Best non-desk jobs?
April 11, 2010 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Recently, a metafilter post pointed out the health hazards of desk jobs. Which leaves me wondering about the alternatives. Can anyone suggest (preferably from personal experience) examples of great, unusual, economically viable and realistically attainable non-desk jobs?

There's this one guy I know, for instance, who started a company that helps control unwanted deer populations, for instance. I trailed him once, at 2am, through the New Jersey suburbs, popping deer out the window of his pickup with a tranquilizer gun. (He later injected the deer with something that nixed their reproductive capabilities.)
posted by Hobbacocka to Work & Money (23 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
K-12 teaching. Especially in the younger grades, you'll spend most of your time on your feet.
posted by decathecting at 12:52 PM on April 11, 2010

Archaeology. Though like almost anything I guess there is a desk component. Not responding from personal experience, but have friends who are contract archaeologists.
posted by paduasoy at 1:03 PM on April 11, 2010

Acute medical jobs tend to keep you on your feet (so family doctors and community nurses may spend more time at a desk) - work in A&E (ER for USAians!) keeps people on their feet a lot.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy are very much moving about occupations.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:05 PM on April 11, 2010

It's not hard to get an entry-level job in construction, though I don't know if that meets your definition of 'economically viable.'
posted by box at 1:08 PM on April 11, 2010

Hard to know what's "economically viable" and "realistically attainable" for you, but:

Police officer
Coach and/or "pro" (you know, like a tennis pro who gives lessons)
Retail clerk
Tour guide at a museum/historical site/national park
Painter (house and/or more artistic pursuits)
Meter reader
Gardener and/or landscaper
Construction worker
Hair cutter/washer (not sure the right term here)
Door-to-door salesman
posted by sallybrown at 1:08 PM on April 11, 2010

My office job nearly killed me, so I quit it and became a nanny. People think it's demeaning or weird, but I make a decent amount of money and love every minute of it. I love the parents, adore the kid, and I don't feel like an anonymous cog in the capitalist empire. I read books and finish freelance editing gigs during her nap time, go to the park, meet up with friends, and watch a little kid grow up. The problem is that there's no room for growth, to use a horrid corporate term, but I'm about 1000% happier now than when I wasted 10 hours a day at a computer making someone else rich.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:17 PM on April 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seconding Sallybrown's "what's economically viable," for you? But I'd add paramedic to her list. I'm proof that even EMTs can gravitate toward desk jobs, but you don't have to. Whether you're in the back of a big-city ambulance or plying the sky in a med-evac helicopter, you will get plenty of activity, variety and stimulation. Big-time frustrations. Big-time rewards. And you'll be able to empty several tables of a crowded restaurant if you talk shop with your colleagues over lunch.
posted by wjm at 1:40 PM on April 11, 2010

Many of the scientists I work with spend a lot of time away from their desks, doing field work or lab work.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2010

Some friends ran a dog ranch, babysitting dogs while their owners were at work or on vacation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2010

Construction worker is not a viable choice if the desire is increased safety over a desk job; it's about 4X as dangerous. And farmer at something like 10X more dangerous is even worse. Other areas to avoid are mining and anything that requires even moderate time driving.
posted by Mitheral at 2:31 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I met a tattoo artist who likes her work in part because it isn't a desk job.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:35 PM on April 11, 2010

Biomedical research that involves a ton of bench work. Some days I find myself sitting at my desk for only an hour or so. That is, until you have enough data to start writing papers or grants.
posted by halogen at 2:37 PM on April 11, 2010

Personal trainer
Massage therapist
Physical therapist
posted by crazycanuck at 2:43 PM on April 11, 2010

Work on a seismic survey ship
posted by Lanark at 3:04 PM on April 11, 2010

Librarians, especially public or K-12 school librarians tend to spend a good bit of their day moving around. If you're a professional you might spend a bit more time on the computer doing planning/administration vs someone in a paraprofessional position.

