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5 Great Jobs for the 50+ Travel Lover

spinner image get a travel job as a tour guide
Work in the travel industry as a tour guide.

Are your boot heels meant to be wanderin'? Bob Dylan sang something like that in "Mr. Tambourine Man." And if you share the feeling, a job in the travel industry might be your ticket.

Some 70,000 additional travel-related jobs — in places such as hotels, travel agencies, airports and museums — were created in the U.S. in 2016, according to Skift, a travel industry research firm. Federal projections show the leisure and hospitality sector continuing to expand modestly in the years ahead.

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Here are five great travel opportunities to consider.

1. Travel agent

The nitty-gritty: If you think that travel agents are passé, you're mistaken. Even with the proliferation of online booking sites, growing numbers of travelers want the human touch. The result is an uptick in agents setting up their own home-based businesses, says Erika Richter, spokeswoman for the American Society of Travel Agents.

You'll spend a fair amount of time on the phone and doing online research, so this job requires patience, an unflappable demeanor and attention to detail. It helps to have your own lust for travel, which allows you to add the secret ingredients of insider knowledge and enthusiasm.

A possible perk: Gratis trips of your own to evaluate hotels, resorts and restaurants for potential clients.

Pay range: Annual salaries range from $25,484 to $55,364, according to PayScale, a compensation information company. Hourly wages range from $10.70 to $22.34.

Qualifications: In general, no agent license is required. That said, community colleges often offer technical training and continuing education classes for agents. Coursework covers the ins and outs of computer reservations systems, marketing and regulations for international travel. A few colleges offer full degrees in travel and tourism.

The Travel Institute offers training and professional certifications. The International Air Transport Association has a program for "travel and tourism professional," as well as "consultant." Meanwhile, the Cruise Lines International Association offers its own certifications.

2. Event planner

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The nitty-gritty: Must love putting on a party. You'll need the creative and organizational chops to coordinate logistics smoothly and professionally with a keen eye to all the devilish details. Event planners are the architects behind annual association gatherings, big birthday bashes, weddings and fundraising events, such as 10K charity races and silent auction black-tie dinners.

Employment for meeting, convention and event planners is projected to grow 10 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Online job boards let you shop for real-world openings. FlexJobs and CareerBuilder, for instance, currently list hundreds of openings in this category.

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Pay range: From $11.31 to $36.50 per hour, according to PayScale. Annual pay salary ranges from $28,993 to $73,488.

Qualifications: There's no must-have degree or certification for this position. Some universities and community colleges, however, offer degree and certificate programs in event management. George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for example, offers an event management certificate. You might also consider the certified meeting professional credential.

If weddings are your thing, check out the websites of the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners and the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants.

3. Campground worker

The nitty-gritty: If you're spending time on the road with your RV, this is a great way to earn money along the way. At campgrounds, parks, marinas and resorts, you may be able to take on flexible work in exchange for a free or discounted campsite, vehicle hookup and perhaps a paycheck. Jobs run the gamut from guest check-in and rental management to handyman fix-its and retail sales.

Pay range: There are a variety of arrangements in this semi-barter prospect. Pay is typically $7 to $12 an hour, but compensation is usually a combo of such things as campsite access, wages, store discounts and laundry allowance.

One option is an unusual program from the giant retailer Amazon that recruits workers to help handle seasonal peaks in fulfillment center demand from nearby camp grounds. Amazon CamperForce pays up to $11.50 an hour, with time and a half for overtime. Benefits include paid campsite fees and a completion bonus. Be aware that working in an Amazon fulfillment facility can be noisy, difficult work. Expect a lot of lifting and time on your feet.

Qualifications: Past experience in this type of work helps. Expect on-the-job training if necessary. Go to the Workamper site to track down jobs on its bulletin board. Many campgrounds post jobs on their own sites; have a look, too, at CoolWorks.

4. Tour guide

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The nitty-gritty: If you're a history buff, or a born educator, this might fit you to a T. You need to be at ease talking to groups of tourists and have your facts and anecdotes at the ready. You might lead visitors through points of historical interest in your hometown or give personal tours of, say, a local winery or pretzel factory.

Pay range: Typically $9.04 to $20.52 per hour, according to PayScale.

Qualifications: The most in-demand skill is a knack for captivating an audience. Employers might require you to pass a written exam of knowledge of specific locations and city history. Some community colleges offer short-term courses in tour- and travel-related occupations. The certified tour professional certification is offered through the National Tour Association.

Think, too, about the not-for-profit Road Scholar program, which offers 5,500 "learning adventures" in 150 countries and all 50 states. If you become an "ambassador" for the program, you promote it through speaking engagements. Your compensation is credits toward participation in those adventures.

5. Peace Corps

The nitty-gritty: This is not your usual travel industry job, but consider the experience of San Francisco resident Barbara Jue, 68, who served in the former Soviet republic of Moldova for two years. As a small-enterprise development adviser, she lent her know-how to a nongovernmental agency that focused on developing small businesses in the country.

"Peace Corps was an aspiration since I was a teenager in the '60s when I was drawn to JFK's vision," Jue says. After she retired as director of global compensation at the Clorox Company, the time seemed right. "If you can help make a difference, you have a more fulfilling life, right?"

She cautions that the Peace Corps is not for everyone: "Because Moldova is a developing country, health, sanitation and language, for me, were challenging, but you learn to be adaptable and flexible," Jue says.

The bottom line is that the Peace Corps wants to enlist older volunteers like Jue. At present, nearly 500 volunteers older than 50 are serving in countries around the world. A few are in their 80s.

The current push for older volunteers dates to 2011, when the Peace Corps began working with AARP to connect with older volunteers for its Peace Corps Response program, which sends experienced professionals abroad. The program may have special appeal to older people because it requires a shorter time commitment: three months to a year instead of the traditional 27 months. Married couples may serve together, but each person must apply and qualify as a volunteer separately.

Pay range: There is no salary per se, but all volunteers receive comprehensive medical and dental benefits during service. Financial benefits include paid travel to and from the country of service, housing and living expenses, vacation days and a readjustment allowance upon completion of service that can amount to thousands of dollars.

Qualifications: For Peace Corps Response, you must be a U.S. citizen and one of the following: an experienced professional, a returned volunteer, or a licensed physician or nurse.

Kerry Hannon is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Find more from her at

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