5 Unconventional Jobs With Great Benefits

By Jean Folger | August 04, 2011 AAA

Unconventional jobs are those that most people wouldn't think of when choosing a career path. Often reserved for free spirits or for those who value intrinsic rewards above financial pay-offs, these alternative vocations can provide the opportunity for people to make a living doing what they love. While some unusual jobs are, umm, unappealing, to say the least (such as a Bat Guano Collector or Flatulence Analyst), others offer heaps of perks, though not always the financial kind. Here is a look at five of these unconventional careers with great benefits. (For some ideas on the highest paid jobs, check out Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs For 2011.)
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Circus Artist
Circus artists are trained professionals who perform with resident or touring shows. Generally, a circus artist specializes in a specific talent, such as acrobat or trapeze artist, aerialist, trampolinist or dancer. Depending on the troupe, talented circus artists can pull in moderate six figure salaries.

The famed Cirque Do Soleil company, for example, offers its touring performers competitive compensation and vacation policies, performance bonuses, return transportation home once per year, lodging and transportation between cities, medical, dental, disability and life insurance coverage, gourmet buffet-style meals most days and free tickets to any Cirque Du Soleil show. Circus artists often have the added benefit of traveling the world and meeting interesting people from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Traveling School Teacher
Being a school teacher is a fairly conventional career, but teaching at a school that travels with the students is a different story. Teachers at The Traveling School, for example, spend 15 weeks each semester exploring exotic overseas destinations, all while teaching academic courses, participating in outdoor adventures and completing service and volunteer projects with the students.

The curriculum is adjusted to take advantage of the environment and culture each country offers. Pay for traveling teachers varies (depending on experience and credentials), but typically all travel-related expenses, including flights, accommodations and meals and any recreational activities are covered by the school. Traveling teachers are able to immerse themselves in a variety of cultures while helping young people gain a global perspective.

Adventure Travel Trip Leader
Adventure travel trip leaders are the guides, interpreters and managers of groups of tourists traveling to domestic and international destinations for a variety of pursuits. Some trip leaders engage in low-risk activities, such as walking tours or easy road-biking trips, while others take groups on adventure sport excursions, including activities like kayaking, surfing, mountain biking and bungee jumping.

Trip leaders at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (http://www.noc.com/), for example, guide small groups of whitewater kayakers down rivers in the Dominican Republic, and leaders at Backroads Travel (http://www.backroads.com/) show tourists California's wine country by bicycle. Salaries for adventure travel trip leaders depend on experience and specialty, but are often greatly enhanced by hard-earned gratuities. Additional benefits include all travel-related expenses, and getting paid to do something you love. (To help make your current job better, read 6 Ways To Learn To Love Your Job.)

Beer Cicerone
Similar to wine sommeliers, beer cicerones are certified experts who have learned every aspect of beer including different styles, storage and draft systems, and pairings. A certification program was established in 2007 (http://www.cicerone.org/) by Ray Daniels - a Harvard graduate and the president of the Craft Beer Institute. So far, more than 5,000 beer enthusiasts have become Certified Beer Servers; more than 200 have develop into Certified Cicerones; and only three have earned the coveted title of Master Cicerone.

Because of the growing popularity of craft beers, there is an increased demand for standards in beer service, handling and presentation. Cicerones are employed by pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants that want to offer customers a better beer experience. Pay depends on location, knowledge, experience and certification. As an added benefit, cicerones must "study" all of the beers that they will be presenting, and then share and compare the brews with other beer enthusiasts.

Stunt Performers
Stunt performers, also called stunt doubles, are trained professionals who perform dangerous or challenging acts so that regular actors and actresses don't have to. Appearing in television and movie productions, stunt actors are typically members of a union such as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Stunt performers undergo continuous training to perfect falling out of buildings, jumping out of airplanes and driving cars at break-neck speeds.

The Screen Actors Guild specifies minimum rates that stunt performers must receive while working: $809 per day or $3,015 per week. Stunt performers have exciting jobs and enjoy unusual benefits - in addition to competitive pay - including meeting famous people, seeing the behind-the-scenes side of the movie and television industries and unlimited adrenaline.

The Bottom Line
These five jobs are unconventional because most people would never think of them when choosing a career path. Out-of-the-ordinary jobs often result in "You get paid to do what?" responses when careers come up in conversation. Benefits vary, and while some unconventional jobs boast competitive salaries, others entice people simply because of their intrinsic rewards. (To help you find the job of your dreams, see 5 Tips For Finding Your Perfect Job Online.)

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