You do what for a living?
There are many more occupations that are held by the roughly 128 million full-time workers in the U.S. than the typical jobs that first come to our minds. If you’ve ever watched the show Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, there’s a good chance it opened your eyes to the existence of a countless number of professions that fall way outside your typical nine-to-five.
As weird and unconventional as many of these jobs may be, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, respectable jobs. Many of these jobs come with salaries you wouldn’t be ashamed to discuss. They’re just...different. And, like any job, they each come with their own set of rewards and challenges.
But if you’re looking for a job that’s a little different — but also pays surprisingly well — then look no further.
How we picked these well paying, weird jobs
What’s considered to be a good salary in the U.S. depends heavily on where in the U.S. you’re located. But in an attempt to define “a job that pays surprisingly well,” we considered salaries that would land the worker in what Pew Research Center defines as “middle class.” According to their analysis of government data, that means those whose income is two-thirds to double the national median, which was $57,617 as of 2016. This puts a three-person household earning roughly $45,000 to $135,000 in the “middle class.” So you’ll see all our chosen jobs fall within this range.
For each job, we sourced income information from a combination of reputable salary websites. We looked at the pay ranges for each job and created an average salary range to give you a better idea of the potential compensation for each career.
Finally, when it comes to how we define “weird,” we either chose jobs you might not know to exist or that would be considered strange for a child to express interest in doing when they grow up. Let me clarify by saying there is nothing against any of these jobs. They just likely wouldn’t be the first job that comes to mind when choosing a profession.
With that in mind, here are 15 weird jobs that pay weirdly well, too.
These inspectors make sure your elevator delivers you seamlessly, but their job also goes beyond elevators. These inspectors examine and maintain all lifting and conveying devices — such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, ski lifts, and even amusement park rides — to ensure they meet safety and compliance codes. The next time you reach your floor without plummeting to the ground, you know who to thank.
Education: To elevate your chances of landing one of these jobs, you’ll typically need at least a high school diploma with considerable related-work experience, as inspectors typically learn on the job.
Average salary range: $44,000-$81,000
Nuclear power reactor operator
Nuclear power plants generate roughly 20% of U.S. electricity, and it takes a highly-trained licensed professional to ensure these plants never come anywhere close to having a meltdown.
Other than working in an overly-secure environment that’s sensitive to attack, nuclear power reactor operators are responsible for operating and controlling nuclear reactors. A normal day consists of adjusting control rods, monitoring reactors, and responding to abnormalities. No sweat, right?
Education: Nuclear power reactor operators typically need at least a high school diploma, but there’s extensive on-the-job training needed to prepare for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license exam. You’ll have to pass a yearly exam to keep your license as well.
Average salary range: $60,000-$120,000
If your passion for wine extends beyond drinking it, a job as a sommelier might be of interest. A sommelier, or wine steward, manages everything from identifying and purchasing an organization’s wine collection to its proper storage and promotion. You’ll likely work with kitchen staff to develop food and wine pairings, as well.
Sommeliers commonly work with upscale restaurants, hotels, and other locations where expensive wines are sold. They’re expected to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of wines, vineyards, geographic regions, and, of course, the grapes themselves.
Education: Requirements can vary, but some employers look for years of experience in addition culinary school training with an emphasis in fermented grape drink (wine).
Average salary range: $40,000-$71,000
They may get their start in your grandma’s retirement-home bingo hall, but you’ll typically find these professionals managing the bingo departments of casinos, and it can be big business. A bingo manager oversees and directs the daily activities of the department, approving jackpots and payouts, and ensuring compliance with federal and state gaming regulations.
Education: Specific requirements will differ depending on the employer, but you’ll typically need 3-5 years of experience to land a gig as a bingo manager. Unfortunately, your grandmother’s referral won’t hold much weight.
Average salary range: $45,000-$100,000
New York City hot dog vendor
You can’t just slap a hot-dog stand anywhere on the side of the road and expect to make a killing, but in the right location, a full-time gig selling hot-dogs can turn a decent profit. It’s not unheard of for vendors in prime New York City spots to pay over $300,000 in annual rent to the city — so what must they be bringing in if they can afford this type of fee?
According to the New York Post, one hot dog vendor raked in up to $400 each day when business was peaking and only paid $60 a year for a vendor's license.
Education: While no specific education requirements are necessary, you are running a business, so brushing up on key business skills couldn’t hurt.
Estimated salary range: $100,000-$300,000+?
Ice cream taster
I’ve had some terrible ice cream, so either not all ice cream is taste-tested or these companies need a new set of mouths working for them. Regardless, it’s a real gig that pays real money, but do you want to chance ruining your love of ice cream with too much of it? Yes, yes we do.
An ice cream taster, also known as a taste tester or food scientist, checks to make sure each type of ice cream is up to snuff, containing the right ingredients, textures, and flavors so consumers won’t be disappointed. Depending on the role and the company, tasters may even be involved with inventing new ice cream flavors.
Education: Many companies look for candidates to have a degree in dairy science or food science, as well as a keen sensitivity to tastes and an insensitivity to brain freeze.
