However, sometimes unusual jobs appear in the course of a news story. A news article about the efforts of New Zealand fruit growers to grow kiwi fruit with an edible or peelable skin included the startling statistic that the country has 17 “kiwi sommeliers.” Not tasters, mind you, but sommeliers.
OK, even “kiwi taster” would rank among unusual jobs when there are only 17 in New Zealand and, presumably, in the entire world. A search of unusual jobs uncovers many candidates that generally fall into predictable categories (references given later):
– Surprising: banana gasser; snake milker; human statue; hot (horse) walker
– Disgusting: vomit cleaner (for roller coasters); crime scene cleaner; pet food tester; poop scoopers of many varieties
– Odd-Sounding: chicken sexer; smokejumper (parachuting firefighter); golf ball diver; citrus fruit dyer
– The Stuff of Dreams: mattress tester; waterslide tester; chocolate taster; island caretaker
What’s the attraction? Perhaps if I’m having a bad day at work I’d like to fantasize about a wonderful job somewhere; or sigh with relief that some people have it worse than me. Perhaps a young friend is thinking about careers and the thought comes, what if there’s some fabulous, little-heard-of occupation that would be just perfect for him or her?
Entertainment aside, you will rarely find regular full-time jobs advertised under any of these names. Some of the “occupations” are merely one of many tasks performed by someone with a more prosaic job title. Some of them are the fodder of consultants who may get a few hours of work now and then but who have to hustle if they want to pay the rent that way. And most of the jobs listed have minimal educational requirements, so if a great job is sitting out there you can be sure that many people will be competing to capture it.
Science Speculation: Since this is a science blog, are there unusual jobs in science that would be fascinating, or exciting, or unique? When I looked around, I found more than a dozen such jobs. One “unusual jobs” site in particular was especially rich in science jobs. It’s Virginia Career VIEW, a website run by the Commonwealth of Virginia to encourage middle schoolers to think ahead about career choices. It features 27 jobs, each one accented by a cute image of kids doing appropriate things, and over half of the jobs call for four years or more of college science. Another great source, though not tweaked toward unusual jobs, is the Bureau of Labor Statistics guide to careers in the sciences.
There’s one important marker of a job that might deserve the serious attention of a young person, or a mature person looking for a career change. A recognized occupation in science will always have a professional society that provides training, networking, career guidance, skills renewal – all the social connections that accompany a long-term endeavor. And that society will (I claim) always be a dot-org: that is, it will have a web domain ending with .org. It will not be one of the many dot-coms and dot-edus that sprout up in every field, intent on advancing their own goals. Of course, some profit-making dot-com enterprises misleadingly register themselves as dot-orgs, so you have to be careful. Some dot-orgs are societies of scientists, others are organizations that support companies and individuals in a particular industry.
So that this blog can climb on the bandwagon of unusual jobs, here’s a table I compiled of 14 unusual jobs in science. The “Cluster” column refers to the broad field of study that includes this job. Each job listed is an established profession or specialty that you can actually become proficient at and have a career in.
What They Do
|Biology||Animal Behaviorist||Help animals be happy in your home or in a zoo||Masters or PhD in physiology, biochemistry, biology, behavioral sciences|
|Biology||Marine Animal Trainer||Train animals to perform & protect their health||Bachelors in animal science, marine biology, zoology, biology|
|Chemistry||Food Scientist||Invent & develop new foods & flavors||Bachelors or Masters in Food Science|
|Chemistry||Forensic Scientist||Document crime scenes; laboratory testing of evidence||Bachelors in chemistry, biology or engineering plus MD or masters in forensic science or criminology|
|Computers||Game Designer & Developer||Create & test games for entertainment, medicine or training||Bachelors, perhaps Masters, in computer science, math or physics|
|Design||3D Graphic Designer / 3D Animator||Create convincing animations||Bachelors in graphic design or computer animation|
|Design||Hospitality Designer||Design restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, resorts||Bachelors in interior design or architecture|
|Design||Theme Park Ride Designer & Engineer||Invent & design exciting theme park attractions||Bachelors in art, architecture, industrial design or
|Design||Toy Designer||Invent & improve toys & their retail packaging||Bachelors or masters in art, graphic design, industrial design, engineering, education, or child development.|
|Engineering||Acoustical Engineer||Design acoustics of theaters, arenas, meeting rooms||Masters or PhD in Acoustics|
|Engineering||Geotechnical Engineer||Analyze foundations, tunnels, retaining walls||Bachelors in civil engineering, Masters in civil engineering or geotechnical engineering|
|Healthcare||Palliative & Hospice Caregiver||Maximize a patient’s quality of life||Bachelors or Masters in nursing|
|Psychology||Laughter Therapist||Help people find joy through their inner child||Masters or PhD in social work or psychology|
|Psychology||Traffic & Driving Psychologist||Training, signage & counseling for improved safety||PhD in psychology with traffic/driving specialization|
OK, maybe some of these occupations don’t have the same grab-your-arm visceral appeal as Mai Tai Tester or Michelin Restaurant Critic, but still…
Can unusual job titles help motivate young people in career choices? Do scientists get a kick out of having unusual jobs that provide conversational fodder?
Drawing Credit: jonata, on openclipart.org