14 Jobs That Still Offer Pensions In The U.S.

Pensions have historically been a vital part of compensation packages in the United States, introduced during the early stages of industrialization as an incentive for attracting and retaining employees. These defined benefit plans assure retirees of a fixed monthly payment, often based on a formula involving salary and years of service. It's the employer's responsibility to fund and manage this account to provide a stable income in retirement, with some plans even extending benefits to spouses or beneficiaries.

However, the prevalence of pensions has diminished over time due to various factors, such as declining union influence, corporate efforts to control costs, and the rise of alternatives like 401(k) plans, which place the financial burden on employees rather than companies. As of 2022, only a fraction of workers—primarily in state and local government, utilities, protective services, transportation, construction, manufacturing, maintenance, and the military—still have access to traditional pension plans.

Despite this decline, pensions remain a desirable employee benefit, offering a reliable income stream in retirement. Therefore, individuals interested in securing a guaranteed income for their future should consider careers in these 14 professions.  

1. Construction Worker

  • Average Base Salary: $39,073
  • Job Summary: Construction workers perform tasks involving physical labor at construction sites. They are responsible for preparing sites, digging trenches, setting braces to support the sides of excavations, erecting scaffolding, and cleaning up rubble, debris, and other waste materials.
  • Qualifications: A formal education is not mandatory for construction workers, as employers emphasize relevant skills and knowledge. To work in construction, consider taking vocational courses or enrolling in a trade school. You can gain practical skills and establish industry connections by undergoing an apprenticeship. A certificate or license may be required to work in some construction trades.

2. Teacher

  • Average Base Salary: $29,722
  • Job Summary: Teachers plan, direct, and coordinate the academic, administrative, or auxiliary activities of kindergarten, elementary, or secondary schools.
  • Qualifications: All states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in education to become a certified teacher. Additionally, some states may require teachers to obtain a master’s in teaching or education within five years of completing their B.A. They must pass a background check and a general teacher certification or licensure exam.

3. Registered Nurse

  • Average Base Salary: $93,074
  • Job Summary: Registered nurses (RNs) assess patient health problems and needs, develop and implement nursing care plans, and maintain medical records. RNs administer nursing care to patients and may advise on health maintenance and disease prevention or provide case management.
  • Qualifications: RNs either complete a state-approved nursing program, an associate degree in nursing or a B.S. in nursing to pursue licensure. They must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination.

4. Electrical Engineer

  • Average Base Salary: $97,293
  • Job Summary: Electrical engineers research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use.
  • Qualifications: Most employers require that electrical engineers hold a bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

5. Meter Reader

  • Average Base Salary: $38,565
  • Job Summary: Meter readers record electricity, gas, water, or steam consumption.
  • Qualifications: To become a meter reader, you need a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, a valid driver’s license, and a clean driving record.

6. Police Officer

  • Average Base Salary: $62,629
  • Job Summary: Police officers are tasked with maintaining order and protecting life and property by enforcing local, tribal, state, or federal laws and ordinances. They may patrol a specific area, direct traffic, issue traffic summonses, investigate accidents, apprehend and arrest suspects, or serve in the legal processes of courts.
  • Qualifications: A high school diploma or GED is the minimum formal education requirement to become a police officer. Specific law enforcement organizations may require or prefer applicants with bachelor's, associate's degrees, or a certain number of postsecondary education credits. Depending on department policy, U.S. citizenship may be required, as well as a valid driver's license and meeting the minimum age requirement. Before being admitted into a police academy, applicants must pass an entrance exam. Police academy training can last six months.

7. Firefighter

  • Average Base Salary: $53,222
  • Job Summary: Firefighters control and extinguish fires or respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk. Their duties may include fire prevention, emergency medical service, hazardous material response, search and rescue, and disaster assistance.
  • Qualifications: Firefighters typically need a high school diploma and must complete training at a fire academy. Males under 25 are required to register for the Selective Service. Firefighters generally are required to pass one or more written tests, a medical exam, a psychological evaluation, and an assessment measuring physical strength and endurance.

8. Electrician

  • Average Base Salary: $62,971
  • Job Summary: Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring, equipment, and fixtures. They ensure that work is compliant with relevant codes.
  • Qualifications: Electricians need a high school diploma before entering into a paid apprenticeship program that lasts about four or five years. Most states require electricians to be licensed.

