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Infographic: How our jobs change as we age

Time changes both our career options and the choices we make.

Infographic: How our jobs change as we age
[Image: Nathan Yau/FlowingData]

At age 17, there’s a good chance you’ll take a job as a coach or an umpire. You might be a cook or cashier, too. By age 70, you’re far more likely to take a job as a chauffeur or real estate broker. This makes some sense, of course. Who in their 70s can stand 8-hour shifts in front of a fryer? Driving a Lincoln Town Car feels like a much more viable option.

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As we age, the jobs we take change. And you can see how in a new graphic developed by Nathan Yau at FlowingData, who analyzed the data from The Current Population Survey–which polled 113,000 people who switched jobs between 2011 and 2018, asking what their job was this year and the year prior.

Explore the full graphic here. [Image: Nathan Yau/FlowingData]

What he charted was the 100 most common jobs people switched to over the course of their lives. Each job is listed as its own timeline, ranging from age 15 to 90. Wherever you see a peak represents the age at which people are most likely to switch to that job. Then he organized all of these timelines from the jobs we take when we’re the youngest to the jobs we take when we’re the oldest. (See the full graphic on his site.)

Explore the full graphic here. [Image: Nathan Yau/FlowingData]

It’s just the sort of data narrative that is fascinating to dig into, as it validates a lot of what you’ve noticed anecdotally without giving a second thought. You can see young people take fast food and childcare jobs–jobs you don’t need higher education to attain. Then through the 20s, you get into areas like social work. File clerks. Bartenders. Office administration. Some of these areas need education, others just need experience. (Over a quarter of people work different jobs in their early 20s, as we take whatever job we can get as we figure out our careers.) And then, around age 30 and beyond, you see people entering the career they probably went to college for–counseling, nursing, and yes, chief executives. By the time we reach 40, only about 10% of us will change jobs again–until retirement, when we might get a new gig. This plays out in the charts too, as you see many bus drivers, farmers, and insurance salesmen go into that line of work only after the age of 60.

As for seniors taking up new lines of work: Some end up at the vineyard they’d always dreamed of, others take jobs in sales or nursing perhaps to scratch a late-in-life itch or, more likely, because few people can afford to retire.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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