Strange, dangerous, gross, uncomfortable, highly specialized, or rare–the following ten jobs pay better (in some cases, way better) than most people could ever imagine. They’re not all easy jobs to get, of course, and some of them are jobs most people wouldn’t do no matter how much you paid them.
Golf Ball Diver
Yes, this is a thing. An unbelievably lucrative thing, as a matter of fact. The water trap at your local golf course doubles as a gold mine. Why? Because the golf ball refurbishment business is huge, and they get the vast majority of their balls from bodies of water on golf courses. All of this adds up to golf ball divers pulling in $50,000 to $100,000 annually. Quite a haul!
But golf ball diving isn’t—as the paycheck suggests—always such a cakewalk. Bodies of water attract wildlife, and it seems like there’s something dangerous in every region. Whether it’s Virginia’s horrifying, well camouflaged snapping turtle (which can get up to 75 lbs), or Florida’s even more terrifying alligators, golf ball divers are risking their necks to hunt for those little dimpled treasures.
Mechanics are known to make decent money, but some make a lot more than others. Elevator mechanics are on that list. They don’t just work on elevators: wheelchair lifts, moving walkways, escalators and the like also fall under their job description. Part of the reason they make so much is because they’re so few of them—only about 20,000 in the United States. And those 20,000 greasy wielders are pulling $70,000 to $80,000 dollars a year. That’s right, $70K minimum.
But if they make so much money, why are they so rare? There are several answers for that question. The first is that one can’t really become an elevator mechanic by going to school; it’s a profession which depends on apprenticeships (and only apprenticeships) to welcome new members.
Okay, but then why isn’t there an elevator mechanic school? Surely there could be. Well, there are courses one can take, but they don’t solve the issue entirely. That’s because to work as an elevator mechanic in the US, you have to belong to a trade called Elevator Constructors, and the labor union has a lot of influence over who can work as an elevator mechanic. Plus, it’s very important that elevators work perfectly—or at least, only stall in place—because of the danger a falling elevator poses. A four-year, formal apprenticeship method of training ensures that each and every elevator mechanic knows what they’re doing. It also gives the apprentice a chance to see if they can handle the always-on-call schedule of an elevator repairman. When elevators break down, building owners want them fixed, stat.
Image courtesy of Eric Fisher
Hot Dog Vendor
This job isn’t weird, in and of itself. What’s weird is how much money you can make as a hotdog vendor—up to $130,000 yearly. Yep, you can pull in six figures as a hot dog vendor.
One of the reasons for this is just how cheap hotdogs are in bulk—less than $0.50, counting the bun. Combine that with the fact that most of the paces you see hot dog carts have wildly overpriced food (stadiums, parks, fairs, festivals, etc.) and you’re talking about a 500 to 800% markup.
And a hotdog cart, at around $6K is a relatively small investment. So why aren’t many people flocking to full time hotdog selling? Well, for one thing, it’s no secret amongst vendors that hot dog carts can be a cash cow, which means that getting a permanent spot in a city big enough to support a $100,000 salary isn’t easy. Plus, the best spots are auctioned off—with some costing a quarter of a million dollars just to stand a cart on.
Of course, not all selling spots will be that expensive, but in most cities that support year-round street food, getting a spot is still pretty competitive. It’s easier to be the traveling sort, and attend fairs and festivals and the like. That’s more seasonal, and more costly as well, however. Those who have really “made it” in the hotdog business are the guys that get a permanent spot in a tourist trap, a college bar neighborhood, or a commuter bottleneck.
Image courtesy of Josh Stalger
Like hot dog vending, being a refuse collector isn’t really weird—but the amount it pays sure is. Despite the threats to our children that they might end up as garbage men if they don’t get good grades, the job isn’t the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to salary. The average salary is around $45,000, which is not bad for no college diploma. But in some places, it can skyrocket to over $100,000.
So, what makes sanitation such a high paying career?
First, the on-the-job reasons: Garbage collecting is hard work, physically. Workers often put in very long shifts, lifting heavy trash can after heavy trash can. Think about how annoying it is to carry your own heavy bag of garbage to the curb. Now imagine slinging it over your head. Now imagine doing that several hundred times in a row.
Oh, and imagine that it’s 100 degrees outside, or negative twenty, or pouring rain while you’re doing this. And after just an hour or so, your safety yellow shirt is going to be soaked and sticking to your skin with the juice of every busted trash bag left on the curb.
Being a garbage man is tough and it’s dirty. On top of that, this very demanding, rather unpleasant job is unionized, and the trash collectors unions really know how to look after their guys. After all, what’s it going to look like if the garbage men decide to go on strike? How many volunteers will there be to take their place?
When you go to that fancy place you went to for your anniversary, you probably come into contact with a sommelier. And you probably thought this guy was just a glorified waiter. Like, this restaurant’s so fancy, it has a waiter just for wine!
While that’s true to some extent, master sommeliers are much more than just glorified waiters and their salaries reflect it: $50,000-$100,000 a year. A master sommelier is a sommelier that’s completed the highest tier of training in their region. It’s possible to get a simple certification to use the title sommelier, but you won’t be hired at that exclusive French restaurant with just that.
There are a number of different guilds and certification bodies, but all of the major ones have top level courses which require not only extensive study (sometimes years of study), but also years of experience within the industry. That’s because a master sommelier doesn’t just pour wine or make vague recommendations. They’re often in charge of developing the restaurant’s entire wine list, and working with the chefs to choose wines that will best complement that season’s menu. On top of that, of course, they’re also responsible for bringing bottles of wine to the table for recommendations, inspection, tasting, and pouring.
