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An encore career is work in the second half of life that combines continued income, greater personal meaning, and social impact. These jobs are paid positions often in public interest fields, such as education, the environment, health, the government sector, social services, and other nonprofits.
The phrase "encore career" was made popular by Marc Freedman, in his book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.
Popular use of the term
Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, notes that Bill Gates' switch to working full-time for his foundation "is part of a booming trend: the 'encore career' as a substitute for retirement. Definitions are still in flux, but an encore career typically aims to provide a dose of personal satisfaction by 'giving back.'"  Writes Kristof: "If more people take on encore careers… the boomers who arrived on the scene by igniting a sexual revolution could leave by staging a give-back revolution. Boomers may just be remembered more for what they did in their 60s than for what they did in the Sixties." Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman cites Al Gore as a "poster child, the model for what Marc Freedman calls the 'encore career.' " 
In 2011, Penn Schoen Berland conducted research about interest in encore careers. The research – which included a nationally representative telephone survey of 930 Americans ages 44 to 70 and an online survey of 1,408 Americans ages 44 to 70 – found that as many as 9 million Americans in that age range are in encore careers and another 31 million Americans want encore careers. Those in encore careers, on average, started to think about their encores at age 50 and took about 18 months to make the transition. The research also found that the transition to encore careers is not easy: Nearly 67 percent of those in encore careers experienced reduced or no income during the transition.
The 2011 research echoes similar research conducted three years earlier. In 2008, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., conducted a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,063 Americans ages 44 – 70 about their interest in encore careers. Commissioned by Encore.org and MetLife Foundation, the Encore Career Survey  found that 5.3 million to 8.4 million of those surveyed were then in encore careers: "The survey results suggest that the number of people choosing encore careers could grow rapidly. Of those not already in encore careers, half say they are interested in moving into jobs in such fields as education, health care, government, and the nonprofit sector." A companion survey, at the time, found that half of nonprofit employers found hiring encore workers "highly appealing." Those with experience hiring older adults were most enthusiastic about doing it again.
"What if, over time, 100,000 people interested in encore careers were persuaded to launch 10-year encore careers? That would mean one million years of service dedicated to areas like education, poverty, and the environment," Marc Freedman wrote in the report. "What if we could persuade a million more to do so? Applying this human talent and experience to the big challenges of our time could be as profound a contribution as those made possible by new technologies or even massive infusions of philanthropic dollars."
- New York Times, "Geezers Doing Good" 7/20/08 https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/opinion/20kristof.html
- Boston Globe, "Second Acts," Oct. 19, 2007
- Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation. (November 2011.) Encore Career Choices: Purpose, Passion and a Paycheck in a Tough Economy. http://www.encore.org/files/EncoreCareerChoices.pdf
- Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation. (March 2012.) Bridging the Gap: Making it Easier to Finance Encore Transitions. Online: http://www.encore.org/files/BridgingTheGap.pdf