Hate the 9-to-5? 15 Cool Careers with Unconventional Hours

Jan 24, 2013 -
At some point in the grand history of America, it was decreed that everyone was supposed to work for eight hours a day, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Yet ever since Dolly Parton started belting out her famous anti-9-to-5 anthem, this regulated regimen has gotten major flak. Whether you think the 9-to-5 is arbitrary, counter-productive or just out of touch with your life priorities (not to mention natural circadian rhythm!), you’re in good—and growing—company. And even if you can’t start a flex-time revolution at your current workplace, you can find plenty of jobs that accommodate a less traditional schedule. Freelance and consulting jobs are obvious contenders based on the inherent work variety, but careers in healthcare, disaster response, media and travel are also prime candidates for outside-the-box scheduling. If the 9-to-5 agenda just isn’t for you, check out these 15 careers with unconventional hours:

1. Freelance Web Designer

The demand for beautiful and functional Web pages is high. So if you’ve got the chops, you can set your own schedule, pick your own projects and make the World Wide Web a more awesome place to browse—from the comfort of your couch. Average Salary: $78,000

2. Nurse

Medical care doesn’t stop at 5:00 p.m. As a nurse—as with many medical-related professions—you build your work schedule around flexible shifts. Whether you’re a night owl, early bird or non-traditionalist, you’ve got options. Average Salary: $66,000

3. Real Estate Agent

Selling homes is a ‘round-the-clock business. Working with your clients’ schedules, you choose the best times to show off properties. Your on-the-job hours may fall on nights or weekends, but you’ll never have a set routine. Average Salary: $39,000

4. Social Media Consultant

Helping businesses stay up to speed on the latest social media trends keeps you on the move sharing your expertise via project-based work. As a consultant, expect to do your fair share of hustling. The tradeoff? You’ve got the privilege of setting your own hours and working in your pajamas every once in awhile. Average Salary: $43,000

5. Political Campaign Manager

During election season, campaign managers work 24/7. Since each campaign is its own intense, unique project, campaign careers are a good match for people who like throwing themselves 100 percent into work for concentrated periods of time, then taking an extended (and well-deserved) break. Average Salary: $53,000

6. Personal Trainer

This career path keeps you on your toes, puts you face-to-face with clients and lets you set your own hours for individual pump-up sessions and group workouts. Yes, you may still hang out by the water cooler. But it’s a totally different atmosphere than a traditional office. Average Salary: $31,000

7. Air Traffic Controller

Planes take to the skies at all hours, so this job comes with adjustable shift scheduling. The work can be stressful—you’ve got to hone your concentration skills to keep planes flying safely—but if you’re looking for non-traditional hours and a big paycheck, this could be a good fit. Average Salary: $113,000

8. Graphic Designer

Whether you’re designing a new logo for an indie band or working on a branding package for a major corporation, your projects—and hours—can be all over the place. Industry competition can be tough, but if you survive the squeeze, you can score the flexibility you crave. Average Salary: $44,000

9. Tax Accountant

As an independently operating accountant, you choose to work when you want, where you want and with whom you want. However, most tax accountants’ years follow a general pattern: long hours during tax season and a lot of down time in the late summer. Average Salary: $32,000

10. Makeup Artist

Freelance makeup artists can cash in on irregular hours. Whether you’re perfecting a bride’s makeup bright and early on her big day or staying late at a glitzy photo shoot, this career doesn’t abide by traditional time frames. Average Salary: $53,000

11. Court Reporter

In this versatile role, you create word-for-word transcripts of speeches, legal battles and other noteworthy events. While some court reporters work in an actual court, others use recordings to work from home. In that case, your hours are your own to dictate—as long as you meet your deadlines. Average Salary: $48,000

12. Dental Hygienist

Flexibility is the name of the game for dental hygienists. Because single dentists often only need a hygienist a few days a week, most hygienists work at multiple locations. That makes it easier to choose your days off or create a custom schedule of evening, weekend or everything-in-between work. Average Salary: $69,000

13. Sports Coach

Early morning track practice. Afternoon games on the court. Far-and-wide travels to recruit new players. Whether you’re a major league coach or in charge of a high school sports team, this job is sure to extend beyond 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Average Salary: $28,000

14. Travel Guide

Traveling to distant locals will keep you far from a conventional punch clock. To keep your tour members happy, healthy and ready to explore the next monument, you’ve got to be on your game 24 hours a day. The upside? Enjoying blocks of downtime between each expedition. Average Salary: $30,000

15. Consultant

Consulting is the granddaddy of flexible career fields. In this role, you swoop in, offer your clients savvy advice and help companies succeed in your area of expertise. Your work will take you from office to office, never staying in one spot—or on one specific schedule—for too long. Average Salary: $70,000 Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps career changers and choosers discover strong career choices and find the right education to make it happen. Follow her on Twitter at @InsideJobs!