The Jobs You’ll Work When You Retire

By David Luther - Jul. 16, 2017

retire jobs

Have you thought about how you’ll spend your days when you reach retirement age? Maybe sleeping in, golfing, and going out for an early bird special dinner at a reasonable hour — say, 4:30? Well, this bearer of bad news is here to inform you that those timeless stereotypes are short-lived.

According to data trends, you’re more likely to wake up early and work a part-time shift at the pro shop or Denny’s register than you are to actually retire at retirement age.

Consider this: while the labor force is projected to grow over the next decade at an average annual rate of 0.5 percent — a slower rate than in recent decades — that same report said:

The labor force will continue to age, with the average annual growth rate of the 55-years-and-older group projected to be 1.8 percent, more than three times the rate of growth of the overall labor force.

Oh snap, indeed.

The group’s share of the labor force is anticipated to increase from 21.7 percent in 2014 to nearly 25 percent in 2024.

So to give you a better idea of how you’ll be spending your bronze golden years, we looked at the types of jobs most commonly held by the elderly, as well as the jobs that the older generations tend to make up the most of.

The ten jobs that older Americans work the most

Jobs 65+ 50-64 35-49 20-34
Motor Vehicle Operators, All Other 49% 25% 14% 12%
Embalmers And Funeral Attendants 44% 28% 16% 11%
Crossing Guards 39% 32% 17% 12%
Models, Demonstrators, And Product Promoters 32% 21% 15% 32%
Tax Preparers 32% 33% 21% 14%
Religious Workers, All Other 27% 29% 21% 24%
Ushers, Lobby Attendants, And Ticket Takers 27% 20% 8% 45%
Farmers, Ranchers, And Other Agricultural Managers 27% 40% 20% 13%
Bus Drivers 27% 44% 22% 7%
Proofreaders And Copy Markers 27% 31% 23% 20%

But first, what exactly is retirement age?

When we do studies like these, the first thing we need to do is set some guidelines, like what does it mean to be a robot or what qualifies as a small college — and before discussing “retirement age” jobs, we have to define it.

The American Association of Retired Persons, more commonly known as AARP opens up membership to fifty-year-olds — but that hasn’t been a realistic retirement age for decades, even though various pensions had a tendency to kick in after twenty years.

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time

Social Security’s full retirement age (FRA) is now as late as sixty-seven years old, meaning that you’ll get a penalty for drawing on it before then… even though two-thirds of the population is out of the full-time work force by then.

We settled upon sixty-five, since it is both conveniently between those two ages and the age at which you qualify for Medicare — retiring at 65 would mean that you at least don’t have to shoulder the burden of insurance costs.

The jobs older people work more than others

The jobs in top ten table above may or may not surprise you, except maybe for embalmer. These roles aren’t physically demanding, and in most cases benefit from extensive experience. What’s more, they don’t tend to demand continuing education or staying on top of trends.

Here’s an age distribution of the jobs that have the highest percentages of older workers..
old people jobs

Keep in mind that these are the jobs that have the highest percentages of people over sixty-five working in them — older workers don’t make up a majority of any of these positions, and in only four cases a plurality.

The jobs that have the most elderly workers

When it comes to which jobs older Americans work and who works them, we see trends towards jobs that have less physical demand and demand higher education — CPS data shows that those who work tend to have the highest educations and concentrations of wealth.

And in addition to the jobs that have the highest percentage of elderly workers, we wanted to see which jobs had the largest population of older workers. Using Census data for jobs with at least twenty instances, we’ve got another top ten list for you — hooray!

Jobs with the most elderly workers

Job Description Average Age Count
Elementary, Middle, And High School Teachers 70 5,602
Postsecondary Teachers 71 2,898
Miscellaneous Managers, Including Funeral Service 71 2,130
Lawyers, And Judges, Magistrates, And Other Judicial 71 1,808
Chief Executives And Legislators 71 1,667
Accountants And Auditors 71 1,535
Registered Nurses 70 1,406
Physicians And Surgeons 72 1,380
Retail Salespersons 71 1,107
Management Analysts 71 1,073

And on the flip side, we’ve got the inverse, jobs with the fewest older workers.

Jobs with the fewest elderly workers

Job Description Average Age Count
Combined Food Preparation And Serving Workers, 71 21
Urban And Regional Planners 71 21
Ship And Boat Captains And Operators 72 22
Health Diagnosing And Treating Practitioners, All Other 71 22
Hotel, Motel, And Resort Desk Clerks 69 22
Industrial And Refractory Machinery Mechanics 69 22
Baggage Porters, Bellhops, And Concierges 73 23
Morticians, Undertakers, And Funeral Directors 74 24
Entertainers And Performers, Sports And Related 72 24
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers 72 24

The takeaway

In the early 1990s nearly 60 percent of 62-74 year-old men with doctoral and professional degrees were still in labor force. In contrast, only 20 percent of male high school dropouts the same age remained in the workforce. The participation-rate gap was smaller for older women, but it was still sizable.

