Most people need to work for a living, but that doesn’t mean they have to take conventional jobs.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed job listing sites, online databases, and occupation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the weirdest job or job opening in every state.
In a few states, the strangest job titles are not surprising, but they are extremely rare and concentrated in the state as a result of the presence of a specific industry. For example, Kentucky has a high demand for mine shuttle car operators thanks to its large coal mining industry. In Nevada, due in large part to the casinos in Las Vegas, gaming service workers are many times more common than they are across the United States workforce as a whole.
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Some of the other jobs on this list only have become unusual in recent history. For example, before the age of automation and outsourcing, telephone operators were much more common in the United States; today, they are quite rare, but a relatively high concentration of them exists in a few states. Those in unusual occupations can benefit from being the only qualified candidates, and so they can have high job security. Often, however, these jobs are rare because they are in low demand, and so they have risky job security.
In most cases, the typical American will likely have never heard of these jobs and will be shocked that they exist. Titles like duck master, gum buster, and face feeler seem made up, but they are very much real. For those looking to eschew a traditional career, there might be openings for unconventional work in your state right now.
The U.S. economy has a highly diverse set of industries and niche interests. And where there are unusual needs, unusual job openings are available, requiring specific skills that only a tiny fraction of Americans possess. In the case of more common jobs that pay well, a college degree is usually a prerequisite, but this is not always the case.
• Weirdest job: Bounty hunter
As one of the most violent states in the country, professional bounty hunters are sometimes needed in Alabama to apprehend criminals.
• Weirdest job: Commercial diver
Alaska’s commercial fishing industry is one of the largest in the country, and its many marinas and fishing fleets, as well as offshore oil facilities, are in need of commercial divers to maintain them.
• Weirdest job: Bingo manager
Bingo is big in Arizona, and is deemed legal as a fundraising source for some organizations in the state. In April, Gila River Hotels & Casinos in Phoenix broke two Guinness World Records, hosting a game with the largest bingo balls and the largest bingo card.
• Weirdest job: Log grader
Arkansas has one of the nation’s largest logging industries, and the state has one of the highest concentrations of log graders and scalers who estimate the value of harvested timber.
• Weirdest job: Dog surfing instructor
As home to the World Dog Surfing Competition and over 3,000 miles of coastline, California is arguably the only state where it makes sense to have a job teaching dogs how to surf.
• Weirdest job: Hangover helpers party cleaner
Hydrologists are engineers that help determine how water management systems such as dams should be constructed. Colorado is home to a number of major dams.
• Weirdest job: Telephone operator
Telephone operators are much rarer than they were a few decades ago, as automation has rendered many jobs obsolete. But there is still need for them to redirect customer calls and assist with billing information for businesses.
• Weirdest job: Materials scientist
Materials scientists study the properties of synthetic and natural materials. Delaware hosts the operations of a number of chemicals companies, including DuPont.
• Weirdest job: Scuba diving pizza delivery man
Only in Florida… at Jules’ Undersea Lounge in Key Largo, visitors can get pizza delivered to their underwater rooms.
• Weirdest job: Chicken sexer
Georgia has one of the largest poultry industries in the country. Chicken sexers, or poultry sorters, are needed in the industry to quickly determine whether newborn chicks will be hens or roosters.
• Weirdest job: Golf ball diver
The Island State of Hawaii has dozens of golf courses, many near the ocean. Golf balls are bad for underwater ecosystems, so people are needed to dive underwater and retrieve the errant balls.
• Weirdest job: Agricultural engineer
Idaho needs agricultural engineers to perfect the farm equipment many Idahoans use to harvest their famous potatoes and other crops.
• Weirdest job: Flavorist
Flavorists use chemicals to recreate familiar tastes or totally new ones in food.
• Weirdest job: Airplane repo man
If someone becomes wealthy enough to buy an airplane, but falls into financial arrears, they can expect a visit from an airplane repo man. Nick Popovich, who appeared on the Discovery Channel show “Airplane Repo,” has a facility for repossessed planes in Indiana.
• Weirdest job: Wind turbine service technician
Iowa is one of the biggest producers of wind energy in the United States, and technicians are needed to keep those turbines spinning.
• Weirdest job: Dog food taster
Since dogs can’t tell us what they think of their food, humans are needed to make sure nothing is amiss before pet food is shipped to stores. Kansas is one of the largest producers of pet food in the country.
• Weirdest job: Mine shuttle car operator
As one of the largest coal-producing states left, Kentucky requires a number of workers to operate mine shuttle cars.
• Weirdest job: Bridge and lock tender
As the terminus point of the Mississippi river and the location of the Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana has a substantial river control system, including a number of locks. It has roughly 10 times the concentration of bridge and lock tenders compared to the national workforce.
