Brad Johnson's Response to Bonnie
In general, career opportunities for Counseling/Advising positions at community colleges should be stable or grow slightly over the next ten years. This is because of two reasons: one, continued growth of college student populations at community colleges, and, two, anticipated retirements of present staff who entered this field in '50s-'60s.
Opportunities for Drug/Alcohol Rehab Instructors at community colleges nationwide is projected to increase for the same reasons as above. However, this area is closely tied to the politics of governmental funding and health care funding. Changes in these areas can quickly change the current local job opportunities, as we have seen in Texas over the last three years. (Due to some problems at the state level, all funding for drug/alcohol treatment was frozen and then cut quite suddenly, resulting in tremendous loss of employment in our area and a serious drop in student enrollment in these courses. An instructor position at the local college was cut...)
Hint: Check with people already working in the area(s) you are interested and discuss with them the future opportunities. The "national" outlook for an area is sometimes very different than the "local or regional" outlook. This also can be a way to begin building the network you will need to get access to these jobs after further training. Instructors in Gerontology usually lie within other social science instructional areas such as Psychology or Social Work. Due to the popularity of these areas of study and the lack of other career opportunities with comparable pay/benefits, these positions can be quite difficult to obtain. Usually they will require a doctoral degree plus some kind of specialization in Gerontology. Interest in this area is rapidly growing and new career opportunities outside traditional higher education may develop over the next few years (variety of "specialists" working with elderly and aging populations). If you are willing to consider jobs in this area beside teaching there should be many opportunities.
Your concern about AGE BIAS is legitimate as you consider any career change. However, I know of no reason why this should be a greater problem in these areas you are considering than in any other occupations. The reality is that there are legitimate questions a potential employer will have about older career changers, just as they have other questions about young applicants. Older career changers face questions about how long they intend to work, whether they will accept entry-level pay (after all, they are entry-level workers in most cases), and whether they have health problems which would limit their reliability or quality of work.
With current employment law in place, most questions about these concerns cannot be asked by the employer. So bias may occur due to inability to get answers to these valid concerns on the part of the employer. (It may also occur for less honorable reasons) My suggestion on approaching these issues is to introduce them into the interview yourself. Explain about the quality of your health (assuming this is favorable), the number of years you intend to work, why you are making a career change, and so on. Since you are introducing the topics, the employer can discuss them with you and you can present yourself in the most positive light. Anticipate these concerns and put the employer at ease.
On a personal note, I have gone through a career change myself since 1991. After twelve years as a psychotherapist in private practice, I left full-time practice and went into an advertising business. Then I sold that business and took a position at our local community college, where I work with adult returning students. My experience and observation of others has been that career change is much more difficult and "rocky" than most expect. It is not unusual for a person to head in one direction and then end up in another area. I believe this "trial and error" is usually inevitable and have learned not to expect it to be as smooth and easy as I would hope. It has occurred to me that it took most of us years to reach stability in our first careers. We may have started at very low pay or changed jobs several times as the career was built. Although we bring many experiences to this next career, we still cannot avoid the pains of beginning a career. I will say as encouragement that I am thoroughly enjoying this new career and the road has become much less "rocky."
I wish you the best in your "next life!"