Standard 9-to-5 business hours just aren’t for everyone. If you enjoy getting up early or staying up late, the good news is that there are plenty of great careers out there that encourage – or even require – you to work hours outside the 9-to-5 day shift. Some of these jobs come with high salaries, while in others, it’s the work itself that’s so rewarding. Whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, you’re bound to find a career that fits your schedule among our 20 best jobs without a 9-to-5 work schedule.
If you have a knack for science and an interest in helping people as well as a preference for a nonstandard work schedule, consider becoming a doctor. Physicians and surgeons are some of the highest-payed professionals in the workforce, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition to the earning potential of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, the best doctors enjoy the fulfilling nature of helping patients get or stay well. Of course, they also make sacrifices. Physicians spend many years preparing for the career, earning a bachelor’s degree, attending medical school and completing residencies and internships to gain hands-on training. This preparation requires candidates to invest a lot of time, work and money into their future career.
Exactly how nonstandard a doctor’s work schedule is depends on his or her place of employment. Hospitals require staffing 24 hours a day, so physicians who work in these settings may be more likely to work early or late shifts (and often, long shifts). Even in private practices, though, many offices are increasingly offering evening and weekend appointments for the convenience of their patients who do work a regular schedule and can’t come in during the day.
Salary: $241,273 to $411,852 or more
Education: Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO)
Like doctors, dentists are increasingly working nonstandard hours to meet the needs of their patients. For many dentists, this means offering occasional or regular evening and weekend hours. While dentists may not have to worry about covering overnight shifts like an emergency room physician does, they may have to deal with dental emergencies that require urgent attention.
Of course, work schedule alone isn’t reason enough to pursue a career in dentistry. However, if you’re already interested in the field and you consider a nonstandard work schedule – one that you set yourself, if you own your own dental practice – to be a plus, that’s a good combination. Keep in mind that you will need to do a lot of preparation for your career. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree (typically in a science-related subject of study) and getting a competitive score on the Dental Admission Test, you will need to graduate from a dental school program accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation, the BLS reported. Still, for the right candidate, the high earning potential, schedule and work itself are well worth the preparation.
Education: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD)
While a lot of the best jobs with nonstandard schedules do happen to be in the healthcare field, not all of them are. Petroleum engineers are a great example. These engineering professionals – who have a six-figure median salary – develop new ways to extract oil and natural gas from existing wells and underground deposits, the BLS reported.
What kind of work schedule can you expect as a petroleum engineer? When traveling to a dig site, it’s not unusual for petroleum engineers to spend 84 hours on duty and then be off duty for another 84 hours, the BLS reported. While working for a full three and a half days might sound like a crazy schedule, the job has its perks, especially for adventure-seekers. Visiting drilling sites means that petroleum engineers have plenty of opportunity to travel the world during their careers.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering
4. Air Traffic Controller
At every hour of the day and night, someone somewhere is traveling by airplane. Keeping those in flight – and taking off or landing – safe means having a trained professional on the clock 24/7. Air traffic controllers fill this role, communicating instructions, weather pattern information and emergency information to pilots in the air and on the ground. They play a crucial role in getting planes full of passengers and airline workers safely and efficiently to their destinations. Being responsible for managing the safety of multiple planes at a single time can be stressful, but for those candidates who can cope well with the demands of the job, an early retirement is a major benefit of this career, the BLS reported. So is the six-figure salary.
If you’re considering embarking on a career as an air traffic controller, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree unless you have years of relevant experience working in the aviation industry, according to the BLS. Look for a school that offers an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program intended to meet guidelines set by the FAA. These degree programs typically cover subjects like airspace, aviation weather, reading maps, clearances and federal aviation regulations. Candidates must also pass the eight-hour Air Traffic Standardized Aptitude Test (AT-SAT) and a personality test before then can undergo air traffic controller training through the FAA academy. If you’re specifically looking for a job with a nonstandard schedule, then you will want to find employment at a large, busy airport that has flights going on all day and night, including on weekends and holidays.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree, FAA Academy Training Course and a Passing Score on the AT-SAT
The last six-figure salary career on our list of the top 20 jobs without a 9-to-5 schedule is, again, in the healthcare industry. Pharmacists are the highly educated professionals who fill and dispense the medications physicians and surgeons prescribe. They not only order and administer the medications, but they also make sure there will be no negative – and potentially dangerous – drug interactions among patients who have to take multiple medications. Pharmacists instruct patients on how to take their medications, answer questions about side effects and allergic reactions and handle the paperwork necessary to bill patients’ insurance companies, according to the BLS. In some states, they even administer vaccinations.
