Readers had an amazing conversation the other day about non-desk jobs, so we thought we’d collect all of their advice into one place. Curious what non-desk jobs are out there, or how to get into a career field where you aren’t chained to a desk all day? This post is for you.
First, here was the question that sparked the discussion:
“As I sit chained to my desk for going on 8 years, I sometimes daydream about having a job that isn’t a desk job. It’s never a specific job in my daydreams though, because I have no desire to enter the medical field or be a policewoman, firefighter, plumber, etc. (what all those “non desk job” lists consist of). Who here has a fascinating non desk job? Or knows someone who does? How did you/they get into it?”
Readers came up with a TON of great ideas, so we thought we’d round them up. Some people who HOLD non-desk jobs weighed in, while others knew people who had been in specific non-desk careers (such as forrestry)!
Have you ever considered non-desk jobs? What are your best tips on how to get a great non-desk job?
How to Find a Great Non-Desk Job
Artsy Non-Desk Jobs
One reader noted that you could be an “[a]rtist, seamstress, clothing designer, interior decorator, dietitian… anything where you go to clients’ homes or workplaces!”
Jeweler. But the reader who suggested this noted, “I am obsessed with jewelry, especially pearls and semiprecious gemstones. Super interested in lab created precious stones as well.”
Stage manager. One reader noted, “In my fantasy life, I’m a stage manager for live theater (like plays or musicals, not rock shows).”
Museum jobs. Not quite an artsy job — but in a similar vein, one reader noted that her favorite job working at a museum, “specifically on the floor interacting with guests. Pay was absolute sh!t but I loved it.”
Event management/coordination. (I’ve actually heard these are great jobs for former theater managers!) As one reader noted, while you’re at the event you’re running around taking care of everything, but there’s a lot of hands-on prep work, such as “scoping out the event space, meeting with vendors, etc. There are companies that do this full time and several large companies have a full in-house events team. Likewise, many visitor experience jobs are essentially event management jobs in-house for a venue (NFL stadium, museum, concert venue).”
Teaching Non-Desk Jobs
One reader came up with a ton of great ideas, including teaching. “While there’s a lot of prep work, grading, comment writing, and faculty meetings, the time you’re physically teaching is not at at desk. It’s of course grade and subject dependent, but teaching a science class with a lab component would be hands on, as would teaching elementary schoolers.”
Readers also noted that daycare/preschool teachers should be included as well as K-12 teachers!
Non-Desk Jobs That Are Not Doctors (But Are Medicine-Adjacent)
One reader came up with a bunch of great ideas for medicine-adjacent non-desk jobs:
– Therapists such as specialists in physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. Readers noted, “I have friends who are all 3 and they are all so happy with their careers. You can do these jobs in so many different settings. For example, I have two friends who are OTs. One works in a hospital with patients recovering from survey while another works with toddlers and young children in their homes and schools exclusively.” (Note that you may need a BS to pursue this path — I had one friend who had a BA in acting and decided not to pursue occupational therapy because she would have needed to basically redo her entire college education.)
– Medical device sales. One reader noted, “I have a few friends in medical device sales and they all love it and make really great money. They are mostly on site at hospitals and then a little WFH for the admin part of the job.”
– Clinical research coordinators and lab scientists. One reader noted, “Not sure what your background is and/or if you’re willing to go back to school, but I have several friends who work in labs doing different things (don’t ask me what) or as clinical research coordinators that seem to be desk and non-desk. Likewise, some engineering jobs are all desk work and some engineering jobs are very hands on and some fall in between.”
Non-Desk Jobs Outdoors
Forestry. One reader noted, “My ex husband was a forester. He worked for a state forestry commission. Got into it by going to forestry school.”
Another reader suggested working for a public lands agency or becoming a backcountry guide. “I had non-desk jobs in the first decade of my working life, though it’s been almost a decade of desk jobs now. They were mostly in the hospitality / outdoor education / environmental awareness space. My friends who still work in that area generally are some type of backcountry guide or work for a public lands agency.”
Yet another reader noted that she’d love to get into a wilderness search and rescue with a canine team.
“Professional” Non-Desk Jobs
Another reader came up with a lot of great ideas for non-desk jobs that were in corporate-adjacent fields:
– Commercial pilot. Readers noted that you can be a commercial pilot until you are 65 — and there is talk that the age may increase due to the overall pilot shortage.
– Corporate training. There are a ton of corporate training jobs out there, including orientation, onboarding, technical skills training, management training, DEI training, and more. One reader noted that:
“If you like the idea of teaching but don’t want to work with kids or in a school, there are plenty of corporate and government training teams. My first job in my field was working for a large emergency management agency on their training team. We didn’t do onboarding or orientation (that was all HR) but we did training on different emergency situations for our staff and staff from partner agencies. I was the coordinator, so I didn’t develop or give the trainings, but it was a great team.”
– Government jobs with community engagement roles. One reader noted, “There are a lot of government jobs that involve working with the public / community engagement roles. Obviously, that is not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s a team of 3 in my current office who do it and they seem happy.”
– Lobbyist. Plenty of desk time, but lots of going places: meetings with lawmakers’ staff, meetings with clients/coalitions/stakeholders, fundraising events. (Fundraisers are sometimes fancy like you imagine them; other times it’s eating a stale danish at 7:30 a.m. in a cramped restaurant event room.)
One reader chimed in with her experience in local government emergency management:
“I am a local government emergency manager. I have plenty of desk work: regular admin work, writing reports, emails and phone calls with partners and vendors, managing grants and vendors, writing plans. However, there are a lot of meetings, trainings, community engagement work, logistics work, and of course, emergency response. Emergency management is not for everyone (and I am currently incredibly burnt out), but it’s overall a great fit for me.”
Why Non-Desk Jobs May Not Be a Good Fit For You
One reader added a big caveat to non-desk jobs: “One thing I have found about non-desk jobs is that most of them require in-person work all or the majority of the time. So, if you value remote or hybrid work then these jobs are not likely a good fit.”
Another reader suggested staying away from analyst positions if you want a non-desk job. “At an old job of mine we had an analyst who pretty much stayed at her desk and made dashboards, trackers, maps while others got to go do ‘cool’e things.”
Yet another reader had a great quip that explained why she chose her desk job: “I feel like it’s either deal with the public, be good at math, or have a desk job. I can’t do the first two, so I settled for a desk job.”
Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you ever considered non-desk jobs? What are your best tips on how to get a great non-desk job?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / deniskalinichenko.