Work

27 high-paying jobs perfect for people who don't want to sit at a desk

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If your worst fear involves fluorescent lights, a cubicle, and a stack of documents to be filled out — don't worry. You don't have to sacrifice a comfortable salary and lifestyle for the pleasure of not being chained to a desk for 40-plus hours a week.

CNBC Make It analyzed occupational data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to discover which jobs pay annual salaries of at least $75,000 and take workers outside the confines of a typical office to do everything from perform surgery to collect water samples to solve crimes.

The resulting 27 roles pay as much as $267,020 a year, and while we can't promise you'll never have to sit a desk and fill out a report, for the most part you won't be staring at a computer screen day in and day out.

If you crave an ever-changing day and an outside-the-box work environment, consider one of these 27 occupations:

Astronomers

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Median annual pay: $105,680
Projected job growth through 2026: 10%

These scientists are focused on the sky, studying planets, stars, galaxies and other celestial bodies. Using equipment like optical telescopes on Earth or the Hubble Space telescope, astronomers hope to increase scientific understanding of distant stars, galaxies, and phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes. They may also monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations. Some astronomers may be working to create new theories as to what gravity is or how the universe was formed, while others work in applied research using the insights they gain to improve electronics, communications, navigation, or medical technology. Research or academia roles for astronomers usually require that candidates have a Ph.D.

Airline pilots

Twenty20

Median annual pay: $140,340
Projected job growth through 2026: 3%

These pilots work primarily for airlines that transport passengers and cargo on a fixed schedule. They can serve as either captains, who supervise all other flight crew members and are responsible for the flight, or as copilots, who share flight duties with the captain. In some older planes, pilots may serve a third function as a flight engineer or someone who monitors instruments and operates controls.

Airline pilots typically need a bachelor's degree in any subject, along with a commercial pilot's license and an ATP certificate from the FAA. Most airline pilots begin their flying careers working as commercial pilots, accruing thousands of flight hours to gain the experience needed to land a job with a regional or major airline.

Construction managers

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Median annual pay: $93,370
Projected job growth through 2026: 11%

Also called general contractors or project managers, these workers coordinate and supervise a wide variety of building projects from start to finish. They prepare cost estimates, budgets and work timetables for the project, collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction specialists, select subcontractors and coordinate their activities, ensure compliance with legal regulations and safety standards. They spend most of their time working out of a field office at the construction site of their project so they can monitor progress and quick daily decisions about construction activities.

You can enter this occupation in a variety of ways, but it is becoming increasingly important for construction managers to have a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering, as construction processes become more complex and employers place greater importance on specialized education, according to the BLS. Some individuals with a high school diploma and several years experience in a construction trade may be hired as construction managers too, though they typically qualify to become self-employed general contractors.

Detectives and criminal investigators

Long Beach police homicide detective examines the clothes of a teenager who was shot and killed.
MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images | Digital First Media | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $79,970
Projected job growth through 2026: 5%

These types of law enforcement officers collect evidence and gather facts for criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects and participate in raids and arrests. They typically specialize in one type of crime such as homicide or fraud and work on a case until an arrest and trial are completed or the case is dropped.

To become a detective, you'll need at least a high school diploma, although many federal agencies and some police departments require college coursework or a college degree.

Anesthesiologists

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Average annual pay: $267,020
Projected job growth through 2026: 15%

These healthcare workers administer drugs that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain for patients during an operation or another medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed, and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. Outside of the operating room, they may provide pain relief to patients in the intensive care unit, women in labor, and to patients with chronic pain.

Anesthesiologists typically need a bachelor's degree, a degree from a medical school, and experience through internships and residency programs.

Surgeons

Surgeons perform a liver transplant procedure at The Mayo Clinic
Source: The Mayo Clinic

Average annual pay: $251,890
Projected job growth through 2026: 14%

Through operations, these healthcare works attempt to treat patents' injuries, diseases, or deformities. Some may perform general surgery, but many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area, such as orthopedic surgery, neurological surgery, or plastic or reconstructive surgery.

Surgeons have demanding education and training requirements. They typically need a bachelor's degree, a degree from a medical school, and several years experience with internship and residency programs.

Elevator installers and repairers

A repairman working on a controller box for an elevator.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $79,780
Projected job growth through 2026: 12%

These workers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, chairlifts and other lifts. Elevator repairers typically earn a little more as their job requires a greater knowledge of electronics, hydraulics and electricity than do installers, since a large part of maintenance and repair work is troubleshooting.

Becoming an elevator installer or repairer starts with a four-year apprenticeship program sponsored by a union, industry association or individual contractor. To enter such a program, you'll need a high school diploma. Even after the program, on-going training is required and 35 states, currently, require an installer or repairer to be licensed.

