30 Fast-Growing Careers for Older Workers

A report predicts which industries will create new jobs and hire older workers

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Many seniors are going to need to continue to work to finance their retirement years. A new report predicts which industries will be the most likely to create new jobs and hire older workers. Most of the job growth will be in what Northeastern University researchers Barry Bluestone and Mark Melnik are calling the “social sector”, which includes health care, education, government, and social assistance jobs. The analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data estimates that 7 million new jobs will be added to the social sector between now and 2018, and that 5.9 million of the positions will be well suited for older workers.

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“Older workers, given their better health and longevity, may be able to stay in the labor market much longer than earlier generations,” says Bluestone. “I think the improved health of the older workforce and their improved longevity make it possible for us to do things at 65 that maybe my grandfather could not have done.”

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Teachers and nurses are going to be the fastest growing occupations for older workers over the coming decade, according to the report, which was underwritten by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures. There will also be many job opportunities in care giving roles including home health aides, nursing aids, orderlies, attendants, and medical assistants. “Many of these will be the kinds of jobs where they can give back,” says Bluestone. “They are doing something that is creative and constructive and helpful to others.”

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Some older workers may be required to switch into completely new career fields to find work. But others may be able to transition into a new job within their existing field. “They could take the knowledge they have acquired over their lifetime and apply it in a new way,” says Marci Alboher, a senior fellow at Civic Ventures and author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. For example, an operating room nurse could move to a community clinic. Bluestone himself, 65, who currently spends part of his days teaching graduate students, plans to begin teaching statistics to inner city middle school students this week. Here are the occupations Northeastern University predicts will have the most job openings for older workers in the coming decade.

The 30 Fastest-Growing Occupations for Older Workers


Projected job growth 2008-2018

(in thousands)

Primary, secondary, and special education teachers 647.3
Registered nurses 581.5
Home health aides 460.9
Personal and home care aides 375.8
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants 276
Medical assistants 163.9
Licensed practical and vocational nurses 155.6
Business operations specialists 147.2
General and operations managers 143.2
Child care workers 142.1
Teacher assistants 134.9
Receptionists and information clerks 132.7
Medical and health service managers 100.8
Clergy 85.1
Social and human service assistants 79.4
Maids and housekeeping cleaners 78.6
Educational, vocational, and school counselors 73.3
Computer support specialists 64
Office clerks 60.8
Managers 57.6
Social and community service managers 57
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 56.4
Accountants and auditors 55.6
Rehabilitation counselors 54.2
Medical and public health social workers 53.9
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks 52.3
Administrative services managers 52.2
Lawyers 52.0
Computer systems analysts 50.1
Human resources, training, and labor relations specialists 49.1

Source: Northeastern University analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data