Looking for a physically active “cubicle-free” career?


7 Great Alternatives to a Desk Job

Some people just aren’t cut out for desk jobs. In many cases, it’s not that we don’t have the skills, but rather that working in a cubicle just doesn’t appeal to us. This is often the case with veterans rejoining the civilian workforce after active military duty.

The good news is that there are plenty of “cubicle-free” jobs that can keep you moving throughout the day. Many can help you stay fit and some let you work outdoors. Before you apply, it’s a good idea to check whether you’ll need additional training and certifications and find out what the salary range is.

If you cringe at the thought of spending your days in an office, here are some alternatives worth considering.

1. Construction

Construction laborers perform tasks that require physical labor on construction sites. Some positions require more skill than others. Fortunately, many of these can be learned on the job. The work is physically demanding and often subject to inclement weather and other conditions. For example, highway construction may require early start times due to traffic patterns, while rain or snow storms can mean lost work hours and winter furloughs.

Most construction laborers work full time. Some work is performed at great heights and may involve a higher risk of injury. The job pays around $34,000 on average with higher salaries available with additional experience or training. Though a formal education isn’t typically required, you can get a commercial drivers license (CDL) to operate construction equipment and command a higher salary.

2. Disaster Prep and Recovery

Disaster management specialists manage resources and programs for responding to emergency situations, which include natural events such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes. It’s often combined with emergency management, which includes emergencies caused by human activity. Salaries vary widely but generally average between $40,000 to $80,000, with higher salaries available in Washington, D.C. and major metropolitan areas. The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) offers a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) as well as an Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) certificate that may bolster your job opportunities in this field. In addition, some states have their own requirements for emergency management directors. This is a high-stress job and there are limited positions, but it’s a rewarding career that helps safeguard lives as well as property during a trying time.

3. Firefighter

Becoming a firefighter after leaving active duty lets you continue to serve in the role of a hero. Job venues range from local fire departments to wildland firefighting in national parks around the country. The salary range is  $8 to 40 dollars an hour, depending on experience, and the conditions under which you work. In this job, you can save lives and prevent millions of dollars in property damage, and there’s often paid downtime when things are quiet. The tradeoff is high stress and long hours under sometimes different or dangerous working conditions.  Requirements vary but count on at least 40 hours of instruction followed by plenty of on-the-job training. There may be certifications, such as CPR and equipment safety courses, unique to each position.

4. Lifeguard

Get or renew your CPR certification and become a lifeguard. In this position, you can help make your community a safer place. In some positions, you get paid to learn CPR, First Aid or AED training. In some areas, work is only seasonal, but full-time lifeguards make an average of $20,000 and can seek year-round employment in Florida, California, and states along the Gulf Coast that enjoy endless sunshine. It’s also a great thing to have on your resume if your ultimate goal is to work as a firefighter or police officer.

5. Law Enforcement and Private Security

These positions heavily recruit veterans and are particularly happy with active duty experience. There are a wide variety of positions to choose from and each has its own requirements as far as experience and education are concerned. You can make about $30,000 as a private security guard with little experience or education. Corporate security managers (some are remote or partially remote positions) make around $90,000 and are generally expected to have a college degree, a certain level of IT proficiency and may require other experience and training, depending on where you apply. Find out more about the unlimited potential in this sector if you’re interested in this area of expertise.

6. Park Ranger

If you love nature and want to work outdoors, working as a park ranger provides a valuable service to the public and lets you get paid to help safeguard natural resources. Some park rangers spend their days in the nation’s historically important national parks. However, it’s not just Yellowstone and Yosemite that use rangers since every state has parks and preserves to monitor. Your responsibilities and pay are contingent on where you obtain a position. Generally, rangers who give tours and take tourists on walks or hikes make a little less than those who work for park security. Some jobs are seasonal and you can learn more at usajobs.gov.

In some states, like Louisiana, there are no minimum education requirements to become a park ranger. If you want to be promoted to management, many parks require a bachelor’s degree. Other states, such as Alabama, may require a high school diploma and two years of law enforcement or public recreation experience.  If you become a park ranger, commuting to towns and cities can become an issue, so you’ll want to find an apartment near the park.

7. Personal Trainer and Fitness Bootcamp Instructor

If you worked hard to maintain your physique as a serviceman, becoming a personal trainer or fitness bootcamp guru helps you stay in shape. You can also help other people lose weight, get fit and live longer. While there’s no formal education standard in this field, those with a  formal education in health and fitness have the greatest opportunities. Fitness and aerobics instructors generally have a median salary of $36,160. Another great credential to pursue is a four-year degree in exercise science or health education. The certification requirements vary by state and you can contact your employer of choice to find out what certifications make you a top-tier candidate. This position can be physically rigorous and repetitive use and other injuries are common.

If you left a civilian job to engage in a military service, you have rights (under USERRA) in regard to your employment. Learn more about protecting your job while you serve your country.

There are hundreds of job alternatives to working in a cubicle and that help you take advantage of your military experience, so don’t settle for less than earning a living doing something you love.

Author:  Brad Miller from The Military Guide