Family and general physicians

An elderly man talking to his doctor about some recent test results.
Tom Werner | DigitalVision | Getty Images

Average annual pay: $211,780
Projected job growth through 2026: 14%

This is your everyday doctor, the one you see for everything from respiratory infections to broken bones. They are trained to assess and treat a range of conditions and typically have regular, long-term patients. And much like other physicians and surgeons they too must obtain a bachelor's degree, a degree from a medical school, which takes four years to complete, and complete several years of internship and residency programs to practice medicine.

Orthodontists

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Median annual pay: $208,000
Projected job growth through 2026: 19%

These doctors correct and treat teeth misalignment and bite issues by applying pressure to the teeth through braces or other appliances.

To become an orthodontist, you must graduate from a dental school program and be licensed in the state in which you work.

Powerhouse, substation, and relay electrical and electronics repairers

Huntstock | Brand X Pictures | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $80,200
Projected job growth through 2026: 4%

Also known as powerhouse electricians, relay technicians or power transformer repairers, these workers specialize in inspecting, maintaining and repairing all electrical equipment used in power generating stations, substations and in-service relays.

Becoming one will require a high school diploma, though many employers prefer applicants who have also taken courses in electronics at a community college or technical school. In addition to such schooling demands, workers in this field usually start their career as an electrician in order to gain the experience needed for this role.

Commercial pilots

Photographer taking photos with camera out of seaplane window while flying in Southeastern U.S.
VW Pics | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $82,240
Projected job growth through 2026: 4%

These pilots handle unscheduled flight activities, such as aerial application, charter flights and aerial tours. Some, known as corporate pilots, transport company executives. They are also typically responsible for other non-flight duties such as scheduling flights, arranging for maintenance of the aircraft and loading luggage.

To become one, you'll need a commercial pilot's license and high school diploma. Most commercial pilots complete their training with independent FAA-certified flight instructors or at schools that offer flight training.

Pediatricians

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Average annual pay: $187,540
Projected job growth through 2026: 15%

Hopefully, you got a lollipop every time you went to visit this doctor growing up. Pediatricians provide care for children, focusing on treating common illnesses and minor injuries, administering vaccinations, and handling problems specific to younger people and their development.

As with all the other kinds of doctors mentioned previously, you'll need to earn bachelor's degree and a degree from a medical school, which takes four years to complete, as well as complete several years of internship and residency programs to practice medicine and become a pediatrician.

Prosthodontists

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Median annual pay: $176,540
Projected job growth through 2026: 19%

These dentists specialize in replace missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures, such as dentures.

To become one, you'll need to graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams as well as obtain a license from the state in which you'll practice. Additional training, usually a two- to four-year residency, is also needed.

Geoscientists

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Median annual pay: $91,130
Projected job growth through 2026: 14%

Geoscientists are interested in understanding the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes. Many are involved in the search for and development of natural resources, such as petroleum. Others work in environmental protection and preservation, and are involved in projects to clean up and reclaim land, according to the BLS. They typically carry out field studies, analyze aerial photographs and well logs, conduct lab tests on samples collected in the field, and then prepare reports presenting their findings to clients.

Most geoscientist roles require at least a bachelor's degree, but many workers in the field now have a master's degree as well.

Environmental engineers

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Median annual pay: $87,620
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These workers combine engineering principals, biology, chemistry and soil science to create solutions to environmental problems. They work on problems ranging from improving recycling and waste disposal to water and air pollution control. Some focus on global issues like climate change and environmental sustainability. They may also be called upon to inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to make sure they are compliance with environmental regulations, advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites.

To become one, you'll need a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field, such as civil, chemical, or general engineering.

First line supervisors of fire fighters

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Median annual wage: $76,330
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%

As the name suggests, these fire fighters are responsible for supervising and coordinating the actions of other fire fighters engaged in battling blazes or those working on fire prevention measures. They may also need to oversee rescue operations. Enforcing correct departmental procedures fall to them as well.

To take this rank in a fire house, workers typically have attended some college, but no degree is required, and have done a fair bit of on-the-job training.

Dentists

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Median annual pay: $151,850
Projected job growth through 2026: 19%

These healthcare workers diagnose and treat problems relating to a patient's teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They also provide advice to patients on how to best to take care of their teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Dentists must be licensed in the states in which they work and to obtain one, candidates usually must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams.

Nurse practitioners

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Median annual wage: $107,030
Projected job growth through 2026: 36%

These nurses serve as primary and specialty care providers. They often work independently or in collaboration with physicians. They assess patients to determine the best way to treat or manage a person's health issue. Many nurse practitioners specializing in caring for certain needs, such as geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.

To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master's degree from an accredited medical program. They must also have a registered nursing licenses before pursuing education in one of these advanced practice roles such as nurse practitioner.

First line supervisors of police and detectives

A Boston police captain is pinned by her daughter after being promoted.
Boston Globe | Boston Globe | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $89,030
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%

More commonly known as patrol sergeants, police captains or police sergeants, these law enforcement workers earn a premium thanks to their management role directly supervising and coordinating the activities of a police force. It is their responsibility to ensure that cases and procedures are conducted correctly according to the law. They may also train new staff. And while they may not be out in the field every day like the officers they manage, many leaders in the police force still get called out to crime scenes to assist or make public statements.