Being a sommelier might seem like a strange way to make fifty grand a year at first, but when you understand how involved the job is and how much learning it requires, it’s not so weird.
No, this isn’t a euphemism for the world’s oldest profession (although we hear that service also pays quite well, at least for the upscale providers). There are in fact professional snugglers out there, who can be hired by the hour. Pricing ranges from $60-$100 an hour, and the snuggler usually works for an agency and pockets $40-$80 hourly.
Why on earth would people pay that much for snuggling? Well, the need for human touch is a real need—not just a desire. People who are isolated in some way or another, whether emotionally or physically from others still need touch, and this is a great, therapeutic way to experience platonic affection.
Snuggling helps people relax, reduces depression, and decreases stress. Snuggling is even thought to reduce blood pressure and lower the heart rate. Hiring a non-judgmental snuggler can also be a way for the client to practice their social skills or cope with PTSD.
Professional snugglers fill a void in our increasingly isolated society—and they get paid well for it in the process. Many snugglers only snuggle part time, but they usually have plenty of clients if they want them, so their salaries can be quite impressive. The downside? There’s not much demand for male snugglers at all—female snugglers are requested almost 100% of the time, possibly because most of the clients are male. While snuggling is non-sexual, most dudes don’t want to do it with another guy, and many female clients are intimidated by the prospect of hiring a male snuggler.
We’re talking $190,000 a year, when bonuses are figured in—but you’ll have to move to the land down under to land this job under the sea. Submarine cooks are considered essential to the operation of the Navy, and for good reason: when people are cooped up in a metal pod for months on end, they’re going to want their comfort food, and want it to taste good. It’s one of the few little pleasures a submariner gets, and a bad cook can be devastating to morale. And by the way, morale is important when you’re stuck in a tin can miles under the sea with 100-200 other people. So there’s no pressure or anything.
Plus, being a submarine cook isn’t like being a line cook at your local diner. Submarine cooks have to feed over a hundred people, three times a day, from a galley (that’s Navy for kitchen) that’s smaller than some people’s walk in closets. It’s no walk in the park. They also have to plan the menu ahead of the trip—which could be months long—down to every ingredient, and make sure that those ingredients don’t exceed the weight and volume requirements for the submarine.
Then of course there’s the small matter of being willing to live in a submarine at all. Most major fleets spend 50% of each year at sea. That’s a pretty serious chunk of your life to spend in what could end up being a coffin if the tiniest thing goes wrong.
Image courtesy of Joanna Poe
The pay works out a bit differently for this particular job. Aircraft repossessors get a percentage of the plane sales, rather than a flat rate. But that percentage could be $600,000 to $900,000.
Of course, people with airplanes don’t generally want them repossessed, and they also have resources most of the rest of us don’t. Like an airplane, for example. So to repossess it, these tough guys have to be willing to follow their targets to other countries.
Business is booming in the airplane repossession business, thanks to the economic downturn. But that doesn’t make actually getting your hands on a plane that the owner doesn’t want you to have any easier. For one thing, while tracking planes (at least the ones traveling airport to airport) is trivial, gaining possession of them is anything but. Not only do the owners not want that to happen, but there are limits to what a repo man can legally do. Most people’s planes aren’t just left in the driveway for the tow truck to drag away, after all.
The big plus is that an airplane repo man doesn’t need that many successes to make a living, financially speaking. But it’s necessary to remain available and keep up a great track record so that customers keep calling, from a marketing standpoint. After all, repossessing an airplane is expensive—they want the best men in the business to handle their repossession. To keep up that image, one needs to have plenty of references and plenty of success stories.
Image courtesy of Bernal Saborio
You’re thinking “that’s not weird—all doctors make a lot of money.” And yes, they do. But gastroenterologists make almost $400,000 a year if they’ve established themselves. Brand new gastroenterologists pull in almost $300,000 annually.
So what gives? Well, the short answer to that question is that it’s a job no one wants to do. In fact, one could say it’s the garbage man of doctors. But not only do people not dream of giving colonoscopies with stars in their eyes, they also need to devote years of their life and take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. It’s hard enough to convince a doctor to spend the rest of their career dealing with people’s indigestion and excrement, it’s near impossible to convince a young med student to pay to do it.
On top of that, it’s a pretty demanding field of work, one which requires the doctor to work with patients, and in the lab, and understand the full spectrum of pathologies. You also have to at least be familiar with surgical treatments. And finally, you really need to be a people person. There are some doctors who see patients that can get away with being brusque, but a doctor that often deals with people at their most vulnerable just can’t be. Many of the treatments the doctor carries out require a great deal of trust from the patient, and are unpleasant for everyone involved.
Image courtesy of Romana Klee
Personal shopper is fun but yet weird job where people help others shop by giving advice and making suggestions to clients. If you think you have good taste and that you know how to find a bargain this potentially $100K a year job might be just for you!
Like many of the other jobs on our list, this one requires a high tolerance for distastefulness as well as some advanced skills. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s lower than most of the other jobs on this list, however. Embalmers make between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
And they earn their keep mainly because their jobs are something very few other people could imagine doing. Embalmers are responsible for washing and disinfecting corpses, removing fluids, gasses, and waste from bodies, replacing those substances with preservatives, washing and arranging the body’s hair, and putting makeup on the body.
As if running a beauty salon for the dead wasn’t macabre enough, embalmers are also the ones tasked with fixing up obvious injuries, usually with plaster of paris or wax. The thing is, being an embalmer is also thankless—no one is happy to have to hire you, and most of your clients spend most of their time crying.