Save. Spend. Splurge.

15 unexpectedly high-paying jobs people do not know about

Found this thread on Reddit from Buzzfeed, but I find they only put the highlights and nothing about the details of the job (pros, cons), so I am doing a post with some of the comments for extra background.

My thoughts are at the very end.

1. Boiler operator

Get paid $35/hour to play Skyrim on Switch while watching Netflix. Just have to find one that’s all operator and no maintenance.


Well the biggest thing is you just gotta pass the initial test which many people have a hard time with. I was lucky because I studied very hard for the fire department test which helped a lot for the operator test. I’m not naturally mechanically inclined, so the studying was the biggest factor to help me pass the test. Timing also played a big part, I got lucky I came across the job posting on the company website just by chance.


Not OP either, but I’m a boiler operator in the Bay Area, no license needed for my plant either. Although my position does both operating and maintenance. Usually plants have mechanic positions which is a good stepping stone into operating.


Ed Note: Boiler operators are responsible for maintaining heating systems in large buildings in the boiler, engine, and mechanical rooms. They handle equipment such as low-pressure boilers, high-pressure boilers, power boilers, steam boilers, and hot water heating systems. It is required that boiler operators to be licensed by the state and local government in order to work. A high school diploma is required and an apprenticeship program teaches a prospective boiler operator the trade.

2. Closed captioner

I work at home as a closed captioner broadcaster for the News. I make my own schedule and make between $35-$65 per hour depending on the job. Large investment to get started but significantly worth the payout.

3. Garbage collector

Garbage collectors in New York are paid up to $112k, a solid salary considering you don’t even need a degree. Sounds like a nice fallback plan for me.


NYC garbage man here. Currently at a garage in Brooklyn waiting for my shift to start.

Salary can top out at 130k with overtime

We are also responsible for snow removal, which is why our salary is so high. In the winter it’s mandatory shifts for even a threat of snow. I’ve done 30 days straight of 12 hour shifts, that shit adds up.

Connections don’t help at all get you on the job, but they’re useful in getting you a good spot after your hired.

There’s garages in all 5 Boros and everything is seniority based. Staten Island is insanely senior because half the force lives there, and the Bronx is junior because it’s the worst place on earth and terrible to work at.


NYC garbage collector jobs have nothing on Honolulu garbage collectors. They work only 4 hours a day but get paid for 8. If you do work more than 4 hours it is OT.

This is true in many countries. This is only true for those who are employed by the city/government though. They get paid this well because they can’t do this job for too long and they’re messing up their bodies with it. Mind you, I currently employ an ex-garbage collector. He worked his way up to project manager in my software engineering business. He’s home since a few weeks now with severe back problems. Guess why that is..

Same in Dublin, ireland. Starting salary is €72k (average industrial wage in Ireland is €38k). That rises over time and rises are guaranteed. Also you get little extras (like at Christmas everybody gives €5 or €10 to the collectors) for their Christmas box. That adds up to a lot.

Most garbage collectors in Ireland earn mid to high €80’s.

Ed Note: They are paid about $80K in Canada, and seems to be a pretty good job as well here. I suppose it has similar “good” and “bad” areas to work, as some streets here are super tiny, while others are big and nice to be in.

4.  Airline Dispatcher

Airline dispatcher.

A girl I dated many years ago I met because she was living in my town training to be an airline dispatcher. There are just a handful of schools that teach it.

I had no idea what an airline dispatcher was, let alone how much money they get paid. Dispatchers at FedEX can make $150,000 per year or more. It also gives you a lot of options to advance at an airline, like being station chief at an airline.

5. Court reporting

Stenography is a tough skill to learn, but plenty of court reporters earn over $100k. And no college degree required (although most CRs will need to be certified).

You need to really be careful with this one. I had a coworker many moons ago who was ALMOST done with the program and developed carpal tunnel. That was the end of that…


I’m currently in court reporting school and holy shit it is HARD, but I enjoy it. I should be finished later this year and I can’t wait to start working.


There’s a shortage of them, too. I work as the videographer and they’re like magicians. Not many people finish the school for it though, and most of it is online now.

