We all know that doctors, lawyers, and engineers make serious money, but how does the rest of America provide for their families? There are plenty of other jobs to keep you comfortable that you may not have thought of.
The required experience and education vary depending on the career, but there's something for everyone! You probably won't stumble into a job as a medical illustrator, but maybe you suddenly want to become an underwater welder or a hot dog vendor?
Air Traffic Controller
An air traffic controller's job is to manage the aircraft flying into and out of the airport airspace, as well as to guide pilots during takeoff and landing, and to monitor aircrafts as they travel through the skies.
In terms of salary, it ranges from state to state and also depends on the size of the airport you work at, but it is estimated that the average US ATC salary is somewhere between $80K - $100K annually, with the top tier earning up to $170K.
Becoming a medical illustrator means you have can't just be an artist. You also have to have a background in science because of the importance of anatomical accuracy. The majority of medical illustrators have an undergrad degree in both art and biological sciences, and then a graduate degree in medical illustration, a program that is only offered at 4 schools in North America.
The average salary for newer illustrators sits around $62K and ranges up to $100K, and those that sit in supervisory or creative director positions range up to $175K.
In-N-Out Store Manager
West coast restaurant In-N-Out Burger may not be what people typically consider if they're looking to make a good salary, but those people are wrong.
The California Sun revealed in January of 2018 that the California-based chain pays its store managers on average about $160K per year. Starting employees are given a minimum wage of $13 per hour to start, and the chain is very focussed on internal promotion. To become a store manager you don't even need a college degree, you just need experience with the company.
Garbage collectors are arguably one of the hardest jobs to get in metropolitan cities. Most cities don't have open applications for sanitation positions. For example, in 2014, NYC opened applications for the first time in seven years, for a limited period of time, and has yet to open them since.
The starting salary usually sits around $35K - $40K. However, it jumps within the first five years to $70K - $80K depending on the city. Due to being employed by the city, you can also usually count on health insurance, as well as a pension.
Ice Cream Taster
Technically, they're called food scientists, but ice cream taster is a significantly more appealing job title. To become an ice cream taster it's recommended you hold a degree in food science - specifically dairy - or chemistry, or a business degree with a focus on product development.
The average salary for an ice cream taster can range from anywhere between $40K - $100K, depending on what company you work for as well as how many years of experience you have.
Hot Dog Vendor
This may not be a job you want to choose as your career, but it's a perfectly viable option as a side business. It's estimated that hot dog vendors can earn a few thousand dollars in a matter of hours if they're in high-traffic areas or working events like baseball games.
Even if it's not a special event, it's still estimated vendors could earn around $100 every few hours on a slow day. Climate is a big factor for yearly profit too, as many in colder weather wouldn't work as a vendor 12 months a year.
Yes, this is a real career, Dog's not the only one that can do it. As a bounty hunter (or, bail enforcement agent) you make 10-20% of every bail bond when criminals fail to show up to their court dates, and experienced agents can earn between $50K - $80K per year.
Salary ranges for bounty hunters within states, and even within cities. Hunters can make approximately $90K on average in Lansing, Michigan, whereas the average for Albuquerque, New Mexico, averages around $36K.
Ethical hacking used to be exclusively associated with government agencies or high profile research/development labs, but it's now one of the most in-demand positions for major companies around the world. Everyone is concerned with protecting their company's data, and if you can help with that, you'll have a job.
The average payout for a Certified Ethical Hacker is $71K per year, with the top payouts hitting nearly $135K. The highest reported salary, according to the US Department of Labor, is NYC, which pays an average of $117K, with Washington and California close behind.
Literally Any Job At Costco
In 2017, Forbes named Costco as the Best Employer in America, and they are repeatedly named as one of America's Best Large Employers in previous years.
Costco is known for how well they treat their employees, with everyone from front line staff to supervisors to management having access to employee benefits like healthcare and 401K plans. Their pay scale is also better than most. A Costco cashier averages around $14.43 per hour, 32% above the national average.
