Jobs that still offer traditional pensions

Thank a teacher on National Teacher Appreciation Day. (Thinkstock)

Jobs with pensions

With the gig economy, many jobs no longer provide traditional pension plans that promise workers guaranteed income in retirement. Only a quarter of civilian workers were offered a traditional pension plan in 2022, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. This coincides with a trend among employers to shift to defined contribution retirement plans like 401(k)s.

However, workers in certain industries may be offered steady pension payments in retirement. Jobs that offer pensions tend to be clustered in a few specific fields. Government and union employees are especially likely to have access to pension benefits. If you’re interested in a defined benefit retirement plan, consider these jobs during your working years.


The majority (90%) of public school teachers are enrolled in defined-benefit pension plans, according to Brookings Institution data. “Teachers are still predominantly covered by defined benefit pensions,” says Melinda Morrill, associate professor of economics at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. “Although public employers are making some movement away from these plans, the vast majority of public sector workers are still covered by defined benefit pension plans.” The median pay is $61,400 at the elementary school level and $61,820 at the high school level, but it can vary considerably by state and school district. Teachers who meet the pension requirements can expect to continue to receive a specific portion of their former salary in retirement.

State and local government

Almost all state and local government employees (86%) are eligible for a traditional pension plan. “The government, federal, state and local, would still be the most common place to find defined benefit pensions,” says David Love, a professor of economics at Williams College. “Some state and local governments have been in the news for switching to defined contribution plans, but I believe that defined benefits are still widely available for new employees.” Union government employees are somewhat more likely to have a pension than nonunion workers. Part-time government employees may not qualify for the pension plan.


Utility companies provide pension coverage to 76% of their employees, according to BLS data. Some utility companies have closed the pension plan to recent hires but continue to provide pension benefits to existing workers. Many utility companies are unionized, which contributes to maintaining pension plans. Utility company employees include electrical power line installers and repairers, electrical engineers, control and valve installers and repairers and meter readers. A retirement account is often provided in addition to the pension plan.

Protective service

Most workers in the protective services (86%) can expect to have a pension opportunity. “Police officers and firefighters are likely to have access to a traditional defined benefit pension plan,” says Elizabeth Kennedy, professor of law and social responsibility at Loyola University Maryland. Police officers and detectives earn a median of $66,020 per year, and firefighters have a median annual income of $50,700. Many protective service jobs have rigorous physical qualifications necessary to perform the role. The pension plans provide for former employees who may no longer be able to meet the physical demands of the job.

Midsize companies

At companies with 500 or more workers, 27% have defined benefit retirement plans that are open to new employees, according to the BLS. That rate increases as the number of employees drops. For firms with 100 to 499 employed, 35% allow new workers to participate in defined benefit plans. At midsize companies with 50 to 99 workers, three-quarters permit new employees to participate in pension plans. Smaller establishments have fewer opportunities for new workers looking for pension income.


Nurses spend their days caring for others, and 35% of registered nurses will eventually receive pension payments in retirement. Those who work in hospitals are especially likely to have access to a defined benefit pension. Registered nurses earn a median of $77,600 per year. The need for nurses is expected to grow as the baby boomer population ages and requires more medical services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% increase in nursing jobs by 2031. Nurses who work in hospitals tend to work shifts that might include working nights, weekends or holidays. Those who work in offices or schools might have more regular business hours.


Construction laborers earn an average of $37,520 per year, and little formal education is required for this entry-level job. The pay can be higher if you specialize and take on additional training, such as becoming a carpenter or construction equipment operator. Electricians, building inspectors, boilermakers and elevator and escalator installers tend to earn higher salaries. If you stick with the job long enough, you might qualify for pension payments in retirement. Just 16% of workers in the construction industry have access to a traditional pension plan. “Unionized private sector jobs still often provide defined benefit plans, for example short- and long-haul truckers, hotel services, construction workers, grocery workers and nurses,” says Laura D. Quinby, a senior research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.


Among transportation and warehousing employees, 35% are eligible to participate in a traditional pension plan. “In the private sector, the only industries in which new employees have meaningful access to traditional pension plans are those with high union density, such as transportation, construction, manufacturing and maintenance,” Kennedy says. Depending on the employer, some drivers or certain groups of workers at airlines might be eligible to participate in a pension plan, although many plans have been frozen or closed to new employees.


Service members on active duty or who serve in the Army Reserve or National Guard for a designated period of time, often at least 20 years, may qualify for payments in retirement. The military uses several different methods of calculating retirement payments, but in general, those who serve for longer periods of time receive more generous payments in retirement. Military pensions are adjusted to keep up with inflation each year, and retirees can elect to participate in a survivor benefit plan that will provide annuity payments to surviving family members.


A union card might be your ticket to more comprehensive retirement benefits. Some 79% of union members have access to a defined benefit pension plan, compared with 17% of nonunion employees, according to BLS data. “The unionized workforce includes a range of jobs and occupations, many of which look very different from those historically organized by their union,” Kennedy says. “For example, the United Steelworkers union represents over 850,000 workers across a wide range of industries and jobs, from sheet metal fabrication to health care and from forestry to pharmaceuticals.” Unions often negotiate for better retirement benefits on behalf of their members.

Check out these jobs with pensions:

— Teacher.

— State and local government.

— Utilities.

— Protective service.

— Midsize companies.

— Nurse.

— Construction.

— Transportation.

— Military.

— Unions.

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Jobs That Still Offer Traditional Pensions originally appeared on

Update 07/06/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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