Professional jobs that require night or shift work?
October 3, 2013 9:56 AM   Subscribe

My parents have always worked night shifts as a nurse at a geriatric support centre, and as a mail sorter for the post office. They make enough money. They've made their schedules work for them, and also raised 4 kids while doing so. Because of their shift work, they do get a lot of time off-- maybe working double shifts sometimes, or three 12-hour shifts in a row, but then they get 3 days off. They also tend to know their schedules a month ahead of time. I do not work well in a 9-5 M-F schedule, so I'd like to know what are other similar jobs to this.

I'm a night owl. I can do the 9-5, but not well; it's always a struggle due to my circadian body rhythm.

In the past, I have been happy when working at a coffee shop and doing shifts-- the early shift was be at work by 5:30-6 AM, but then done by 2-3 PM, the late shift was start at 3 PM and be done by 12 AM. No traffic on the roads when going to and from work makes for a shorter commute, plus plenty of time to do errands after work, and it felt like more of the day was available to me after

I also like a job where I am always on my feet and busy for the day running around (not sitting sedentary at a desk), and where I do not have deadlines to worry about and do not have to take work home with me a lot of the time.

Currently, I'm one year away from being called to the bar as a lawyer, and while I am okay with it, I do not enjoy certain aspects of legal work-- the pressure, for one. It is always stressful due to always having an upcoming deadline, and it involves long hours. I want a job where I can work nights to better fit my natural rhythm. I also do not want to have to bring work home with me the majority of the time. Being outdoors or on my feet would be a plus. Lots of time off as is involved with shift work would be a plus.

I am thinking maybe working as a police officer, or as a civilian in a police department. Obviously, jobs that could make use of my legal training would be best, but I am willing to re-train for up to another 2 years. Hive mind, is there anything of this sort? Do you know any former lawyers who are now working in the police department, or doing alternative jobs? Do you have a job where you work shifts and get a lot of time off? Is there anything that I am not considering?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work overnights as a television journalist with a coworker who was a former lawyer.
posted by Jahaza at 10:04 AM on October 3, 2013

Do they have night court in your municipality or province? You can work with Legal Aid, since it's mostly arraignment (assuming that Canadian Law is similar to US) no work to bring home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:06 AM on October 3, 2013

Firefighters frequently are on call at all hours in the firehouse for long chunks of time and then get long chunks of time off.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:15 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

IT support staff at all skill levels do night and shift work. From the tech support guy to the person keeping the mainframes running at the steel foundry.
posted by Jairus at 10:17 AM on October 3, 2013

I work at a therapeutic boarding school as a youth mentor/counselor, and while I don't make crazy amounts of money, its fun, I have a great 2:30-11 schedule, and days off when I want them. You could also do a wilderness type program, they go one week on, one week off.
posted by Marinara at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've known a lot of people with jobs like this. A friend of mine works in television production and works 7pm-7am. I used to work doing call monitoring, the office was open 24 hours a day, and I worked a condensed work week, with three days off. My dad works in management at post-production shop for advertising, his office is open 24 hours as well. I also worked as a school photographer, working very early mornings until the afternoon, I was usually done around 2 or 3 pm.

However, you say you're a year away from becoming an attorney, and well, none of the jobs I listed would really compare salary-wise. I know in large cities, there are sometimes firms that are open 24 hours a day.
posted by inertia at 10:36 AM on October 3, 2013

I'm like you. I've had luck working night shifts for video stores (3pm-midnight), evening shifts for college libraries (12:30-midnight), and now I work from home grading essays for the educational testing company on "west coast" hours which, since I'm on the east coast, end up being from 11:30 - 8. All of these might be a little more sedentary than you want, though there are always plenty of returns to do at libraries and video stores, and working from home has its own benefits (no commute, know my schedule a month in advance, can take on extra shifts as needed.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:41 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Truckers work long hours. It's sedentary but you're moving. Flight attendants also usually have funny shifts that happen at all times of day, with blocks of free time in between.

My father has worked in the pressroom of a newspaper for my entire life, and almost entirely third shift. It's a dying field but depending on how long-term you're thinking, it'd be a reasonable thing to do to kill time until you pass the bar. There's very little down time, although it's not strenuously physical.