My grandmother has been a court reporter for 40 years. She said it was a f*cking bitch starting out but she loves it. She makes an absolute f*ck ton of money and the only reason she hasn’t retired is because she doesn’t want to be home with my grandfather all day. She could have retired 20 years ago at 55 if she wanted.

There are a few main categories….

  • Freelance/court reporting agency CRs generally work taking depositions as attorneys prepare for trials. They generally get to pick how much they work. They get paid a small-ish flat fee to show up and take the depo, and their money comes from transcript production, which they do at home.

  • Official court reporters work in the courtroom. They get paid a salary by the state/county (normally), and generally earn transcript fees on top of that. Many CRs choose this route even though the pay is less because these jobs include full benefits and great retirement, normally.

  • Closed Captioners provide the closed captions for the deaf and hard of hearing you see on live television programs. Most of these captioners are extremely talented in “realtime” which means they are extremely accurate and have realtime and CC certification. They generally work from home (though not always).

  • CART providers are similar in some ways to closed captioners in that they provide a “realtime” script for a deaf or hard of hearing person. A CART provider often works in schools or colleges taking down lectures, etc. for a deaf student. They also can be employed to provide those services at public meetings, churches, business conferences, etc.

You’ll also see CRs taking down everything that’s said on the Senate or House floors, too. Watch them sometime, it’s quite interesting. They generally have their machine strapped to their bodies and they walk in and take down the record for a period of time and then the next CR walks in and they leave and rotate out. What they take down basically becomes the Congressional Record.

Yes, to some degree some courts have electronic recording and some depos are done by video. It’s a necessity because there’s a shortage of court reporters. And for many simple things they work just fine.

Results are not super great. No one wants to sit through a three or six hour video, they want to flip through a transcript. And then you have a person that wasn’t there trying to figure out what was being said when three people are talking at once and trying to piece it together.

CRs are protectors of the record. They pipe up to remind people to talk one at a time, ask people to speak up or get closer to a mic, get spellings for unusual names or terms, etc., etc. A great realtime reporter can hand a dirty disc to an attorney (for a fee, of course ..ha) at the end of a day of court and the attorneys can use it to prepare for the next day’s testimony. Or they can offer an iPad during a deposition so the attorneys can watch the live testimony at 98%+ accuracy right in front of their eyes and make notes as needed. None of that is possible with electronic recordings or video.

Ed Note: Typing fast with accuracy is not simple.

6. Technical writer

Technical writing. If you have the ability to take complex technical information and simplify it according to the reading audience, you can make well over $100K annually.

People ridicule English degrees until they find out how much can be earned as a technical writer.

I have an engineering degree, and my technical writing professor told me that he’s had former students tell him that the main class from college they used on a day to day basis in their jobs was technical writing. It sounded like BS at the time, but now I work as a business analyst in the IT industry. Yeah, I’m basically a technical writer.

I have a PhD in genetics, but I’m also a people person. I write federal grants and do contract negotiations. I make ~150k a year.

There’s a unique skill set in having the aptitude to retain scientific information and be able to simplify it. Also being a people person.

When I moved back to the states last year I found there were zero contractors in my area. I’ve killed it and could probably make 5-6x more if I hired more people but I’m comfortable where I am.

I mediate contract negotiations between municipalities and government workers, as well as non profits and government grantors of federal funds. Mostly payment plans, etc. some retirement stuff but trying not to take those.

I’m a licensed mediator and I started writing non profit grants in college as a way to fund my own schooling, followed by working in development and fundraising in non profit for the last 15 years. I got into mediation working for the government doing grants as I saw an open and needed field.

It’s definitely a niche field but not hard to get into. If you are serious and want more info PM me. Look for development associate positions with small non profits, the pay is crap but you could learn a lot. Data entry for donor donations is a good way to get your foot in to larger non profits as well.

I’m a freelance contractor now, I also have a full time gig as the executive director of a large non profit so I do it on the side. Mostly at night. I’ve gained most my clients thru contacts I’ve made being involved with my community civically through organizations such as rotary, Kiwanis, school board, etc.

