10 Best Surprisingly Good Paying Jobs

Curious what are really good paying jobs? This list has the answer!

Searching for good paying jobs? Are you thinking about changing careers but feeling intimidated about the education and licensure associated with good paying jobs? Exactly how much GRUNT work does it take to get the GRATIFICATION of a new career making at least six figures? We did the math on the grunt-to-grat ratio for you, with 10 jobs you wouldn’t expect to be well-paying, and the details on what it takes to land the position.

Number 10. Railroad conductor Up to $104,000

Railroad conductor
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Did you know that in the U.S., professionalized railroad conductors are still around? Neither did we, but they exist, and they cash in in some areas. The national median salary is just $54,000, but it does go all the way up to $104,000. The grunt is working your way up in a dying industry and learning on the job without many mentors or companies to choose from.

It’s literally one of the high paying jobs with no experience you can find. You’re away from home for long periods of time. But the grat is you get to see the country in an old timey kind of way, you get to feel like that kid you once were with your first train set, and you can avoid the 9 to 5 and tell corporate America to kiss your – uh – caboose. All aboard!


Number 9. Crab fisherman

Up to $200,000

crab fisherman salary
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Tolerating the miserable work of capturing crab through terrifying squalls for five figures per month was popularized by Discovery Channel’s reality series The Deadliest Catch. Even negotiating the dynamic between the personalities on board seems treacherous enough to think twice.

But in recent years, changing safety regulations have made fishing for Dungeness crab more doable. There is also an after-season for other kinds of crab, as well as fish. All said and done, you can still clear $200,000 a year after a few years’ experience.

The grunt work is working your way up, because there is no school for crab fishing. You have to find a crew you trust and respect to show you the ropes when you start as a deckhand. And you’ll be away from home and leave your loved ones behind to worry. The grat is having a nontraditional career and six figures to roll hard on your few days on land.


Number 8. Building inspector

Up to $117,000

building inspector salary
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It’s not super scintillating, but if you’re good with checklists and you have a mind for structural engineering, working for a city government inspecting buildings could bring home six figures.  The grunt part is working your way up in the kind of large bureaucracy – that is, a major U.S. city – that is big enough to pay at least $68,000 per year, and all the way up to $117,000 per year. It’s also highly specialized, so you’ll give up other career tracks. And there are a few months of studying for a standardized exam. But the grat is one of the good paying jobs with predictable days and permanent demand for your skills.

Number 7. Egg donor

Up to $114,000

egg donor requirements
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Searching for good paying jobs for women? Here is one for the ladies. It can be lucrative, but it has its dilemmas. And it’s not really a job, as in an existing role in any company, but an opportunity you could make your full-time gig if you’re really, really determined to get some cash. The grunt is altering your cycle, feeling like a human petri dish, and the whole ethical conundrum of creating a human you’ll never meet. But the grat is up to $14,000 per cycle, so you could, if you go on back-to-back cycles and take two months off, clear $140,000 in a year. 

Number 6. Anesthesiologist

Up to $500,000

how much do anesthesiologist make
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Anesthesiologists, in their quiet bedside role near the superstar surgeon, look like some kind of low-level nurse or technician. They’re actually doctors, and they make bank and they have one of the good paying jobs around. The grunt is med school like any other doctor. It’s one of the jobs that requires a bachelor’s degree in this list.


That’s completing a four year degree, doing the MCAT preparation to take the standardized exam to get into a decent medical school, then going through four years of medical school, and four years of residency that actually comprise a one-year internship plus a three-year residency.

Some anesthesiologists do additional residencies beyond those 12 years mandatory, and then have to study and take the board exam to become board-certified. That board certification is an important credential to earn the trust involved in taking someone safely through a major surgery and recovery. But then the grat is you make more than a family doctor, general practitioner, pediatrician, or psychiatrist does.

That is, anesthesiologists take home, on average $294,811. That is a national average. In larger U.S. cities their annual salary is in the $400 to $500 thousand dollar range. 


