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Best jobs for retirees and mature workers: 10 second-act careers plus 13 side gigs

Best jobs for mature workers and retirees (Jacob Wackerhausen via Getty Images)

When you think about your retirement years, it might conjure images of leisurely days on a beach or sinking a putt at the golf course. Yet an increasing number of older adults are embracing a second act by working in retirement — whether part time in their fields, consulting within their industries or helping out where needed in their communities.

The benefits of “semi-retirement” reach beyond extra money and financial security, providing a way to keep your brain active, strengthen social connections and contribute valuable skills and insights in the workplace or your community. Or embark on the path of a new career.

For those looking for work or curious about where to start, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best jobs for retirees based on national trends for people ages 55 and older. We analyzed data in the most recent occupation survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), considering such factors as the number of mature workers in each field, job growth projections, transferable skills and the potential for part-time or flexible work arrangements. To round out our list, we’ve included 13 side gigs popular with older adults interested in earning a little extra cash.

Ultimately, the best job for you will depend on your individual circumstances, including your expertise and education, physical capabilities and personal interests.

If you’re a people person with a passion for property, the world of real estate opens up a rewarding second career. Nearly 400,000 real estate agents are 55 and older, with the field offering a median age of 50 — one of the highest among the more than 300 occupations covered by the BLS survey.

A career in real estate isn’t required. Rather, to work as an agent, you’ll need to get licensed in your state — a process that can take up to six months and cost from $650 and $1,100. And while this role typically requires high availability for clients, schedules are flexible around house showings and meeting with homebuyers, and earnings can be significant, depending on where you live, your local housing market and your personal motivation.

If you have a background or education in finance and are willing to study and get licensed, becoming a personal financial advisor could be an ideal way to supplement your retirement and work with people in your community.

Financial advice or coaching allows you to use your life experience and financial knowledge to guide others in making important decisions about their investments, insurance and retirement planning.

More than 137,000 workers over the age of 55 are employed in this field, with a median age of 44.4 years. Median annual wages for a personal financial advisor were $99,580 a year, or more than $47 an hour, in 2023, according to the BLS, and the field is projected to grow by 13% over the next decade, offering a wealth of opportunity in the long term.

If you’re looking for in-person or remote work with flexible hours, any of the abundant roles in administrative work could fit your lifestyle. Roles focus on applying your organizational skills and professional experience across various industries, helping to manage the day-to-day operations of local businesses and national companies by scheduling meetings, booking travel, fielding requests and more, often virtually or online.

More than 627,000 older Americans work as secretaries or administrative assistants — not including legal, medical and executive assistants — with a median age of 48.5 years and a median annual wage of $46,010, or more than $21 an hour, in 2023.

If you’ve accumulated years of business and problem-solving experience, consider making the most of your career and industry skills as a management consultant. Independent consultants help organizations improve their efficiency and profitability by analyzing current business practices, identifying problems and developing solutions.

Nearly 300,000 workers ages 55 and older are employed in this field, which paid out a median annual wage of $99,410 in 2023 — or more than $47 an hour. With a projected job growth of 10% over the next decade, management consulting offers financial rewards and intellectual stimulation in one package. And many consultants work part time or by project within their existing networks of colleagues, clients and contacts for a more flexible retirement.

Dig deeper: 6 steps to starting a consulting business in retirement

If you have an aptitude for math and strong organizational skills, bookkeeping could be a good fit for your retirement years. Some 475,000 bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks are ages 55 and older, with a median age of 49.2 years.

Bookkeeping and related professions call for attention to detail and financial acumen to help small businesses audit and maintain accurate financial, employment and banking records, with those in the field earning a median annual wage of $47,440, or around $23 an hour, in 2023. This job often comes with flexible schedules that suit retiree lifestyles, with opportunities for both part-time and remote work.

If you enjoy educating others, you could join the more than 2 million workers ages 55 and older who are employed in education, training and library occupations — jobs that include elementary and middle school teachers, preschool and kindergarten teachers, special education teachers, librarians, GED tutors, adjunct professors and more.

While full-time teaching positions typically require specific certifications, many states support programs that offer a shorter route to teaching for retirees. And substitute teaching offers more flexible requirements and can provide the right balance of free time and meaningful work in shaping the minds of the next generations. Median annual wages can reach up to $60,000 a year, or $29 an hour, with pay for substitute teachers varying widely depending on where you live and hours you’re willing to work.

If you spent your career in the medical field, are compassionate by nature or simply enjoy helping others, joining the more than half a million older Americans working as personal caregivers could be a satisfying second career. Most personal care aide roles won’t require advanced education, though some agencies, hospitals or clinics require that you complete a training program and pass an exam. If you have certification from your working life, it can provide a leading edge for more specialized roles in medication management or hospice care.

