En español | With more than 22 million people unemployed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses over the past year have been widespread. But not all workers were affected equally. People who had college degrees were much more likely to be able to work from home, while those without degrees were more vulnerable to job loss as many businesses closed temporarily.
That disparity was true among older adults, too. According to a new report, during the pandemic the share of workers ages 55 to 64 who were forced to retire rose 5 percent for those without a college education; for those with a college degree, the share fell 4 percent.
"Older workers without a college degree are losing ground mainly due to a difference in job prospects,” said Owen Davis, a research associate with the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School and main author of the report. “First, they were more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic recession. Second, the jobs available to older workers without degrees provide less flexibility to work from home and therefore carry greater health risks. This one-two punch translates to a higher rate of retirement at earlier ages."
Now that hiring is picking up as coronavirus restrictions are lifted and businesses reopen or expand, job opportunities for workers without degrees are starting to come back. Many of those jobs even offer the potential to work from home. FlexJobs, a website that specializes in remote work opportunities (full access to the website costs $6.95 per month), recently combed through the job postings on its site to identify fields with the most openings that don't require a degree. Many of these positions could be a match for the skill sets older adults already have.
"Remote jobs that tend not to require a college degree do typically require a decent amount of experience, which is why they're a great fit for someone with a longer career history,” says Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs. “Especially if you've had the experience of working remotely over the last year and you can demonstrate to employers that you excel in a remote environment or have remote-friendly professional skills like communication, self-management and a proactive approach to your work, you're well positioned for these types of remote jobs."
The following jobs are examples from the FlexJobs list. Clicking on the job title will take you to a list of current job openings, either on AARP's free Job Board (not all of the openings are for remote work) or the FlexJobs website. Average pay is taken from data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Average pay: $19 per hour
If you have an eye for detail and are good with math, you might do well in this position. Accounting clerks examine bank statements, invoices, accounts payable documents and other reports to ensure that all of the numbers are adding up correctly.
Average pay: $27.10 per hour
While job openings in this field could rise as more workers return to the office, the position is also one that offers plenty of opportunities for remote work. The key responsibilities — managing schedules, coordinating meetings, communicating with clients — are ones that can often be done from home.
Average pay: $20.98 per hour
This job requires strong skills with numbers, with many employers placing a higher value on experience than on a college degree. Work at Home Vintage Experts, which specializes in placing older workers in remote jobs, recently had several openings.
Average pay: $28.58 per hour
If you're good at managing professional relationships, this field offers plenty of opportunities to put your skills to use. Client services managers serve as liaisons between a company and their clients, ensuring that communications are clear and projects meet expectations. This field also offers many opportunities for contract assignments.
Average pay: $18.44 per hour
If you have good communication and problem-solving skills, a job as a customer service representative could be the right fit for you. Most companies provide extensive training to prepare workers for the important role of being the person their customers turn to when they need help. Some companies will also provide the technology necessary to respond to requests by phone, email or chat. United Health Group is one of the employers recently seeking remote customer service representatives.
Average pay: $17.49 per hour
This kind of clerical work usually means typing information from various file forms and reports into a computer system. Accuracy and typing speed are essential, but the hours can be quite flexible.
Average pay: $28.83 per hour
Work-from-home opportunities are abundant in this profession, due to the way the pandemic has heated up the housing market. Employers recently hiring include UnionBank, the Judge Group, and CyberCoders.
Average pay: $17.50 per hour
With so many schools closed to in-person classes during the pandemic, many families turned to online tutoring services to help their kids learn. That demand has created job opportunities for older adults, many of whom already have some experience in these professions. Among the companies recently hiring is iTutor, which helps students prepare for their college admissions exams. Like many of the employers in the online tutoring business, iTutor provides training for the workers it hires.
Average pay: $35.40 per hour
If you have experience guiding large projects from concept to completion, many companies may be willing to hire you even if the job posting asks for a college degree. The digital marketing firm Counterintuity was recently looking for a project manager able to work remotely. So was the National Older Worker Career Center.
Average pay: $19.04 per hour
In these jobs, you take on the responsibility for a company's interactions with people through its official accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. You'll need experience producing posts that are engaging but also reflect the voice and values of your employer.
Average pay: $24.95 per hour
If you have a knack for helping your coworkers solve problems with their laptops or other office technology, this job could appeal to you. Experience troubleshooting with networking technologies is generally a requirement for these positions.
Average pay: $17.07 per hour
These jobs require you to listen to audio recordings — of meetings, TV shows, podcasts, etc. — then type up what was said so people can read it later. In many cases, the hours are flexible, with workers choosing which files they want to transcribe, then getting paid once the assignments are complete. The technology company Rev was one of many employers recently seeking remote transcriptionists.
Average pay: $21.06 per hour
If you're fluent in a language in addition to English, many employers could be looking to hire you. Your typing and editing skills will also need to be strong.
Average pay: $18.43 per hour
As COVID-19 restrictions on travel continue to lift, many travel agencies are hiring workers to help them handle clients’ needs. Employers typically ask that applicants have some experience in the field, but a degree is rarely required.
Average pay: $19.62 per hour
This occupation got a boost during the pandemic as many employers turned to gig workers and short-term freelancers when everyone was working remotely. You generally won't need a college degree, but you should have experience using such software as, for example, Microsoft Office, PowerPoint and QuickBooks.
Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.