What Are Returnships?
(and other frequently asked questions)

What’s a returnship? In a nutshell, returnships are supported hiring programs that offer a pathway for mid-career professionals to return to the workforce and gain new skills and experiences after a career break.

Returnships bridge the gap between employers and highly qualified returners.

People step out of the workforce for many reasons – to take care of family responsibilities, to start a business, to follow a spouse to a different country, and more. Although these experiences add to who we are as employees (and humans), current hiring practices put those with a career break at a disadvantage when applying for jobs.

Click below to find answers to frequently asked questions about returnships and how Path Forward helps.

General Info

What is a returner?

A returner is an experienced professional coming back into the workforce after a career break. 

What is a returnship or return-to-work program?

Returnships are a specific type of return-to-work program designed for mid-career professionals coming back into the workforce after a career break. These programs offer paid positions that provide returners with an opportunity to refresh their skills, update their resume with new experience, make connections, and contribute to a team.

 Returnship programs are similar in spirit to college internship programs, which are hiring pathways for students and early career professionals. Like college internships, returnships emphasize learning, development, and the gaining (and regaining) of skills and experience. Unlike college internships, returnships are for mid-career professionals with experience. 

Some returnship programs offer temp-to-perm positions that are typically 4-6 months long and include transition support, with the possibility of converting to full time at the conclusion of the program. Others offer direct hire positions, with a defined period of transition support.

What are direct hire programs?

Some returnship programs are structured as direct hire rather than temp-to-perm. There is no trial period, but there is usually a defined period of transition support. The employer’s job description will indicate when a returnship role is direct hire.

About Path Forward

Is Path Forward a recruiting agency?

No. Path Forward is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people to restart their careers after time spent focused on caregiving. Today we fulfill this mission by providing free resources to people who are seeking to re-engage in the paid workforce and by helping spread the word about  returnship opportunities that give professionals a jump start back to paid work.

Is there a fee?

No. Our resources are available to returners at no cost.

I signed up on the Path Forward website. What happens next?

Great! We’re excited to have you on board. After you sign up, you’ll start receiving our monthly newsletter with a list of the newest returnship opportunities each month plus access to upcoming events, helpful career advice, and more. For details on how to apply for returnships, see “How do I apply for a returnship?” below.

Why does Path Forward focus on "caregiving"?

Path Forward focuses on caregiving because it is the #1 reason why prime working age people aren’t active in the workforce – and they’re mainly women, by a 12:1 ratio. In addition, studies have shown there is significant bias in the hiring process against people who take career breaks specifically for the purpose of caregiving.

We are committed to overcoming the hiring stigma that makes returning to work a tough road for parents and other caregivers. Returnships bridge the gap between employers and highly qualified returners, particularly women.

About Returnships

How do returnships level the playing field?

Returnship opportunities are set aside for returners. A career gap is required. This means you are not applying alongside candidates who are currently in the workforce. 

Note: You may see positions listed on other websites that are “open to returners.” Experience tells us that these types of positions don’t result in returners getting hired. In contrast, positions listed on the Path Forward site actually require that you have a career break and are ONLY open to those with a resume gap.

How competitive are returnships?

Like all job opportunities, returnships are competitive. Remember, though, that when you apply for a returnship, you will be competing on a level playing field with others who also have a career break.

Are returnship positions paid?

Yes. All returnship opportunities are paid positions. The pay rate and benefits (if any) are determined by each employer.

What are the salary ranges?

A returnship pays a rate usually comparable to the prevailing market rate for that position. The pay rate and benefits (if any) are determined by each employer. 

For temp-to-perm returnships, this rate is usually non-negotiable for the returnship period. During the returnship interview process, however, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what the typical salary range is for that position, and to use that information to negotiate the terms of your ongoing employment at the end of the program period. 

For direct hire returnships, you can and should negotiate your salary as you would for any new position.

Do returnships include benefits?

