29 awesome career choices most college kids would never think of

  • Scoring a well-paid job is the goal for most college students.
  • But not everyone wants to fill the obvious roles that we hear about growing up, like doctor, laywer, or engineer.
  • Here are 29 unusual jobs that you might not know exist – and some of them pay six-figures or higher.

For many students, a college degree puts you on the direct path to a certain career, such as a doctor, teacher, or journalist.

But for many others, the future isn’t as clear-cut.

Maybe you want to go to med school, but don’t necessarily want to be a doctor. Maybe you love maps, but aren’t sure how to incorporate that passion into a career. Or perhaps you just haven’t found anything that sounds appealing yet.

Luckily, there are tons of great career options out there that many college kids have no idea even exist. In these two helpful threads, Reddit users shared some of these under-the-radar occupations that most students probably haven’t heard of. And they pay fairly well, too.

Here are 29 of our favourites, including descriptions and salary data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics or PayScale, for those who need some inspiration finding their dream job.


Air traffic controller

Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them.

Median salary: $US124,540

“After school and training it pays an average of 100k a year, but there is an age limit to get accepted.” – Kate1320

“My father is an ATC at Pearson. 200k a year with brilliant benefits. He provided a great quality of life for my family.” –1stOnRT1


Court reporter

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings.

Median salary:$US55,120

“It’s a three-year program (on average – took me four to finish), but if you’re proficient in grammar, have strong language skills, have solid finger dexterity from playing an instrument or video games, and are able to work independently, it’s an incredible career.

“You work from home most of the time, lawyers very rarely schedule depositions before 10:00 am, you can make your own schedule, and the pay is great. Your pay reflects how hard you want to work and the jobs you’re getting, but I made 65k my first year and nearly 80k my second.” – Bad_Karma21


Dental hygienist

Boston Globe/Contributor/Getty Images

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care.

Median salary: $US74,070

“I’m starting dental hygiene school in the fall and I would have never looked into it while in college. It’s only after I graduated and realised that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do that I started seriously doing some research.

“Most dental hygiene programs only require a certain amount of prerequisite courses and a standardised test score for admission. Most are also bachelors degree programs as well, so mum and dad are pleased and you’re spending the minimal amount of time you would earning a traditional university/college degree.

“Plus, salary starts at 50-60k a year with ridiculous benefits, at least in my area. Dentists treat their hygienists well!” – WinnifredBurkle


Industrial designer

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day.

Median salary:$US55,016

“As a career, industrial design is a great fusion of art and engineering. The problems are challenging, the work is varied and creative, and design consultancies have some of the best work environments and cultures you could ask for.

“And at the core of it all, you’re tasked with answering the question, ‘What sort of future do we want to live in?’ Design is so much more than making things shiny.” – Grizzleyt


Anesthesiologist assistant

Anesthesiologist assistants work with certified anesthesiologists in hospitals or private practice and help administer the needed anesthetics for surgeries and other medical procedures to be performed.

Median salary: $US136,571

“You have to do a premed track in undergrad, but then go to a two-year masters program which has 100% job placement and the average starting salary is about 120k. I never knew about it as an undergrad and wasted a few years getting another masters in an unrelated field.” – parallax1


Land surveyor

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.

Median salary: $US61,140

“Most surveyors are old. For instance, the average age of a surveyor in the state of California is in the mid to late fifties, which means you will definitely get a job out of college and you can quickly work your way up to a decent six figure income once you get your professional licence.” – TheGeomatician

“My dad actually worked for a surveyor for a while and has done surveying off and on as a technician. Made a livable income for someone who dropped out of college after a semester and funded a very heavy smoking habit. I’ve considered getting a side job with a surveyor in a year or two since part of my current degree involves Geographic Information Systems.” – da_asparagus


Packaging engineer

Packaging engineers are responsible for developing effective packaging models for their organisation, using a variety of tools and software applications to create packaging that fits projects’ requirements.

Median salary: $US65,367

“There are only a few schools that offer this degree, but the level of difficulty is not high and the unemployment rate after graduation is incredibly low. Also you are likely to be hired to Fortune 500 companies, (P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Bemis, etc.)” – Klarkson1273


Audiologist

Audiologists diagnose, manage, and treat a patient’s hearing, balance, or ear problems.

