High-Paying Non-Traditional Jobs

by Terri Williams
Geological oceanographers analyze underwater sediments and are well paid.

Geological oceanographers analyze underwater sediments and are well paid.

The phrase, “high-paying job" usually conjures images of doctors, lawyers, dentists and engineers. And, of course, there are those with stratospheric salaries, such as movie stars, singers and professional athletes. However, for those who don’t want a traditional job and have no desire to pursue superstardom, there’s a world of lesser-known and interesting career options that pay very lucrative salaries.

Air Traffic Controllers

According to May 2012 salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, air traffic controllers earned an annual mean wage of $118,430. Air traffic controllers ensure that planes arrive and depart on time and keep aircraft safe distances apart from each other. They also inform pilots of inclement weather and contact the appropriate people in emergency situations. Applicants need a 2-year or 4-year air traffic management degree, unless they have previous work experience with the Federal Aviation Administration or the U.S. Armed Forces.

Geological Oceanographers

Geological oceanographers earned $106,780 in May 2012. These geoscientists observe underwater canyons and valleys and use sonar equipment to study sediments found on the seafloor. In seeking to understand the formation of the Earth, geological oceanographers research the causes of such events as earthquakes and volcano eruptions. Although a bachelor’s degree in geosciences is usually required, other degrees, such as engineering, computer science or other natural sciences are also permitted if the student has also taken geology classes.


The annual mean wage of economists was $99,480, according to reports completed in May 2012. Economists use surveys and other data to analyze such issues as inflation, interest rates and the cost of health care. Based on their research results, economists recommend ways to solve financial problems. They may work for individuals, companies or the government. One can apply to an entry-level job in this field with a bachelor’s degree, but a master's degree or Ph.D. is the educational requirement for most positions.

Industrial Engineering

The BLS reported the May 2012 salary of industrial engineers as $82,100. Organizations and companies hire industrial engineers to determine ways to make them more efficient and review company data for signs of possible wastefulness. Their work may include observing the staff in action to see how they perform their jobs, examining the manufacturing process and suggesting ways to improve the quality of products. A bachelor’s degree is the educational requirement for an industrial engineer.

About the Author

Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, working with a large nonprofit organization. Her articles have appeared in various online publications including Yahoo, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report University Directory, and the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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