Top 10 Unexpectedly High-Paying Jobs

When most people think of high-paying jobs, there are several classic well-to-do professions that come to mind. For example, everyone knows that more often than not, lawyers, doctors, and CEOs are likely to see a pretty hefty paycheck each year.

However, many other careers come along with unexpectedly high salaries. From air traffic controllers to art directors, funeral managers to foresters, there is a varied range of jobs that bring in much more money than one might expect. Read on for a review of ten unexpectedly high-paying jobs, according to an employment survey from the US Department of Labor.

Salary information listed below is based on the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (May 2017)

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controller at work
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Air traffic controllers are responsible for directing the flow of commercial airline flights. They authorize and regulate the pathways of flights.

Air traffic controllers must complete an FAA-recognized education program, and attend a training course at the FAA Academy.

Air traffic controllers make an average annual salary of $124,540.


Astronomers looking through telescope
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Astronomers are involved in the observation, analysis, and research of various astronomical phenomena, such as the movements of celestial bodies like moons, planets, stars, and galaxies.

Many astronomers have educational backgrounds in mathematics or physics. Professional astronomers generally possess a PhD in physics, astronomy, or astrophysics, and tend to be employed by high-level research universities.

Professional astronomers make an average annual salary of $117,220.

Nurse Midwife

Nurse with pregnant patient
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Either working on their own or as part of a medical team, nurse midwives are advanced practice registered nurses. They are involved in OB/GYN healthcare for women, and are specifically responsible for care before, during, and even after childbirth.

To become a nurse midwife, you must receive a degree from an accredited program. You also need to pass a national certification exam.

Nurse midwives make an average annual salary of $100,590.

Art Director

Woman looking at photos on computer
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Art directors develop and design visual communication methods and strategies for various companies. Art directors are often involved in the conception of graphic design and layouts for a company's website, advertising campaigns, and/or overarching multimedia marketing strategies.

Art directors might work for an advertising or public relations firm, a newspaper or magazine, or even work for motion picture industries.

Art directors make an average annual salary of $92,500.

Funeral Service Manager

Funeral procession
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Funeral service managers oversee the operations of a funeral home, and may also be involved in the planning and coordination of individual memorial services.

Funeral service managers are also responsible for the attainment and sale of funeral home merchandise and services, such as caskets or cremation.

Funeral service managers make an average annual salary of $78,040.

Talent Agent

Performer on stage
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Talent agents (also simply called agents) are the masterminds behind artists, performers, and athletes. They often serve as the middleman between their clients and potential employers or customers, handling auditions or tryouts, contract negotiations, perks and paycheck terms, and publicity matters.

Although agents don't receive the million-dollar paychecks their clients are accustomed to, they do make an average annual salary of $75,540.

Postmaster and Mail Superintendent

Man overlooking warehouse
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Postmasters and mail superintendents plan and coordinate the administrative and operational services of U.S. post offices. They also supervise the postal workers working under their office.

Postmasters and mail superintendents make an average annual salary of $75,660.


Creative professional designing on computer
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Animators formulate and design special effects, digital animation, and other multimedia elements for movies, television shows, computer games, music videos, commercials, and other forms of media. The might work freelance, or for a specific production company.

Animators make an average annual salary of $70,530.


Lumberjack felling tree
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Foresters are involved in all types of environmental and outdoor work, such as managing wilderness or protected lands, appraising the value of an allotted acreage, maintaining forest health, and working on conservation efforts.

Foresters make an average annual salary of $60,970.


One box missing from rows of boxes on shelves
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Archivists are researchers who appraise and manage historically valuable documents and records. They may also participate in research based on archived essays, letters or photographs, and are involved in the maintenance and upkeep of such materials. They sometimes help other researchers or visitors look for items in the archives.

Archivists make an average annual salary of $51,760.