Non-traditional careers collage with images of a cook, cosmetologist, yacht stewardess, musician, chauffeur, home inspector, and tour guide

If there’s anything the past few years have taught us about the job market, it’s that even the “safest” occupations are anything but a sure thing. In the pandemic and its aftermath, we’ve seen highly skilled professionals like engineers lose their jobs, and longtime career devotees like nurses quit due to burnout. It’s no surprise millions of people are reconsidering their professional path and looking for non-traditional careers.

Whether you want to avoid being trapped at a desk, work outside the normal 9-to-5 schedule, travel the world, or have complete creative freedom, alternative employment may be your best choice. Here are 13 nontraditional career ideas that can pay the bills while helping you find personal and professional fulfillment. 

In-demand non-traditional careers 

1. Cosmetologist

A cosmetologist performs cosmetic treatments on their clients’ hair, skin, and nails. 

Cutting and styling hair, performing facials, and giving manicures are a few of the most well-known cosmetic procedures. Still, cosmetologists can specialize in virtually endless types of treatments. Hair extensions, laser hair removal, lash lifts, and gel manicures are just a few of today’s most popular specialty procedures.

In addition to being a creative outlet, many cosmetologists find it highly rewarding to help their clients look and feel their best.

To become a cosmetologist, you’ll need to complete a cosmetology program, which usually takes between 9 and 15 months, and obtain the correct license for your state and area of specialty. 

2. Massage therapist

If you’ve ever had the luxury of a session with a professional masseuse, then you have a pretty good idea of what a massage therapist’s job entails. A massage therapist is trained to apply pressure to the muscles and joints in a way that alleviates pain, reduces stress and helps clients recover from injuries. 

The job of a massage therapist is a surprisingly physical one, requiring you to be on your feet most of the day using muscles of your arms and hands you probably never even knew existed before. However, it allows you to set your schedule, and prices, and work in diverse settings, from spas and clinics to resorts, cruise ships, and even music festivals. 

Becoming a massage therapist typically requires between 500 and 1000 hours of training that’s split between classroom learning and hands-on practice. You’ll also need to be licensed or registered in most states. 

3. Yacht stewardess 

If traveling the world and earning a lucrative income while having close to zero living expenses sounds enticing, the yacht stewardess job might be perfect for you. 

Stewardesses (and stewards) are responsible for maintaining the interior of commercial yachts while providing five-star hospitality to the vessel’s high-end clientele. Typical duties include things like preparing cabins, handling laundry, serving meals and beverages, cleaning the interior areas of the ship, and being on call to respond to guests’ needs 24/7.

If it seems like a demanding job, it is–but it also comes with some hefty perks. Yacht stewardesses travel to some of the most far-flung and exotic locations in the world while having their food and lodging expenses covered. Many stews work a seasonal schedule, meaning they earn all of their living during peak tourist season and have the rest of the year to pursue personal interests or a secondary career. 

To become a stewardess, you’ll need a friendly disposition and a willingness to learn on your feet. You’ll also be required to attend a basic safety training course and obtain a medical certificate, usually the ENG1, which can be completed in a few days. 

Specialty training like bartending and watercraft operations can help you further increase your earnings. 

4. Deckhand

A deckhand aids in maintaining the exterior of a yacht. This includes scrubbing the deck, polishing fixtures, sanding, painting and varnishing surfaces, and performing general maintenance. Deckhands also assist with docking and anchoring the yacht and driving its tenders, which are the smaller boats that ferry guests to and from the larger one.

Previous boating experience is a plus but not a requirement to become a deckhand. You will need a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and being physically fit. Deckhands are required to complete the same prerequisites as stewardesses: obtaining a safety training certificate and completing a medical course. 

While you can earn good money as a yacht deckhand, there are some really lucrative jobs a little farther up the ladder, like lead deckhand, bosun and chief officer. All of these are positions you can work your way up to from a job as a deckhand. 

5. Staff musician

If you’re musically inclined, you could put your talents to use professionally. No, we’re not talking about becoming a rock star that plays to sold-out venues and rides around in a tour bus (although that would be pretty awesome, too). We’re talking about a job as a staff musician–the kind employed by organizations in a less glamorous but much more practical capacity.

Staff musicians are full-time or contract employees who fulfill a company’s music needs. Cruise ships, hotels, amusement parks, religious groups, and production houses are just a few organizations that employ staff musicians. 

In addition to performing, staff musicians may write music, create video and audio content, and adapt music to work for different mediums. While prior professional experience can help you get your foot in the door, you’ll get a lot further in this career based on your talent and your ability to network.

6. Chauffeur 

Those who enjoy being behind the wheel may find great satisfaction in a career as a chauffeur. In addition to the obvious duty of driving passengers to and fro, you might also act as a customer service agent (like if you’re transporting a company’s clients), a concierge (providing sightseeing recommendations to out-of-towners) or a confidante (if you’re the personal driver to a high-profile individual). 

Aside from driving, chauffeurs are responsible for keeping their vehicles in pristine condition and in good working order. They also provide basic passenger assistance like loading and unloading bags. 

