5 little-known jobs offering self-sufficient wages

Utility workers
Photo by Elvert Barnes, some rights reserved

The San Diego Workforce Partnership is constantly trying to understand new trends and opportunities for both the workforce and employers in the region. Our recent Priority Jobs report highlights 72 occupations that will continue to grow rapidly in the future, have many annual openings and provide an entry-level hourly wage high enough for individuals to be self-sufficient.

While this list includes well-known occupations like school teachers, registered nurses and software developers, we wanted to highlight a few promising careers that most people probably aren’t as familiar with. Which ones get your imagination going?

Plasterers and Stucco Masons

$39,000–$70,000 per year
No formal education credential
Stucco mason / plasterer
Photo by Ollie Harridge, some rights reserved

San Diego is well known for its stunning beaches, warm climate and fresh fish tacos. Equally recognizable, though less advertised, are its early 20th-century, Spanish-style stucco-covered homes. What’s the best news about these historic homes? The nature of any historic thing is that it is intrinsically old, resulting in inevitable repairs.

As San Diegans look to preserve their homes’ iconic appearance and build new ones in that style, demand for plasterers and stucco masons has boomed. With no formal educational requirements and an entry-level wage of $17.70 per hour (nearly $2 dollars more than the self-sufficiency wage in San Diego), this occupation helps meet the needs of both homeowners and the workforce.

Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

$53,000–$127,000 per year
High school diploma or equivalent

Think back to your first introduction to science as a kid. What comes to mind? If the wonders of electrical currents sparked (pun intended) your childhood interest, you may consider a career as an electrical power-line installer and repairer. With an hourly entry-wage of $25.40 and a concerted effort by the City of San Diego to move power lines underground, long-term financial stability can be expected for those in this occupation.

Need more convincing? Let’s talk about drones. They are being used now as a safe and efficient way to inspect power lines in more rural parts of the county. Though the business argument for their use is obvious, what is more exciting to those of us in the labor force is the that employees will literally get paid to fly them. Who says we have to stop playing with toys when we grow up?

Aerospace Engineers

$65,000–$157,000 per year
Bachelor’s degree
aerospace engineer flight simulator
Photo by Penn State College of Engineering, some rights reserved

Speaking of drones, have you ever sat and wondered how they hover and maneuver this way and that so effortlessly? Have you sat in Balboa Park and marveled at the giant aircrafts passing by the San Diego skyline and wondered what gravity-defying physics allow these building sized objects to glide through the air? Have you walked along the beach in La Jolla to hear the sonic booms of local F/A-18s and pondered what gives these buzzing hornets their jaw-dropping speed?

At an entry hourly wage of $31.30, you can work to answer these questions and many more. Aerospace engineers can specialize in anything from fluid dynamics (how does the shape of an aircraft affect the way air flows around it) to aircraft control systems. With money flowing into small and large firms alike, and San Diego’s important role in the defense industry, this occupation will not only provide stable income to its current labor force but will also provide many new job opportunities.

Surgical Technologist

$42,000–$78,000 per year
Postsecondary nondegree award

It is Sunday night. You are binge watching your favorite medical drama. Towards the end of your late night snack, this thought occurs: “How can I get a job wearing some cool blue pajama-like clothing?” While doctors and surgeons often get the TV accolades, the unsung hero in these series and—more importantly—in reality is the surgical technologist.

In addition to preparing patients and rooms for surgery, those working in this field are responsible for various tasks during and after surgery, like monitoring patients’ vital signs and patient transport. Due to the nature of the work, surgical techs make an obvious and daily difference in peoples’ lives. Further, demand in the region is very strong, giving employees the ability to look for hospitals and employers who best fit their needs. Finally, no two surgeries, or days for that matter, are the same. All this variety can make for an exciting and rewarding career.

Cost Estimator

$42,000–$110,000 per year
Bachelor’s degree

While recently brainstorming which job quality improvements could be most impactful on workers’ lives, a colleague jokingly (?) suggested a laundry service in our office. After quickly rattling off all the things we were going to do with our newfound free time, the conversation came to the question of what it would take to make something like this happen. We began estimating the time, money, materials and labor that would be required to bring our idea to life.

Unfortunately, we too soon realized that a laundry service provided by our employer is infeasible in almost every way. What we did not realize, however, was the thought experiment we undertook exactly mirrors the job characteristics of cost estimators. Workers in this field help to understand the feasibility, profitability and logistics of producing a good, constructing a building or providing a service. Without these folks, our wildest ideas can’t become reality.

There is a place for everyone in the San Diego economy, spanning various interests and requiring different levels of education and skillsets. We believe your perfect job exists, not just to meet your financial needs, but more importantly, your professional and life goals. For more career ideas, check out Career Coach to take an assessment that will match you up with even more possibilities!