5 hot job categories for retirees, older workers

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By Dave Carpenter


CHICAGO —

Looking for a job isn’t just a concern for those under 65. Retirees and those past the traditional age for calling it quits increasingly need or want to work.

The challenge, of course, is finding suitable work in an economy with chronically high unemployment.

Many are succeeding, as the rapid graying of the work force shows.

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The number of U.S. workers 65 or older has grown 24 percent in five years, to 6.7 million. And that’s with the baby-boom generation just now entering the age group.

More than half of that total were employed full-time, and nearly 1.3 million were 75 or older, according to a 2011 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Seventy four percent said they expect to work after they officially retire, up from 63 percent in 2008.

With that in mind, seniors looking for work must examine their own skills as well as the labor market’s needs in order to find a satisfying job.

Retirees typically have the advantage of being more interested in a job than a career, noted Bill Coleman, vice president at RetirementJobs.com.

“They can be a good resource, bringing 30 or 40 years of work experience to the table and not looking to squeeze every last dollar out of a position,” Coleman said. “That can be very appealing to an organization.”

Searching for work in your primary career field is the obvious approach. But that may not pan out, or perhaps you’re just ready for a new challenge. Here’s a look at five job categories with promising demand now and in the years ahead for retirees willing to tackle something different:

1. Health care — Home health aide and personal aide top a Bureau of Labor Statistics list of job fields expected to grow the fastest by 2018. The pay is modest — median wages of roughly $20,000 for each in 2008. But caregiving work can be a good fit for those looking to work 20 to 25 hours a week and do something meaningful.

Flexible work arrangements, substantial health care benefits, and training and development opportunities make the jobs appealing to many older workers, according to Jean Setzfand, director of financial security for AARP.

Age discrimination shouldn’t be an issue. Health care facilities will likely recruit among older professionals to match their aging client base.

Other health jobs in demand that don’t require special degrees include medical assistant, physical therapist aide and medical billing specialist.

2. Retail —  Retail jobs are popular with older workers. Openings are frequent, hours are flexible and many part-time opportunities are available.

Many retailers welcome seniors as customer service employees or cashiers because they have found that older workers are very good at making customers happy, according to Coleman. Other retail jobs available for seniors may include retail manager, floor supervisor, stock-room associate, greeter or food company demonstration worker.

Seasonal work also gives retirees ample opportunities to work without the requirement of a year-round grind. Big retail chains, grocery stores and hardware stores all are a good bet.

3. Government — Two government agencies in particular — the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) (www.va.gov/jobs) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) (www.tsa.gov/jobs) — are known for seeking older workers. Both agencies have openings requiring little or no experience.

The VA has a wide range of nationwide listings, including everything from technologists to clerks, cemetery caretakers and telephone operators. The department likes older workers in customer service, nursing and counseling positions, according to Coleman of RetirementJobs.com. “Older people have more patience and tend to come across as more caring and nurturing — that’s what we hear from employers,” he said.

The TSA, with over 450 work locations around the country, has jobs as screeners or otherwise dealing with passengers and customers. It values flexibility and reliability in its employees — two traits older workers are known to offer.

4. Computer work — One of the most popular profession switches for older workers and retirees is going into computer-related work, according to Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin. The jobs entail such tasks as data entry or working with data communication systems and networks.

Specific training to learn new skills is required. Anyone looking to get work in another specialty in retirement should seek out low-cost training opportunities at a community college or elsewhere.

5. Temp agencies — Retirees have been flocking to temp agencies. Like seasonal retail work, temporary help in an office or elsewhere can be an ideal match for an older worker and employer. The worker offers flexible hours and experience and gets the opportunity for new challenges and limited-term working assignments that sometimes lead to full-time positions.

The largest staffing services firms — including Adecco, Manpower and Kelly Services — have thousands of office locations among them and hire on behalf of employers in many fields ranging from medical and information technology to teaching and tele-services. — AP