Another great way to get your foot in the door and get some awesome experience is being a board member. Small non profits are always looking for active board members. Find something you are passionate about and do a search, for example your passion is prison reform, find a non profit that helps family reunification or felon housing or maybe one that helps children of prisoners with education scholarships. Send them an email saying you are interested in volunteering and possibly a board position. It’s great development experience.

Becoming a licensed mediator is a certificate program from a community college. Mediators usually specialize, I do union contracts but others do divorce custody, business mergers, HOA disputes, etc. in my state you just need to be licensed, and that allows you to work with the courts. So when someone is mandated to court mediation you can do it.

Grant writing is another ball game, not impossible to break into but very technical. Perfect for the perfectionist. It’s taken me years to perfect and I’m far from it but I’m confident in what I do. I write my salary into the grant, administration fees usually between 8-12% of the total grant. For larger grants like a municipality parks and rec grant that’s 500k that adds up. I’m very particular who I write for as I do not manage grants, which means I’m dependent on others following the rules… this is also not a steady stream of income for quite a while because grant money is not usually dispersed in full sum.

7. Mobile Crane Operator

Mobile crane operator, union guys pull over 200k and its a trade thats pretty easy on the body.


Operating engineers have a surprisingly high occurance of back, neck and wrist injuries. They do make a ton of money though.

Knees too. Those cabins in large machinery are not made for comfort, although I hear newer ones are a big improvement.

Yup, dad is an operating engineer in his 60s. One of his limbs has not been operated on. But at least he’s been much less crabby after the last back surgery and isn’t in (as much) pain all day every day.

Any sort of chronic vibration in a sitting position is going to give most people degenerated discs, sooner or later.

I operate a straddle carrier, and my back is constantly sore. Money is good though. Not as good as it is in other countries, I believe. But I only ever work half a shift

Can confirm. Private bulldozer operators can get contracted to the state to work on large wildland fires (this is in California, though). Depending on qualifications and the equipment’s capabilities, they can earn up to $6000 a DAY for every day they are assigned to the fire.

Yeah but you can only operate for a certain designated time then you get a 15 minute break. Literally getting payed $100 a hour to spend 30 mins waiting every hour.

I run small and heavy equipment as a side job, starting at 3,5 tonnes. The small stuff is a lot harder on the body in my experience. A lot of strange movements with neck and back to see stuff in tight area’s. Climbing in and out of machines is the worst on the knees I think. The big machines I work with have a really comfy cab, but some of the new smaller ones as well.

8. Biomedical Technician

I fix hospital beds , will be making 100k within my first two years with full benefits. I also have full control over my hours.

Look up the company Hill-Rom. There’s a ton of IT positions but you can make very good money considering how expensive these beds can be.

My brother does this actually, he is a biomedical tech. He got into this with no prior experience either. Just was nice to the right guy and he got him in. He works on a lot of beds but also a ton or other medical equipment.

9. Utility Lineman

Utility lineman. There is a developing shortage nationwide due to baby boom retirements. It’s well paid base, but the overtime is fabulous.

I have a couple friends who got into this after they left the military. They all make well over 100k. Storm seasons bring in tons of overtime. They’re all in their mid to late 20’s buying houses.

Second this, my ex was a lineman, made easily 130+ a year with no college degree. If there was a storm/hurricane he could make 10-20k in a week going out of state to work.

Insanely dangerous job though. Two linemen died in our small town because some person/family didn’t shut their breaker off when they hooked up their generator while they were working on it. Electricity is f*cking terrifying and sometimes even the smallest things missed can have major consequences.

10. Coal mine driver

I drive machinery in a coal mine in Australia. I make about 170k. Even our new trainees are paid pretty well, about $48 per hour. I think it ends up being close to 90-100k. Easy money for sitting on your arse in an air conditioned cab.


one of my friends in college had a job driving trucks at one of the taconite mines during summer break. he would make more money in 3 months than anyone else in our circle could in a full year.

the thing was his dad was the foreman at the mine.

