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4 Jobs with Lifetime Appointments (That Aren’t Supreme Court Justice)

There are a handful of other jobs that you can keep forever—if you’re lucky enough to get one of them in the first place.

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For most of us, our job security is dependent on dozens of factors both within and outside of our control. Of all that contributes to the length of our employment, the quality of our work—and the extent to which our employers value that work— have perhaps the biggest influence.

There are, however, a select few positions that remain independent of that second consideration—and not without reason. The people who have these jobs also have a responsibility to carry out their jobs regardless of how others may perceive their actions or decisions. In other words, they need to be able do their work without worrying about whether they will be fired.

Chances are, you don’t have any of these jobs. So, watch out for these 10 things you didn’t know could get you fired.

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1. Federal judge

The same rationale behind why Supreme Court Justices serve for life applies to other federal judges as well. They too must be appointed to their positions. And while it is the current president who officially appoints them, it is usually a senator or a member of the House who finds and recommends an individual for a federal judgeship. Once the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms a nominee, he or she becomes a federal judge. That person may continue to hold that office “during good behavior,” which typically means for life.

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2. Tenured professor

Only about a quarter of all faculty at American universities are tenured, and most of them are at large research institutions. But tenure is important to preserve and protect academic freedom, which refers to freedom from censorship and discipline. That means professors may research what they deem worthwhile. It also means they can report on their findings without fear of reprisal from their home college or university. Here’s the difference between a college and a university, by the way.

Because there are so few tenured positions in higher education (and so many well-qualified PhDs to fill them), the competition for them is fierce. Most professors pursuing tenure will teach for several years and publish oodles of original research before even being considered.

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3. Pope

While there is no official rule that a pope must serve for life, almost every one of the 200+ popes who have held the “office” has died holding it. Pope Benedict XVI was a recent exception. When he resigned in 2013, he was the first pontiff to do so since Gregory XII in 1415. Catholic bishops, on the other hand, must submit their resignations by age 75. Before Pope Francis changed Catholic law in 2018, all bishops had to retire when they reached that age. Otherwise, they lost their positions automatically. Francis’s change allows for bishops to stay on in their roles indefinitely—at the pontiff’s discretion, that is. If you definitely don’t want to be working at that age, make sure you’re avoiding these 15 mistakes that will ruin your retirement.

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4. Small business owner

This last one comes with an obvious caveat—not all small businesses make it. In fact, only about half of them survive beyond the 5-year mark. Here’s how you can make sure your favorite small business is among them.

Still, if your business is stable and you are your own boss, you can continue working for as long as you’d like. Successful small business owners have near-complete control over how many hours they work and how much money they make. So, while it isn’t guaranteed, it certainly has the potential to be a lifetime job.