A flight attendant's salary depends on what airline they work for, as well as what routes they fly. According to Glassdoor, Southwest Airlines flight attendants earn $34.43 an hour on average, about $68K per year, but the top airline in the US is United Airlines, where attendants average around $82K per year.
When you factor in living costs (or lack thereof) the salary is pretty good too. It's common for flight attendants to share an apartment with multiple other attendants, or those starting out often live with their parents, rather than pay for an apartment they don't ever use.
You know all those reports that your mom shares on Facebook that say trades are where you can make good money, set your own hours, and be your own boss? They're not wrong.
To become an electrician you must have a high school degree or GED, and then you would complete a technical program that combines school with an apprenticeship, which you can usually get paid for while still in school. The average salary for an electrical apprentice is around $45K, and once certified electricians can earn $80K-$90K in major cities.
Now, this is a career that's not for the faint of heart. If you know how to work the system, you can make between $150K - $250K per year, but it's also a job that's incredibly hard on your body.
You're also required to put in your fair share of time and hard work at a mid-level salary (between $50K and $80K) before you start earning the big bucks. Experience is the biggest factor for salary for underwater welders. This is definitely not the career for you if you're looking to get rich quick.
Not to be confused with optometrists or ophthalmologist, opticians are trained to design and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, or other devices used to correct eyesight. They use prescriptions supplied by the optometrists or ophthalmologists, but are not in charge of testing vision or writing prescriptions.
Opticians are required to complete a college diploma or associate's degree program, and the average salary sits around $55K. As with any job, higher education and more years of experience will raise that salary, and state and city factor into compensation as well.
A master distiller is someone responsible for overseeing the concocting of spirits and liqueurs, product development, quality control, and product testing in an environment such as a brewery or vineyard. They would also be in charge of administrative and supervisory tasks like material sourcing and staff management.
The average salary for a master distiller in the US sits just under $62K, with the top tier reaching around $132K. In terms of education, you can earn degrees in distilling, however, on-the-job experience is the most valued.
Cruise Ship Entertainer
Though not all workers on cruise ships make good money, lounge performers or main stage acts are well compensated. Guest or headline entertainers like a comedian, hypnotist, or vocal headliner can make anywhere from $4000 - $18000 per month, depending on the cruise line.
A backup dancer's salary ranges from $1800 - $2900 per month, and a DJ can make between $1700 - $2700 typically. Something to consider as well is that when working on a cruise ship you're given room and board, which is a big factor for compensation.
Previously ranked by Forbes as one of the best paying blue collar jobs in America, being an elevator technician (or elevator mechanic) has similar draws to being an electrician. The salary goes up and down depending on experience, but the US Bureau of Labor reports that elevator mechanics earn an average hourly wage of $35.37, earning around $70K a year.
Being an elevator tech requires more schooling than other trades though. You're usually required to complete a 5-year apprenticeship program, but during the apprenticeship, they earn an average of $20 an hour.
Wind Turbine Technician
As long as you're not afraid of heights, the sky's the limit for this career! Windtechs install, maintain, and repair wind turbines, generally outdoors and at great heights. A technical school degree is typically required, and then technicians receive long-term on-the-job training.
The median annual wage in May of 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor, was just under $55K with the higher earnings sitting around $90K. An advantage to this industry is that it's expected to grow substantially over the next few years as well.
A cartographer is paid to professionally design maps, whether in graphic or digital form, and to update existing charts and maps. A BA in geography, geomatics, or cartography is most common for required education, and this career is estimated to grow 19% between 2016 and 2026, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average salary is around $64K, with the top collecting close to $100K. The most lucrative sector is with the federal government.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
This job is less surprising in terms of how much you earn for the work you're doing, but it is surprising how little schooling you need to achieve a high rate of pay. It's estimated in the US that the average salary for Nuclear Med Tech, ie. someone who performs organ imaging tests or injects radioactive pharmaceuticals, is around $75K.
