annually, then multiply that figure by the number of years you plan to work there.

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