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Lessons From Jay Leno's Next Career Move

<span style="background-color: #edf5fa">As Jay Leno’s last day looms, the 57-year-old comedian might considers his next gig. </span>

Jay Leno routinely wins the late night television ratings battle, but that doesn’t automatically insure job security.

Four years ago NBC (GE) announced Conan O’Brien would take the helm from Leno in 2009, marking the 55th anniversary of The Tonight Show. Leno might have another year on his contract, but as his last day looms, the 57-year-old comedian is, reportedly begrudgingly, already considering his next gig. One recent offer? A chance to host a stateside version of the BBC’s automobile stunt show Top Gear. (He declined.)

As more boomers push their retirement date back, Jay is not alone in his late career job search. “Challenges come when a mature worker transitions to a new job after being in the same place for a long period of time,” says Deborah Russell, Director of Workforce Issues for AARP. Yes, we know that Jay will continue to have a lucrative side-gig as a stand-up comedian and other networks are courting him, so this one is a big stretch. However, there are plenty of seniors stung by the economy, who have had to put off retirement, without the benefit of being a Hollywood darling.

For them, here are three growing sectors where boomers can put their prior experience to work in a brand new career.

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Nursing: The health care industry is short staffed, and what it needs most is nurses. “Hospitals are looking to retain and also recruit from an older nursing pool,” says Russell, “which also includes recruiting retired nurses and encouraging them to come back.” According to a national survey of registered nurses done by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 82% of RNs are over 35, and 11% of nurses are over 60.” For people who already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, an accelerated bachelor’s of nursing (BSN) degree usually take 12 months to complete, and a BSN typically earns $65,000 a year.

Consulting: The over-50 set can find success by parlaying their professional experience into an opportunity to consult for other businesses. “This is a huge emerging area,” says Russell, of the increase of baby boomers wanting to become self-employed. “The whole consulting area is growing rapidly with mature workers who come with a lot of experience and can use it to consult on a variety of issues."

Real Estate: A real estate appraiser can work independently or with a firm, giving the potential for flexible hours and small business ownership. And according to the Bureau of Labor, the field is expected to grow by 17%, which is faster than average. What does an appraiser do? Lots. An appraiser estimates the value of property to assess property tax, confirms adequate collateral for mortgages, helps to set a good sales price, settles an estate, or facilitates a divorce settlement. After taking certification classes, an appraiser can expect to make about $66,000, although according to the Appraisal Institute, there’s potential to make well into the six figures.

Whatever you choose, have a realistic understanding of what a second career means, and how you’re going to get there. “Our research shows interest on part of boomers who are mid career workers who are looking at the opportunity to do something new,” says Russell. “But get an idea of what that’s going to look like. How are you going to transfer your skills to a completely new field? If you’re a teacher all your life, and now want to go into nursing, what does that take? And does the market demand what I’m looking for?” Paging Nurse Leno!