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10 Unexpectedly High-Paying Jobs

by Himanshu Sharma
fact checked by Jamie Frater

A job is something that most of us have to do for a living. Some occupations pay more than others, though we always assume that they’re the interesting ones that you’d love to do. We associate boring work that no one wants to do with low pay because that’s how the world works, right?

Well, not always. Some of the jobs that you always thought were just stepping-stones to bigger things are well-paying careers on their own. The only reason we don’t know about them is because we never bothered to look into them. The people who did, however, fare much better on the pay grade than your average worker.

10 Deer Urine Farmer

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If you’ve ever been hunting in the US, you’d have come across deer lure perfumes. They’re used to hide the distinct human scent to attract animals like elk and antelope as their sense of smell is quite good. If you thought the perfumes were made of chemicals, you’d be wrong. It’s not easy to fool those animals, so the lures are made with good old deer urine.

Deer urine farming is a high-paying as well as surprisingly specific occupation that you probably had no idea existed. Moreover, only a few people have the expertise to do it as deer have a tendency to move around a lot and generally make the task of collecting their urine difficult.

The urine of does can sell for as high as $110 per gallon, and the urine of a dominant buck goes for somewhere around $60.[1]

9 Roadkill Collector

In the movies, crashing your car into an animal is usually a bad omen that suggests a darker turn of future events. However, if we were to ask you how many of those accidents you think happen in a year, you’d probably guess “not many” as there’s no way either humans or animals are dumb enough to get into that situation often.

You’d be surprised to know then that the average number of deer collisions—the most commonly hit creature in the US—is around 1.5 million in a year. Roadkill collectors are the people who clean up after those accidents as it’s hardly a job for a professional crime scene cleanup crew.

Despite how boring and unexciting the job may sound, a roadkill collector can earn around $72,000 per year as long as he’s working in a state with a moderate to high rate of roadkill.[2]

8 Insurance Sales Agent

Being a sales agent conjures up an image of going door-to-door to make sales pitches and returning empty-handed for the most part. Even popular movies aren’t able to glamorize that field, and few people have the skills required to make a good living in sales. If you do, you can end up getting compensated well. But it’d still be a rare thing.

That’s only if you’re talking about the general sales field, though. If you look into selling insurance, it may just end up being the career you’re looking for.

The pay for an insurance sales agent in the US ranges from about $48,000 to $72,000, and that’s just the nationwide average. Insurance sales agents operating in states like New York, North Dakota, and Massachusetts can expect an average of around $70,000 and even higher for those with substantial experience.

That’s because insurance is something that almost everyone has to buy at some point, which means the “convincing” part of the sales pitch has already been handled for the most part.[3]

7 Coal Mine Personnel

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Popular fiction has done a good job of portraying coal mining as “that job you never want to do.” It sounds like the perfect setup for horrifying things to happen, and it doesn’t seem to be a job that someone would willingly take on. Not to mention the permanent coat of coal dust on your body for the rest of your life.

All of that is only if you take movies as an accurate portrayal of how things really work. While it’s intuitive that engineers and technicians working in the coal industry would be paid well, the miners who work underground aren’t too far down the list, either.

On average, underground coal miners just starting out earn an average of around $60,000 per year and around $85,000 with overtime. That’s the lower cap for how much a coal mine specialist can earn. Executives in the mining industry can earn as much as $200,000.[4]

6 Crime Scene Cleaner

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No matter where you live, you can be sure that someone in your general area is breaking the law at this moment. Crime is one of the few constants in all human societies.

Even if we’d refrain from calling crime an “industry,” people working around it—like detectives, cops, and crime novelists—are usually well-paid. Even so, have you ever wondered who cleans up those crime scenes?

A crime scene cleaner sounds like a filthy, low-paying job. In fact, why would someone enthusiastically sign up to clean up after the worst instincts of humanity? Yet, crime scene cleaners may often be paid much more than other people we’ve already mentioned in this list.