Each employer determines whether or not benefits are offered for temp-to-perm returnship programs. Full-time benefits packages are included for direct hire programs.

Are there any part-time or flex returnships?

Today, the vast majority of returnship programs are full-time, but we hope and expect to see that change over time as more companies offer these programs.

How long are returnship programs?

The majority of returnship programs are 3-4 months long, but today they range anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months in length.

Am I guaranteed a job after completing a returnship program?

More than 80 percent of returners who complete a returnship convert to full-time positions, with the remainder generally finding employment within six months.

Each company determines their own criteria for success and will make the decision on whether to make an offer of ongoing employment at the conclusion of the returnship period.

What kind of support can I expect?

A lot! Path Forward has free resources on our website for people accepted into a returnship program. The Returnship Success Guide will help ease your transition back into the workforce and help you restart your career with confidence.You can also join our online community, even before you land a returnship, to connect with other returners and get some inspiration from these success stories


Are returnships only available to women?

No. People of all gender identities are welcome to apply for returnship programs. Women’s workforce participation is disproportionately affected by caregiving responsibilities and so they are more likely to be eligible to participate, but these programs welcome anyone who is returning from a career break.

How much work experience is required?

Returnship programs are for mid-career professionals looking to restart their careers after a career break. Employers usually require candidates to have at least 5 years of professional experience, but this requirement varies by company and role. Be sure to review the job description for each returnship position for details.

What is the career gap requirement?

Returnship programs are for mid-career professionals who are looking to restart their careers after a career break. Employers usually require candidates to have at least a 2 year career gap, but this requirement varies by company and role. Be sure to review the job description for each returnship position for details.

Do I qualify if I did freelance or consulting work while on my break?

We understand the need to generate some income during a career break, either from non-professional activities or from consulting, freelance, or part-time work, and employers generally do too. 

It's up to each employer to determine if a candidate meets the eligibility requirements for their roles, but generally speaking freelance or consulting work won’t count against you.

Just be sure to make it clear on your resume that you were not working full-time and that you are returning from a break. We always encourage you to apply for return-to-work roles for which you are qualified.

Do I qualify if I'm located outside the US?

Most of the opportunities you’ll find onPath Forward’s Returnship Matcher are only available to those living in the US. If a program offers international opportunities, we’ll indicate this in the write up for that program in the Returnship Matcher..

The following are organizations that aggregate returnship opportunities available outside the US:

Do I qualify if I don’t have a visa or work authorization?

Most return-to-work programs are only available to US citizens or those with a visa or work authorization.


How do I find out about open returnships and how do I apply?

The easiest way to keep up-to-date on new returnships is to check the Returnship Matcher on our website and to sign up for our newsletter.

On Path Forward’s Returnship Matcher, which is updated weekly, you can browse all US-based returnship programs.  After clicking on the opportunity that interests you, you will be directed to that company’s website to apply. You will notice that the Returnship Matcher also includes information about companies that run returnship programs, but who are not currently recruiting. You can use the filter in the left menu to filter out those companies, and include only ones currently in recruitment.  

Note: Emailing a resume to Path Forward and/or signing up on our website is not an application for a returnship.

Should I apply for returnships instead of – or in addition to – applying for regular jobs?

Many people who’ve paused their career for a few years find it’s difficult to be considered for full-time positions. They may also be uncertain how their prior experience translates into today’s workplace and may lack confidence in their abilities. 

Returnship programs address all of these issues by creating an environment where you are able to redevelop your skills while gaining valuable experience. That being said, only you can decide the best way for you to restart your career.

Can I use a returnship as a way to switch to a different field?

We’ve definitely seen people successfully make a career change, or pivot, through a returnship. Keep in mind that returnship positions are competitive, just like any other job, so be sure to read the returnship job description to determine what skills and experiences are required and what are preferred, and give careful consideration to how your past experiences can translate to the role. 

