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The 10 Most Enjoyable Jobs for Older Workers


Key Takeaways:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 Americans age 65 and older was working in 2023, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Surveys show that older employees value meaningful work and flexible jobs.
  • Enjoyable jobs for older Americans include a mix of skilled jobs and entry-level positions.
  • Many people may be able to leverage their existing job into an enjoyable encore career as a consultant.

After decades in the workforce, it would seem natural for older Americans to look forward to retirement. However, many people age 65 or older continue to work and are quite happy to do so.

Nearly 20% of Americans in the 65-plus age bracket were employed in 2023, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. Of those, 62% were working full-time. For comparison, only 11% of individuals this age were working in 1987, and the majority were employed in part-time jobs.

Older workers aren’t begrudgingly clocking in either. A separate Pew Research Center survey found two-thirds of workers who are age 65 or older say they are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs.

Of course, not all jobs are created equal. Some positions are simply more age-friendly than others, according to a 2022 working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The authors note that older workers have distinct skills and preferences, such as a desire for greater autonomy and fewer job hazards.

Whether you want an encore career or are simply looking to make some extra money while semi-retired, here are 10 jobs for those over age 50 to consider.

  • Clergy.
  • Tour guide.
  • Business owner.
  • Maintenance worker.
  • Retail salesperson.
  • Teacher.
  • Financial planner.
  • Counselor or life coach.
  • Consultant.
  • Any job that captures your imagination.

Clergy

A top concern for older workers is having a job that provides meaning, and no job scores as more enjoyable for older workers than that of clergy. That’s according to a 2017 survey of more than 6,000 workers age 62 and older conducted by the Urban Institute, a think tank. Nearly two-thirds of seniors in this profession say they really enjoy what they do.

Meaningful work was also cited as a job requirement by 90% of workers age 40 and older who were surveyed for the 2023 “Value of Experience” survey by AARP. And being a member of the clergy might tick off other boxes for older workers as well.

AARP found that 91% of survey respondents want to work with an organization with good values and mission, and 79% value the opportunity to work with different generations. Both may be found in many clergy positions.

Tour Guide

When it comes to age-friendly jobs, the NBER working paper taps tour guides as a top choice for those age 50 and older. These jobs rely heavily on soft skills such as interpersonal communication, which is a strength for many older workers.

“As tour guides, they bring unique perspectives and insights to the table that enrich visitors’ experiences in ways no one else could,” said Eva Chan, a career advisor and certified professional resume writer with Resume Genius, in an email.

What’s more, many tour guide positions offer flexibility, something valued by 79% of workers age 50 and older, according to AARP.

Business Owner

After decades of taking orders from someone else, older workers may be ready to be their own bosses.

“A large number of older people are ideally suited to entrepreneurship,” said business lawyer Mary Cannon, founder of business coaching service Goodcounsl, in an email. “They’re already experienced in life and business. They are more likely to know and accept their true selves.”

There’s no need to stick with your current industry, either. Some of the most successful business launches she’s assisted with involved clients who pivoted to a completely new field, Cannon noted.

Maintenance Worker

Working in maintenance is not the flashiest job, but it can be a perfect position for seniors who want less stressful employment on a full-time or part-time basis.

“We have folks who have transitioned into maintenance positions,” said Justin Guest, vice president of resident engagement for senior community company Atria Management, in an email. For residents of these communities who find work at their property, it provides a way to earn extra income without commuting.

An easy commute is a must-have job characteristic for 88% of workers age 50 and older, the AARP “Value of Experience” report finds.

Retail Salesperson

Working in a retail store isn’t the most lucrative job available to older workers, but it’s hard to beat when it comes to flexible hours.

Retail sales positions can be found in a variety of stores, making it possible to find a job that matches a person’s interests. These jobs also allow employees to interact with customers as well as share their knowledge, two attributes that can make the work appealing.

After a high-pressure career, working in retail might be a welcome change of pace, and 79% of U.S. hiring managers say they’ve seen an uptick in older applicants for entry-level positions, according to a 2023 poll by Express Employment Professionals. They are in demand too, with 60% of hiring managers saying they prefer to hire older workers for these jobs.

Teacher

Schools value experienced educators and are often willing to accommodate their work needs. Retired teachers are often welcomed back as substitutes, while postsecondary schools may look for experienced professionals to teach on a part-time basis.

“Teaching as an adjunct (professor) is another great job for an older worker,” said Paul Dillon, adjunct instructor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, in an email. “It offers a chance to pass along your skills and experience to another generation.”

With the advent of online education, some teaching jobs may not even require instructors to travel to campus.

Financial Planner

For those who have experience with investing, one of the best jobs for older workers may be that of a financial planner. These positions lend themselves well to flexible working arrangements and can be done on a part-time basis for those who want to be semi-retired.

A related option would be an encore career in insurance sales. Since the industry is all about building relationships, older insurance sales agents benefit from the large network of connections they have acquired throughout the years.

Overall, jobs in finance, insurance and real estate have the highest average age-friendliness, according to the NBER working paper.

Counselor or Life Coach

Although a distant second to clergy, counselors have the second-most enjoyable job for older workers, according to the Urban Institute study. Nearly half of those employed in this field report they enjoy their jobs.

Counseling jobs may have specific education and licensure requirements, depending on the state. Not all older workers will qualify to work as a counselor, but becoming a life coach may be a viable alternative. These jobs offer a less formal way to provide guidance to others. 

“They draw on their extensive life experiences to help clients navigate challenges and achieve their goals,” Chan said.

Consultant

If someone enjoys their current career, there is no reason to change fields when they get older. Instead of leaving their profession, they could switch from being an employee to a consultant.

“Becoming a consultant on your own … in your field of endeavor is a great job for an older worker,” Dillon said. “It offers a chance to set your own hours and work at your own pace while making an income.”

Companies in a variety of fields, such as business, information technology, management and accounting, may use consultants. In some cases, workers will be brought on to help with specific projects, while others may be asked to mentor new employees. Older workers who have a good relationship with their current employer may be able to continue as a consultant for their firm even after they retire.

Any Job That Captures Your Imagination

Don’t make the mistake of thinking only certain jobs are appropriate for those older than age 50.

“Ultimately, the most enjoyable job for older workers will depend on their individual interests and goals,” said Jon Morgan, CEO of consulting firm Venture Smarter, in an email. “It’s essential to consider what type of work will bring the most satisfaction and fulfillment in this stage of life.”

Determine your personal goals and needs to find a position that will be a good fit. Any job can be an enjoyable one for older workers, and everyone needs to find what that occupation is for themselves.



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