Natural gas and the slow but clear rise in renewables mean that job security isn’t going to be great. Just look at all the coal mining towns in the US that are now facing terrible poverty because their residents refuse to accept that coal is dying.

Sparwood, British Columbia. Sign up with Teck coal and you can make bank while living in beautiful BC Canada.

Theres a lot of opportunity at coal mines, and it can be easy money. The haul truck drivers and operators usually go to the people who have been there longer. I got lucky and my father knew some people at the mine through business, so I started in the warehouse as a temp. That alone was making me about 70k a year. The catch? Some weeks were 72 hour work weeks. Some 60, and one weekend (Friday, Saturday, and sunday) off a month for a 36 hour week.

Haul trucks had air ride and AC, everything else had AC, but would beat the hell out of you. Right now (where I live), they are hiring diesel mechanics with no experience and teaching them on site free of charge because theres a shortage of people who want to work in the elements for 12 hours a day. On the flip side, easy 6 figures.

So, as far as getting hired on, I truly think you need to know someone or be on the lookout for coal mine jobs/opportunities in the right area (geographical location).

11. Cleaning Service (Contractor)

Self employed cleaning services (i dont know exaclty what to call it)

My parents started getting paid $35 an hour cleaning a community center to ~$50 from cleaning offices.

My mom started it then my dad joined in to help her with the hours and taking care of the house and kids.

Eventually my mom got good contacts, and started cleaning the offices of managers from factories, Sacramento politicians, and stuff alike.

Can’t express how proud i am of my mom. She turned all those shitty Hispanic cleaning lady jokes into something brag worthy.


My mom did the same thing! But she mainly works for very wealthy people living around us. Makes around $100/hr, only works Tuesday-Thursday, and takes about 6-8 weeks of vacation yearly.

12. Long haul / UPS truck drivers

UPS drivers can make close to 100k if you stay there long enough. Blew me away when I first heard that

my uncle was a ups driver in Maine for 30 years, he had to quit due to an unrelated injury but i’m pretty sure he was making high 80k-low 90k before that

It’s really good money but there are some negatives. The worst is that you are in a truck with no air conditioning that is mostly sealed up if your’e in the back. In florida that’s fucking miserable. Also they have polyester uniforms.

They make closer to $70k, and have to spend years loading trucks at minimum wage before being eligible to drive.

It’s not an easy job to get.

13. Ditch Digger

Ditch digger… actually, “directional boring.” Guy I know was literally a ditch digger, but got into this by renting the specialized equipment just at the right time and right place (fiber optic build-out in the 1990’s). He will also say that he “made it” simply by being reliable and trustworthy. I do not know exactly how much he makes, but he has an 80-foot sport fisherman (probably cost $7-10 Million) and he bought a $4 Million property on a whim.

Tbh if you actually show up to a job site as a contractor and do a decent job. You are better then 90% of them. I swear half the time they will take a job and only show up to work when they run out of beer money. And let’s not even get into quality of the work.


This. I work at a place and am often tasked with having to get 4 different companies / contractors to bid on a job. I’ve had so many who don’t even bother to show up to look over the job to place a bid. Or they’ll look over the job and don’t bother submitting a bid or even calling me back. More often than not, the job goes to the contractor who met with me at the appointed time and gave me a itemized bid. It’s like people don’t want money. And it’s not like it’s sh*t  jobs. Called 4 different electricians to install 15 walkway lights. ONE kept the appointment and bid the job.

Obviously you want a contractor that shows up when he is supposed to be there.

HOWEVER, always remember that you do NOT want the contractor that says he can start immediately. If you call up Billy Bob + Sisterwives for an estimate and he comes over and does up your quote then says he can come right back the next day to start that’s bad news. Especially if it’s peak season. If he’s got nobody else booked there’s probably a good reason for that.

I have a ton of experience managing major and minor construction projects. Most of the time that you have issues on a project it’s straight up inexperience on the general contractors part or the clients.

Most reputable general contractors have a select group of trades they will subcontract out to and by doing this they have the carrot of future work to encourage their performance.