Today, many pharmacies – especially those that are part of major retail stores – offer extended hours to better serve customers and patients who work a 9-to-5 schedule. This means pharmacists increasingly need to work evening and weekend hours. The 19 percent of pharmacists who find employment in hospitals may also need to work nonstandard hours to keep pharmacy departments staffed at all times.
Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
6. Physical Therapist
Physical therapist is yet another healthcare job where a nonstandard work schedule is common. After earning a doctoral degree – which is no easy feat, requiring advanced studies in subjects like anatomy, physiology and biomechanics as well as months of clinical experience – physical therapists work directly with patients to help rehabilitate them after an injury or illness. Through methods such as exercises, hands-on therapy, stretching maneuvers and the use of equipment, physical therapists help patients achieve goals like pain reduction and increased mobility.
Many physical therapists do work during regular business hours, the BLS reported, but there are also plenty of opportunities to work outside the 9-to-5 schedule at facilities that offer evening or weekend appointments for the convenience of their patients. Besides the possibility of a flexible work schedule, there are plenty of other benefits to a career in physical therapy. A median salary well over twice that of all occupations, an expected job growth rate nearly five times that of all occupations, and of course, the rewarding nature of the work are just a few of the advantages.
Education: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
If you’re more interested in developing building designs than treatment plans, architect is another great job with the potential for a flexible work schedule. Architects are the professionals who plan, design and sketch scaled drawings of indoor and outdoor building structures that range from single family homes to apartment complexes and massive office buildings. They need creative, technical, analytical and visualization skills to thoroughly plan and design a building or space that doesn’t yet exist. If you’re thinking about becoming an architect, expect to be in the career for the long haul. Not only does an undergraduate degree require five years of full-time study, but candidates must also spend years gaining job training through a paid internship and pass the Architect Registration Examination before they can finally attain a license.
Architects begin their days bright and early. In fact, more than a third of employees in the architecture industry are already at work before 7 a.m., according to the BLS. This makes the job a good choice for candidates who are natural early risers as well as good communicators, visualizers and creators. Keep in mind, though, that architects must also work longer hours if necessary to meet deadlines. Work schedules are most flexible among the 20 percent of architects who work for themselves, according to the BLS.
Education: 5-year Bachelor of Architecture Degree or Master of Architecture Degree
8. Dental Hygienist
If a career in dental health interests you but the prospect of spending years upon years earning a doctoral degree doesn’t, consider a career as a dental hygienist. These professionals use hand, power and ultrasonic tools to clean patients’ teeth, the BLS reported. They take X-rays, administer treatments like sealants and fluoride and evaluate patients’ oral health before they see the dentist. They earn a median salary twice as high as that of all occupations – and they do it all with an associate’s degree.
Dental hygienists work nonstandard schedules for the same reasons dentists do – to offer convenient appointment times to patients who need extended office hours. If you’re specifically looking for the opportunity to work a flexible schedule, seek employment at a dental office that doesn’t just operate 9-to-5.
Education: Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene
9. Producer or Director
If you’ve got a passion for drama or filmmaking, a nonstandard work schedule is typical. Producers and directors are the professionals who create performing arts productions that range from onstage plays to movies and television shows, the BLS reported. While directors and producers start with a written script (which they often select themselves), they choose the cast and crew, manage design decisions, make sure the production stays within budget and supervise the entire preproduction, production and postproduction process. Directors have a bigger role in the creative aspects of a production, while producers are more involved in the show’s finances, but both are critical to the success of a performing arts venture.
Most producers and directors find work in either the motion picture industry or the television and radio broadcast industry, but some work in performing arts creating live productions. In either case, expect to put in odd hours during your career as a director or producer. If you create live theater performances, you’re likely to find that many show times take place on evenings, weekends and even holidays. Even if you’re not working on a production that is broadcasted live, you may have to work long hours to meet deadlines. Many producers and directors also travel, either to film on location or take a performance on tour.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Film
The last healthcare career to make our list of the best jobs with a nonstandard work schedule also happens to be the largest career in the entire healthcare industry, according to the BLS. Registered nurses, or RNs, care for patients under the supervision of doctors in a wide range of settings, from hospitals and doctors’ offices to nursing homes, home health services and even schools. With three different education paths into the career, aspiring nurses have plenty of options to get started.
Nonstandard work schedules are common for many nurses. Of course, hospitals and nursing homes require nurses on staff 24/7 to care for patients who are admitted to the facility overnight, or those who come into the hospital in need of treatment during the evening or early morning. At these facilities, it’s not unusual to work fewer days than a standard workweek, but significantly longer hours than a standard workday throughout. With many private practice medical offices extending their hours to better serve patients, even nurses who intend to work in physicians’ offices may need to work some night or weekend shifts.
