The Best Unconventional Jobs for Millennials

Are you tired of the nine-to-five grind and looking for a work life that will be more interesting than spending your days sitting in a cubicle or dialing into conference call after conference call? Fortunately, there are alternative careers if you want to expand your options beyond a traditional desk job, and instead opt for the flexibility many millennials seek.

Here are five of the best unconventional jobs for millennials, including information on salary, benefits, career opportunities, and how to get in the door. They’re ranked in order of their anticipated prospect of industry growth (career outlook), from highest to lowest.

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Nurse Midwife / Doula

Midwife with pregnant woman
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A nurse midwife is a health care provider who covers all aspects of pregnancy (from obstetrics and gynecology, to pregnancy health, to labor and delivery), whereas a doula offers support and coaching during the birth process.

Career Outlook: The field is growing faster than average at 31 percent, with 203,800 nursing jobs in the industry.

Pay Range: According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for nurse midwives is $99,770. For doulas, pay varies widely based on experience, location, and specialty. However, most doulas can expect to earn fees of between $250 and $1000.

Benefits: A flexible schedule (e.g., nurses and doulas do not work 9–5) and the opportunity for a very rewarding career are two top benefits. If you are employed in a hospital, you will likely have traditional benefits such as health insurance, 401k, and a pension plan if you work as a full-time employee.

Getting in the Door: While education requirements vary by state, the first step to working as a midwife is by becoming a registered nurse (RN) and then passing a board certification exam. Many midwives have graduate degrees in addition to a Bachelor’s degree. To become a doula, there are several pathways to certification through organizations like CAPPA and DONA International, and you do not need an undergraduate degree.

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Production Assistant / Producer

Business people shooting video tutorial
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Production assistants support producers, directors, and other crew on film, television, and theatre sets.

Career Outlook: According to the BLS, the career field for producers is growing faster than average at 12 percent. There are 134,700 jobs in the industry.

Pay Range: Freelance production assistants can expect to earn anywhere between $150 and $200 per day in large cities like New York or Los Angeles. That number increases with seniority, as they subsequently advance to roles as production coordinator, to production manager, to producer, where daily pay-outs can exceed $1,000 per day. Film and TV jobs will pay less than commercial jobs, and working in-office vs. freelancing will often pay less as well, though with the benefit of consistent work. According to the BLS, the average salary for a producer is $70,950.

Benefits: As a freelancer working in production, your schedule is flexible so you can choose when you want to work. Meals and transportation are often covered, as well.

Getting in the Door: To get your foot in the door, look for production assistant jobs or internships with a large media company, or search on Craigslist. Do your best to make a great impression, as most jobs up the ladder are filled on a word-of-mouth basis.

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Makeup Artist

Woman selecting makeup from table
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Makeup artists apply cosmetics and may work in a variety of niches from film and television, to live theater, to events such as galas and weddings. There are also opportunities to work for department stores and specialty stores such as Sephora, NYX, and MAC.

Career Outlook: The field is growing faster than average at 11 percent. There are 4,800 jobs in the industry.

Pay Range: Median salaries for makeup artists come in at $60,970. You can expect to make more in urban areas (e.g., in New York City, makeup artists average $91,000 per year) or if you are working as a freelancer for film and TV, where makeup artists can be paid up to $600 per day. Working as a makeup artist for wedding parties is also a lucrative niche.

Benefits: There are numerous opportunities to work for yourself as a makeup artist (or work on a freelance basis), so the schedule can be extremely flexible. While working with a brand or company will likely give less flexibility in a shift schedule, you will benefit from the support and education opportunities available for employees.

Getting in The Door: Legal certification and licensure requirements vary by state, so be sure to do extra research specific to where you’re located and where you want to work. There are also a variety of trade programs and schools where you can learn technique. 

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Fitness Instructor

Fitness instructor
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As fitness classes including yoga, pilates, barre, cycling, HIIT, dance, and more become increasingly popular, there are many opportunities for individuals aspiring to become instructors. Fitness instructors can work in a boutique studio setting, at a gym, in schools and hospitals, or can even “telecommute,” offering classes online.

Career Outlook: The field is growing faster than average at 10 percent. There are 299,200 jobs in the industry.

Pay Range: According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a fitness instructor is $38,160. In urban areas, where there is a demand for high-end fitness classes, instructors can earn more. The top 10 percent of fitness instructors earned more than $72,000 per year, according to the BLS. Fitness instructors can also supplement their income by offering semi-private, or private, lessons and workshops.

Benefits: Traditional benefits will depend on whether you work as an employee or work as a contractor among different studios (which has its own benefits if you’re looking for flexibility and variety). In some cases, your specific field may offer benefits, such as health insurance, through a membership organization (e.g., some yoga teachers are eligible for health insurance through Yoga Alliance). In addition, many fitness instructors receive greatly discounted, if not free, classes or gym memberships.

Getting in the Door: Getting a job as a fitness instructor depends on what you want to teach. Some fields require certification (yoga teachers must undergo an accredited 200-hour training at the minimum, for example), while others are more flexible. Most spin studios, for example, use auditions as a hiring method, and as long as you’re outgoing, engaging, and in good shape, you’ll be an eligible candidate for a job.

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Social Media Manager

Consulting help
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If you’re a millennial, it’s likely you have a natural expertise with social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. You can use your skills in growing a social media following, running campaigns, and generating engagement to help businesses reach their marketing goals.

Career Outlook: The field is growing at an average pace of 9 percent. There are 249,600 jobs in the industry.

Pay range: According to the BLS, the median annual salary for advertising, marketing, and promotions managers is $127,600 per year. However, the average salary for an individual who specifically manages social media is about $50,000. You can expect to make more than that as your expertise grows or as you advance on the career ladder and start managing multi-channel marketing efforts.

Benefits: There is much flexibility in the field as you can go the route of working in-house for an established company, or working for an advertising or media agency. If you work full-time, both options will likely offer traditional benefits, as well as other perks dependent on the specific company. Alternately, if it’s a flexible schedule you’re after, there is ample opportunity to work on a freelance or contract basis where you will be able to set your own rates and hours, and work remotely.

Getting in the Door: It’s critical to stay current with the most popular social media platforms. Beyond that, most social media managers are expected to have a four-year degree, ideally in a field at least tangentially related, such as public relations, communications, marketing, or business. You should have strong copywriting and communications skills as well. A good first step is building up your own social media pages, or volunteering for local businesses or non-profits, as employers will definitely want to see examples of previous work.