To graduate to this level, an officer needs a high school diploma as well as on-the-job training.

Geographers

Hero Images | Hero Images | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $80,300
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%

These workers study the planet and how land, inhabitants and other features are distributed across it. They also examine how political or cultural structures may be impacting the geographic characteristics of a region. Geographers do this by gathering data through field observations, maps, photographs, satellite imagery, and censuses. They may then need to modify maps or other representations of geographic data, advise others in understanding the data and in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or link the geographic data to issues in other fields like economics, health or politics.

For entry-level position and federal government roles, a bachelor's degree is required. More advanced positions typically need a master's degree.

Hydrologists

GregorBister | E+ | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $79,370
Projected job growth through 2026: 10%

These workers study how water moves across and through the Earth's surface, how forms of precipitation impact river flows and groundwater levels, and how surface water and groundwater evaporates into the atmosphere or eventually joins oceans. They are hoping to learn more about how water influences its environment and how changes to our environment, such as pollution or drought, impact water quality and quantity so that they can solve problems communities may be experiencing with water safety or availability. They often measure the properties of bodies of water and collect water and soil samples for testing.

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree for many entry-level positions in this field, though many workers obtain a master's degree.

Nuclear power reactor operators

Monty Rakusen | Cultura | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $94,350
Projected job growth through 2026: -10%

These workers control nuclear reactors. They adjust control rods to affect how much electricity a reactor generates and monitor reactors, turbines, generators and cooling systems.

Nuclear power reactor operators typically only need a high school diploma, though the role does require extensive on-the-job training. Workers usually start as equipment operators working under more senior employees and also receive formal technical training to prepare for their license exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Physician assistants

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Median annual wage: $108,610
Projected job growth through 2026: 37%

Commonly called PAs, these workers assist physicians and surgeons examine, diagnose and treat patients. They may be called upon to review a patient's medical history, examine a patient, order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose a patient's injury or illness, provide treatment, prescribe medication, and counsel patients about their health.The extent to which a PA must be supervised by physicians or surgeons differs from state to state, but in rural and medically underserved communities, PAs commonly function as primary care providers at clinics where a physician is present only one or two days per week.

To become a PA, you'll need a master's degree from an accredited program. It typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. All states require physician assistants to be licensed, meaning they must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. In addition, state licensure laws mandate that a physician assistant must hold an agreement with a supervising physician since collaboration between physicians and physician assistants is required for practice.

Nurse midwives

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Median annual wage: $103,770
Projected job growth through 2026: 21%

These nurses specialize in caring for women. They perform gynecological exams and provide family planning services and prenatal care. They also deliver babies; manage emergency situations during labor, such as hemorrhaging; repair lacerations; and may provide surgical assistance to physicians during cesarean births. Nurse midwives can act as primary care providers for women and newborns.

To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master's degree from an accredited medical program. They must also have a registered nursing licenses before pursuing education to become a midwife nurse.

Power plant operators

Monty Rakusen | Cultura | Getty Images

Median annual wage: $79,610
Projected job growth through 2026: 1%

Power plant operators control and maintain the machinery used to generate electricity and distribute power among generators. They must also correct voltage and flows to meet changing consumer demands depending on the time of day.

Becoming a power plant operator requires a similar path to becoming a distributor or dispatchers. As with those roles, you'll need a high school diploma and will be expected to complete several years of on-site training and experience. You may also require certification through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's System Operator Certification Program, if your work could affect the power grid.

Occupational therapists

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Median annual wage: $84,270
Projected job growth through 2026: 24%

These workers help people regain or develop the skills necessary for daily living. They work with patients to complete therapeutic exercises and stretches, engage children with developmental disabilities in play activities to help with coordination or socialization, and teach patients how to use special equipment that will make tasks, such as eating, easier. They work with occupational therapists to create and implement each patient's treatment plan.

Most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a master's degree in occupational therapy.

Nurse anesthetists

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Median annual wage: $167,950
Projected job growth through 2026: 16%

These nurses provide anesthesia and related care during surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures. Before a procedure begins, they are responsible for reviewing a patient's current medication as well as any allergies or illnesses they might have to ensure anesthesia can be safely administered. They then give the patient anesthesia or apply a local anesthesia to numb a certain area of the body. They will remain with a patient throughout a procedure to check their health and adjust the anesthesia as necessary.

To become one of these advanced practice registered nurses, workers must earn at least a master's degree from an accredited medical program. To qualify, they'll need to have a registered nursing license before pursuing such education. Prospective nurse anesthetists must also have one year of clinical experience as a prerequisite for admission to an accredited nurse anesthetist program. Candidates typically have experience working as a registered nurse in an acute care or critical care setting.

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