I imagine a lawyer setting out their shingle, who listed their hours as being 6pm-2am would get a fair amount of work from folks who can't come in during regular business hours.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Bakeries/caterers, police/security, delivery services, janitorial services, convenience stores, call centers, construction, maintenance, hotel management. Not all of those are necessarily professional, but presumably could be at the managerial or supervisory level depending on the type of work.
posted by Dansaman at 10:59 AM on October 3, 2013

Anything to do with hospitality has lots of crazy hours. Not just waitressing, but Hotels, Resorts & casinos need FOH staff as well as all the behind scenes people. I used to work as a bookkeeper/gaming manager for a large resort, I worked evenings so I could be there when the gaming room (poker machines I think you call them slots in the US) closed down. I would then help with all the cash management and paperwork that went with that and then get tills floats etc from the shift sorted for banking and ready for the mornings. It was fun because being pretty much the only management of any sort around I would get caught up in all sorts of emergencies (including a naked dead body on a golf green). Hotels & Resorts become their own little worlds if you work there which can be great fun if you like it but can be stifling if you don't.
posted by wwax at 11:03 AM on October 3, 2013

Railroading, AFTER you get some 'whiskers',(seniority)...
posted by raildr at 11:12 AM on October 3, 2013

(Maybe) movie theater projectionist for a place that does late shows? I confess I have no idea how the job has been affected by the advent of digital projection; I trained briefly to become a projectionist about 17 years ago and there was a lot of the job that had to do with wrangling physical film media; splicing trailers and reels together, loading it into platters, threading the projectors and running back and forth to make sure shows started on time. In a 35mm multiplex things went in waves, with 45-60 minutes of solid activity getting all of the shows started, followed by 30-45 minutes of downtime until movies started ending; repeat until the end of the night. With digital distribution it seems like a lot of the "have to rethread these projectors in time for the next show" kind of work must have gone away, but I don't really know.

I wound up moving and never actually got into it as a job, but in that area projectionists were part of the IATSE local union and were well-trained and well-compensated.
posted by usonian at 11:15 AM on October 3, 2013

Shift engineering in factories is a thing, and it meets your requirements well (and your non-STEM training doesn't necessarily rule you out). I'm specifically thinking about the semiconductor industry, but maybe other factory types as well.
posted by janell at 11:43 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

What is your lifestyle like otherwise? Are you married? Kids? How do you feel about Alaska?

Jobs in the oilfields (e.g., North Slope, Prudhoe Bay) are abundant but can be a challenge to get without exactly the right skills. And in general the do pay crazy good wages. Because of the harsh environment and general lack of infrastructure to support families, rotational schedules on the Slope are typical. For example: two weeks on working 12-hour days with no break, then two weeks off. You sleep in employee housing and eat cafeteria style. Employers provide jet service between the Slope and either Anchorage or Fairbanks. After that, it's up to you. I've met people who live in Arizona and do this, paying their own way to Anchorage when their "hitch" begins. Jobs vary, with lots of engineers, geologists, equipment operators, drivers, security and all the required support staff. Big employers include ConocoPhillips, BP, Doyon plus lots and lots of subcontractors. This is all north of the Arctic Circle.

Other jobs elsewhere in Alaska offer similar schedules, like fishermen or tugboat crews. I knew a person who worked as a cook for Crowley for two-week hitches on a boat in Prince William Sound. There may be similar jobs with the ferry system.

It's a different life with long hours in sometimes harsh environments, but the pay is often beyond fantastic and the time off makes for some pretty nice vacations for single folk, or 100% immersed family time for the rest.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:46 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you have legal experience/education, have you considered being a paralegal as opposed to a lawyer? Somewhat less workload and less need to bring work home, depending on the office. If you're in a major city that has firms with an international presence, there are paralegals who work the "night shift" with the lawyers who have to be available for other time zones. There isn't a huge pool of paralegal work available to fit this criteria, obviously, but it's something to consider.
posted by yasaman at 11:50 AM on October 3, 2013

I doubt your legal training prepares you for this out of the box; you'd probably need more STEM work. But since others are bringing up non-related fields, I thought I'd mention that my father was a power plant manager, and worked rotating shifts. He'd work a certain number of months each on 8AM-4PM, 4PM-12AM, and 12AM-8AM. It was actually pretty rough on him and on the entire family because it didn't come naturally to him, but he had colleagues who absolutely thrived on it.

