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The Price of Adventure

A Peek at the Pay for Out of the Ordinary Jobs

June 23, 1997

Gentle reader:

Do you sometimes grow weary at the prospect of spending another day behind your desk? Would you like to ditch the assembly line and experience some adventure on the job?

All manner of adventurous careers are out there for those with the pluck to seek them out and the willingness to pay some dues to get established. Some of these jobs--such as airline pilot--can pay quite well, while others are in such high demand that compensation is held down.

Your dream job may also come with some drawbacks, such as working on weekends--or deep underground. Here's a sampling of some adventure careers and what they pay, along with some facts about the jobs that may surprise you.

--Ms. Work Wise


JOB: Airline pilot

ANNUAL PAY: $120,000 for experienced,major-airline pilot

REMARKS: Air New Zealand pilots can take a 30-minute nap on flights over three hours.


JOB: Automobile designer

ANNUAL PAY: $35,000-$40,000 to start

REMARKS: Some designers only do dashboards.


JOB: Animator

ANNUAL PAY: $26,000-$40,000 to start

REMARKS: High demand has studios recruiting artists from the Philippines.


JOB: Bicycle tour leader

ANNUAL PAY: $40-$50/day plus expenses

REMARKS: Must be able to bike 20 to 50 miles daily.


JOB: Blackjack dealer, Las Vegas

ANNUAL PAY: $25,000-$45,000

REMARKS: Workers deal an average 390-450 hands of blackjack a day


JOB: Chef

ANNUAL PAY: $7-$8/hour to start

REMARKS: The bill for California Culinary Academy's 18-month program: $27,000.


JOB: Deputy medical examiner, Los Angeles County Coroner

ANNUAL PAY: $7,111-$9,789/month

REMARKS: Each examiner handles an average of 350 cases a year


JOB: Fashion designer, Los Angeles

ANNUAL PAY: $500/week to start

REMARKS: About a dozen designers at Mattel work on Barbie's wardrobe.


JOB: Fishing guide

ANNUAL PAY: $20,000

REMARKS: Most work takes place on weekends.


JOB: Freelance commercial photographer

ANNUAL PAY: $200 to $500/session

REMARKS: Annual equipment and film expenses can top $10,000


JOB: Game warden

ANNUAL PAY: $42,000 maximum

REMARKS: Game wardens protect wildlife in New York Harbor.


JOB: Hot-air balloon pilot

ANNUAL PAY: $125/flight

REMARKS: Wind patterns usually permit only two flights with four passengers a day.


JOB: Meteorologist, federal government

ANNUAL PAY: $17,000-$22,000 to start

JOB: Former TV weather readers: Diane Sawyer and David Letterman.


JOB: Mountain climbing guide

ANNUAL PAY: $100 / daily

REMARKS: More than 75 climbers have died on Alaska's Mt. McKinley since 1932.


JOB: Subway tunnel digging machine operator, Los Angeles

ANNUAL PAY: $25/hour to start

REMARKS: Work is done 60 feet underground.


JOB: Painter, Golden Gate Bridge

ANNUAL PAY: $29.22/hour

REMARKS: 38 painters work in only one color: international orange.


JOB: Park ranger

ANNUAL PAY: $22,000-$25,000 to start

REMARKS: In August, Death Valley rangers work in daily average temperature of 113 degrees.


JOB: Party boat operator

ANNUAL PAY: $35,000-$100,000

REMARKS: Boats cost $30,000-$150,000.


JOB: Peace Corps volunteer

ANNUAL PAY: All living expenses paid plus $200 a month

REMARKS: Minimum stint is two years.


JOB: Sailing teacher

ANNUAL PAY: $15/hour

REMARKS: Coast Guard license requires 360 days of on-the-water experience.


JOB: Sea World animal trainer

ANNUAL PAY: $11.60-$20.20/hour

REMARKS: Trainers ride on Shamu's nose during performances.


JOB: Slot machine mechanic, Las Vegas

ANNUAL PAY: $13-$20/hour

REMARKS: Staff at Flamingo Hilton maintain about 2,500 slot machines.


JOB: Tugboat operator

ANNUAL PAY: $50,000-$60,000

JOB: Many operators work and live on boats in seven-day shifts.


JOB: University astronomer, Mauna Kea, Hawaii

ANNUAL PAY: $3,300/month

REMARKS: Telescopes are nearly 14,000 feet above the beach.


JOB: Web page designer

ANNUAL PAY: $6/hour-$80,000/year

JOB: Most Web designers are no older than 35.

Compiled by Jesus Sanchez

Information on outdoor adventure careers provided by Tom Stienstra's book "Sunshine Jobs" (Live Oak Publications).

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