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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Best Jobs if You're Over 50

By Donna Rosato and Tom Ziegler

Far from ready to call it quits but tired of toiling in the same field? Do you have a dream job you couldn't afford to take when you had kids in college or 20 years left on your mortgage?

A growing portion of Americans 50 and older are still in the workforce, but at this stage of your career you may be ready to switch into a job with shorter hours, less stress, or more social purpose, even if it means backing off your peak pay.

"Many people need to work five or 10 years longer, but they want to do something other than make money for someone else," says Mary Bleiberg, executive director at ReServe, which places seasoned professionals in nonprofit, education, and public sector jobs (reserveinc.org). Another good site for pre-retirement jobs is retiredbrains.com.

MONEY's top jobs for folks over 50 do well in satisfaction measures like stress, flexibility, and social meaning. None require advanced degrees — too high a hurdle late in your career — though some will be hard to break into without related industry experience (such as marketing or tech).

The job skills you honed over a lifetime may transfer, but as an older job hunter you need to work harder to prove your skills are up to date. Digital know-how and social media experience, for example, are essential in the nonprofit world, says Bleiberg.

Some second-act jobs are low level, which might feel like a comedown. But the top of the corporate ladder often comes with big headaches. After decades in your office chair, you've earned a break for your last act.

These top jobs score high for flexibility and social meaning, enjoy relatively low stress, and none require advanced degrees.

1. Grant Coordinator

Median pay: $47,800
Top pay: $61,900
10-year job growth: 12%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: Marry your professional skills with a cause you believe in by writing and coordinating funding requests for a nonprofit, school or government agency.

More than 1.5 million organizations depend on grants to keep programs running, especially important in a sluggish economy. Many grant writers consult, giving you control over how much work you take on and when you do it.

How to switch: Demonstrate good writing skills and passion for the project. Find a workshop at grantwritingusa.com.

Quality of life ratings: Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: A
Low stress: C
Flexibility: A

2. Personal Trainer

Median pay: $52,600
Top pay: $136,000
10-year job growth: 29%
Total jobs: 30,000

The job: Fitness-conscious baby boomers are paying pros to help with their workouts. And companies and communities need trainers for wellness programs.

How to switch: This job is best for a workout lover, but being in good physical shape is not enough. You'll need training and certification (find information at afaa.com and nasm.org). A background in a health field or competitive sports is helpful, too.

Quality of life ratings: Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: A
Low stress: B
Flexibility: B

3. Energy Field Auditor

Median pay: $41,200
Top pay: $66,500
10-year job growth: 12%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: Homeowners looking to cut their energy bills — and maybe even their carbon footprint — are hiring auditors to check the house for leaks and recommend improvements. You set your own hours for appointments, and you can feel good about making the world a greener place.

How to switch: Engineering or construction know-how is helpful but not essential. You'll need to take a six-week training course for state certification. Find out more at aeecenter.org.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: B
Low stress: C
Flexibility: B

4. Online Content Marketing Writer

Median pay: $51,900
Top pay: $104,000
10-year job growth: 13%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: As companies turn to social media and the Internet to promote their products and services, they need pros to edit and manage their digital communication materials. You'll work with marketing staff to ensure the content matches corporate goals. You can do project work or freelance, giving you lots of flexibility.

How to switch: It's best to have a background in marketing and writing experience. Courses and even certification in digital media marketing helps, too. Get info at emarketingassociation.com.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: C
Low stress: C
Flexibility: B

5. Tutor

Median pay: $52,400
Top pay: $106,000
10-year job growth: 15%
Total jobs: 20,000

The job: Private tutoring outside the classroom — often one-on-one but also for groups — is in demand, thanks to parents who want to give their children an edge and nonprofit and city/state programs aimed at improving the academic performance and college readiness of disadvantaged youth. You can schedule sessions any time you want, and the job doesn't require as much training as teaching does.