Pay and job market isn't great, but isn't horrific either.
posted by clerestory at 3:33 PM on April 11, 2010

Acute medical is all well and good as a non-desk job (I spend about 1-2 hours per 12 hour shift doing computer documentation at a desk) but if you're concerned about your back/knees/body, it's absolutely the most horrible job to have. I usually have at least one coworker on medical leave due to back injury. We lift 150+kg people all day and it hurts.
posted by nursegracer at 4:23 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

The arguments against sitting in that article seem to be entirely metabolism related. If you follow that particular logic train, sleeping an extra 2 hours should be an order of magnitude more harmful than sitting an extra 2 hours. I recall another study linked here which showed correlation between # hours slept vs life expectancy, and the result was that you lived longer the less you slept up until the 4 hour per night mark below which you probably had some disorder which would reduce your life expectancy instead.

Also, life expectancy correlates to caloric intake in animals at least (see caloric reduction experiments in mice, flies). It would seem like deliberately taking a sedentary job simply so you can reduce your caloric requirements by about 40% would be the way to go. It would make sense: the slower you run your body, the longer you will make it last, as long as you're not making yourself obese in the process.

Getting that derail out of the way however... all jobs have the potential to have some amounts of sitting and standing. I find it ironic that the job you quoted described your friend in a sitting position for most of the time (driving up and down in a truck with a gun... I mean he's not even hunting / tracking the deer on foot). Depends how many deer he plans to pop a night, but if it's one deer a night he's potentially sitting there for 5 hours in the truck...

Once you work yourself out of a corporate desk job I find the managers do a fair bit of walking. Sometimes I see their calendar's solidly booked with meetings, and they have to walk from place to place every half hour, and when they're "free" they walk through the area they're responsible for and check in with each employee to listen to concerns / progress updates. But this would involve a couple of years of intensive sitting time first before you get there...
posted by xdvesper at 7:38 PM on April 11, 2010

Manager at Trader Joes. On your feet, lots of lifting, GREAT money.
posted by purenitrous at 8:16 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

My Mom was a bartender and waitress for many years at a nice seaside hotel and made good money, hell on her feet and hips however, but they got better when she stopped having to wear "nice" shoes and was just behind the bar so she could wear comfortable ones. She got a desk job after my brother was born cause hotel bars don't usually give health insurance.
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 PM on April 11, 2010

And a lot of the "career" wait-staff people I know made better-than-average money, but that's cause they work at super fancy places and can take orders in 4 languages and stuff. It's called "career" for a reason.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on April 11, 2010

Let's see... I have been trying to avoid a desk job for a while. I've worked as a outdoor educator, a farmhand, a trail conservation intern, a summer camp counselor, a part-time groundskeeper, and a landscaper. Doing trail work and leading camping trips were definitely my favorite jobs, but trail work can be a bitch on the body.

You could look into becoming a physical or occupational therapist. In that same vein, any kind of fitness instructor would keep you on your feet and in good condition without some of the hazards of strain involved in being a laborer. I've met a whole bunch of physical and occupational therapists lately, and they all seem like super nice people in a pretty interesting and active field.

Heck, if you're worried about your health and not that crazy about making money, you could joiin an ecovillage or some other type of shared community and contribute labor and energy to a whole bunch of varied pursuits.

Another job that seems to keep people on their feet is politicking, which seems to involve a lot of standing-up speeches and handshaking. In the same line, motivational speakers seem to get awful sweaty pretty routinely. So do preachers.

Finally - what about becoming a stunt double?
posted by ajarbaday at 9:32 PM on April 11, 2010

If you can cook well, chef. Resturant cooking is too physically demanding for some people, but there's also catering or working as a personal chef.
posted by spinto at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2010

i quit my desk job and became a baker. It has worked for me because it's what I wanted to become and my employer offers a livable wage and health insurance.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:49 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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