Most of us have heard it, especially if we come from poverty: If you can earn $100,000 in a year, you have made it. All troubles are over.
Tons of people are busting their backsides getting a higher education to nab a decently-paid job, only to find themselves doing menial work for bad pay. But why bother with all of that when you can skip college altogether and do some great work for great pay? Perhaps you have a lucrative future in …
Fixing Elevators; You’ll Make More Than the Guy Who Designs Them
You can spend four years earning a bachelor’s degree to become a mechanical engineer. Sure, it sounds like a cool job, but keep in mind that it’s only train engineers who get to wear that awesome little hat. You? You’re designing elevators and stuff. No hat issued whatsoever.
Forbes once ranked “elevator mechanic” as the best-paying blue-collar job. The average pay is slightly less than that of mechanical engineers, but the top 10 percent of elevator mechanics nearly break $100,000 a year.
The best part is that you don’t even need schooling to land the job. What you do need, however, is an inside contact. The industry is heavily dependent on apprenticeships with people who already know their stuff. Guidelines vary by state, but as a general rule, elevator mechanics have a high school diploma and maybe an optional certification; not a bad level of effort for a group of workers that averages in the mid-$70,000 salary range. We’re happy for them. Still, don’t take our happiness to indicate that the whole “guidelines vary” thing isn’t absolutely going to cause us to take the stairs when we leave the office this evening.
Running a Hot Dog Cart; You’ll Make as Much as a Fancy Chef
You can spend up to four years earning a degree from a culinary school, then spend who knows how much longer working your way up, burned and bruised, from a lowly cook to an executive chef. Then, you’d have to get another part-time job on the side, because executive chef salaries max out at around $87,000. If you work really hard, you might even climb high enough for Gordon Ramsay to scream obscenities at you all day.
Or, you can grow a thicket of chest hair and distribute hot dogs from a questionably hygienic cart. Hot dog vendors across our great nation are earning an average of $100,000 a year. If they mush their dogs vigorously enough, a vendor in a high-traffic location can pull $1,150 in a single weekend. But that’s not to say it’s money for nothing and the chicks for free. Mohammad Mustafa, a proud pig purveyor at one of New York City’s most trafficked corners near the Central Park Zoo, pays New York’s parks department $289,500 a year just to park his cart there. But don’t mourn for him because he still manages to turn a profit.
Being a Longshoreman; They Earn More Than Some of the Ship’s Officers
You can attend the Merchant Marine Academy, and then spend years climbing the ranks to become a ship’s officer. It’s hard, but you’ll save a lot of money on dates because your sole mistress will be the sea.
Or, you can load and unload cargo ships. It requires no schooling, and you’ll make an average of $70,000 to $120,000 a year. And if you stick with it long enough to bump your way up to foreman? Well, then you can take home a yearly salary of a smooth quarter mill.
To give you an idea of how much of the world’s economy depends on the oceanic equivalent of truckers, in early 2015, a labor dispute with West Coast port workers was estimated to cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day. Two billion dollars. A day. And that’s just one coast. If memory serves, we have two.
If you want to get started, our best advice is to start hanging around the union hall looking for casual labor until you can bumble your way into a union membership. In practice, it helps to have an “in,” such as a relative who’s already in the union.
Cleaning Golf Hazards; You’ll Make as Much as a Physicist
You can spend a good third of your life getting your PhD (the average person earning the diploma is 33 years old), followed by a few more years slogging through lowly postdoctoral research jobs, to become a physicist.
Or you can dive for golf balls. That’s not a gross euphemism. It’s a real career.
A golf ball diver can clear $100,000 a year diving into water hazards, rescuing scads of lost golf balls from the muck, and reselling them. Golf is a nearly $70 billion industry in the U.S., and balls make up no small part of that. A box of a dozen new ones can easily cost more than 50 bucks, but the more budget-conscious can instead visit a golf ball diver and pick up a dozen gently drowned ones for less than $20.
With an estimated hundreds of millions of balls lost in the U.S. every single year, business is very good. Business is not, however, easy. Golf ball divers must deal with hazards such as gators, venomous snakes, pesticides, fisherman, fertilizers, and, perhaps worst of all, a bunch of jerks making endless shaft and ball jokes.
Bringing People’s Luggage to the Plane; You’ll Make More Than the Pilot
You can spend a few years in flight school and then spend a minimum of 1,500 hours flying planes in order to achieve the necessary certification to become a commercial airline pilot.
Or you can be a skycap! It’s a decidedly less professional title than “pilot,” sure, but those guys who check in your luggage curbside at the airport make a good living. They also assist with navigating the labyrinthine terminals, distributing boarding passes, helping people figure out the location of their shuttle and/or rental car, and fetching wheelchairs.
On average, skycaps are paid similarly to restaurant servers – two to three dollars hourly. But unlike the waitresses at that crappy airport Applebee’s, a skycap can rake in $75,000 to $100,000 a year in tips. It’s so lucrative that the CEO of one company that provides skycaps to airlines said, “I know several who don’t even bother cashing their salary checks because the tips are so good.”