Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be an astronaut? Or an ice cream truck driver? Or a vet? Or a vet who drives an ice cream truck on weekends — on the moon?
Your eight-year-old self likely didn’t pick those careers because they paid well. You picked them because they sounded like fun jobs — because you imagined spending your adulthood moonwalking, or eating ice cream, or playing with puppies.
While each of those jobs requires a lot more than just those tasks, it’s not completely out of the question to want a job that generally excites you while also helping you pay the bills.
We scoured the market for cool and fun high-paying jobs — take a look, and let your childhood fantasies come to life.
Rating a job’s “fun-ness” comes with a lot of variables because everyone defines fun differently. For example, an extrovert may find a role that requires lots of human interaction thrilling, while an introvert may consider that their worst nightmare.
So you may look at some fun jobs on this list and think, This doesn’t seem fun at all. That’s OK! Hopefully, you’ll see other jobs that do spark your interest.
To balance the scales the best we could, we looked at several criteria to make our list:
Stress: A fun job, per our evaluation, should have minimal stressful interactions or responsibilities. We used O*NET OnLine’s ranking of stress tolerance to evaluate this, and most of our roles have a score of lower than 80 (out of 100) in terms of the importance of handling high-stress situations.
Fulfillment: A fun job should make someone feel motivated and have a sense of belonging, as well as speak to their passions, skills, or values. With this list, we’ll outline ways these jobs could provide fun challenges and fulfillment for those with specific needs or interests.
Uniqueness: A fun job tends not to be something everyone else is doing — rather, it’s unique in title, industry, and/or opportunities.
Growth: There’s only so much fun in standing still (figuratively) and doing the same thing over and over again in a decades-long career. So these jobs also offer ample room for personal and professional growth.
Notice we didn’t look at things like education or training required. That’s because a lot of fun jobs do come with prerequisites — but if it seems like a cool job to you, you probably won’t be deterred by the extra steps that come with it. In fact, those might seem like just as much fun.
(If you’re looking for a role that requires little work on your part, either when applying or on the job, check out our list of easy jobs that pay well.)
A high-paying job, just like a fun job, is relative and based on factors like where a person lives or what kind of lifestyle they’re hoping to achieve.
For the sake of our list, we focused on jobs that pay above $58,260, or the mean annual salary in the U.S., according to May 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (the most recent available).
The following jobs are ranked in order of average annual salary.
Average salary: $58,580
If massive machines and heights thrill rather than terrify you, you could become a wind turbine service technician. The best part is this role requires little training beyond an associate degree, vocational school, or an apprenticeship.
Average salary: $60,340
While a job that requires more stressful scenarios than others on this list, according to O*NET OnLine, interior design comes with a lot of fun possibilities for those with a knack for spatial organization, a passion for real estate, and undying admiration for Bobby Birk’s makeovers on Queer Eye.
Average salary: $60,000
Cruise directors make travel their living, overseeing boat maintenance and programming and managing ship crews. If working on the open road (or rather, the open sea) excites you, this people-first role may be the right fit for you.
Average salary: $61,650
There’s so much satisfaction that comes with being a dietician or nutritionist because you get to help clients grow healthier and achieve their goals along the way. Dieticians provide tips on how a person can change their diet to lose weight or help them create a meal plan that won’t exacerbate a pre-existing health problem, such as diabetes or high cholesterol. You need at least a degree in nutritional science or a related field, as well as natural communication skills to talk sympathetically and honestly to patients.
Average salary: $64,650
The adults who wanted to be vets when they were kids may find zoology to be a great alternative. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals of various locales and species — either in their natural habitats or in captivity — and promote their growth and safety. Like many other scientific fields, this may require a master’s or PhD.
Average salary: $64,768 a year
Food stylists are the people who make your favorite menu items look delectable on paper. They’re not just chefs but also artists. “I love watching raw ingredients transform into a work of art,” Elle Simone Scott, a food stylist at America's Test Kitchen, recently told Food & Wine.
Average salary: $67,451
If you love solving puzzles or sketching out stories and characters, you may enjoy being a video game designer. Programming and graphic design skills may be required.
The job has a fairly high stress tolerance ranking compared to some of the other roles on this list, but is marked as a “Bright Outlook,” which according to O*NET indicates it’s “expected to grow rapidly in the next several years” — meaning it’s likely to provide you with plenty of opportunities to move up and around.
Average salary: $68,900
If you’re drawn to, well, drawing maps, this low-stress field may be the one for you. Cartographers or photogrammetrists research and create spatial data for political, educational, design, or other purposes.
Average salary: $76,530
Did you spend elementary school dreaming about saving the whales or rescuing our planet? If you’re passionate about the environment, a career as an environmental scientist could be the path for you. These STEM professionals study environmental conditions and use their knowledge to improve conditions for the natural world and human beings.
Average salary: $78,790
Much like video game designers, special-effects artists and animators get to flex their creative muscles regularly on some of the most popular projects out there, be it in television, movies, or advertising.