Median salary: $US75,920

“Jobs jobs everywhere. Requires a grad degree and a lot of clinic hours, state certification, but the pay is great and jobs are plentiful. Work is rewarding too, helping people communicate who otherwise couldn’t is pretty rad.” – PaleoVision


Physician assistant

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Median salary: $US104,860

“The short of it is a two- to two-and-half-year-long post-grad program, and then you’re able to work in the industry with a comparatively high level of independence and earning six figures doing something that results in one feeling as though they’re making some sort of difference.

“It’s not an easy way out, of course, but it’s so much less commitment than medical school, and with the way med school costs are going, it’s very possible that throughout the entirety of your career you can out-earn many doctors who don’t specialize in a particularly expensive specialty. And this also comes with the ability to change specialties without going back to school.” –You_Dont_Party


Medical equipment repairer

Medical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair patient care equipment.

Median salary: $US48,820

“My brother in law works for a medical repair company. He made 55k starting, 15 an hour during the internship, and owned his own house at 23. They fly him around for free whenever someone out of state calls.” – CurioustoaFault

“As a former biomed technician, I can confirm that it’s a very solid industry to get in on. Medical equipment (even on the smaller scale, infusion pumps, defibrillators, and portable suction machines) are ridiculously overpriced, and with this comes huge maintenance prices too. I remember one week in particular, our team of four technicians working on a particular job billed $US35,000+ for our company simply doing routine checks on certain equipment in one of the nearby hospitals.” – Bananaman_lives


Internal auditor

Internal auditors work as an internal checkers for companies, as their findings and evaluations are primary tools for identifying strengths and weaknesses within an organisation.

Median salary:$US56,222

“Large companies have management training rotations in audit because of the risk/controls knowledge you get and the broad understanding of processes, so it’s definitely a good track to leadership. I also find it financially rewarding. Six years out of undergrad, over $US100k a year.” – Xomegaalpha


Mining engineer

Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.

Median salary:$US94,240

“It can be cyclical (bit of a miner lull right now in my specific resource/location right now) but on a good year it is white hot. I signed on to a $US100k salary (plus bonus and benefits) straight out of my bachelors degree at 23 for a job that had me moving across the planet (Canada to Australia). The year I graduated we finished school in May and 80% of my graduating class had jobs lined up already and the remainder found jobs by the end of July.

“I was on the higher end for salaries (most making about $US80k) There’s worldwide options especially if you get educated in a Western university. Mining engineers in the US make a little less (~$US65k) but for the amount of people working for $US30k on masters degrees in other industries, you can’t really complain. You do have to be willing to live in remote areas.” – truffleshufflegoonie


Tower technician

They repair, install or maintain mobile or stationary radio transmitting, broadcasting, and receiving equipment, and two-way radio communications systems used in cellular telecommunications, mobile broadband, ship-to-shore, aircraft-to-ground communications, and radio equipment in service and emergency vehicles.

Median salary:$US57,050

“I’ve been doing this for a few years and I’ll pull in roughly 60 to 70k this year. It’s great if you like working outdoors, like heights, and enjoy travelling. It’s hard to get bored when you’re in a new town every week working with guys who have your back. The cool thing is you don’t need a college degree, or any kind of education. (Personally, I have my Bachelors in an unrelated field.)” – IClimbStuff


Blacksmith

The typical work of a blacksmith requires in-depth knowledge and experience with forging metals. Many blacksmiths are responsible for repairing equipment and tools such as heavy machinery, farm equipment, motor vehicle parts, and building structures.

Median salary: $US41,600

“Very few people know this, but blacksmithing is something still practiced in today’s society. Very few colleges have courses in it and I believe that mine is the only one that you can get a degree in it (Southern Illinois University of Carbondale). I am a student in this program. It is immensely fun. I have made knives, art, pedestals, hammers. I love talking about what I do but very few people understand it. And there is quite a job market for it too.” – FarlandMetals


Funeral director

Funeral service workers organise and manage the details of a funeral.