That 90% of contractors are primarily newly self employed people who havnt a clue how to be self employed, how expensive it is for the first few years and most importantly how to say no to a job.

If a job for $1500 that should take 8hrs over 2days comes up and they have a rough idea what to do then a new guy is going to accept before even thinking how much of that 1500 will be spent before the manual work starts. But theres no reason to worry, even 150 is decent for a first gig and there’s plenty of time during the rest of the week to go do more work. Then the 2 days becomes 4 because its more difficult to find XYZ item at a decent price and the first set of 4hrs work got ruined by weather or the owner thinking theyll just have a quick look at how the job is going. Thanks to thinking it was going to be easy at the start, most overload themselves with 6days of planned work at multiple job sites with only 1 day of respite. Once the shits hit the fan on job #1, every single gig is going to be progressively more fucked as the week goes on as chaos ensues. Each one is going to have someone looking to sort this shit out right the fuck now, and if the contractor has a significant other or kids then ‘right the fuck now’ is always yesterday.

Dont get me wrong, too many self employed people take earnings for themselves too early and ive known enough of them to agree that few get into the job for pleasure rather than money but its mostly because the industry is swamped with ‘handymen’ overextending themselves and that may not know enough to unfuck the situation -which is why even they will tell customers the best way of fixing the issue quickly is paying more money for a different contractor to come in and sort things out.

14. Death & Crime scene cleaner

If you have a strong stomach, cleaning up death and crime scenes pays very well and requires little education.

I have a friend who did this. It definitely paid well, but he talked about some of the things he saw and I don’t know if I could do it myself.


Read the book: Dead Janitor’s Club

I’ve actually looked into this. The nearest company hiring is about two hours away. I guess people don’t die in gruesome enough way around here to warrant having such a company nearby.

I also looked into meth house cleanup. There isn’t even a single company that does it in my entire state, anyone who wants those services uses a company from a neighboring state.

15. Border Patrol Officer

CBP officer (at least at the northern border and airports). You sit in a booth and ask the same questions over and over again. Now and then you may end up referring someone to secondary based on suspicions but another officer takes over at that point and you go back to your normal duties. Despite the job being “law enforcement”, it’s incredibly safe, especially in airports where you’re already shielded by multiple layers of security.

I’ve heard they can make 130k+benefits after just a few years on the job. No college degree needed.

Have a friend that used to be CBP, apparently pay is excellent, with performance bonuses (good luck getting those in a good chunk of public sector jobs) and cost of living increases every year with excellent benefits on top of it.

Ed Note: I knew someone who started with no degree at all, and made $60K as a starting salary.


These high-paying jobs have a few things in common, they’re all either:

  1. Dangerous (utility line person)
  2. Disgusting (crime scene cleaner)
  3. Hard on the body (crane operator)
  4. Rare / only via connections (biomedical technician)
  5. Overtime (janitor or bus driver)
  6. Boring (boiler operator)

If you’re thinking of being able to work jobs where you sit at home, work in an office, and set your own hours or work 40-hours a week (or less), then it is conventional jobs like lawyer, that technical writer who was mentioned, etc. These jobs generally need degrees, sometimes specialized ones. Otherwise, you are risking something, or simply working extra hours to get that money.

To get that unicorn job where you work 40 hours or less, work in a relatively safe environment, and make bank, means you generally need a degree and/or connections (you know, family or friend ones where they hire you as a Director out of school). There does not seem to be any other way, as I browsed through the rest of the jobs and they all came with significant cons.

Still, if you are willing to put yourself through that, you could make a lot of money. I know trades for instance, can bring in a lot of money, like plumber, electrician, and if you are disciplined, professional, show up on time, etc you could really make a lot of money doing so.

Lastly, the boring one might surprise you – but I WANT a boring job! – but I think we really don’t. I personally don’t. If I had to just sit in an office for 8 hours a day doing nothing, and get paid a lot of money, I’d find something else to do. I enjoy using my brain, and maybe you’re all scoffing at me when I say this, but being competent, excelling at a job and being useful (for lack of a better word), is something I value in a job, along with autonomy (I love setting my own hours too with flexibility).

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *