Everyone knows that doctors, lawyers and accountants command huge pay packets. But what if you’re itching for a high-paying career that isn’t so run-of-the-mill?
Luckily, there are plenty of less conventional positions out there. We’ve rounded up five jobs that are pretty far off the beaten trail — all with great salaries.
Also known as a “white hat hacker” or a “penetration tester,” an ethical hacker systematically hacks into a company’s computer systems to evaluate their security. They’re essentially being paid to launch a cyber attack that, done maliciously, would be a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Strong technical skills are essential for this job. Ethical hackers must possess a vast amount of knowledge of computer systems, software, malware and, in particular, how to find and exploit their vulnerabilities. But it’s not just about the tech. An ethical hacker must be able to out-think cybercriminals, articulate the test results to company executives and demonstrate to their clients how any vulnerabilities could be mitigated.
Entry route: The industry is wide open and accepts individuals with a range of backgrounds and skills. However, it helps to have a formal qualification, such as a Masters in Information Security or the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker certification. Some ethical hackers enter the profession from the illegitimate side of hacking, turning their skills and experience from the dark side to the light.
How much? The average salary is $71,331 per year according to Infosec Institute, rising to $117,900 if you work in New York City.
Say what? Unless you're the type who diligently finishes the New York Times' Sunday crossword puzzle each week, you probably have no idea what a cruciverbalist does for a living. In fact, they’re the people who construct the crosswords that keep fans glued to the pages of printed and digital media.
Crossword creators are writers and critical thinkers. They possess wide-ranging vocabulary skills, as well as the ability to think spatially in order to construct the puzzles. A grasp of history, geography, linguistics, politics and current events is helpful for developing puzzle themes.
Entry route: There are no specific entry requirements. General word-smithery, and the ability to create interesting puzzles in a timely fashion, are must-have skills. Many crossword creators have a major in English.
How much? Around $70,000 per year to build and create crossword puzzles freelance or for a specific publication.
Painting chickens with Vaseline to make them look tastier? Yes, some people get to do this for a living. They’re called food stylists, and they spend their days prettifying food for its close-up. You’ll find them hanging out with chefs, photographers and editors, preparing food for cookbooks and advertising campaigns.
Cooking skills are a must for this job. Food stylists typically will research the recipes, purchase ingredients within a budget and make the recipe to perfection before “dressing” the food so that it appears as attractive and delicious as possible. You have to have a creative eye, but you must also be confident with the majority of cooking methods and ingredients.
Entry route: There’s no specific qualification for food styling, but most stylists start their careers with a culinary arts degree. Beyond that, it’s a case of building up contacts in the publishing industry and developing a convincing portfolio.
Chief Listening Officer
As the name implies, listening officers get paid on their ability to listen to their company's customers and stakeholders. They spend their days reviewing social media channels and tracking any mention of the company or the brand. Armed with the buzz about the company, they then analyze the feedback and draw conclusions about customer behavior.
Essentially, the chief listening officer brings social media chatter into the boardroom. The role involves information gathering, data modeling, reporting and strategy to ensure that every business unit can better engage with their stakeholders.
Entry route: A degree in a marketing-related field, a strong social media presence and experience with big data analytics are must-have credentials. Social media managers can make the transition if they can brush up on their data modeling skills.
How much? Chief listening officer is a new position, and salary data is not yet available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Business Insider puts the job on the executive scale — around $95,000 per year.
Why do we behave the way we do? How might technology, global warming or political upheaval affect the way we behave? What does the future hold? If these questions float your boat, you may be suited to a career as a futurist — an analyst who examines the present to help make predictions about the future. Companies hire them to help guide future business decisions.
Futurists are part scientist, part market researcher and part visionary. They possess a talent for crunching data, reading between the lines and forecasting behaviors. Some futurists practice scenario or disaster planning — a series of “what if” questions about future business change, While others provide analysis on next-decade consumer trends. They might work directly for a company or for one of the growing number of futurist consultancies.
Entry route: Every industry from big pharma to utilities to electronics uses futurists to analyze the impact their innovations may have in five or 10 years’ time. As such, futurists can come from just about any background. A direct path is possible through a degree program in futures studies. Futurist.com has study recommendations.
How much? $58,000 to $176,000 per year, according to Glassdoor.