Education: Nursing Program Diploma, Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN)
11. Police Officer or Detective
If you have a drive to protect and serve your community as well as a preference for a schedule outside the typical 9-to-5, you’re in luck. The most fulfilling job you could have also happens to be one where odd hours are common. Crime never sleeps, so law enforcement departments need police officers and detectives on duty round-the-clock.
As a member of law enforcement, you’ll have many serious responsibilities. You will handle patrol and traffic stops, respond to emergencies, investigate crimes, gather evidence and make arrests, the BLS reported. Being a police officer or a detective isn’t easy. The job can be dangerous, and physically and emotionally difficult. For the right candidate, though, knowing that you are saving lives, catching criminals and making your community safer is more than rewarding enough to make up for the challenges of a life in law enforcement.
Education: Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice
12. Avionics Technician
If you’ve got an interest in aerospace and great mechanical skills, why not pursue a career as an avionics technician? These trained and FAA-certified technicians maintain and repair planes and other aircraft. Avionics technicians specifically are responsible for the safe functioning of a plane’s electronic instruments, like radar, communication and navigation systems, the BLS reported. To uncover any malfunctions, they review flight test data and use tools and equipment designed for testing electronic flight instruments. They work on and install instrument panels and software.
An associate’s degree in avionics – which includes the studies of computerized flight instruments and aircraft controls – is popular among candidates pursuing the career. Avionics technicians must also earn certification from the FAA.
Avionics technicians need to work nonstandard shifts for the same reasons air traffic controllers do. Travel by aircraft happens at all hours of the day, and it’s necessary to have a professional with the capability to find and repair problems available at all times.
Education: Associate’s Degree in Avionics
13. Telecom Technicians
If you’ve got great mechanical and troubleshooting skills, a career as a telecom technician can offer you a nonstandard work schedule, the chance to put your skills to good use and a median salary well above that of all occupations. You don’t even need to spend several years earning a degree to get there.
Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers – telecom technicians, for short – are the professionals who set up, maintain and fix the telecommunications lines used to transmit phone, Internet and cable signals. They work with components like wiring and phone jacks as well as computer hardware and diagnostic equipment, according to the BLS. To develop the mechanical skills and troubleshooting knowledge necessary for success, telecom technicians need an education – but they don’t necessarily need a traditional degree. Some candidates earn a certificate from a technical school, though the BLS reports that telecom technicians with associate’s degrees will have the best employment prospects in this competitive job market.
Not every telecom technician works nonstandard hours. Your work schedule will depend on your employer. If you’re looking for hours outside the 9-to-5 shift, you’ll want to find work with a carrier or contractor that offers 24-hour emergency repair service. You might also find yourself on call in case of equipment malfunctions and emergencies.
Education: Associate’s Degree in Telecommunications
14. Civil Engineering Technician
Early risers with skills in mathematics, problem-solving and critical thinking can find a great fit in the form of a civil engineering technician career. The job is an especially good choice for candidates who have an interest in civil engineering work but aren’t willing or able to put in the time and money required to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, complete years of training and attain a license. An associate’s degree is sufficient for aspiring civil engineering technicians to get started in their careers.
Civil engineering technicians work with licensed engineers, and they even handle some of the same tasks, like preparing plans and drawings, estimating costs, monitoring project sites, testing construction materials, analyzing data and using computer aided design (CAD) software, the BLS reported. The only things they specifically can’t do, according to the BLS, are supervising overall engineering projects and approving designs.
Civil engineering technicians tend to start their workdays before 7 a.m., which makes the job ideal for early birds who like to get up with – or even before – the sun.
Education: Associate’s Degree in Civil Engineering Technology
15. Real Estate Agent or Broker
If you work well with others and are good at solving problems, you could make a career out of helping people buy, sell and rent homes, business spaces and other real estate properties. Real estate agents and brokers work closely with clients to help them navigate the complex process of making real estate transactions. They show off real estate properties to potential buyers and renters and assist with setting and negotiating prices and preparing contracts, deeds and other essential real estate documents, the BLS reported.
When you’re selling as large a purchase as real estate, it’s essential that you’re available when your clients are. For many real estate brokers, this means working hours in the early evenings and on weekends. On the bright side, you’re not likely to need to work overnight shifts and will probably be done your workday by 10 p.m., if not hours earlier – which means you still have a chance to enjoy the night life or some quality time with loved ones.
Education: Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estate
16. Chef or Head Cook
A preference for work hours outside the 9-to-5 schedule is ideal for aspiring chefs. After all, chefs and head cooks have to be available to work at the same times when customers are dining out – like early mornings for breakfast, into the evening and even late at night for dinners and snacks and, of course, on weekends.