Many of these professional occupations allow for greater flexibility in hours and gradual reduction of workloads, but the difference in workforce participation may be the toll blue collar professions take on the on workers, forcing them to retire earlier than they may wish. Rand research shows that “negative health shocks” are by far the biggest thing keeping the elderly from the workplace.

The good news for older workers is that they’re typically paid at a higher rate. According to Brookings Institute and CPS research, workers between 60 and 74 are currently paid more in hourly wages than an average worker who is between 25 and 59. And when considering the structured pay increases related to many of the most common jobs amongst the elderly, it makes sense.

But should you be concerned? Well, yes, if you’re not in a high-income job.

With more people living longer, the workers who are forced out of retirement to take unskilled jobs will not benefit from their pre-retirement experience, while workers who remain in the work force are compensated at a higher rate.

This means that for more Americans, particularly younger ones, the only option will be to never fully retire — or to start aggressively saving.

Jobs With Census Label 65+ 50-64 35-49 20-34
TRN-Motor Vehicle Operators, All Other 49% 25% 14% 12%
PRS-Embalmers And Funeral Attendants 44% 28% 16% 11%
PRT-Crossing Guards 39% 32% 17% 12%
SAL-Models, Demonstrators, And Product Promoters 32% 21% 15% 32%
FIN-Tax Preparers 32% 33% 21% 14%
CMS-Religious Workers, All Other 27% 29% 21% 24%
PRS-Ushers, Lobby Attendants, And Ticket Takers 27% 20% 8% 45%
MGR-Farmers, Ranchers, And Other Agricultural Managers 27% 40% 20% 13%
TRN-Bus Drivers 27% 44% 22% 7%
OFF-Proofreaders And Copy Markers 27% 31% 23% 20%
CMS-Clergy 26% 37% 23% 15%
PRD-Tailors, Dressmakers, And Sewers 25% 43% 21% 12%
PRS-Barbers 25% 20% 30% 25%
SCI-Psychologists 24% 34% 26% 16%
PRS-Morticians, Undertakers, And Funeral Directors 24% 33% 26% 17%
PRD-Etchers And Engravers 24% 30% 28% 18%
SAL-Real Estate Brokers And Sales Agents 24% 39% 25% 12%
OFF-Switchboard Operators, Including Answering Service 24% 35% 19% 23%
OFF-Information And Record Clerks, All Other 23% 34% 22% 21%
PRS-Tour And Travel Guides 23% 21% 14% 42%
SAL-Travel Agents 23% 38% 28% 11%
OFF-Library Assistants, Clerical 22% 30% 17% 31%
FIN-Appraisers And Assessors Of Real Estate 22% 43% 26% 10%
OFF-Interviewers, Except Eligibility And Loan 21% 31% 21% 26%
ENT-Musicians, Singers, And Related Workers 21% 30% 23% 25%
CMS-Directors, Religious Activities And Education 21% 32% 28% 19%
MGR-Chief Executives And Legislators 21% 45% 29% 6%
TRN-Taxi Drivers And Chauffeurs 20% 38% 27% 15%
CON-Construction And Building Inspectors 20% 46% 22% 12%
RPR-Locksmiths And Safe Repairers 20% 40% 20% 20%
PRS-Miscellaneous Entertainment Attendants And Related 20% 18% 12% 50%
MED-Dentists 19% 37% 31% 13%
OFF-Court, Municipal, And License Clerks 19% 42% 26% 13%
PRD-Tool And Die Makers 19% 49% 23% 9%
BUS-Buyers And Purchasing Agents, Farm Products 19% 28% 27% 27%
EDU-Library Technicians 19% 32% 15% 34%
PRD-Shoe And Leather Workers 19% 40% 27% 14%
MGR-Property, Real Estate, And Community Association 19% 38% 27% 16%
EDU-Librarians 19% 42% 23% 16%
PRT-Fire Inspectors 18% 42% 27% 13%
SAL-Sales And Related Workers, All Other 18% 30% 26% 25%
EDU-Postsecondary Teachers 18% 29% 25% 29%
ENT-Writers And Authors 18% 31% 28% 23%
SCI-Astronomers And Physicists 18% 31% 28% 22%
HLS-Medical Transcriptionists 18% 49% 21% 12%
OFF-Bookkeeping, Accounting, And Auditing Clerks 18% 41% 26% 15%
OFF-Couriers And Messengers 18% 33% 27% 22%
SAL-Door-To-Door Sales Workers, News And Street Vendors, 17% 29% 27% 26%
EDU-Archivists, Curators, And Museum Technicians 17% 31% 23% 29%
FIN-Tax Examiners And Collectors, And Revenue Agents 17% 45% 25% 13%

David Luther


David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He's a full time content creator and part-time chicken coop marketer. Hot sauce aficionado. Dog lover. He obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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