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March 27, 2023 - 5 minutes

Career Break vs. Sabbatical

Is a career break or sabbatical the right choice for you? Let’s find out. 

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer


You’re burned out and just need a break. Or you’ve welcomed a new baby or need to take care of your elderly parents. No matter your reasoning, there are two options that professionals have when deciding to take a little respite from work: career breaks and sabbatical leave. But what are they? Are they the same as retirement? Are the two the same? Let’s discuss.

Career Break vs. Sabbatical Leave 

First, let’s differentiate the two: a career break is when you resign from your current job and are no longer employed; a sabbatical is taking a break from your current role whilst still being employed with the intention of going back. The key here is that both operate under the impression that you will go back to work once your break/leave is over; this is how it differs from retirement. 

Why take a career break? 

There are numerous reasons that you’d want to take a career break: to travel, study, recuperate from difficult times, take care of children/family, and figure out what you want from life are just a few. An important fact to note is that career breaks mean that you have fully left your role; career breaks don’t have to be agreed upon with an employer and instead can be as long or as short as you’d like. However, when you return to the workforce, you’ll need to find a new job. 

FAQs about career breaks: 

  • How do I represent career breaks on my resume? It’s best to include career breaks on your resume; if you’re comfortable sharing why you took a break, feel free to include the reason. If you’re not, you don’t have to, but be prepared to be asked about the gap in your resume. 

  • How do I tell my boss about a career break? Since with a career break you’re leaving your job just as if you were taking on a new role, there’s no need to ask your boss for permission. Feel free to share that you’re taking a break and make sure to follow industry guidelines when resigning. 

  • Will a career break affect my future career? We’d be lying if we gave you a straight answer because it’s impossible to know for sure. But most future employers will understand that you took a break to have children or reskill; what’s important is that you show how this was the right decision for you and how you benefited from the career break. 

  • What is an acceptable length for a career break? It depends on your industry, but if you’re planning on joining the same field after your break, don’t plan on taking too long of a break (around 9 months) because you might be out of touch with new trends or industry practices upon your return. If you’re switching fields and using your career break to reskill, a longer break is acceptable. 

Why take a sabbatical? 

Sabbaticals can be used to study and improve your skill set, aid your current role, take a mental health break, take a travel break, or more. Sabbaticals are typically agreed upon with your employer with the understanding that you’ll be back to work after a set period of time. They are typically unpaid but in specific cases, you may be provided a stipend or some sort of compensation during your sabbatical. 

FAQs about sabbaticals: 

  • How do I represent a sabbatical on my resume? Feel free to outline your sabbatical on your resume, especially if you used it to upskill or reskill, but as you’re still employed by your company, simply listing your current role is totally fine. 

  • How do I tell my boss about a sabbatical? This can be a tough conversation to have with your boss and it’s crucial to be prepared. Think about exactly what you want to ask for and how it will benefit you and the company and present your argument to your boss. Prepare to go back and forth until you reach an agreement. 

  • Will a sabbatical affect my future career? As long as you fulfill your agreement with your employer and return on the agreed date, it shouldn’t impact your future career. In fact, it may actually help if you use the time to improve upon yourself, in any way.

  • What is an acceptable length for a sabbatical? This is a question for specific employers, but sabbaticals typically last for six months to a year. When you enter that conversation with your boss, make sure you’re open to different lengths of time because you don’t know what your boss will agree to! 

Considerations for Career Breaks and Sabbaticals 

A break from work seems great, but a lot of thought needs to go into your decision to take a career break or sabbatical. First, are you financially stable enough to not receive a paycheck for the length of your break? And if you choose a career break and don’t know exactly when you’ll get a job and be back in the workforce, make sure you have enough savings for both your planned time and unplanned circumstances. Second, does a break from your role entail losing any benefits, such as  a meal plan, health insurance, or transportation assistance? Lastly, will it have a negative effect on your career? If your sector movies quickly, months away may mean that you won’t be prepared to reenter the workforce. 

One of the best reasons for a career break or sabbatical is reskilling. Today’s tech market is incredibly competitive and if you want to reskill quickly, intensive bootcamps can get you job-ready in as little as 8 weeks!

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