Of course, chefs and head cooks prepare food. They create recipes, plan menus and design the presentation of a dish. Chefs also order and check ingredients for freshness and make sure equipment and workspaces are clean for food preparation. They are also often responsible for overseeing kitchen staff, from hiring them and training them to coordinating the various tasks necessary to keep a restaurant kitchen operational.
Some chefs attain their position – not to mention their cooking skills – purely through experience and on-the-job training. However, many aspiring chefs seek out formal training through culinary arts education programs at community colleges, technical schools and four-year colleges and universities, the BLS reported.
Education: Culinary Arts Degree
17. Broadcast Technician
Modern television channels and radio stations offer round-the-clock programming. These constant entertainment options wouldn’t exist without trained professionals known as broadcast and sound engineering technicians.
Broadcast technicians handle the audio, video and broadcasting equipment necessary for communication over TV and radio as well as maximizing the sound quality in recorded and live music, the BLS reported. They handle everything from setting up sound and broadcasting equipment to running that equipment during a broadcast and even maintaining and repairing that equipment.
Depending on the medium they focus on and the station, channel, studio or company employing them, broadcast technicians can have very different job duties. Some record music in recording studios or at live performances. Others spend much of their time installing audio and visual equipment in settings like schools, offices and hotels. Those who work in television may be responsible for making sure the dialogue and sound effects used in a program match up correctly with the visual images on the screen.
To keep broadcasting 24/7, radio stations and television networks need to have broadcast and sound engineering technicians on the clock even during nonstandard hours, which is why these professionals tend to work early morning, late night, weekend and even holiday shifts.
Education: Associate’s Degree in Radio and Television Broadcasting Technology
Not every job is easily quantifiable by salary or other factors. Some professional musicians become world-famous stars or celebrities, while many more pursue music as a part-time gig, often while holding other jobs. Overall, the BLS reports that musicians earn a median wage of $24.16 per hour, but there’s plenty of variation in income from one musician to the next.
Likewise, there is also a great degree of difference in education level among musicians. Some musicians have no formal education beyond a high school diploma, while others spend years studying music at the college level to earn a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. What musicians have in common is that they have to spend a lot of time training and practicing to develop their musical talents. They also spend time creating and recording new material and rehearsing for performances.
Live shows are precisely the reason so many musicians work odd hours. Concerts are commonly held on weekends, in the evenings or even late at night. Successful musicians must not only put up with occasional evening work, but deliver energetic and entertaining performances consistently during these nonstandard hours. For most musicians, though, it’s having a passion for their art that makes a career in music fulfilling.
Salary: $24.16 per Hour
Education: Long-Term Music Training, Often a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher in Music
Given the massive contracts awarded to top athletes in the big leagues, would it surprise you to learn that the median annual salary for athletes according to the BLS is $43,350? Like musicians, professional athletes run the gamut from the rich and world-famous sports stars to more down-to-earth athletes who live normal lives and bring home more modest salaries. While a college degree isn’t a requirement for the career, many professional athletes sharpened their skills playing their sport at the college level.
Still, professional athletes have a couple of things in common. For one, they must work hard at excelling in their sport, which means spending many hours training and practicing. They also work odd and sometimes difficult schedules, often playing on weekends, evenings and holidays. Traveling to compete is typical for professional athletes, which means they may also spend long amounts of time on buses, planes and other forms of transportation, the BLS reported. Like musicians, though, professional athletes tend to dream of their careers for a long time. The best professional athletes play as much for the love of the game as they do for the salary and reputation.
Education: College-Level Playing Experience
Show business is certainly no 9-to-5 job. Like directors, actors and actresses often work unusual hours, whether their performance is live onstage or whether they’re just working overtime to meet a filming deadline. Actors also travel frequently for work, either to take a show on tour or to film on location.
To develop their acting skills, many aspiring actors will take acting classes. Some take these courses as part of their college-level studies to earn a bachelor’s degree, while others take acting classes separately at community colleges or private acting conservatories or film schools, the BLS reported. Relatively few professional actors become world-renowned movie or television stars, but about two-thirds do find full-time acting work, according to the BLS. Others work part-time, often along with other jobs. As with musicians and athletes, actors often pursue the career for the love of the craft rather than an expectation of steady long-term work or consistent earning potential.
Salary: $19.82 per Hour
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre
The salary, education, work environment and career preparation information presented in this article comes from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This article is just a partial list of the many existing careers without a 9-to-5 work schedule. For more information on jobs with nonstandard hours, consult the blog post Careers for night owls and early birds published by the BLS.