Job retraining programs have become an economic lifeline for millions of Americans who were hard hit hard during the Great Recession.

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At 60 years old, the last thing Barbara Stillwell wanted to do was to look for a new job. But when the economy tanked and the housing bubble burst in 2008, the Bellingham, Wash., resident had no choice but to hit the job market again after being laid off from her real estate position [source: Heeringa].

With no money coming in and the bills piling up, Stillwell decided to undergo a career makeover. She walked into the office of WorkSource Northwest, which provides unemployed workers with new job skills, and asked for help. WorkSource helped Stillwell obtain a scholarship to the local community college where she embarked on a new career in the medical billing field. She graduated in 2009 [source: Heeringa].

Then reality set in. No one wanted to hire an older woman since there were many younger, more qualified people around. Undaunted, Stillwell went back to WorkSource and updated her computer skills, which ultimately landed her a part-time job at the local American Red Cross chapter. Stillwell hopes a full-time position will open up [source: Heeringa].

With the country slowly recovering from the greatest economic upheaval since the Great Depression, job retraining programs, such as those provided by WorkSource, have become an economic lifeline for millions of Americans. Jobs are so tight that some experts say retraining is the only option that people have, for both white and blue collar workers, who were hard hit equally hard during the Great Recession [source: Semuels].

Yet, training for a new career is extremely daunting and downright scary, especially for those who have spent years, sometimes decades, working in one industry. Job training programs are designed to give workers the skills they need to become more competitive in the job market. Some of those skills are generic, such as learning new computer programs, while other programs provide more detailed instruction.

Before you sign up for job retraining and change careers, we'll tell you what to consider.