Career pivots tend to be most successful when the new career requires skills that are related to the prior career, or when the candidate has done reskilling to fill skills gaps. View our Returner Resources on career pivots for more information.

Should I plan to relocate?

We generally discourage people from relocating to take a temp-to-perm returnship since there is no guarantee of employment at the end. However, we realize that each person's situation is unique and that you may be willing and able to take on the added risk. 

What if I don’t meet all of the requirements of a position, should I still apply?

Yes!! Most companies are looking for applicants with several years of professional experience that can be used to fuel their career restart. As part of that, they are open to transferable skills, nontraditional education backgrounds, and experience gained outside of the paid workforce. 

If you believe you meet many of the qualifications listed on a job description – even if your skills and experiences weren’t gained the “traditional” way through a job — you should absolutely apply. See the article “I Don’t Check Every Box on the Job Description. Should I Apply Anyway?” for more information.

I got hired into a returnship program. Now what?

Congratulations! Path Forward has free resources on our website for you once you’re accepted into a returnship program. The Returnship Success Guide will help ease your transition back into the workforce and help you restart your career with confidence. You can also join our online community to connect with other returners and get some inspiration from these success stories.

I applied but have not heard back. What should I do?

While we share returnship opportunities on our site,  it is the employer who will review your application, get in contact, and make all hiring decisions. Most companies will recruit and hire over a period of several months, but this timeline varies widely. If the employer believes you are a good fit for the returnship role, they will reach out to you.

Types of Roles and Locations

Why aren’t there returnship programs in my field or near where I live?

Returnship opportunities are dictated by each company’s hiring needs and their locations. Keep an eye on Path Forward’s Returnship Matcher, a directory of ALL returnship programs in the US, as it is updated weekly You can filter by field and location to find the right opportunities for you. 

If you still don’t find a match, please know that our mission is to change this. Path Forward works toward a future where returnships are as common for experienced professionals as internships are for college students. We’re committed to enabling more companies to start returnships so all returning caregivers have the benefit of a supportive on-ramp back into the workforce.

What if I’m only interested in returnship programs that are remote?

Path Forward compiles and keeps up-to-date the Returnship Matcher, a directory of ALL returnship programs in the US. Under “Work Location,” you can filter by “US Remote” to find returnship opportunities that don’t require an in-office presence. If a returnship offers hybrid remote/in-office options, this will be specified within the employer’s job description.

I Need Help With My Job Search

Can you review my resume or coach me on my job search?

Path Forward does not have resume writers or career coaches on staff. We do, however, offer many Returner Resources on how to update your resume, particularly if you have a career gap. 

You are also invited to join the Path Forward Community, a space for caregivers at every stage of the return-to-work journey to come together, share resources, and support each other. Within the community, you can sign up for Path Forward workshops and events on job search topics.

If you think you’d benefit from one-on-one help, please read our article on “3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hire a Career Coach” as a starting point.

Can you help me with interview practice?

Path Forward periodically hosts mock interview events. These are great opportunities to practice your interviewing skills with corporate volunteers or peers and receive real-time feedback.

You can learn about upcoming interview events by joining the Path Forward Community, a space for caregivers at every stage of the return-to-work journey to come together, share resources, and support each other. Don’t forget that you can also do mock interviews with your friends and family!

We also offer many Returner Resources on how to approach different types of interviews

How can I refresh my skills?

There are many free as well as paid options for getting skills training. View our Returner Resources for helpful articles and recorded webinars on reskilling, the importance of soft skills, and much more.

Where can I get help as I return to work?

Check out Path Forward's online community of returners. This supportive group is a great place to find individuals who understand your journey, advice, and support. Don't be afraid to ask questions in the group - the members are full of return to work wisdom!

Implementing a Returnship Program

How can my company start a returnship program?

Through our experiences with hundreds of employers, Path Forward has developed a step-by-step guide to help companies start their own programs. The Returnship Builder is available, free of charge, on our website.