Computer Analyst, Sales Rep Among Top Jobs for Older Workers

Top industries for older U.S. workers include technology, health care

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie October 19, 2018
Computer Analyst, Sales Rep Among Top Jobs for Older Workers

​Computer analysts, sales representatives and health care workers are some of the top jobs that the AARP has identified for older Americans in coming years.

AARP compared data from thousands of online job postings to determine which career fields will need the most new workers in the next two years. In many cases, AARP found that older workers already have the skills that these jobs require.

"There are many skills that today's [older workers] possess, such as problem-solving, customer service and teamwork," said Cam Marston, founder of Generational Insights, a consulting firm that works with companies and employees on generational issues.

At a recent conference, Marston noted, the CEO of a financial services group told of two new people he'd just hired. Both were over 70 years old.

"Their problem-solving capabilities were like nothing the firm had seen before," Marston said. "The CEO hired them not knowing what they'd do, only realizing he had found two very smart people who could take on problems of the firm and solve them to a fruitful conclusion. They were in demand by every department in his company."

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Future Job Prospects for Older Workers

By 2020, nearly 14 percent of job openings are expected to be for health care-related professionals, such as chiropractors, dentists, dietitians and nutritionists, according to AARP. Demand for those jobs will be particularly high in Alaska, Connecticut, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Just over 4 percent of people who are ages 50 and older already work in these fields, AARP noted. And 10.1 percent now work in jobs that require similar skills. They are nurses, home health aides and physical therapists, AARP said.

5 In-Demand Careers That Fit Older Workers

5 In-Demand Careers That Fit Older Workers
AARP determined which career fields will need the most new workers over the next two years. In many cases, older workers already have years of experience that can be suited to these jobs. Read More

"This … is not meant to imply that older workers should be limited to these fields," said Susan K. Weinstock, AARP's vice president for financial resilience programming. "We know that older workers bring great experience and skills to [all areas of] the workforce."  

There are now far more U.S. workers ages 65 or older in the workforce than three decades ago, and the number of employed older workers rose by nearly 35 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to a December 2017 study by In fact, this group of workers is projected to be the fastest-growing segment in the workforce through 2024.

In 2016, the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau projected that the number of U.S. workers ages 65 or older would more than double, from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060. It estimated that by 2022, 27 percent of men and 20 percent of women ages 65 or older would be in the labor force, up from the current 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

"Studies show that experienced workers are more engaged, more motivated and less at risk for unexpected turnover," Weinstock said. "Employers who overlook experienced workers are missing out on a great resource of talent who also bring soft skills, like calm under pressure, collaboration, empathy, problem-solving and more."

Discrimination Against Older Workers

Computer technology is one area ripe for older workers, AARP noted. The field is projected to account for 12.5 percent of job growth between 2014 and 2024, adding more than 488,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy during that time. Jobs in this field include computer systems analysts, programmers, web developers and software developers.

Slightly more than 2 percent of those ages 50 or older now work in these fields, AARP noted, and another 2.2 percent work in professions that require similar skills. 

Yet four decades after the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) became law, nearly two-thirds of workers ages 55 to 64 say their age has been a barrier to getting a job, according to a 2017 survey by AARP. A study in 2015 using resumes for workers of various ages found significant discrimination in hiring for the oldest applicants, according to a co-author of the research, Patrick Button, assistant professor of economics at Tulane University and a researcher with the National Bureau of Economic Research Disability Research Center. Given two applicants with similar skills and experience, study subjects tended to choose the younger candidate.

But age discrimination is very difficult to prove, workplace experts say. Although age discrimination was alleged in about 23 percent of all charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in fiscal year 2016, ADEA cases constituted only 2 percent of the cases that the EEOC lawyers felt had enough evidence to file a lawsuit.

"There does continue to be the perception that older people are not as oriented toward new technology," said Jacquelyn B. James, director of the Sloan Research Network on Aging & Work at Boston College. "The problem with that thinking is that hardly anybody is, because [technology] changes so fast that even younger people who think they're adept get lost in the shuffle. So we're all in this situation of having to learn new technology constantly."

It's illegal under the ADEA for employers to consider a job applicant's age.  It's also illegal under the ADEA to include age limitations in job advertisements, unless the job requires a "bona fide occupational qualification," or BFOQ.

"In other words, an older worker's age is irrelevant to whether they are a good fit for almost any position," said Raymond Peeler, assistant legal counsel at the EEOC. "Employers should instead focus on qualities such as the applicant's education, experience and abilities."

The EEOC has taken the position that job advertisements seeking "young" workers, or workers within a certain age range, violate the ADEA. Similarly, advertisements seeking only "digital natives," which is widely understood shorthand for people young enough to have grown up around modern, Internet-connected computers, will violate the ADEA, Peeler said. 

"The notion that older workers are somehow unfit for technology-related positions is an unfortunate and a widely disproven stereotype," he said.


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