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5 Great Jobs for Snowbirds

Heading south for the winter? Unique employment opportunities await.

En español | Snowbirds are on the move. Biting cold in the North has sparked the annual migration of retirees and semi-retirees south for the winter. In parts of Florida and Arizona, especially, populations swell as warm-weather seekers make the seasonal shift.

See also: Looking for a work-at-home job?

While climate is the No. 1 motive, it's not the only draw. Unique employment opportunities await snowbirds who are interested in making money while they soak up the sun. Disney, for example, does brisk hiring for its theme parks during winter months, as do resorts, to handle the influx of tourists. The job possibilities, both full-time and part-time, don't end there.

5 Great Jobs for Snowbirds

— © Corbis

For 72-year-old Bill Armbrecht, a lifelong baseball fan, there's only one temporary employer for him. Over the past two seasons, the Sandusky, Ohio, resident has worked at the Cleveland Indians' spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. It's 18 miles from the Sun City condo where he and his wife spend winters.

Armbrecht's job title: Security. For the most part, that translates into making sure fans and reporters are respectful of the players and their time, but he has worked the parking lot and special events, too. "I do a lot of different things," he says. "Whatever needs to be done."

The pay clocks in around $8 an hour, but it's not just about the money. "It's one of those jobs you would pay them to do," the retired pharmacist says. "As a child I went to Indians games with my grandmother. It's a hoot. The best part is rubbing shoulders with the big boys. Baseball, well, it's part of my heart."

Whatever the attraction, the crack of a bat or the chance to work alongside Mickey Mouse, here are five warm-weather jobs to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and where you spend your winters, are primarily derived from employers and U.S. Labor Department data.

1. Spring Training Staff

The nitty-gritty: Spring training camps for Major League Baseball teams in Arizona and Florida have a range of possible positions: ushering, selling programs, fielding ticket inquiries, working concession booths, running cash registers in the team merchandise shop and juggling other customer service duties. Teams may hire drivers to transport players and staff to and from the airport. Some jobs require more expertise than others. For instance, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a recent posting for a seasonal sales assistant, who would take an active role in marketing and special promotions. IT analysts are called on to make sure wireless networks and computers run smoothly for press and players. While duties might be mundane, the chance to work alongside a World Series ring bearer is anything but.
The hours: Vary by team and demands of the job
Median pay range: From $7.50 to more than $10 an hour.
Qualifications: To learn more, go to Major League Baseball's website, click on the link to your favorite team's website, then click on "job opportunities." You can also try contacting the training camp office directly. Qualifications will depend on the post, but on-the-job training is standard in most cases. A valid driver's license and a fluency in Spanish might be necessary. Bestselling advantage: Love of the game.

Do you believe in magic? There could be an opening for you.>>

2. Disney "Cast Member"

The nitty-gritty: Positions are available throughout Disney's resorts and theme parks in Florida and California. Seasonal openings include loading and unloading passengers from rides, doling out costumes at wardrobe facilities across the parks, staffing gift shops and concessions stands, and even portraying costumed characters. (The latter positions require auditions, and you must be willing and able to spend time on your feet signing autographs and posing for photos.) There are also openings for airport representatives who greet guests at arrival and usher them to waiting shuttles.
The hours: Part-time roles typically require a minimum of two to three days of full availability per week. Applicants who prefer weekends off or early shifts only may find opportunities limited.
Median pay range: From $7.45 to $10.55 an hour.
Qualifications: Varies by category. Check the Walt Disney World website for job openings in Florida; for California see Disneyland's website. Prerequisite: Believe in magic.

Take to the open road and earn some extra dough.>>

3. Car Transporter

The nitty-gritty: If rolling down long open highways catches your fancy, then delivering vehicles up and down the East Coast can pay your way to a warm weather getaway of your own. Busiest months are December and May, but departures and returns are staggered. In peak-demand periods you can snap up deliveries in rapid succession. You'll quickly get up to speed on shortcuts and construction detours, and maybe accrue frequent flier miles in the process. Long hours on the road can take a physical and mental toll, so stopping to stretch and rest is a must. It's possible to find seasonal driving jobs with a professional service, but drivers who want to work in snowbird season only may find it easier to drum up clients by word of mouth. Try posting flyers at senior centers, retirement communities, assisted-living facilities, libraries, pharmacies and grocery stores. Build up a roster of repeat customers.
The hours: Expect to drive eight hours a day, but this is negotiable. Most one-way trips, however, can be done in two to three days.
Median pay range: This fluctuates widely, but a base pay of $200 a day, plus gas and tolls, is in the ballpark. Many drivers add in the cost of meals, motels and transportation back to the airport and airfare. As a way of comparison, on a New York to Miami route, car transportation truck companies found online routinely charge clients between $800 and $1,300 to haul a vehicle one way (gas and tolls included). Your key selling point is the personal touch. There's value in knowing and trusting the person who's driving your goods, so you may have wiggle room in pricing your services.
Qualifications: A spotless driving record and impeccable character references. It helps if you know how to change a flat and have a working knowledge of car mechanics. You'll need a cell phone, preferably with built-in GPS, to stay on course and connected to clients. Plus, be prepared to have some company on your way. Cars heading south tend to get crowded with precious cargo such as fragile personal belongings and even family pets.

Calling all bartenders, gardeners or fitness instructors. Read on.>>

4. Resort Worker

The nitty-gritty: Disney doesn't have a monopoly on seasonal employment. Resorts of all shapes and sizes across the Sunbelt increase their staff during winter months. You might find work in any number of capacities, from bartender or gardener to parking valet or room cleaner. Niche opportunities abound. If you love golf, there might be openings in the pro shop or as a groundskeeper. Boaters should check out marinas for odd jobs. Gambling fans can investigate Gulf Coast casinos. Fitness professionals such as massage therapists and Pilates instructors may find seasonal jobs with a resort's spa operations. Be mindful of the physical demands of some service jobs. A bad back doesn't make for an effective bellhop.
The hours: Generally flexible.
Median pay range: Bartenders can pull in $7.33 to $15.11 or more an hour, plus tips; massage therapist, $8.30 to $33 or more an hour.
Qualifications: Experience is a must for certain jobs, say boat mechanic or golf pro, but skills needed for entry-level service jobs can be picked up quickly. Most states require practicing massage therapists to complete a formal education program, pass an examination and obtain a license. Pilates and yoga teachers must have proof of specialized training, too. Sun salutation, anyone?

Are you a nurse who loves to travel? This gig might be for you.>>

5. Travel Nurse

The nitty-gritty: Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are in high demand at hospitals and doctors' offices in Florida and Arizona during the winter months. The majority of travel nursing assignments run for 13 weeks — often with the option of extending the term to six months. You must have a travel-nursing license to practice in each state. These temporary licenses can cost $25 to $250 and are valid from one month to six months. Plan ahead. Obtaining a temporary Florida RN license, for instance, takes an average of 30 days. Specific work responsibilities vary widely depending on specialty and facility.
The hours: Flexible and partial shifts during the winter/spring season.
Median pay range: From $21 to $45 or more per hour, plus housing stipends and health insurance benefits are often part of the package.
Qualifications: A bachelor's of science degree in nursing is a standard requirement, but an associate degree in nursing can open doors, too. You must pass a national licensing examination, known as the National Council Licensure Examination, in order to obtain a nursing license. Other eligibility requirements vary by state. Contact the state's board of nursing for details. Background check is standard. Compassion and care count.

Kerry Hannon is the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.

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