Median salary:$US56,300

“My friend’s whole family are morticians and funeral directors. Not one of them makes less than $US50k. One of them finished mortician science school at 20 and started making $US60k as an apprentice and in a couple years he’ll be a full blown embalmer making twice that.” – Austronano


Cartographers and photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, emergency response, and other purposes.

Median salary: $US76,860

“It’s basically the 21st century version of cartography and it’s a field that ranges everything from making maps (think Google Maps or Garmin), pollution tracking, civil planning, interpretation of satellite imagery, and countless other uses. It primarily centres around the use of GIS programs like ArcMap or GrassGIS to graphically represent quantitative data.

“Employers LOVE it and demand for it is high. It’s one of the few jobs you can do well in with a bachelor’s degree too, masters are rather specialised and go more into satellite work or high level statistics generally. Starting wages are generally 40 to 60k a year from what I’ve seen but there’s a lot of room to move around and move up the ladder.” – Shorvok


Technical writer

They prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.

Median salary:$US70,930

“It’s an interesting an exciting field for people with diverse backgrounds (everything from a liberal arts degree to engineering).” – Anonymous

“If you say get onto the back end of a high technology firm writing manuals for the operation of there equipment, you will be exposed to some of the latest and greatest that technology has to offer.” – WilliamOfOrange


Healthcare administrator

They plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They might manage an entire facility, a specific clinical area or department, or a medical practice for a group of physicians.

Median salary:$US98,350

“I wish I knew about healthcare administration when I was soul-searching for a major. Good pay, good job availability, and it isn’t half-bad.” – Anonymous

“Most fields you can think of in business have a healthcare component that is ten times more complicated because it is in healthcare. Also, a lot of people in healthcare administration have started out in clinical backgrounds, lab techs, LPNs, physical therapists, etc. A lot of MDs are even getting their MBAs in healthcare administration.” – deliciouslyinked


Wastewater treatment plant operator

They manage a system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Median salary: $US46,150

“Most people don’t have any clue what happens after they flush. I never even thought about this as a career before I had a friend work here and, if you can get over dealing with a slightly bad smell occasionally, it’s a great option.

“Decent starting pay ($US15.21), easy enough work (I usually spend about 4-6 hours per day monitoring equipment from a computer, studying for licensing, or on Reddit like now), and finally get to utilise my biology degree after looking for something in my degree field for five years. I also am eligible to get 8% raises with each wastewater licence I get (D, C, B, and A). I started in may and I’m already a licensed ‘D’ operator.” – gmkirk13


Embalmer

They prepare bodies for interment in conformity with legal requirements.

Median salary: $US45,040

“It takes very little college to become one and they pay well.” – IrateScientist


Perfusionist

Bob Riha, Jr./Childrens Hospital Los Angeles via Getty Images

A perfusionist works in a medical institution to provide care related to the maintenance of the circulatory system. A perfusionist operates equipment whenever medical situations deem it necessary for patient’s circulatory and respiratory functions to be supported.

Median salary: $US111,412

“It’s a great job, but it’s a good salary for a reason. You are responsible for someone’s life in the most literal way for hours at a time. You can easily kill someone. You will work long hour by yourself. The call can be hard nights and weekends routinely and there is a cement ceiling for salaries.” – learned_idiot

“Only 3,500 people doing it nationwide and we are in a job shortage. Get a Bachelor of Science degree, then go to a Perfusion School (one or two year program). I am four years out of school and made six figures last year. I probably averaged 30 to 35 hours per week. It can be stressful because you can kill a patient very easily (won’t happen unless you’re careless) but it is very rewarding to know you are saving people’s lives everyday.” – WEINERDOGvsBADGER


Medical lab technician

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

They perform routine medical laboratory tests for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Median salary: $US51,770

” In the US, there are severe shortages in the workforce due to new (higher) standards for certification and education. It is something that has well paid positions at multiple levels of degrees, although Associate and Bachelor are the most common.” – defofdeath

“Going to say medical lab science is a great path. It’s a four-year degree. You will have minimal patient contact. Usually just draw the blood at some smaller hospitals. You run around the lab doing many different tests on body fluids and tissues. Start out of school at about $US50,000 a year.” – Liquid_Lab


Interpreter

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Interpreters interpret oral or sign language, or translate written text from one language into another.

