Film directors, cardiac surgeons, trial lawyers, and hotshot Silicon Valley entrepreneurs probably never have to worry about impressing dinner party guests. Some jobs come carry the kind of cachet that makes everyone wants to hear about them.
But there are many other quieter roles that pay well, even if they carry less prestige. The work may be unglamorous, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s unfulfilling. And a good salary can go a long way toward a comfortable life outside of work, and maybe even an early retirement.
Take a look at these jobs that are often underrated or overlooked. The salary that comes with them is far from boring. (See also: 12 Gross Jobs That Pay Pretty Well)
1. Podiatrist, median salary: $194,108
To some people, feet are best covered in shoes and socks and forgotten about. To others, they’re a way to make a handsome living.
To be clear, podiatrists don’t just work with feet, but also ankles and lower legs. While the work can be exciting in some respects, there are a lot of mundane routines that are performed daily. From treating bunions and ingrown toenails, to dealing with smelly feet, corns, and calluses, it can be what many of us would consider unpleasant work.
And it takes a lot of education to get there: Podiatrists must first complete a four-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college, which cannot be done until a bachelor’s degree in a related field has been attained. After all that, a further three-year surgical residency must be completed. That’s 11 years of education and training before the money starts to roll in. But when the paychecks do come in, podiatrists can earn $194,108 per year. If you want more excitement, you could always take up sky diving or motorcycle riding in your spare time.
2. Software engineering manager, median salary: $130,246
Are you good with computers? Do you not mind sitting in front of a screen for eight hours a day? Are you ready to manage a department filled with people who all write code for a living? This could be the job for you.
A software engineering manager is responsible for designing, developing, modifying, and maintaining software programs. You won’t find a lot of movies where a software engineering manager is the hero, but because this is a growing profession desired by almost every company out there, work is plentiful. You could be working for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, or any other company that takes your fancy. It is a fast-paced job that requires analytical thinking, and you will often have to write code under pressure and solve problems quickly: If a major piece of software malfunctions, millions of dollars could be lost.
To become a software engineering manager, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and at least three or four years working in a department before you’re promoted to lead the team. You could then earn $130,246 a year after benefits and bonuses.
3. Finance director, median salary: $168,153
Finance is seen by some as dry. But if you’ve got ambition and a knack for numbers, it could put you in a powerful decision-making position with a good salary.
Working alongside the CFO, managing director, or CEO of a company, the finance director is the go-to person for all the financial aspects of the company. Strategies on how to grow the business, where to save money, and how to analyze and interpret financial research will all fall on the shoulders of the finance director.
Can the company afford to invest in X or Y? Does the company have the funds to grow certain departments? Is there a way the company can save money on taxes? All this and more comes under the finance director’s job description, and he or she will usually present the quarterly and yearly figures to a board of directors.
To become a finance director, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting, or economics, plus several years of work experience in a finance department. Most employers prefer the role to go to someone with an MBA, too. With the right education and skills, you could earn a good living. The median salary for finance directors is $168,153 per year.
4. Pharmacy manager, median salary: $143,841
While it’s not seen as glamorous, being a pharmacy manager bears a lot of responsibility. It also requires a lot of concentration, education, and awareness of the patients you provide medication for. This is why the salary is as high as it is.
A pharmacy manager oversees the production, compounding, and apportioning of medications. They must also keep track of their patients’ current and past prescriptions, be up-to-date on every new drug on the market, and manage a staff of other pharmacists. It can be quiet, long, and arduous work.
This job requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field, followed by a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree and around five to six years of work experience in a pharmacy. If you can handle that kind of training, and have a good head for facts and figures, this could be just the job for you.
5. Optometrist, median salary: $117,379
Anyone who wears glasses or contacts will be pretty familiar with the daily duties of an optometrist. Typically, they perform vision tests, diagnose sight problems, and prescribe glasses, contact lenses, and eye medications. An optometrist can also detect a wide variety of health issues through a series of routine eye examinations.
