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7 Non-Office Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well


Making a decent (or better) salary doesn't have to involve a cubicle, a suit, or a sad desk lunch.

Prehistoric cartoon pterodactyls aside, some workers who shrug, "It's a living," actually do make a good one -- and unexpectedly so. Oddball and otherwise, deserved and not so much, Minyanville has a rundown of jobs from a wide variety of professional fields that share one common denominator: surprisingly satisfactory compensation.
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey J. Ranel.
Coast Guard Cook

Contrary to popular belief, the US military can be an incredibly lucrative employer with unparalleled benefits. Obviously, the major downsides to the job are the risks involved, but what if you could enjoy the good pay and perks without putting your life, safety, and sanity on the line?

That pipe dream job is actually possible with a career in the Coast Guard. And it gets even better when that job is in the culinary arts. Food service officers inspect and prepare meals aboard units and patrol boats, and in their own dining facilities. The luckiest of the lot get to cook at federal departments and even the White House.

Getting down to brass tacks, college-educated, active-duty Coast Guard cooks can enter at officer level and earn about $24,000 right out of the gate with opportunities for promotion up to the $227,000 admiral level. Take into account either free on-base housing or a tax-free allowance for off-base housing, free medical and life insurance, 30 days of yearly paid vacation, and access to the VA loan and the deal gets sweeter. Discounts at big box retailers like Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) are also enjoyed by servicemen and servicewomen.

Did we mention retirement kicks in after just 20 years, with a lifelong pension that equals half their salary plus health insurance for them, their spouse, and children until age 18 or college graduation?

As my friend, a Coast Guard food service specialist's wife, puts it, "Not a bad deal, huh?"
Photo by Aftermath Inc.
Crime Scene Cleaner

One of the few jobs in the universe that calls for a morbid curiosity and iron stomach as prerequisites, the crime scene cleaner is a grind of blood, guts, gore, and bodily waste. Assuming they've gone the legit route and not that of the crime syndicate cleaner (à la "The Wolf" in Pulp Fiction), these super janitors in Hazmat suits still make a cushy living that averages $50,400 but can go nearly as high as the six-figure mark.

Earning the biggest bucks in the biohazard biz means having your own service but also -- and perhaps more importantly -- making and keeping the right contacts. Crime scene cleaners that are well-connected with area mortuaries, funeral homes, law enforcement homicide departments, and the district attorney's office have better chances for getting the call. Setting up shop in cities like, say, Oakland or Detroit, where danger is more likely to lurk, is also the safer bet when it comes to earning potential. But then you have to live in Oakland or Detroit. And also clean up after murders.
Toll Booth Collector

If spending 40 hours a week on the New Jersey Turnpike with a six-by-eight aluminum box as your sole defense against the country's least conscientious drivers doesn't sound like a dream career, that's because it isn't. Fortunately, the sad souls handing us change in the middle of I-95 are getting fairly healthy compensation for their less-than-ideal work environment, which runs the gamut from an earthquake-like experience whenever a semi speeds through the EZ-Pass lane to being held up at gunpoint to getting mowed down by a tractor-trailer.

As of two years ago, these particular toll collectors (albeit the most senior ones) were earning annual salaries of $65,000 plus the nice benefits packages that accompany union jobs. But when the New Jersey Turnpike Authority threatened to privatize the workforce in 2011, employees were forced to either take a 25% pay cut or lose their jobs altogether. Now, the risky business of being a highway cashier brings in closer to $50,000 a year.

Holy moolah! When it comes to being a spiritual superior of the Jewish faith, it definitely pays to pray for a living.

Smoking their Catholic counterparts out of the confessional booth, a survey from the Jewish Daily Forward found that both Reform and Conservative rabbis earn an estimated $140,000 per year, while priests make a paltry $25,000. With the median amount of money raised by practitioners of both religious institutions essentially squaring, the massive discrepancy in leader salaries is said to be the result of dues synagogues require of members (versus voluntary church tithing) as well as differences in giving to denominational organizations. Of course, Catholic priests also have that pesky vow of poverty working against them.

While rabbis may enjoy a sweet payday, theirs is still small potato latkes compared to the multi-billion-dollar-making televangelist.
Photo by
Dog Walker

For those who'd prefer a canine colleague over an office cubicle mate, dog walking may not be a bad way to go. Sure, there's some leash wrangling, poop scooping, and interbreed conflict refereeing, but the fringe benefits alone of spending the day strolling with Fido are hard to beat: Think natural daylight instead of flickering fluorescents, fresh air rather than forced, and -- while there may be some ankle biting from time to time -- backstabbing won't likely be an issue.

The best part? Being a dog walker is actually a decent living.

According to, full-time professionals in the field are looking at an average annual salary of roughly $40,000 -- exclusive of tips and vacation time -- based on a $15 per hour walk per dog with two dogs. For dog walkers in major metro areas with a larger client base and many more pooches clawing to get out of their cooped-up co-ops, this figure can presumably increase six-fold.
Fake Businessman

There's a reason we didn't use the politically correct "businessperson." Because ladies need not apply for this gig. Oh, and non-whites either.

Caucasian men living in Asia, here's your chance to make an easy buck. As long as you can look the part of an executive, you can actually get well-paid to act as one -- and sometimes without even having a speaking role. It's not the TV or film business, but corporate China where, as reported in the Atlantic, white men are hired to in order to project an "image of connection -- that Chinese companies crave."

When courting foreign clients, Chinese businesses rent out fair-complected dudes who pretend to work for the company. For $1,000 a week (along with high-end accommodations and meals), they participate in "'White Guy in a Tie" events" and do everything from milling about and mingling to attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies to deliver speeches.

"Basically, you put on a suit, shake some hands, and make some money," writer and rent-a-guy Mitch Moxley recalled being told during the recruitment pitch. "We'll be in 'quality control,' but nobody's gonna be doing any quality control."
Baby Name Consultant

Birth names like Wynn or Ameleiyah or Apple don't just fall from trees.

Coming to the rescue of parents-to-be without a relative to honor or a stitch of imagination to speak of, a new crop of specialists has emerged to outfit that bun in the oven with just the right brand. Baby naming consultants have been an expensive trend among the breeding set for several years now and, despite a sluggish economy, don't appear to be going anywhere.

Take, which uses a sophisticated database of historical, cultural, and geographic resources, cross-referenced with a linguistics library, and "guided by a strong philosophy" to leave no stone unturned when it comes to naming your newborn. Prices start at $195.
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