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Jobs with Mandatory Retirement

by Aurelio Locsin, studioD

As members of the large baby-boom generation ages, they expect to live more active lives, with some choosing to work past the normal retirement age. Many also need to work because budget cuts and corporate restructuring have reduced their pensions. Still, some employers impose a mandatory retirement age for certain positions because with age comes reduced reflexes and stamina. Other employers want to make way for new workers and new ideas.

Air-Traffic Controller

Air-traffic controllers oversee how planes take off, land and move within the air space under their responsibility. The job demands total concentration and can be stressful and tiring because controllers are constantly responsible for the safety of hundreds of passengers. These professionals must be able to make decisions to prevent collisions among aircraft that may only be a few minutes apart. They must retire at age 56, but can leave the profession as early as age 50 with 20 years of experience. The job requires U.S. citizenship and completion of an air-traffic management degree in programs accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration.


Airline and commercial pilots also have a mandatory retirement age. Pilots guide jetliners, propeller planes and helicopters between destinations to transport passengers and cargo safely and efficiently. They must have the stamina to work shifts that last longer than eight hours, especially when flying internationally. They must remain alert and need quick reflexes to avoid accidents while traveling at speeds reaching hundreds of miles per hour. For this reason, federal law mandates a retirement age of 65 for the profession. Many employers require an associate's or bachelor’s degree from a civilian flying school certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots also need licensing from the agency.

Foreign Service Officers

Foreign Service officers, also called diplomats, work to promote American interests around the world. They may negotiate preferential business treatment for American companies, facilitate communications between the U.S. and foreign governments, or handle passport renewals and visas. Many officers dedicate their lives to the Foreign Service, with the understanding that they must retire at 65. (The mandatory retirement age does not apply to high-ranking officials such as ambassadors.) Diplomats may retire as early as age 50, with 20 years of service. No educational background is specified for the profession. However, most officers have at least a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must be between 20 and 59 and pass a written test, oral assessment, physical exam and a background check.


Judges preside over courtroom trials by ensuring that attorneys, witnesses, suspects, and jurors follow legal procedures. Judges may render decisions or guide juries into deciding guilt or innocence. Many states have mandatory retirement ages for the profession. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state constitution requires judges to retire in the calendar year that they turn 70. However, some judges are contesting this rule, saying that it is a form of age discrimination and that older judges have the advantage of experience. Judges may run for office or be appointed. Most jurisdictions require a law degree and experience as a lawyer for the position.

About the Author

Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.

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