Some people may consider this job “boring.” But if you like the peace and quiet of an office environment, interacting with the public, and want the satisfaction of helping people with their vision, this would be a great career. It would pay well, too, considering the median annual salary is $117,379. If you’re interested, you’ll need to complete a four-year degree in a related field (biology or chemistry) followed by an optometry program that will take an additional four years to complete.
6. Senior actuary, median salary: $120,074
Risk and uncertainty: two aspects of life that aren’t popular with most of us. But they define the career of an actuary. Using a mix of mathematics, statistics, and theory, an actuary assesses risk for businesses. The type of risk can vary greatly, depending on the industry the actuary is working in.
Most of the time, actuaries work for insurance companies, for obvious reasons. The work is all number crunching and data analysis, and if you’re interested in pursuing it, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, ideally actuarial science. To become a senior actuary, you’ll have to put in several years of work or get promoted at a meteoric rate in your first year. Senior-level actuaries earn a median salary of $120,074 per year.
7. Technical writer, median salary: $99,082
Technical writers are responsible for researching, preparing, organizing, and writing the kinds of instruction manuals, journals, and white papers that would put the vast majority of us to sleep. These documents are often filled with highly specific jargon that needs to be understood completely by the writer. For this reason, technical writers tend to stick to a specific area of expertise such as medicine, electronics, software, or industrial equipment.
If the idea of diving into this kind of heavy-duty research hasn’t put you off, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not a difficult field to get into and pays well, with the industry median salary at $99,082 per year. A bachelor’s degree in communication, English, or journalism is preferred, but not essential. If you can wrap your head around the product or service, and communicate that in a logical way, you can work as a technical writer after a little on-the-job experience. You may need a lot of coffee, though.
8. Senior solution architect, median salary: $133,975
In very basic terms, a solution architect makes sure that the large applications and software within a business are all working together properly. They’re typically also part of a solution development team. If any solution architects are reading this, apologies for the oversimplification of what is surely a very difficult job.
To become a solution architect, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or software engineering. Consideration should also be given to further certifications from companies like Microsoft and IBM, and of course, the more on-the-job experience you can get, the higher your salary will go. Currently, senior solution architects earn an average $133,975 per year.
9. Data scientist, median salary: $122,747
If you’ve been keeping track of what’s considered valuable in any industry these days, it’s data. From advertising and marketing, to oil and gas, data is worth its weight in gold. And a data scientist plays a crucial role in making that data so valuable.
In a nutshell, a data scientist looks at raw data — be it financial statistics, consumer shopping habits, or thousands of other possibilities — and analyzes it to create information that can be acted upon. Typical duties involve data mining, processing and cleansing the data, ad hoc analysis, creating reports, and presenting findings to key members of staff. It is the kind of work that requires a great deal of concentration and problem solving, and requires proficiency in mathematics, computer science, and engineering.
To become a data scientist, you will need a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a related field. More than 46 percent of data scientists also have a PhD. You should also be skilled in Python and SQL database coding, and have excellent business acumen. Data scientists earn a median income of $122,747 per year.
10. Patent attorney, median salary: $188,050
Every product you’ve ever bought, or service you’ve ever used, likely has a patent. Or at least, it should. The patent basically protects the inventor of the product from other people stealing and profiting from the idea.
A patent attorney helps guide that idea and its owner through the tricky and confusing process. They are known as masters of intellectual property (IP) law, and will not only help a product or service get a patent, but also renew it, defend it, and enforce it. Patent lawyers also advise their clients if a patent already exists for the idea and what to do to make it different enough to get a patent that will hold water.
To become a patent attorney, you will need a four-year degree in one of a wide variety of fields, including chemistry, biology, physics, or electrical, civil, mechanical, or biomedical engineering. Then, you will need to complete a law program and pass a state bar exam. The median salary for a patent attorney is $188,050.