If you have the stomach (and, of course, skills) for it, crime scene cleaners can easily earn a six-figure salary, or around $250 per hour. Exactly what those six figures are depends on how long you’ve been doing it and how many crimes occur in the city where you work.[5]

5 Garbage Collector

A garbage collector is someone who has to deal with the things you don’t need anymore—from rejected furniture to food leftovers. Due to the versatility of things that make up our garbage, it can be a gross job to do. Even so, garbage collectors are some of the most satisfied workers around. You rarely see them quit their jobs. So, what gives?

Hint: It’s not because they don’t have other options; it’s the high pay. Earnings for a garbage collector can soar to as high as $80,000 per year and even more if you’re working in the posher areas of a big city.[6]

It’s not as disgusting as it sounds, either. They have all the equipment needed to avoid handling the gross part of the garbage. So, if you were thinking of moving to a better-paying job, this might just be an alternative if you’re willing.

4 Golf Ball Collector

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A golf ball collector retrieves the balls from all the random places they can land, depending on the skill of the golfer. Collectors scour the bushes and deep-dive into artificial lakes after the game is over, and it doesn’t sound like it requires a lot of skill to do it.

Surprisingly, quite a bit of talent is required to be a successful golf ball collector as they need to reach places that most other people can’t. In many countries around the world, facing dangerous animals like alligators and venomous snakes is a part of the job, too. That’s why they’re some of the highest-paid people on a golf course—other than the rich people who play the game, of course.

How much money you can make depends on the golf course and how much you’re paid per ball retrieved. But on average, you can expect to make around $100,000 per year just for collecting golf balls. If you’re a good diver, that figure can be even higher.[7]

3 Oil Rig Worker

Working on a remote oil rig is the exact opposite of an exciting job. You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere for months on end, and the only challenging part seems to be not dying of boredom.

Of course, that’s only if you haven’t looked into applying for it. Those who have worked on oil rigs would tell you that it not only pays well but also requires dynamic thinking and on-the-spot decision-making.

The average salary for oil rig personnel is somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000 per year, and that’s only for average sort of work. If you’re higher in the hierarchy—like a drilling consultant or a reservoir engineer—it can go as high as $200,000.[8]

If you have a college degree in one of the STEM fields (although it’s not a prerequisite), there are a few jobs that pay as much right out of college.

2 Plumber

A plumber’s job doesn’t just sound boring but also requires you to do things like unclog drains and deal with more grease than you may have seen in your life. We’re not saying there’s anything menial about the job as it’s still a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. But it isn’t something anyone dreams of doing when they’re young.

If you look into it, though, plumbers earn way more than those in most other fields. Compared to the 2017 nominal median pay per capita of around $31,786 in the US, a plumber can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 per year. That’s only for the regular plumbers who’ve recently entered the field. The top 10 percent of plumbers earn more than $84,000 per year on average.[9]

It may come as a surprise, but plumbing is not an easy field to enter. First, you have to complete an apprenticeship that can last for four or five years.

1 Crab Fisherman

Being a fisherman sounds like the sort of job you wouldn’t do unless you didn’t have any other option. That may be true, although it depends on what kind of fishing you’re talking about.

While some fish may be abundant throughout the year, others only congregate in certain areas during some seasons and catching them is a highly lucrative career. If you can catch crabs, though, it may just be one of the best-paying fishing jobs you can get.

If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant and wondered why crab-based dishes are particularly expensive despite crabs being so visibly abundant on the beach, this is the reason. Crabbing is a seasonal occupation and carries a lot of risk due to unpredictable weather conditions where crabs are usually found. The captain of a crabbing boat can earn as much as $200,000 per year, and the crew can expect around $50,000 for a three-month working period.[10]

You can check out Himanshu’s stuff at Cracked and Screen Rant, get in touch with him for writing gigs, or just say hello to him on Twitter.


Read more about surprising jobs you probably wish you’d had on 10 Weird Jobs You Had No Idea Existed and Top 10 Ways People Got Paid To Do Nothing.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Himanshu Sharma

Himanshu has written for sites like Cracked, Screen Rant, The Gamer and Forbes. He could be found shouting obscenities at strangers on Twitter, or trying his hand at amateur art on Instagram.

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