Average salary: $78,950
To become an audiologist, you need to study for a doctorate and obtain a license to practice. But once you do, you’re in for a career that’s challenging and rewarding. Audiologists diagnose patients’ hearing-related problems and fit them with hearing aids. They might also help conduct research in the field.
Average salary: $79,640
Being a teacher to older students may speak to you if you find yourself drawn to studying a subject at length (often a master’s or higher degree is required to make it in this field) or enjoy mentoring people of all ages who want to change careers, perhaps, or just learn for learning’s sake. Postsecondary teachers also tend to rank lower in stress tolerance when compared to elementary and secondary teachers.
Average salary: $80,257
Biostatisticians crunch numbers to analyze and better understand the results of biological research or other natural processes — for example, if a popular new drug is working or what kind of impact a new medical device might have. It’s the perfect role for someone who wants to bridge their passions for math and science.
Average salary: $83,680
Despite what you might’ve learned in high school science class, a geologist does a lot more than look at rocks all day long. They also examine and predict the earth’s movement, studying the effects it has — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods included. The amount of time spent in the field may resonate with aspiring explorers.
Average salary: $84,030
Much like a geologist, a hydrologist spends a lot of time in the field. But rather than studying the movement and makeup of rocks, they’re looking at the way water moves across the Earth. This knowledge can help them solve major issues in areas where water quality or water levels are low.
Average salary: $84,150
It’s all about flavor for food technologists: They research and analyze everything we eat and figure out ways to make it taste better and last longer in storage. They’re also responsible for ensuring that products pass the sanitation requirements set by the government and maintain their nutritional content. All these requirements might seem stressful to some but fun for foodies who excelled in chemistry class.
Average salary: $85,220
Geographers use their knowledge of the Earth’s surface as they research different regions of the world and try to forecast the impact that humans will have on certain areas. If you’re passionate about climate change or urban planning, or really enjoyed that GIS (Geographic Information Systems) class you took in college, this may be a job to consider.
Average salary: $86,640
Geneticists study how certain traits or disorders come to be. If you’re constantly leaning on 23andMe to dissect your personality and health, this could be the path for you.
Average salary: $89,872
Robotics or mechanical engineers design and support the development of equipment, cars, and other crucial tech. In other words, they get to build really cool things that help people work and live better. If you’re fascinated by how things get made or fantasize about building solutions for everyday problems, a bachelor’s degree may be enough to break into this industry.
Average salary: $94,170
Make money while helping people manage theirs! Financial advisors, consultants, and planners regularly tap their knowledge in tax and investment strategies, insurance, real estate, and other areas and often interact with unique clientele. This role is perfect for those who love talking about money, creating budget spreadsheets for themselves and family members, and following investment trends on TikTok.
Average salary: $97,410
With a four-year degree in the subject — or with an engineering degree in a related field, combined with on-the-job training — you can head into the field of biomedical engineering. It’s a rewarding one, too: Biomedical engineers help improve patient care by designing and maintaining medical equipment and systems. They’re often the people behind advanced healthcare tech, such as artificial limbs and machines that 3-D print organs.
Average salary: $98,300
Materials engineers have a hand in the entire production process of a certain item, be it a pair of skis or a computer chip. They help create the necessary machinery, write the processes, and choose the proper materials to make a product so that it meets all its design and performance standards. Builders and creatives may find themselves drawn to this innovative, hands-on profession. A bachelor’s degree in engineering or materials science will be your ticket into the field, although you could get in with a related specialization.
Average salary: $81,410
Fraud examiners are detectives specifically for financial transactions, compiling reports and evidence to detect or prevent fraud. Think: The people who uncover cases like Jordan Belfort’s.
Average salary: $100,890
An art director’s job doesn’t take place in a museum but behind the scenes in creative industries such as advertising, publishing, and TV production. They make sure everything’s appealing to the eye. You might need a bachelor’s degree and you definitely need impeccable taste.
Average salary: $102,600
Ethical hackers and security engineers — to name a few of the titles in this field — are much like your favorite detectives, digging around the internet for threats or scammers and building systems to prevent attacks.
Average salary: $128,170
You can get your start in this field after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited course. Computer hardware engineers help in the creation of computer-related equipment, such as processors and memory disks. They design, research, build, develop, or test these products, and their creations could end up in the hands of commercial users, scientists, military officials, or other industrial workers. If you’ve always loved taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and imagining ways to make them better, this is the path for you.
Average salary: $139,410
An astronomer’s job is more than just stargazing — though that’s a nice perk for those who find themselves often looking to space — and their research and analysis can apply to the practical problems faced day-to-day down here on Earth. For example, we can thank astronomy for giving us GPS and wireless internet.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Alyse Kalish has spent eight years reporting on careers and business news and running freelance desks at Insider and The Muse. Her work has been featured on Fast Company, Forbes, CNBC, and other major outlets. You can check out her website or follow her on Twitter @Alyslice.