Personal care aides earned an average $33,530 annually last year, and the field is projected to grow by a whopping 22% over the next decade as Americans age, offering many ways to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives with flexible hours and the opportunity to provide one-on-one care and support.

Do you enjoy creating positive experiences for guests, customers or newcomers across different personalities and backgrounds? The hospitality industry includes a significant number of mature workers contributing their experience and wisdom across tourism, events planning, travel, catering and more, including management roles and support.

Hospitality offers flexible schedules and part-time hours, making it ideal for retirees looking to stay active and engaged. And the wide range of opportunities allows you to leverage your interpersonal skills and customer experience to enhance guests’ satisfaction across hotels, resorts, cruise lines, restaurants and other hospitality settings — potentially as a consultant.

If you have a knack for numbers or a previous career in accounting, finance or tax law, seasonal work as a tax preparer could be a rewarding option. Many retirees choose this role for its flexibility, with most of the work taking place early in the year — kicking off in winter and spanning the busy spring tax season, leaving summers free to enjoy with family.

Of the 116,000 tax preparers in the workforce, some 41,000 are over the age of 55 — that’s about one in three. And with a median annual wage of $49,010 in 2023, it’s a potentially lucrative job for retirees seeking supplemental income.

To work in tax preparation, you’ll need a preparer tax identification number — or PTIN — from the IRS, with many states offering local tax and continuing education courses to get you on track.

If you're looking for a career that allows you to help others enjoy their free time — and make the most of your own — the leisure industry offers multiple ways for older Americans to exercise their minds and bodies by bringing people together. This wide-ranging category includes tour and travel guides, exercise and group fitness trainers, sports coaches, dieticians, yoga teachers and more.

Many positions in the leisure industry offer flexible or part-time schedules, making them ideal if you’re looking to stay active in your community. And if a particular role requires certification, you can often get qualified while training.

While the top jobs in our list are well supported by BLS data for those over 55, you might be looking to break from the nine-to-five altogether for something more casual. If so, take a look at these 13 flexible side gigs that can keep you busy — and improve your social life and physical health too.

Becoming a rideshare or delivery driver offers retirees flexible hours, physical activity and social interaction. Employers include rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, food and grocery delivery services like Instacart or FreshDirect and package delivery services like Amazon.

Note that these roles require physical strength and heavy use of technology, and so they’re not ideal if you have issues with mobility or aren’t comfortable with smartphone tools and apps.

For those with a way with words, freelance writing or editing can be a fulfilling pursuit in your golden years, offering an ideal blend of intellectual stimulation and flexible work arrangements, with many remote gigs and projects available.

You can work for one or multiple clients focused on specialty content or copy across a range of fields, depending on how comfortable you are with managing online relationships and balancing deadlines.

If you own your own home or a second property, renting out a spare room or vacation stay can be a way to generate significant passive income in your retirement years — the typical host earning up to $14,000 in supplemental income, according to Airbnb.

Platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo have made it easier than ever for retirees to become hosts, offering user-friendly interfaces to list properties, manage bookings and communicate with guests.

Not ideal for: People who value privacy or are uncomfortable with strangers in your personal space.

Part-time roles in retail or customer service can provide social interaction and a sense of purpose for older adults. And with Target, Walmart and many other retailers offering employee discounts to part-time workers, you might also save money by shopping at the same place you work — a win-win.

These roles can require lots of time on your feet, and so you could find it challenging if you’re not able to stand for long periods or struggle with occasional high-stress customer interactions.

Retirees with academic backgrounds can share their knowledge by tutoring students or assisting in classrooms. While formal teaching experience can be beneficial, it’s often not mandatory, as strong communication skills and patience in tailoring teaching methods to a student’s unique learning needs can be more important.

Personalized teaching can be challenging, however, and so it’s not ideal if you lack patience or an interest in adapting to modern methods and technology.

If you enjoy working with children, working as a nanny can be a rewarding opportunity to work flexible hours while forming personal connections with families who aren’t interested in structured child care. Qualifications typically include a clean background check, CPR and first aid certification and the physical ability to care for young children. And you can get started by letting friends and family know that you’re available or joining a site like Rent a Grandma.

But taking care of other people’s children isn’t a good fit if you have limited physical stamina or prefer the peace and quiet of your own home and family.

If you’re the creative type who wants to transform a hobby into a business, online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon and Shopify make it easy to experiment with selling your handiworks worldwide. Whether you’re a painter, a weaver, a knitter or collector of rare books, these platforms are designed to walk you through the process of putting out your digital shingle and marketing your wares across marketplaces, social media and customer searches.