Average salary range: $35,000-$97,000
Body part model
Have a nice pair of hands? According to Forbes, a top “parts model” can make around $75,000 a year. Depending on their look — delicate or “practical” — hand models will usually either book fashion and beauty shoots or commercial work for food and cleaning products. You may even find yourself doubling for celebrities who have a less-than-appealing set of their own.
Education: The parts market isn’t vast, so competition is tough. You’ll also need to be able to take direction from heads of photography and deal with inevitable hand cramping.
Average salary range: $1,000-$10,000 for a day’s work, up to $75,000 per year
Counseling for hereditary disorders might not seem like the most uplifting profession, but you will be in a position to help others as they cope with the unfortunate genetic hand they’re dealt with. A genetic counselor assesses the risk for a variety of inherited conditions, sharing this information with families and other healthcare professionals to support informed decision making. He/she counsels patients on unfavorable test results and coping methods for those at risk, as well as couples with hereditary conditions who are trying to conceive.
Education: A master’s degree in genetic counseling is typically required, and you can expect to have to come to work in a casual top and nice pair of genes.
Average salary range: $52,000-87,000
Airplane repossession person
The thought of a repo man flying away in your airplane is pretty comical, but it doesn’t make it any less real of a job. If you buy a plane and can’t afford it, you can be sure the bank is going to come knocking. This gig is serious enough for the Discovery Channel to produce a show about it, and we all know everything we see on TV is real.
Education: While getting into this line of work can be pretty lucrative, it does have its limitations. For one, you have to be able to fly a plane, and you’ll need a pilot’s license to do that.
Estimated average salary range: 6%-10% commission on each plane’s resale price ($10,000-$900,000 per plane)
A commercial diver earns their pay working underwater. Duties can vary greatly, but include checking for pipe leaks; inspecting and cleaning pipe valves; inspecting bridges, ships, docks, and sewers; and even salvaging wrecked ships. Anyone up for some 18th-century shipwreck treasure hunting?
Education: To become a commercial diver, you’ll need a high school diploma, scuba certification, and you’ll have to complete a commercial diving training program.
Average salary range: $35,000-$96,000
Friends play an important role in weddings, but let’s face it, not all our friends are the best at tackling problems, nor do they always give the best advice. Professional bridesmaids step in to help brides through their big day. As a pro, aside from showing up at the wedding, you’ll likely be expected to walk down the aisle and maybe even give a toast in the couple’s honor.
If you’ve got a knack for problem-solving, a love for wedding celebrations, and a calming presence that can prevent even a nuclear reactor from melting down, a job as a professional bridesmaid might be a good fit.
Education: There might not be specific education requirements, but general business and strong customer service skills will help you excel in this role.
Average salary range: $18,000-$95,000
Crime scene cleaner
Crime scenes may be cordoned off during an investigation, but once the evidence is collected, someone has to clean up what’s left behind. These professionals may go by different names, but crime scene cleaners are responsible for the removal of biohazardous waste, body fluids, blood, human waste, and other unpleasantries.
While you may not need an individual license, these technicians are usually a part of a company that does need various licenses according to the regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Education: These technicians typically need at least a high school diploma and can usually land a job without prior experience.
Average salary range: $27,000-$61,500
Ever wonder why that cheeseburger looks so good in the commercial but is haphazardly constructed in a clear attempt to ruin your day when you pull it out of the bag to eat it? You can thank the food stylist for that. These professionals are responsible for making foods look as appetizing as possible, usually for photoshoots, films, television commercials, and upscale restaurants.
Education: Food stylists tend to get work by providing a portfolio, so experience is the best way to land these gigs, though some employers may want to see a background in design or the completion of culinary school. Instagram photos of your food may or may not count as a portfolio.
Average salary range: $24,000-$91,000
Certified ethical hacker
You might be able to make more as an unethical hacker, but I don’t need to explain why that’s a bad idea. Alternatively, the government, technology, cybersecurity industries are full of high-paying jobs for ethical hackers. With titles ranging from security analyst to penetration tester, these professionals make a living intentionally hacking computers and systems to uncover vulnerabilities — before the criminals do.
Education: Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a cybersecurity-related field, as well as relevant certifications.
Average salary range: $47,000-$130,000
Golf ball diver
Considering the price for a new box of golf balls and how many brand-new golf balls I’ve personally hit into the water, retrieving and reselling this white gold can be a pretty lucrative job. As the name suggests, golf ball divers take to the many ponds across golf courses to salvage, clean, and recycle golf balls, as the name suggests.
Education: You’ll be spending most of your time in murky water, possibly surrounded by snakes and alligators, so you’ll likely need to be scuba certified.
Estimated average salary range: $200/day-$150,000 per year
The bottom line on weird jobs that pay well
We’ve taken a lighthearted approach to these jobs, but in all seriousness, these can be good, well-paying jobs. Just because they may seem unconventional doesn’t mean they aren’t legitimate. Any job is what you make of it.
If you’re looking for more interesting work — or more interesting pay — think outside the box when it comes to your career. The unexpected might be what you were looking for all along. There are more ways to make big money than just sticking to what’s conventional.