Some chauffeurs work for a transportation company while others are self-employed. You’ll need a high school diploma and a clean driving record to become a chauffeur. Some localities may require an additional chauffeur’s license. 

7. Insurance adjuster

If there’s one thing on this earth that’s not influenced by the economy, it’s the weather. As long as there are hailstorms and tornadoes, insurance adjusters will need to help sort out the resulting insurance claims. 

An insurance adjuster’s job is to inspect personal property to determine how much an insurance company should pay for the damage. And it’s not just weather related; insurance adjusters also work with automobiles and property after car accidents and more.

It can be a tedious job, but if you’re someone who’s great at handling details, you might love the process of interviewing claimants, gathering facts, creating accurate claims and helping customers navigate their policies. If you’re an adjuster who responds after natural disasters, like going to the hardest hit areas after a hurricane, you can earn more in a few months than many people do in a year. 

Typically, the only education required to become an insurance adjuster is a high school diploma or a GED. In some states, you’ll also need to complete a certification course and pass a licensing exam. 

8. Home inspector

A home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetime. A home inspector helps prospective buyers verify the condition of a home they’re interested in buying while uncovering potential issues with the property. 

A home inspector is part investigator, part teacher, helping buyers understand the condition of the home they may soon be living in. They review every aspect of the house, including the foundation, roof, attic, crawlspaces, plumbing, electrical system, appliances and more. 

You don’t need any specific background experience to become a home inspector; you’ll complete an extensive training course to teach you everything you need. The course usually takes between 60 and 140 hours, and at the end you’ll need to pass a licensing exam.

After that, how much you earn is completely up to you depending on how much you want to work. The majority of home inspectors are self-employed and are paid per inspection, so the more you market yourself and land inspection jobs, the more money you can make. 

9. Usher

Imagine getting paid to see world-class theater productions, amazing concerts, comedy shows, and more. That’s the major perk of the job if you’re an usher. Ushers help people find their seats, navigate the venue at live events, and then stick around to watch the show (while being available to help event attendees as needed). 

While the pay is modest–salaries usually range between $20,000 and $40,000 a year–being an usher can be a fantastic gig for students and people looking to work part time while getting a front row seat to high quality entertainment. 

10. Court reporter

Law and Order junkies can put all those years of binge watching to use by getting a job as a court reporter. A court reporter creates a written transcript of everything that’s said during legal proceedings like trials, hearings, and depositions. 

A court reporter plays an important role in the legal process. They’re responsible for acting as an objective listener, creating a record for posterity that’s easy to read and refer back to. They use specialized training to convert what they hear into writing almost instantly using specialized equipment and transcription techniques. 

Most court reporters get their start by completing a formal training program, some of which can be done online and earning a certification. Some states also require court reporters to be licensed. From there, you can apply for jobs with state and local courts, law offices, corporations, etc. 

11. Tour guide

From the prestigious monuments of Washington, D.C. to the spookiest sites in the French Quarter, you can see it all on a guided tour. If you’re knowledgeable about your area and have a knack for captivating a crowd, you could make a killing as a tour guide. 

A tour guide accompanies groups of visitors to attractions like historic landmarks, museums, and noteworthy geographic locations. But if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you can turn almost anything interesting into a tour–like the alien tour near Area 51 or New York City pizza tour.  

Tour guides may work for a tour company or be self-employed and host their own tours via sites like Groupon or Airbnb Experiences. No formal education is necessary, just the right knowledge and an outgoing personality. 

12. OTR trucker

Those next-day Amazon deliveries don’t magically appear on your doorstep. They arrive largely thanks to a fleet of over-the-road (OTR) truckers making long-haul drives nationwide. The primary duty of an OTR truck driver is to safely deliver cargo to its destination on time, typically via a semi-truck.

OTR trucking allows you to see the country, especially less-traveled destinations you might otherwise never visit. You’ll enjoy a high level of job security, since there will always be a need to move good from one place to another quickly. Plus, there’s the pay–the average OTR trucker salary is $78,000 a year, and much more if you own your own fleet. 

To become an OTR trucker, you’ll need a high school diploma, a relatively clean driving record and a commercial drivers license (CDL). You can obtain your CDL by attending a commercial driving school and passing a written and road test. 

13. Sommelier

Suppose you’ve ever been a server or bartender or held another job in the restaurant industry. In that case, you’ve already completed one of the main prerequisites to become a sommelier–a professional wine expert. 

Sommeliers typically work in fine dining restaurants helping patrons select the perfect wine to complement their meals. Yep, that’s a job! They may also develop wine lists for restaurants and chains, train staff members, and work with chefs to create recipes that work hand-in-hand with the wine. 

Becoming a sommelier takes time. You’ll need to develop an extensive knowledge of every varietal, including identifying different types of wine in a blind taste test (there are courses designed for just this purpose). 

Then, you’ll want to test for certification. There are five consecutive levels of wine certification, each more advanced than the last. Most sommeliers have at least an L3 certification. 

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn