Six High-Pay Careers that Older People Can Pursue


In these high-paying jobs, age can be an asset rather than a barrier to entry.

By Lia Sestric

Once upon a time, 65 was a magic number: It was the age where you put aside the trials of the 9-to-5 working world and got to enjoy a comfortable retirement. But with people living longer, retirement isn't the obvious choice it once was, says Roy Cohen, an executive coach and career counselor in New York City, N.Y.

"It just may be impractical to retire," says Cohen, who notes that it is now realistic for people who retire early to have as many retirement years in their life as working years. But those who want to make sure that they have enough money to fund a comfortable retirement when the time finally comes have challenges to face when seeking employment at an older age.

"There are still some biases," says Cohen. People often think when you are older you are less agile both physically and with respect to skills." But this is not the case, continues Cohen, unless you allow your skill set to erode.

Whether you're looking to change jobs or just trying to get back into the workforce, here are six jobs where older individuals can not only survive, but thrive. In addition, all of these jobs have a median annual salary* of more than $50K; in some cases, a lot more.

Career #1: School Principal (Education Administrator, Elementary and Secondary School)

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Are you a former teacher who is now ready to put your knowledge to use helping a new generation of educators? If so, a career as a principal may be just what you're looking for.

No matter if it is elementary or high school, you'll be the public face of the school, says the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to meeting with parents, superintendents and legislators, you'll oversee the school's daily activities. This may mean coordinating curricula, counseling students, (and yes even disciplining), and evaluating teachers.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: "School principals deal with a lot of issues, not only with the children, but the parents. So there are all sorts of generational issues they have to be aware of," says Cohen. "The more experience you have, the greater the potential to deal with those sensitivities."

Additionally, a school principal needs to be able to demonstrate leadership in a broad range of circumstances, says Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing at, a career network focused on helping people grow and succeed professionally. "This is where experience is invaluable. A school needs a leader who can remain calm by drawing upon a broad range of experience, which is why these positions are usually offered to more seasoned professionals."

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Education Leadership Program.

How to Get Started: There's some schooling required for this one, but if you are or have been a teacher, you've probably got much of what you need already. According to the Department of Labor, most schools do require that elementary, middle, and high school principals have a master's degree in education administration or leadership. If you've got a bachelor's degree in education, school counseling, or a related field, you have what is typically needed to pursue that master's. Candidates usually need teaching work experience, and most states will require public school principals get licensed as school administrators.

Career #2: Medical and Health Services Managers

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Do you want to help your fellow baby boomers by making health services run more efficiently? Your conscientiousness and attention to detail may be valued in a medical and health services management career.

Continuously working on the quality and efficiency in delivery of health care services is a typical responsibility for these professionals, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Medical and health services managers may be also be responsible for managing billing, work schedules, and service records.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: "As we get older, we don't get as easily flustered," says Cohen. There is a lot of movement in health care, and Cohen says often people want immediate action even if is not an urgent medical matter. He says older adults tend to have the patience to deal with these concerns and sort out the actual emergencies.

Cohen also says there are many complexities to the job that may be better handled by an older adult. "As you mature you are able to manage projects that may be very detail-oriented, with a lot of moving parts, like medical billing, which can be tedious."

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

How to Get Started: If you've got an undergraduate degree, you're already on your way. The Department of Labor says that potential medical and health services managers should hold a bachelor's degree in health administration. The Department adds that master's degrees, in health services, public health, long-term care administration, public administration, or business administration are common.

Career #3: Psychologist (Industrial-Organizational)

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Chances are you have realized over the years that humans are far from perfect. If you feel you have a good understanding of people and a willingness to get to the bottom of issues they face, you may want to consider a career as a psychologist.

Industrial-organizational psychologists use psychology in the workplace to improve work life quality and solve problems, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They may also work with management on things like employee training, organizational development, and policy planning.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: "Age offers many benefits. With maturity comes generational insight, an appreciation of different communication styles, and the knowledge of how to align individual interests with organizational goals," says Cohen. "Over time, there is also exposure to a wider range of industries, companies, and roles as well as people from different backgrounds and cultures," he adds.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

How to Get Started: According to the Department of Labor, graduates can work as industrial-organizational psychologists with a master's degree in psychology.

Career #4: Applications Software Developer

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Being older doesn't necessarily mean being out of touch with modern technology. Applications software developer is a job where your tech savvy skills speak for themselves, regardless of age. If those tech skills are strong enough, the year you were born should not be a barrier to you earning a solid paycheck.

The U.S. Department of Labor says applications software developers develop applications that allow users to do specific tasks on a computer or related device.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: "Software developers tend to be more focused on software capabilities over age," says Cohen, who observes that part of the tech geek culture is to be visually unbiased. "They don't care what they wear, what you wear, color of hair, how many piercings, it is really about knowing your stuff."

Beth Bryce, director of career services at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., says that since younger workers are more likely to jump from job to job in a short amount of time, an older applicant who seems likely to stick around may be more appealing. "Older workers are more marketable than they think, since job hopping is the new normal for millennials," explains Bryce. Employers want stability, especially if there are training costs, she adds.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

How to Get Started: You may already have the educational requirements to pursue an applications software developer career. Usually they have a bachelor's degree, typically in software engineering, computer science, or a related field, with mathematics also acceptable, according to the Department of Labor. Along with the bachelor's degree, software developers usually have strong computer programming skills.

Career #5: Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School)

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As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. Not everyone has mastered this ability, but maybe you have now in your later years. This is a skill that can be highly beneficial while working as a special education teacher. In addition to how rewarding you may find this job, you may be surprised to learn that the median annual salary for these educators is well above the national median.

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of disabilities, from learning to physical, says the U.S. Department of Labor. In this role, you may have to adjust lessons from child-to-child to fit the student's specialized need.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: Cohen says a special education teacher must have compassion and patience, which often comes naturally with age and experience. "As we get older there tends to not be so much of a rush." Cohen says this is an important attribute, as learning new subjects or concepts may take considerable time and repetition for these students.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Education Program.

How to Get Started: If you already have teaching experience, you may be well on your way to preparing to pursue a special education career. The Department of Labor says that a bachelor's degree is required for special education teachers in public schools, along with a state license or certification. Private schools typically require the bachelor's degree but not the license or certification. Some special education teachers in public schools major in elementary education, or a specific content area like chemistry or math, with a minor in special education. Others may get a purely special education degree.

Career #6: Web Developer

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Have you perused a lot of websites in search for your next career leap? Maybe your next job is looking at you square in the eyes. No matter how old your noggin is, if your creativity is sharp, a web developer career may be a good fit for you.

The U.S. Department of Labor says web developers are responsible for the look and technical aspects of websites. Other duties might include monitoring the website's speed and how much traffic the site can handle, and creating web content.

How Your Age Could Be an Advantage: "Web developers typically work on a solitary basis," says Cohen. "They tend to be less group-oriented and it is essential for web developers to be creative, which is rarely defined by age. In fact it is enhanced by age," he says.

Next Step: Click to Find the Right Web Design Program.

How to Get Started: If you have been considering seriously studying web design for some time, then you may already be heading down the right path to pursue a web developer career. The Department of Labor says an associate's degree in web design or a related field is the most common requirement for web developers. The Department adds that for some other, more technical positions, such as web architect or similar positions, some employers do prefer workers with at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or programming, or a related field.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages Statistics, May 2013.

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