It’s the occupation with the oldest workers – 24/7 Wall St.


This headline was recently published on financial site MarketWatch: “Think you’ll stop working in your 60s? Be real.

What is happening? Many Americans don’t have enough money to retire, at least if they want to maintain their current financial lifestyle. People who want to live like they need to stay employed full time. This has several consequences. One of the most obvious is that the jobs young workers might aspire to will not open up as quickly as before.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 24/7 Wall St. identified the occupation with the oldest workers. We looked at the 21 occupations in which most workers are 50 or older. We excluded all nonspecific occupational classifications used by the BLS, especially jobs labeled as “all others,” a catch-all designation.

The occupations with the oldest workers span different types of industries and income levels. Some of the jobs on this list require years of experience and training to perform properly, so their workforce would naturally be older. In other cases, jobs are being phased out due to consumer trends or technology, so young workers do not enter these fields.

To determine occupation with the oldest workers, 24/7 Wall St. looked at data on age by detailed occupation from the BLS’s Current Population Survey (CPS) table. Detailed occupations were ranked by the median age of all workers aged 16 and over in 2020. Data on total employment also came from the CPS. Additional median annual wage data comes either from calculations based on median weekly earnings figures from the CPS or from median annual wage estimates from the BLS Occupational and Employment Wage Statistics program for May 2020. 2019 to 2029 employment, educational attainment by detailed occupation, and typical educational requirements needed to enter each occupation are from the BLS Employment Projection Program, and figures are the most recent data available.

The occupation with the oldest workers is that of farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers. Here are the details:

  • Median age in the labor force: 56.8 years
  • Workers aged 65 and over: 296,000 (32.9% of the total workforce)
  • Projected employment growth, 2019 to 2029: −6.5%
  • Median annual earnings: $45,448

Farmers, ranchers and farm managers occupy the occupation with the highest median age by far, at 56.8 years. That’s more than two years longer than any other job. Nearly a third of all farmers, ranchers, and farm managers are 65 or older, or nearly 300,000 in total.

The median age of farmers and ranchers has risen steadily over the past few decades as fewer young people work in this occupation. However, younger agricultural workers tend to have larger farms, while smaller farms are generally operated by older workers. This consolidation of small farms into large farms helps explain why the number of farmers is expected to decline further over the next decade.

Click here to see all occupations with the oldest workers.

Michael A. Bynum