Number 5. Write for the federal government

Up to $123,234

pexels aaron kittredge 129112
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A writer-editor for the State Department, in which you don’t do any foreign policy analysis or speech writing, but analyze communication documents and systemic functions of the department itself, grosses you $95,000 to $123,000 per year. If you’d like to do something similar for the Department of Energy, and recommend standards for documentation for audits and other reports, you could start as low as $79,000, but also go up to $123,000, they pay well,.

Number 4. Longshoreman 

Up to $200,000

longshoreman salary
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This job loading and unloading ship cargo at large ports is of course only available if you’re near a big port like Houston, Los Angeles-Long Beach, or New York – or are willing to move. But you might be willing because it’s one of the  good paying jobs out there, hands down . There is no education requirement – just experience.

West Coast longshoremen average $98,000 according to shippingwatch.com, but with overtime and union power to play hardball in negotiations, that salary gets north of $100,000. And an LA Times analysis in 2015 showed over half of longshoremen made over $100,000, while foremen and managers top $200,000.


A few bosses get $300,000, and all get free healthcare. A New York longshoreman makes at least $124,000, with another round of negotiations coming up in 2018. The grunt is working your way up and the intense physical labor with never ending stacks of cargo waiting to be moved. But the grat is the cash, the health care, and holding one of the few jobs that globalization actually needs. And ofcourse having one of the good paying jobs without a degree.

Number 3. Mine operator – underground

Up to $165,000

mining jobs:Mine operator – underground
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It’s not for you if you’re scared of tight spaces, and it’s not glamorous, literally digging around in the dirt. And ther’s this coal miner image out in the pop culture lexicon of being, well, white trash. But you can laugh all the way to the bank, because if you’re willing to work underground, you’ll clear $150,000 to $165,000.

The grunt is learning the trade on the job, the danger, the dirt, and taking such a specific career track that it doesn’t prepare you for much else. But the grat is that it’s among one of the good paying jobs around considering the earnings. And while automation continues to improve mining, you’re not being replaced by a robot quite yet. That is, you will be in demand for a while. 


Number 2. City employees – at least those of affluent towns

Up to $142,903

City employees
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Looking for good paying jobs?Looking for jobs that pay 100k  a year without a degree? You can actually make more than $143,000 without any education requirements in some cities, like Santa Monica. But we picked the silliest job in that particular city that pays six figures: farmers market manager. In fact, 105 City of Santa Monica workers cleared over $300,000 in 2016, to the horror of watchdog blog Transparent California.

The city’s global caché and resulting steady stream of tourists, produce high occupancy taxes – that is, the city’s share of hotel bills – and parking taxes, filling city coffers and boosting salaries for all jobs. The grunt is a dull bureaucratic job – and perhaps your nagging conscience if you happen to be the Assistant City Librarian bringing home $220,558, or occupying another overpaid post. The grat is, well, you have one of  good paying jobs in the city, you’re overpaid and you’re in sunny Santa Monica, or another rich city living large.

Number 1. Firefighter

Up to $121,104 as a starting firefighter

firefighter salary
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Mmm, running into burning buildings and maintaining the fitness level to regularly charge flights of stairs. Maybe not? Think again: it has its advantages. Salaries vary by city and position, but in major cities like New York and LA, you’ll clear six figures. You’ll make at least $121,000 from Day One in Los Angeles, but in New York, you’ll have to work for five years to get to $110,000 as a low level firefighter.


But then you get promoted on your way to Chief and earn more at each level, over $300,000 in some fire departments. The grunt is you’re working in fire, putting yourself in danger, worrying about your coworkers, dealing with deeply distressed people who are watching their homes and offices burning, and you’re also a paramedic, meaning you have to see terrible injuries from violence and witness other human loss.

But you work days at a time and then have chunks of time free, so you can travel and buy toys with the six figures you’re earning, with solid job security. And you get to contribute to your community and truly help people every time you go to work.