5 Green Jobs for Retirees

Retirees represent a growing sector of the workforce, and some of them have their hearts set on green jobs.

Working after retirement can pose a rewarding way to stay active, meet new people and learn new skills. For other retirees, a job represents a way to shore up retirement income through a precarious economy. Regardless of the motivation, the statistics are clear: More retirees are working full-time jobs than ever before. In the three decades since 1977, the rise in employment for people older than 65 has far outpaced other demographics. For instance, while the overall U.S. workforce increased by 59 percent, the number of workers over age 65 jumped by 101 percent, and for workers over 75, that number rose to 172 percent [source: BLS].

For retirees who are passionate about the environment, a green-collar job could be a great fit. By green-collar job, we just mean any occupation devoted to protecting the environment, no matter the industry. Just as retirees are composing an ever-increasing percentage of the overall U.S. workforce, green-collar jobs are making up a larger share of jobs. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, growth in the number of green jobs outpaced growth in traditional jobs in the decade leading up to 2007, and by the end of that decade, there were an estimated 770,000 green jobs in the U.S. alone [source: Scherer].


With thousands of green jobs out there, which ones would be perfect for retirees? We looked for positions that fit a few criteria. First, the job couldn't be too physically demanding, so occupations like solar panel installers didn't make the cut. Second, we sought jobs that either took advantage of the skills learned through a more traditional career or required only minimal training to perform. After all, most retirees probably aren't terribly keen to head to college for a few years before starting their new position. Know that you know the whys and wherefores of our list, read on to learn about our first pick.

5: Park Guide

If you landed a gig as a park guide with Yellowstone National Park, this could be your daily view.
John Wang/Photodisc/Getty Images

In 2010, roughly 280 million visitors explored America's national parks [source: NPS]. Maintaining those parks and helping visitors get the most out of their experience is a big job, which explains why the National Park Service employs more than 20,000 people (not to mention the 200,000-plus volunteers) to run the parks [source: NPS]. For retirees who love people and the great outdoors but aren't in the mood to brave treacherous terrain, being a park guide might be the ticket.

Unlike park rangers, who are sometimes pulled into physically demanding jobs like aiding search-and-rescue missions and fighting fires, park guides typically act as liaisons to national parks. They might work in the visitors center answering questions about the park, make presentations to guests or help with ticketing and safety compliance. The job is perfect for retirees who are comfortable with public speaking and ready to become walking encyclopedias about the park they work in.


Even better, candidates won't need a specific degree or extensive experience to land the position, though retirees interested in promotions might need to take related classes or demonstrate experience with public speaking. Best of all, applicants can get a feel for working in national parks by volunteering first. Pay for beginning park guides started at around $10 per hour for the 2009 season [source: NPS].

4: Environmental Advocate

Don't worry. No one expects you to be Ralph Nader when you're starting out as an environmental advocate.
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Protecting the planet is a cause near and dear to many people and many major nonprofit organizations. In order for those groups to be effective, however, they need dedicated, hardworking advocates to raise awareness in their communities, solicit donations and coordinate volunteers, among other things, and that's where environmental advocates come in. These jobs are particularly suited to retirees for numerous reasons.

First, they aren't physically demanding. Environmental advocates will typically work in an office environment and spend a lot of time on the phones. Second, they don't necessarily require a particular degree or special training in many cases. Anyone with a passion for a cause and a background in business, sales or fundraising is qualified. And best of all, there are positions available for virtually any environmental cause imaginable, like dolphins (the International Dolphin Watch) or rainforests (Rainforest Conservation Fund).  Whatever the cause, some organization out there needs help. No wonder environmental advocates, along with advocates for human rights and other social issues, hold nearly 200,000 positions in the United States [source: BLS].


3: Renewable Energy Expert

The burgeoning field of renewable energy beckons to retirees with a variety of career experience.
Don Farrall/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The debate rages on regarding just how long the planet's energy reserves will last. No surprise then that investment in renewable energy is reaching record highs as governments and businesses explore technologies like biofuels, along with solar, geothermal, wind and marine power [source: Llewellyn]. As these technologies make up an ever-growing percentage of our power supply, retirees with technical backgrounds in engineering and hard sciences will find a number of job opportunities available to them. These experts might survey a site to determine if it's a good location for wind turbines, help to design a solar panel installation or consult directly with researchers to improve the efficiency of renewable energy technologies.

For retirees without such a highly technical skill set, plenty of great opportunities exist within the renewable energy sector. For instance, retirees with an agricultural background can consult with energy companies producing ethanol and biodiesel. Those folks with a background in manufacturing might be interested in monitoring the production of the often expensive and complicated machinery needed to produce renewable energy. Whatever their expertise, retirees are likely to find more opportunities in renewable energy as its popularity grows. Renewable energy experts can command daily rates upward of $500 per day depending on their previous experience, and because the work is typically done in an office environment, the role is perfect for retirees who prefer heavy mental lifting over that of the physical variety [source: SJD Accountancy].


2: Green Building Consultant

Some people think that the term "environmentally friendly" is just another way to say expensive, but a 2006 study by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) found that, at least with new construction, going green won't cost more green [source: Llewellyn]. In fact, energy-efficient construction can drastically cut utility bills, so it's no wonder that green building is now a multibillion-dollar industry and getting bigger every year [source: Llewellyn]. A study conducted by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton estimates that over the period from 2009 to 2013, green construction will contribute $554 billion to the U.S. GDP [source: USGBC].

As the market for green building grows, demand for consultants on the subject will increase as well. These consultants will be responsible for everything from advising builders on which green building techniques to use for a project to certifying that a project meets any of the increasing number of green building standards now in place. But while these positions aren't physically demanding, they do require some expertise in the building profession. Retirees who previously worked as architects, engineers or construction project managers are particularly suited to the work, but even with that experience, they'll likely need to take courses on the latest green building techniques, policies and regulations. For their efforts, green building consultants can earn upward of $50,000 a year, particularly if they receive LEED or other industry certifications [source: Indeed.com]. Once they're up to speed, however, they can start building a brighter future for both themselves and the planet.


1: Certified Vehicle Emission Inspector

As long as we have air pollution and cars on the road emitting it, we're going to need emissions inspectors.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

When most people think of the green economy, they conjure images of cutting-edge research and technology. In reality, some environmentally focused jobs were around long before the term "green collar" was invented, and certified vehicle emission inspector is one of them. After all, cars and trucks are the single biggest source of air pollution in the U.S., and emission inspectors are working constantly to keep that pollution in check [source: Union of Concerned Scientists].

Emission inspectors typically work at dedicated inspection facilities where they use a variety of equipment to make sure that cars and trucks conform to emissions standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [source: EPA]. The job can be physically demanding from time to time since emission inspectors will occasionally need to lift heavy equipment, and inspectors should also be able to tolerate hot and cold weather since they'll be outside a lot. Finally, applicants will also need to undergo their state's certification process, which might require classroom training, as well as written examinations. For retirees with a background in auto repair and a passion for helping the environment, however, working as an emission inspector can be a rewarding job.


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Lots More Information

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