We examined a variety of reliable sources to see where jobs are plentiful for 50-plus workers. Here are five jobs you might want to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and where you live, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.
1. Crossing Guard
The nitty-gritty: Crossing guard? You bet. Crossing guards have one of the highest percentages of 65-plus workers — making up a sizeable 36.6 percent of the workforce, according to the numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many school crossing guards work part time or are seasonal workers. The job has plenty of perks: you get to be outdoors, work in your community and you get to see your neighbors and watch their kids grow up. In addition to schools, local governments and all sorts of construction companies employ crossing guards. Your chief chore is to stop vehicles by raising a hand-held stop paddle and then escorting people across the intersection. Depending on your employer, you may direct traffic at construction or accident sites, railroad crossings or when traffic lights are on the fritz. You may have to report kids' mischief to school authorities or speeders or problem drivers to the local police department. Sometimes you'll get bad weather and spend long hours on your feet and you need to be careful as you are the first to enter an intersection. You can apply for these jobs through the school district or police department.
Median pay: $12.44 per hour. The range is $11.58 per hour for elementary and secondary schools and $12.43 for local government. Highways, street and bridge construction jobs pay $17.94 per hour.
Qualifications: On the job training is standard. If you work for a school, you'll need a clean background check and a spotless criminal record. You will usually be required to pass drug and alcohol tests.
2. Hospice Chaplain
The nitty-gritty: Chaplains are a source of solace and support for patients with terminal illnesses and their families. Chaplains typically work with medical staff and outside clergy to offer spiritual comfort to patients with seriously advanced illnesses. Covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans, hospice care is a swiftly growing area in the health care field. This job is so vital that the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services requires all hospice centers that receive reimbursements from the agency to employ a hospice chaplain or a pastoral or spiritual counselor. About 1.65 million people received new or continuing hospice care in 2011, more than twice as many as did a decade ago, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. As demand for hospice care has increased, so have the number of programs nationwide. Today, there are about 5,300 providers, up from about 3,300 five years ago. Providers include home health agencies, independent hospice facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. Hours tend to be flexible with weekends and evenings to be expected. A sympathetic ear is precious in the final days of someone's life. This is a position that's far more than a paycheck.
Median clergy pay: $23.31 per hour
Qualifications: This is a fairly unregulated field. Even under the government regulatory language that stipulates that a hospice receiving government funding have a spiritual counselor, it does not specify the qualifications of this position, other than that the professional must be competent to function in that role. Hospice chaplains can be ordained clergy or simply a hospice-trained individual who has experience in spiritual support. Many hospice providers require a bachelor's degree in religious studies. Others require a master's degree in counseling, divinity, theology, social work, psychotherapy, psychology or pastoral counseling. For more information, contact the NHPCO or the Association of Professional Chaplains, which certifies health care chaplains. Check for job listings at local hospices, or on the big job boards such as careerbuilder.com and simplyhired.com.
3. Home Health and Personal Care Aide
The nitty-gritty: Home health aides assist the elderly, ill or disabled with daily activities ranging from bathing and dressing to running errands. Other duties might include light housekeeping, laundry, companionship, grocery shopping, preparing meals and monitoring medications. The jobs may be at the client's home or at an assisted living or nursing home facility. Home health workers also take vital signs, administer drugs and operate medical equipment. A personal home care aide has similar responsibilites, minus the medical duties, with no license required. This work can be physical if you're needed to lift patients. Both personal care and home health aides top the Bureau of Labor statistics rankings of fastest-growing occupations, with rates of 70 and 69 percent growth expected between 2010 and 2020, respectively.
Median pay range: $9.70 an hour. With experience and professional certification this can go up to $35-plus an hour.
Qualifications: Short-term or on-the-job training is the norm. Some states require formal training, which is offered at community colleges, vocational schools and home health care agencies. Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation or receive state certification. Training includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, fighting infections, and overall diet and nutrition. Aides can be certified by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Although certification is not always required, employers prefer to hire certified aides. States may conduct criminal background checks on prospective aides. Some employers may require a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification. CPR training and a driver's license are helpful too. Contact local care facilities and home care staffing agencies for job openings and training requirements. Word of mouth within a community or area physicians who have an elderly patient population can offer job leads.
4. Construction Estimator
The nitty-gritty: Construction estimators gauge the price of time, labor and materials for a particular job, and then put together a bid. Employers in the field are typically construction companies, contractors or builders. Marching around a construction site and schmoozing with a variety of characters from clients to architects to suppliers and subcontractors is all in a day's work.
Median pay: $27.82 per hour
Qualifications: Many estimators have worked previously in the construction industry, where they were often foremen or superintendents. While prior construction experience is helpful, you'll be able to learn on the job. Each employer has a certain way of managing estimates. The work requires a solid understanding of building materials, methods of construction and the local building code. A strong grounding in mathematics and computer skills is nonnegotiable. Make sure you are up to speed on programs such as Microsoft Office, OnScreen Takeoff and Carlson Takeoff Software. It's helpful to have a bachelor's degree in engineering, physical sciences, mathematics or statistics. If you have experience in business-related disciplines such as accounting, finance, business or economics and a passion for construction projects, employers will be happy to talk in these cost-conscious times. The American Society of Professional Estimators, the Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International (also known as AACE International) and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association each offer a variety of certifications.
5. Move Manager
The nitty-gritty: You are in charge of coordinating a move and configuring a new home setup. With many of the more than 78 million boomers, in addition to seniors, poised to make a move to smaller quarters, your client base is swelling fast. Your typical customers are relocating to an apartment, condo, retirement community or assisted living facility. They need advice on choosing which furniture, artwork, china, collectibles and household goods will make the move to the new digs. Then you tally up what can be sold, donated or given to friends and family. You might even be in charge of shopping for new furniture that suits the new pad, or organizing and running an estate or yard sale. This job calls for configuring and cajoling. Not only is a move physically daunting, but most people resist it. That's where your move-management consulting skills shift into gear.
Pay range: Fees range from $30 per hour to $75-plus.
Qualifications: Knowledge of interior design is indispensible. An "in" with a local real estate agent can jump-start your business, as well as provide steady clientele down the road. A calm but take-charge demeanor is preferred, as this type of move can be emotionally charged. For more information on courses and certification, contact the National Association of Senior Move Managers. For leads on jobs, stop by local real estate agents' offices and visit retirement and assisted living communities in your area to ask about their future residents' needs. The community's management office usually provides soon-to-be residents with suggestions for moving specialists whom they have worked with in the past to lend a hand with what can be a daunting endeavor for downsizers of any age. To earn a coveted spot on a list of preferred helpers, you may need to provide references who can vouch for your work. Plan on doing a few jobs pro bono in exchange for a referral.
Kerry Hannon, AARP's jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.