9. Boilermaker

  • Average Base Salary: $65,972
  • Job Summary: Boilermakers construct, assemble, maintain, and repair stationary steam boilers and boiler house auxiliaries. They align structures or plate sections to assemble boiler frame tanks or vats. Their work involves testing assembled vessels, cleaning boilers and furnaces, and inspecting and repairing them.
  • Qualifications: A high school diploma or GED is usually the minimum educational requirement to start a career as a boilermaker. They must undergo a four to five-year apprenticeship program, which labor unions, contractor associations, or individual employers typically sponsor. Completion of safety training programs is often required. Depending on the jurisdiction and specific job requirements, boilermakers may need certain licenses or certifications in welding, crane operation, rigging, or specialized training for working on particular types of boilers or pressure vessels.

10. Building Inspector

  • Average Base Salary: $60,894
  • Job Summary: Building inspectors audit structures using engineering skills to determine structural soundness and compliance with specifications, building codes, and other regulations. Inspections may be general or limited to a specific area, such as electrical systems or plumbing.
  • Qualifications: To become a building inspector, most employers require at least a high school diploma or GED. Many building inspectors have experience working for electricians, plumbers, or other experienced construction and building inspectors to learn the trade. Most states require building inspectors to be licensed.

11. Bus Driver

  • Average Base Salary: $46,511
  • Job Summary: Bus drivers operate a bus or motor coach, including regular route operations, charters, and private carriage.
  • Qualifications: A high school diploma or GED is usually the minimum educational requirement to become a bus driver. Training programs are typically sponsored through employers, which can last up to three months and require classroom and in-the-field training, including driving and safety rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, first aid, and record keeping. Bus drivers must have a clean driving record. To be a bus driver for an intercity, transit, and motorcoach company, you must possess a commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement. This designation allows you to transport passengers. You must pass a licensing examination. You'll need a CDL with a school bus endorsement to be a school bus driver. You cannot hold any prior criminal convictions involving the operation of motor vehicles. To drive a bus across state lines, you must be at least 21, according to federal law.

12. Military Service Member

  • Average Base Salary: $41,433
  • Job Summary: U.S. military service members maintain national defense. Although some service members work in occupations specific to the military, such as fighter pilots or foot soldiers, many work in occupations that also exist in the civilian workplace, such as nurses, doctors, and lawyers.
  • Qualifications: You must have a high school or general equivalency diploma to enlist in the military. Each branch of the military has age limits to enlist in active duty. Everyone who wants to enlist is mandated to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Your score will help determine which jobs you can perform after you enlist. You must undergo a medical exam to assess if you are healthy enough to serve. You will have to pass a physical fitness test.

13. Plumber

  • Average Base Salary: $59,829
  • Job Summary: Plumbers assemble, install, alter, and repair pipelines or pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gasses.
  • Qualifications: To become a plumber, you may be required to possess at least a high school diploma or GED. You can start as an apprentice to gain work experience and then advance to a journeyman and eventually a master plumber. This usually requires a four to five-year program and passing an extensive exam. Alternatively, you can enroll in a vocational program at a trade school.

14. Elevator Or Escalator Installer And Repairer

  • Average Base Salary: $66,087
  • Job Summary: Elevator or escalator installers and repairers assemble, implement, fix, or maintain electric or hydraulic freight, passenger elevators, escalators, or dumbwaiters.
  • Qualifications: A career in an elevator or escalator installation and repair typically begins with a four-year apprenticeship program sponsored by a union, industry association, or individual employer. For each year of the program, apprentices typically receive at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.

Why You Should Consider A Job With A Pension

Pensions offer a fixed monthly payment upon retirement, ensuring a stable and predictable income for the rest of your life. Since the benefit is defined, it is easier for you to plan your retirement needs and spending.

Since employers are responsible for contributing to the pension plan, you can build a retirement nest egg without contributing your own funds. Your company bears the risk of managing the investments and the potential for market decline, relieving you of the responsibility and stress.

Some pension plans offer inflation protection, ensuring that the purchasing power of the pension remains stable over time. Some pension plans provide payments for as long as the surviving spouse is alive, offering financial security for your entire family.

Alternatives to Pensions

Alternative retirement options may be available to you. Many employers offer 401(k) plans, defined contribution retirement savings plans, meaning you contribute a portion of your salary. Your employer may match a percentage of those contributions.

Here are some other retirement fund options:

  • Teachers and other professionals may have access to 403(b) plans, which are similar to 401(k) plans but primarily offered to employees in the nonprofit, school, and hospital sectors.
  • People can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), separate from employer-sponsored plans. If you own or are employed by a small business or are self-employed, you can opt for a Simplified Employee Pension IRA.
  • There are stock options and employee stock ownership plans.
  • Many older Americans rely upon Social Security, a government program that provides income in retirement for eligible individuals based on their work history and contributions.

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