You'd think this would require a fair amount of schooling, but you actually only need an associate's degree in nuclear medicine, which is equivalent to the first two years of a Bachelor's degree.
In May of 2018, the average salary for dental hygienists in the US was $75K, with the lowest sitting around $50K and the top percentage earning more than $100K. Starting out though, a hygienist's salary can be vastly different.
With less than one year of experience, some reported salaries were approximately $26K a year, whereas others reported a starting wage of $34.88 an hour, or just over $72K a year, so the range is quite wide. After five years of experience in the field, the average salary sits around $93K per year.
Closed captioning broadcasting, or transcribing, is a job not many people would think of for a potential career, but it is one that requires little schooling and you can make a solid salary.
To work in captioning it's recommended that you have a court reporting certification or an associate's degree, but having experience is equally as valued when employers are looking at applicants. As a captioner, you can easily make a living working from home, which means you can set your own hours. The average CC specialist makes around $72,000/year in a major city like Washington or New York.
It's a business people are dying to get in to! Granted, this job isn't for everyone, but funeral directors average around $75K a year and can reportedly make around $100K in major cities. Don't expect to make this right out of the gate though, you'll have to pay your dues first as starting out you'll likely make around $40K.
To become a funeral director (sometimes called a mortician) you need to have an associate's degree in mortuary science at minimum, though many employers will prefer a bachelor's degree.
Typically, to become a crane operator you're required to complete an apprenticeship training program that could range from one to three years. Some companies might require additional certification, though not all do.
According to the Real Estate Board of New York, crane operators are banking up to $500K a year factoring in pay, overtime, benefits, etc. Though $500K isn't the average, your run-of-the-mill crane operator has the potential to make around $100K a year, which still sounds pretty good!
A similar job to a closed captioning broadcaster, court stenographer is a career that requires little schooling and you can quickly make six figures a year.
By 'little schooling' we mean that you don't actually even need a college degree, but you need to be able to type 225 words per minute while two voices are speaking, which is no easy feat. If you're able to type this fast (accurately, of course) then you can reportedly start off at a salary of $65K a year, working your way up to $100K within a few years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average boiler operator makes around $26/hour - which is four times the federal minimum wage - and the more experienced make closer to $40 an hour or around $80K a year.
In terms of job prospects, the Bureau estimates that jobs for boiler operators are expected to increase in the following years so as long as you have your certifications and your foot in the door, you won't have to worry about job stability for a while.
If your parents told you that your English degree would be useless and you're looking to prove them wrong, become a technical writer.
Technical writers (sometimes called communicators) take complex information and simplify it for better comprehension. It's recommended that technical writers have knowledge of or experience with technical subjects like science, math or engineering, but it's not a requirement. As a full-time technical writer, the average pay is around $70K. Seems manageable right?
High-End Repo Man
If you're a high-end repo man, you're the equivalent of a bounty hunter but for possessions, not people.
There isn't any official schooling you need or certifications required to become a repo man, but each state will have different laws you have to follow. Repo men typically take a commission between 6-10 percent, so the bigger the items the bigger your cut. Depending on the firm or company you work for you could be repossessing yachts, private jets, RVs or helicopters, which means you can live very comfortably on that salary.
This is a career that won't be of interest to most people (some wouldn't even call it a career) and we can't attest to job stability, but waitresses and servers in prominent nightclubs can make thousands of dollars on a nightly basis.
Depending on where you work (ie. Las Vegas, New York, L.A.) shot-girls have said they easily earn over $100,000 a year in tips alone, with some earning significantly more than that.
Dating Profile Ghostwriter
Yes, there really are people out there that pay a writer to create their witty or eye-catching dating profiles for them, and it could earn the writer close to $1,000 a month.
Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, Grindr, Plenty of Fish -- no matter the dating app, people want their profiles to impress and you can make a living from ghostwriting those profiles. Whether you start your own ghostwriting company or do it as a freelancer, young singles are willing to pay you $500 or more to write their profiles and consult on photo choices. It's easy money!
Sign Language Interpreter
To become an American Sign Language Interpreter you need to have a bachelor's degree, and then have fluency in both English and ASL. There are voluntary certificates you can get to increase your job prospects but none that are required.
As with most jobs, your salary varies depending on the state or city you work in, or the company you're employed by. The average salary in New York for an ASL interpreter is around $65K (with the potential for $100K/year). The lowest average is estimated to be North Carolina at $46K a year.
Golf Ball Diver
Someone's got to retrieve all those balls that you hit into the water trap during your last round of 18 holes, right? It turns out if you're willing to suit up and dive for golf balls you could make up to $150K a year, according to CNN.
Your salary is dependent on how many golf balls you find each day and "sell" back to the course you retrieved them from. The average diver can collect around 4,000 golf balls a day, and re-sell value ranges anywhere from $0.10 to $0.75 per ball, so your salary is really up to you.
Alternative medicine practices are becoming increasingly more popular in western society, but it's not just for humans anymore. A veterinary acupuncturist is exactly what it sounds like: someone who practices acupuncture on animals.
Animal acupuncturists often specialize in equine or canine medicine and work out of a veterinary office, kennel, or zoo. You must be a licensed veterinarian to become a certified practitioner so there is some schooling involved but once that's finished you can earn anywhere from $80K-$90K a year to $160K.
This is another job where people are willing to pay (lots of) money for you to help them better themselves.
A career as a personal shopper may seem like one of those jobs that some girl tries to convince her parents is a viable option because she doesn't want to go to college, but it actually is possible to make a living this way. With the right client base, personal shoppers can make up to $100K a year, and they get to do something they love!
Who knew you could make a career out of sitting around all day?
Companies like IKEA want to make sure that they're selling products that people will actually want to have in their home, so they hire furniture testers to make sure their newest line of couches or office chairs are as comfortable and functional as they claim they are. If you're a furniture tester for a company like Lazy Boy or IKEA you can make around $70K a year to literally sit around all day. It's the dream job.
Feng Shui Consultant
Nowadays, people will pay top dollar for anything that they believe will better themselves or their lives. That's where your future career as a feng shui consultant comes into play.
There are online programs where you can earn the necessary certifications, and from there you just have to build your client base. This career probably won't earn you much in a small town in the midwest but in larger cities you can reportedly earn anywhere from $100K to $250K if you charge a higher hourly rate and build relationships with wealthy clients.
Fortune Cookie Writer
You didn't think that witty fortune you got in your fortune cookie along with your chop suey last week wrote itself, did you?
To be a fortune cookie writer you don't need any particular training, you just need to be creative, funny, and willing to work your way up. The average salary for those starting out in this profession ranges from $30K to $50K but experienced writers earn around $75K on average and range up to $100K a year.
Also known as a casino manager, a gaming manager is the person who supervises the casino on a daily basis. They have to know all the house rules, be able to spot anyone trying to cheat the system, prevent theft, and well as schmooze with clientele.
The average salary for a gaming manager at a casino is around $75K, with those who work at larger casinos earning into the $100Ks, and in terms of schooling you'll likely only need an associates degree.
Respiratory therapy is a career in the health industry that many would expect to require a lot of schooling, but they'd be wrong. To become a respiratory therapist you typically need an associate's degree, and then the required certifications.
The average salary for a respiratory therapist is $60K but the biggest draw to this field is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 23% increase in jobs by 2026, so you've got a stable job for at least the next seven years.
Whether you believe in their out-of-this-world abilities or not, it's estimated that a psychic medium can earn an average of $60K a year, with those who run in wealthier circles making more than $100K per year.
This career requires no formal training (though the spiritual training is endless), you can set your own hours, work from wherever you choose to, and you get to use your gift to help others with whatever problems they come to you with.