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Great Retirement Jobs in College Towns

These havens of academia can offer fulfilling job opportunities

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Nine college towns recently ranked among Forbes Magazine's 25 Best Places to Retire.
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College towns have become the go-to destination for many retirees. In fact, they account for nine in a list of 25 Best Places to Retire that Forbes recently compiled. The publication notes that these towns have “increased cultural and learning opportunities.” But they’re also inclined to be recession-resistant job markets, a plus if you’re looking to keep earning a paycheck.

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Each year, a new class of students moves in, helping keep the economy bustling. Booming medical and research centers and incubators for start-ups are common in the towns. Put it all together and you have a wide and attractive range of jobs and opportunities.

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Another consideration: A growing number of institutions, such as Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and West Virginia University in Morgantown, have signed AARP’s employer pledge, which among other things commits them to be age-blind in hiring decisions.

Here’s the Forbes list, by the way: Athens, Ga. (University of Georgia); Bethlehem, Pa. (Lehigh, Moravian); Boise, Idaho (Boise State); Clemson, S.C. (Clemson); Harrisonburg, Va. (James Madison); Iowa City, Iowa (University of Iowa); Lawrence, Kan. (University of Kansas); Lincoln, Neb. (University of Nebraska); and San Marcos, Texas (Texas State).

You can get started by checking a school’s HR page. Broaden your search by looking off campus to the surrounding community. The big job board Indeed has a category for college town jobs listing a range of opportunities.

As with any job search, boots on the ground is often the way to go. Go there and ask around.

Here are six jobs that can segue you into college-town life with full- and part-time opportunities

1. Adjunct Professor

The nitty-gritty: Do you have a deep knowledge in an industry or profession and a hankering to give back by teaching? Adjunct professors teach on an “as needed” basis—in other words, part time. This can mean a single course per semester. Figure on one to two hours of classroom time per week for each course, but preparation and grading time can add up.

Pay range: All over the map. At community colleges, it’s typically around $1,500 per course. Private universities offer about four times that amount. The pay ratchets up depending on your degree level, teaching experience and number of credits the course offers.

Qualifications: An advanced degree within your discipline is ideal, but depending on your experience, enthusiasm and the course itself, it’s possible to land a gig with just a bachelor’s degree. You may be asked to guest lecture to establish your teaching talents.

Job hunting tips: Network all you can, and check the college’s employment page. Then try to set up an appointment with the head of the department where you’d like to teach. You can also find job listings on

2. Event coordinator

The nitty-gritty: Colleges constantly stage get-togethers, whether it’s an alumni reunion or an academic conference. So there’s plenty of work organizing these events. It’s a detail-oriented job that requires lots of behind-the-scenes logistical work. You could be scheduling speakers, drafting a program agenda, registering guests, coordinating transportation, and setting up audio/visual equipment.

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Pay range: $11.09 to $36.29 per hour, according to; $26,848 to $54,372 annually.

Qualifications: It helps if you’re an alum. A bit of gray hair can be an asset too, because the people who go for the menu of offerings (reunions, lectures, workshops, etc.) tend to have graduated some years ago rather than recently, so you may be age-appropriate. Strong communications and computer skills, especially in word processing and database managing, are nonnegotiable. Social media expertise is a good tool to have in your pocket for managing feeds such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some colleges offer continuing education courses in event planning; the Events Industry Council offers the Certified Meeting Professional credential.

Job hunting tip: Do a solid inventory of your skills to see which might best fit the mission. For instance, if you have a track record of project planning, go for that type of job.

3. Career Center Counselor

The nitty-gritty: Matching soon-to-be graduates with employers is feel-good kind of work. Your job ranges from coaching students on interviews and resumes to lining up internships and coordinating job fairs. In recent years, boomer alumni have been reaching out to their alma maters’ centers for career transition assistance as well, so your pool of clients can cover a wider range of ages, challenges and needs.

Pay: $33,789 to $75,025 per year, according to; $14.67 to $49.07 per hour.

Qualifications: Familiarity with national career trends and labor markets. Experience in general counseling, human resources and education. The International Coach Federation can give you a list of certification programs and offers its own. Some employers require a master’s degree in counseling or higher education.

Job hunting tip: Check out the National Board for Certified Counselors and the National Career Development Association. They’re both top resources in this field.

4. Temp jobs

Nitty-gritty: Many colleges rely on temporary workers in a broad range of functions. For example, at the University of Virginia, recent postings for temporary positions included work in accounting, administrative assistance for deans, customer service and IT support. There were also openings for custodians, housekeepers, landscapers, masons, electricians and plumbers.

Pay: It will vary depending on the position.

Qualifications: Again, it depends on the type of job.

Job-hunting tip: A temp position can put you in the running for a full-time slot and keep your resume alive while you look for a permanent position.

5. Cultural institution positions

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Nitty gritty: College towns are hotbeds of arts culture. There are museums, music clubs and theaters. Some even have minor league baseball teams, such as Durham, N.C., home to Duke University, my alma mater. The Durham Bulls offer plenty of seasonal jobs. These include positions in promotions, tending customers in the Ballpark Corner Store, ushering fans to their seats and helping maintain the field. Seasonal positions pay $8.50 per hour with some perks. Hint: There are 72 home games between April and the end of August.

You can find other jobs with a cultural flavor in arts organizations, such as sales positions in museum gift shops and box offices in theaters. There is also full-time work in fundraising, selling seasonal subscriptions, coordinating events, editing publicity materials and more.

Qualifications. These will vary depending on the position.

Job-hunting tip: Consider starting as a volunteer to get your foot in the door.

6. Consultant or adviser

Nitty gritty: University towns often have start-up incubators that are linked with the school. Experts who can help on a consulting basis are frequently in demand in lieu of hiring full-time staffers, a fiscal stretch for early-stage entrepreneurs. Could you assist with such challenges as navigating licensing agreements, securing patents or making sense of government regulations? Most independent contractors parachute in to solve problems or work on a specific project.

Pay range: $15.45 to $126.71 per hour, according to, but can exceed $300 an hour with the right industry and expertise.

Qualifications: You’ll need experience in the particular field: finance, health care, law, human resources, information technology or social media, for example.

Job hunting tip: For leads, get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, a regional small business association, or economic development organization.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is the author of What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and  Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.


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