If e-commerce isn’t your thing, local craft fairs and farmers markets in your own community can open up potentially lucrative opportunities, all while allowing you to get to know your neighbors and visitors to your area.

Looking to combine your love of animals with physical activity? Pet sitting or dog walking offers flexible hours and low-stress work environments, making it well-suited for retirees seeking part-time engagement.

But animals are anything but predictable, and so take caution if you aren’t agile enough to bend down or even run after the unruly dog or cat.

For those who love where they live and enjoy sharing why with the community and guests, working as a tour guide can be both a fun and fulfilling way to leverage your life experience and inspire others with your local expertise while staying active and engaged with people from diverse backgrounds.

Because even the tightest itineraries don’t always go as expected, you’ll want to prepare for going with the flow while shepherding large groups.

If you’re a go-to for horticultural knowledge and enjoy plant biology and garden design, you could have a future in landscape consultancy or offering workshops in your community. Start by contacting nurseries and gardening businesses in your community. You might even want to step up your credibility and expertise with a certification from a professional landscaping organization like the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, the National Association of Landscape Professionals or the American Society of Landscape Architects.

If you're a master of your own kitchen or enjoy the science of cooking, consider a role as a culinary instructor at a community college, vocational school or adult education center. While formal culinary training is beneficial, it's not always mandatory. However, certifications from organizations like the American Culinary Federation or the Research Chefs Association can bolster your credentials.

If you have an eye for design and a flair for transforming spaces, a career as an interior decorator or home stager could be an excellent fit. Home staging offers flexibility and a “canvas” to indulge your talents for increasing a homebuyer’s interest in a home, townhouse or office. And you might not need more than a digital camera to start.

To enhance your credibility and expertise, look into certification from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, the Certified Interior Decorators International or the American Society of Interior Designers.

If you like the energy of children and have a passion for safe driving, a second career as a school bus driver could be an ideal way to enrich your retirement years. Educational requirements are minimal, and the BLS reports average median wages at more than $45,000 in 2023. Most jobs are part time — with morning and afternoon shifts — and come with good benefits.

This type of work is not ideal if you struggle with sitting for long periods or don’t want to work in two daily shifts.

These six spots are a good jumping-off point for your search for full- or part-time work, side gigs, seasonal work and freelancing opportunities.

  1. Online job boards. Sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Upwork and RetirementJobs allow you to filter for part-time, remote freelance or "retirement friendly" positions to narrow down roles that fit your interests and lifestyle. The AARP offers its own job board designed for workers over 50.

  2. State programs. Many states offer programs for older workers looking to re-enter the workforce through part-time roles — such as New York’s Older Adult Employment Program, which provides training and job placement assistance for those over 55. Contact your state’s Office for the Aging to learn what’s available where you live.

  3. Volunteer platforms. Roles on sites like VolunteerMatch or Idealist have the potential to lead to paid opportunities in fields you're passionate about, like arts and music, the environment, human rights or advocacy on behalf of vulnerable communities.

  4. Local community centers or libraries. It’s likely that the places you frequent most in your town or neighborhood support job boards that list opportunities tailored to seniors and retirees.

  5. Professional networks. Leverage your existing contacts by letting friends, family and former colleagues know you’re interested in consulting or part-time opportunities in your field of expertise.

Weigh the pluses and potential drawbacks of working in retirement to make sure your financial and physical wellness stays strong.

  • Income to supplement retirement savings

  • Mental stimulation and continued learning

  • Social interaction and sense of purpose

  • Potential health benefits from staying active

  • Opportunity to pursue passions or try new fields

  • Potential for employer-provided benefits, even part time

  • Income could affect Social Security benefits and pensions

  • Potential stress or physical strain, depending on the job

  • Less free time for leisure activities with family and friends

Talk with a financial advisor or retirement professional to understand how working might affect your specific financial situation, including taxes and benefits.

Dig deeper: How to budget in retirement: 7 steps to maintaining your finances on a fixed income

To select the best jobs for retirees, we analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, focusing on six key factors to identifying the most suitable occupations for older workers:

  • Ease of crossover from previous careers

  • Number and percentage of people ages 55+ in each profession

  • Median age of workers within an industry

  • Availability of part-time or flexible work arrangements

  • Median annual wages and job growth outlook

  • Opportunities for social interaction and intellectual stimulation

We prioritized roles that welcome transferable skills and have a higher median age and a high percentage of older workers — as these fields tend to be more welcoming to mature employees.

Kat Aoki is a seasoned finance writer who's written thousands of articles to empower people to better understand technology, fintech, banking, lending and investments. Her expertise has been featured on sites like Forbes Advisor, Lifewire and Finder, with bylines at top technology brands in the U.S. and Australia. Kat strives to empower consumers and business owners to make informed decisions and choose the right financial products for their needs.