(12AM-8AM was the absolute worst. We lived like mimes.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:09 PM on October 3, 2013

I have the impression from reading the Nom Nom Paleo blog that she works like that. She's a pharmacist at a hospital. She works nights, and has something like a week on and then a week off.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:33 PM on October 3, 2013

Working in risk management at a hospital involves sharing 24/7 call duties with your team. Large medical centers might have in-house risk management at all times; in smaller hospitals, call might involve having a pager next to the bed.

Although you wouldn't actually be practicing law, having a legal background would be hugely advantageous; risk managers need to understand the dense legal-ese of federal, state, and local regulations and help staff work within those regulations in very complicated situations.
posted by jesourie at 12:45 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

evening shifts for college libraries (12:30-midnight),

The place I work at has a library that is open 24 hours a day, they have night shift staff although I don't think any of them are librarians.
posted by epanalepsis at 2:00 PM on October 3, 2013

Nursing/EMT, if you're willing to put in even more time in school.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:04 PM on October 3, 2013

The place I work at has a library that is open 24 hours a day, they have night shift staff although I don't think any of them are librarians.

In my case I was a library assistant. You might be of special interest to law school libraries as a candidate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:27 PM on October 3, 2013

Law librarians are generally required to have law degrees in addition to library degrees. In the right law school library you might work varying hours and you might even work a nine-month year. Check this organization out. Also see if databases like LexisNexis might have something for you.
posted by mareli at 2:30 PM on October 3, 2013

Bail Bond Agent? They definitely work outside of standard 9-5 hours.
posted by zombiedance at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2013

Train driving? It is sedentary, but it is definitely shift work.

It is a skilled job so you would need to train for a while. And you would be both responsible for your passengers and in danger from them. Those aren't reasons not to do it though!

What is a concern is that it's a very monotonous job. But if you were driving a route that was mostly overground and even scenic, you might not mind that.
posted by tel3path at 3:15 PM on October 3, 2013

CNC machinist or other factory/manufacturing jobs. Big factories often work 24/7.
posted by Deodand at 7:22 PM on October 3, 2013

Airport staff - in our country that's Customs, Quarantine and immigration, and depending on the location it can be 24 hours.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:05 PM on October 3, 2013

I'm a night shift manufacturing quality engineer. I'm sitting in the office right now, in fact. There's a lot of advantages to this situation--I don't have an engineering degree right now, so I go to school during the day and come in to work at night in my support role. I'm available to deal with problems on the shop floor when they happen overnight. Typical duties include assessing whether questionable parts meet specification or whether out of spec parts can be candidates for a deviation from specification, troubleshooting machining and robotic operations, enforcing quality inspections, and analyzing data for day shift engineers. I can also work on capital projects as long as I'm willing to call into conferences from home now and then. I really enjoy not sitting in meetings for most of my workday.

While you don't have an engineering background, it's possible that you could apply for factory operations supervisory roles on night shifts.
posted by TrialByMedia at 11:44 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work overnights at a NOC, 4x10 shifts.
posted by empath at 4:12 AM on October 4, 2013

consider working in a correctional setting, an airport or another 24 hour transit facility, at a hospital, for a law enforcement agency, or for a criminal court (24 hour arraignments!) there are all kinds of professionals that get the very early or later-in-the-evening hours at these places.

i am also a lawyer and feel you on the desire to do a 6-2 or 7-3 instead of a 9-5 shift. i work as an investigator in the jail system now and our options range from 3pm-11pm for night owls, or 7-3 / 8-4, with overtime at our discretion (sometimes i'll come to work in the middle of the night if i cannot sleep.) risk management, investigations, security work all require staff on call 24 hours.

another good thing about the criminal justice jobs is usually people will regularly work a weekend day and have a weekday off - or volunteer for a weekend and take the time due during the week. makes it way easier to get doctor's appointments, bureaucratic errands, deliveries, home repairs and stuff like that done during your time off. our officers also do 4 and 2s meaning they work a four day week then have two days off :)
posted by zdravo at 5:18 AM on November 3, 2013

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