10 Great Jobs for Midlife Women

The best career moves you can make when you want to reinvent your job.

By Annetta Miller, with additional reporting by Patti Greco

Universities call it distance learning. Internet classes are the fastest-growing segment of the education industry, with thriving online operations like Capella University and Kaplan University (sister to the well-known test prep group), as well as programs at traditional colleges and universities, adult schools, and professional associations. There aren’t many tenured or full-time positions, and most part-time adjuncts are paid modest, per-course fees. But demand is growing. Improved software for managing course work (check out blackboard.com) has helped foster growth. And a diverse mix of students, many part-time, are demanding more flexible options.

Getting In

If you have experience in a specialized field like economics, accounting, or criminal justice, you can often get hired without an advanced degree. In other fields, requirements vary. For midlife women, teaching just one course is a great way to break into a particular institution, build academic credentials or gradually amp up the workload. Karen Cummins, 44, of Bluegrass, Iowa, a mother of six and a former nursing professor at a bricks-and-mortar college, was skeptical about teaching students she’d never met. Now she’s a convert. "I know my online students better, possibly because the written word — in e-mail, instant messaging, and assignments — is more expressive,’‘ she says.

Pay and Perks

Full-time staff jobs with benefits are less common in online academia, although Kaplan says it has more than 100 of these positions. Pay varies widely. Adjuncts at some schools earn as little as $1,500 for one course; a full-time instructor can make as much as $70,000 a year, teaching three or four courses a term. Some instructors at traditional schools increased their salaries by thousands when they added online courses, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Cummins, who works for Kaplan, loves the flexibility: "I can teach a class on my laptop, sitting in the car, while my husband is driving."

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Screen time.

To Find Out More

United States Distance Learning Association

10. Commercial Real Estate Agent

Buy and sell property to businesses. Negotiate hard, juggle egos, imagine the future.

Why Now?

Residential markets are flooded with agents, most chasing falling prices. The commercial side is under new pressure too, but is typically more lucrative. And commercial firms, long dominated by men, are actively recruiting women. "Many of our members are in their 40s and 50s and have come from other professions,’‘ says Marianne Ajemian, past president of CREW Network, the Commercial Real Estate Women Network. Midlife women often have the financial and emotional reserves to handle the personalities and roller-coaster business conditions.

Getting In

There’s a learning curve, but people can make the jump from corporate jobs, law, and other fields. Architecture was the springboard for Shawn Rush, 51, now a broker at CB Richard Ellis, in Seattle. "I still work with space and buildings," she says. "I just look at them from a new perspective." The network she’d already built helped her get clients quickly. "The guys I used to compete with in architecture are happy to see me on the other side.’‘

Pay and Perks

Median annual earnings of real estate brokers were about $61,000 in 2006, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor. Commissions make up most of that income, and the percent paid on commercial properties is typically higher than it is on residential properties. Rush loves the excitement and flexibility. She does some of her work each day on a commuter ferry from Bainbridge Island and gets home to her family by 6:30 p.m. "You can do this anywhere, anytime,’‘ she says. "It’s just you and your database, as long as your phone battery holds out.’‘

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Working on commission, cliff-hanger deals.

To Find Out More

Commercial Real Estate Women Network, crewnetwork.org; National Association of Realtors, realtor.org.

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