Do you have any suggestions for those worried about literally changing careers? What would you suggest they do, first? For instance, does life experience help with continuing education?
The first thing I would suggest would be to sit down and do a careful inventory of your skills/experiences. Think about where you've been and where you want to go. Once you've decided on a general direction, look back at your skills/experiences inventory and try to determine if you need more/different education to get to where you want to go now.
If you are unsure whether additional education is needed, visit with a career counselor, a college admissions counselor, or an independent education consultant.
In regards to life experience, this ABSOLUTELY helps with continuing education. Many accredited colleges and universities give credit (through testing or other means) for mastery of content through life experience.
For example, if you have--through your life or work experience--developed even a minor mastery of a foreign language, you can take a CBE (credit by experience) exam and earn college credit for that knowledge. Or, if you don't want credit but do want to skip the introductory course, you could take the CLEP (this is a college level placement exam), "test out" of the introductory course and enroll in an advanced course.
The "life experience" area is where adult/returning college/university students have a distinct advantage over first-time freshman. <img src="/images/graemlins/rolling.gif" alt="" />