How to switch: No special degree is required, but teaching experience is helpful. For more on training programs for career changers, go to reserveinc.org and encore.org.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: A
Low stress: B
Flexibility: B

6. SEO Specialist

Median pay: $52,100
Top pay: $71,400
10-year job growth: 13%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: There are roughly 250 million websites on the Internet and the most popular way to find them: Google. Competition for the number one spot in Google's search results is fierce, and a search engine optimization, or SEO, specialist knows how to hone a website's pages so they will land near the top. Increasingly, organizations are realizing the importance of SEO, making it one of tech's fastest-growing fields. Since the job is largely online-based, you can work from anywhere and create flexible hours.

How to switch: Search for "SEO training" on Google, and you'll find millions of offers from "certified" experts. A more credible route is to look for classes at your local community college to boost your knowledge and resume. Most importantly, read all you can about this constantly evolving profession on online forums such as forums.seochat.com.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: C
Low stress: C
Flexibility: A

7. Pilates/Yoga Instructor

Median pay: $62,400
Top pay: $137,000
10-year job growth: 29%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: Mind. Body. Spirit. Career. Pilates and Yoga instructors guide classes (or individuals in one-on-one sessions) through each discipline, making sure students learn their particular practice in a way that is challenging, yet safe and comfortable. If you're thinking about becoming an instructor, it's probably because you already love doing it and want to share your experience with others. Whether you're working with a school or teaching on your own, you can tailor your classes to fit your schedule.

How to switch: As both fields become more popular, demand is growing for instructors, but certification and training are crucial to prevent injuries. Both the Pilates Method Alliance and the Yoga Alliance recommend at least 200 hours of training. For more details, go to pilatesmethodalliance.org and yogaalliance.org.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: B
Low stress: B
Flexibility: A

8. Marketing Representative

Median pay: $52,500
Top pay: $92,800
10-year job growth: 7%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: As a marketing rep you are the face of the company. You spend the most time with the customers, and your job is to keep them informed, happy and hungry for more. That requires an exhaustive knowledge of the company's product or service, along with the enthusiasm to drive your message home. Since the bulk of your work is managing clients, you can usually set a flexible schedule that doesn't tie you to a desk.

How to switch: Find a company whose product or service you believe in — if you don't feel it, you can't pitch it. Learn everything there is to know about them, then use your gift of gab to pitch yourself to the hiring team. Learn more from the American Marketing Association: marketingpower.com. Or if you need more formal guidance, free online courses can be found at MIT: ocw.mit.edu.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: B
Low stress: C
Flexibility: A

9. Technical Writer

Median pay: $68,100
Top pay: $95,600
10-year job growth: 18%
Total jobs: 50,000

The job: Ever wonder who wrote the manual that taught you how to program your DVR? Technical writers take complicated information — like which tiny button erases your entire video library — and put it into simple-to-understand language. Most positions are in information technology, science and engineering, but the work has expanded across a wider range of industries. The field has a solid growth rate and commands one of the higher salaries on our list. Many jobs are on a contractual basis, so you can set your own hours and workload.

How to switch: Strong writing skills are a must, and a background or degree in a technical field can only add to your credibility. As more technical writing moves online, knowledge of desktop publishing and graphics programs will also help boost your prospects. Check out the Society for Technical Communication's website for more information: stc.org.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: C
Low stress: C
Flexibility: B

10. Patient/Health Educator

Median pay: $63,300
Top pay: $87,600
10-year job growth: 18%
Total jobs: 10,000

The job: Spreading the word of wellness is the main goal of a patient/health educator. From hospitals to schools to public and private organizations, the job covers health education from head to toe. You can teach kids about the importance of exercise, set up lunchtime health screenings at an office, or counsel patients about difficult lifestyle changes after a major operation. Like a doctor or nurse, you are a caregiver — and your gift is knowledge. And as prevention takes a greater role in health care, the need for educators is rapidly growing.

How to switch: Entry-level positions generally require a bachelor's degree in health education. Check out local schools for continuing education courses that can expand your knowledge. If you have the time, an internship or volunteer experience can help fill out your resume. Learn more at aahperd.org/aahe, the American Association for Health Education's website.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: A
Low stress: C
Flexibility: B

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