Employment Trends

5 jobs that pay a lot more than you think

Written by Kate Lopaze

We’ve all had one of those moments where you look at someone and think, “That guy makes how much for that job? Crazy.” There are actually a lot of jobs out there that pay more than you might expect, based on the level of experience necessary to do the job or simply stereotypes about what we think certain roles are worth. Let’s look at some of the most unexpected-salaried jobs out there.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are often the unsung heroes of the dental world—after all, they’re usually the ones who have to listen to all the excuses about why you didn’t floss, or who hear the fibs about how much you did floss (Be honest!). But because it’s often a supporting role and doesn’t require a four-year degree to get started, you might be surprised at the salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists make a median annual salary of $74,070. (And given what they do to keep our teeth healthy and sparkling, they deserve every penny!)

What they do: Dental hygienists clean teeth, perform dental exams, provide preventative dental care, assist dentists with procedures, and educate patients about follow-up care and dental health.

What you’ll need: An associate’s degree in dental hygiene, which typically takes 2-3 years to complete. Some states also require additional licensing for dental hygienists, so be sure to check on your own state’s requirements.

Elevator Repairer/Mechanic

There are some repair jobs on which you can cut corners, and no one really notices. Elevator repair is not one of them. It’s a high-stakes mechanical job, so although it’s a career that can usually be started with a high school diploma and an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, it’s one that commands a high salary because it requires a high level of skill and attention to detail. In fact, elevator repairers make only a few thousand dollars per year less than the mechanical engineers who design the elevators themselves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elevator repairers make a median annual salary of $79,480—and demand is expected to grow faster than average over the next 10 years.

What they do: Elevator repairers or mechanics are responsible for installing and repairing elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other people movers, as well as ensuring safety.

What you’ll need: A high school diploma or equivalent, plus an apprenticeship. You’ll also need strong mechanical savvy, and the ability to work in cramped quarters.

Flight Attendant

With perks like free travel, you might think that working as a flight attendant might be one of those jobs where the perks make up for a not-super-high salary. But if you’re interested in the jet-setting life and want a solid median salary, you should consider becoming a flight attendant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight attendants make a median annual salary of $50,500, with demand expected to grow faster than average over the next 10 years. Flight attendants who work for private or charter companies can also make more than that.

What they do: Flight attendants manage airline passenger needs, safety, and comfort from (literally) Point A to Point B. In an emergency, they’re also first responders, assisting customers with any kind of crisis that happens in flight.

What you’ll need: A high school diploma or equivalent, with significant on-the-job training provided by the airline. A good flight attendant also has stellar customer service skills (and the patience/good bedside manner to go with it).

Technical Writer

It may not be the Great American Novel, but you see the work of technical writers everywhere: the instructions you get with your new assemble-it-yourself furniture, those tutorial PDFs on a company’s website, journal articles taking complex scientific or technical subjects and translating them for a wider audience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technical writers make a median annual salary of $70,930 (or $34.10 per hour), with demand expected to grow faster than average over the next 10 years. It’s also a versatile field, with technical writing positions open in a variety of industries (tech, healthcare, manufacturing, etc.).

What they do: Technical writers prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, or other supporting documentation to help guide customers or readers through a technical process. They translate complicated tasks for information for a particular audience. Technical writers may work full-time, or freelance.

What you’ll need: A bachelor’s degree, helped by expertise in a technical subject like computer science, engineering, or web design.

Theatrical Makeup Artist

Got a flair for the dramatic, but don’t have any interest in being onstage? Be the star backstage, and consider becoming a makeup artist. Makeup artists who specialize in theater, media, movie, TV, or other performance often make significantly more than their cosmetologist peers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, theatrical/performance makeup artists make a median annual salary of $69,310, with the 90th percentile making $127,030.

What they do: Theatrical makeup artists create makeup looks to suit a particular production or performance design.

What you’ll need: A high school diploma or equivalent, plus training in cosmetology. A background in theater or drama is also helpful, as is artistic creativity.

If you’re looking for a job that carries a strong paycheck but falls outside the stereotypical “high-paid” spectrum, any of these jobs would be a great start.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.