Median salary: $US47,190

“Not that everyone can be proficient in two languages, but if you are, a degree isn’t needed so long as you can pass a series of tests.” – hockey_metal_signal


Municipal clerk

They interact with the public, attorneys, other clerks and judges to provide information and forms. They also review legal papers and identify problems and missing data.

Median salary: $US30,909

“My dad works in a New York City municipal agency. Not only does he make an honest, good wage, he has a 401k and a pension. He is nearing retirement age and I don’t have to worry about how he will take care of himself financially, which makes me feel so good. He is backed by a union that protects him, he has excellent health care, and he can frequently choose to do overtime which basically doubles his pay. Not only that, he’s been to every single neighbourhood in this city and has seen all there is to see.

“Also, many jobs have ranks or grades, so if you stay long enough you are guaranteed seniority and pay raises.

“I truly feel like my dad’s job has allowed us to be a normal, middle class family and has shown me that sometimes college isn’t the right path for everyone and that is ok.” –Anonymous


Quality assurance tester

Sorbis/Shutterstock

They develop and execute software test plans in order to identify software problems and their causes.

Median salary: $US88,510

“Basically, you are given a piece of software (or website) that a programmer has written and use it and run it through its paces. Usually there is a very long list of things to check or you come up with the things to check.

“Ingenuity comes into play where you may want to try to blow up software in ways that the programmer had not anticipated. In our Word scenario. maybe you think of something like embed an excel document, then do a save-as non-word format. Perhaps you intentionally corrupt a document and try to open it.” – itchyouch


Advertising copywriter

Ron Jaffe/AMC

They write advertising copy for use by publication or broadcast media to promote sale of goods and services.

Median salary: $US61,820

“We’re the lucky ones who get to write Super Bowl commercials.” – bantership

“The biggest deterrent I’ve seen for upstart copywriters is the unexpected task of having to do thorough research to learn the vocabulary of the field and learning to properly convey the right voice for their client’s target audience. You can be picky about the niche field you’re writing for, but for the uninitiated it’s almost a rite of passage to write across a wide spectrum of topics such as hardware, fashion, design, technical engineering, fitness, product descriptions, etc.” – Ballem


Logistics specialist

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Logistics specialists are in charge of coordinating day-to-day logistics operations for their organisation. One of their main responsibilities include preparing initial documentation regarding planning stages. They review contract plans and process reports based on their findings.

Median salary: $US49,213

“Whether it’s truck, train, or air, it’s a great and rewarding career. No day is ever the same – technically, you don’t even need a college degree to rise in the ranks either. I had no idea that transportation was something I would love until I got into it by accident.” beautifuldisasterxx


Occupational therapist

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Occupational therapists assess, plan, organise, and participate in rehabilitative programs that help build or restore vocational, homemaking, and daily living skills, as well as general independence, to persons with disabilities or developmental delays.

Median salary: $US83,200

“Occupational therapy is amazing. Sometimes the pat can be average but working with people with such a diverse set of needs and managing to help them is so rewarding.” – Meganbryan94

“Guaranteed job security across the country and I’ve seen positions out west (mostly California) that are over $US100 an hour plus benefits for home health care companies.” – BearVsGorilla


Business intelligence analyst

Cultura Motion/Shutterstock

Business intelligence analysts produce financial and market intelligence by querying data repositories and generating periodic reports. Devise methods for identifying data patterns and trends in available information sources.

Median salary: $US88,510

“A good BA (business analyst) needs to become very rooted in the needs of the company and also have enough technical knowledge to relay that information to developers. Yes, it’s a lot of documentation but also can involve wireframing: actually designing the UI for front-end applications.” – Tychopotts

“It’s always fun to to prove what the Board/CEO wants isn’t impossible to the Executive/VPs right in front of their faces.” – rastagizmo

Jacquelyn Smith and Emmie Martin contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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