• Weirdest job: Shoe machine operator
The vast majority of shoe machine operator jobs in America are located in Maine. Shoe companies like New Balance, L.L. Bean, Sperry, and more are all have operated in Maine.
• Weirdest job: Crime scene cleaner
Maryland has the 4th highest murder rate among states. When these crimes occur, professionals are needed to come and clean up the scene.
• Weirdest job: Industrial-organizational psychologist
Industrial-organizational psychologists help ensure workplaces run smoothly through conflict resolution and maintaining high employee morale. This occupation is highly concentrated in Massachusetts relative to the nation as a whole.
• Weirdest job: Furniture tester
Thanks to its access to lumber, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was once known as “Furniture City.” Still today, La-Z-Boy Furniture is headquartered in Michigan, so the state has many furniture testers who ensure sofas, chairs, couches, and more are comfy.
• Weirdest job: Professional sleeper
Professional sleepers are often employed by pharmaceutical companies, bed or pillow makers, or sleep researchers. Minnesota has one of the largest health research industries in the country.
• Weirdest job: Forest fire inspector/prevention specialist
The primary responsibilities of forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists is to enforce fire regulations and implement fire control measures. This occupation is far more common in Mississippi than it is nationwide.
• Weirdest job: Dice quality inspector
To ensure that anyone playing a dice game has equal odds of winning, dice are inspected to ensure the cube is equally weighted on all sides before going to casinos or stores. Kearney, Missouri is home to a manufacturer of casino-quality dice.
• Weirdest job: Explosives worker
Explosives workers lay and detonate explosives typically with the purpose of moving or loosening earth and rock. Explosives workers are highly concentrated in Montana relative to the U.S. as a whole.
• Weirdest job: Dredge operator
Dredge operators use machines to remove sediment or other objects from waterways. Nebraska is home to parts of the Platte and Missouri Rivers. It has one dredge operator for every 10,000 jobs – the highest rate among states and more than double the next closest state, Louisiana.
• Weirdest job: Gaming service worker
With a glut of casinos located in Las Vegas, as well as the rest of the state, Nevada needs lots of people to work in the gaming industry.
29. New Hampshire
• Weirdest job: Ash artist
New Hampshire is home to studios like Terrapin Glassblowing and Art From Ashes that can take a deceased loved one’s ashes and turn it into a memorializing work of art.
30. New Jersey
• Weirdest job: Gum buster
Stepping in gum is frustrating and gross. Fortunately, GumBusters of New Jersey and New York have the tools and the skills to make sidewalks safe from sticky discarded gum.
31. New Mexico
• Weirdest job: Ayurveda healer
Ayurveda is a holistic healing method from India that dates back thousands of years. The Ayurvedic Institute is located in Albuquerque.
32. New York
• Weirdest job: Fortune cookie writer
Wonton Food, the world’s largest fortune cookie manufacturing center, is located in New York.
33. North Carolina
• Weirdest job: Face feeler
Face feelers are product testers who check personal care items to insure they are everything from razor blades to beauty products.
34. North Dakota
• Weirdest job: Gas compressor operator
Gas compressor operators work to extract natural gas using compressor engines, pumps and other equipment. Thanks to North Dakota’s oil and natural gas boom, these jobs are much more common in that state compared to anywhere else in America.
• Weirdest job: Odor judge
At Hill Top Research in Cincinnati, odor judges rank products like soap, deodorant, shampoo, and more on a 1 to 10 scale to determine if they are ready to be sold to the public.
• Weirdest job: Rock splitter
The physically demanding job of breaking down rocks from quarries is more common in Oklahoma than in any other state.
• Weirdest job: Professional snuggler
As people become isolated in the digital era, professional snugglers offer platonic companionship. Cuddle Up To Me, which offers cuddling services, opened in Portland in 2013.
• Weirdest job: Chocolate taster
Pennsylvania is home to several Hershey’s plants, so there is a need for professional tasters who can ensure that the sweets produce in those plants are sweet enough.
39. Rhode Island
• Weirdest job: Etchers and engraver
Rhode Island workers are more likely to have a job as an etcher or engraver than those in any other state.
40. South Carolina
• Weirdest job: Nuclear power reactor operator
South Carolina is home to four nuclear power facilities, necessitating workers to operate the reactors they contain.
41. South Dakota
• Weirdest job: Correspondence clerk
Correspondence clerks, also known as administrative assistants, are more common in South Dakota than any other state, accounting for 0.52 jobs per thousand.
• Weirdest job: Duck master
The famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis is home to a strange and delightful tradition in which five ducks march into the lobby and into its fountain twice a day. The first duck master led the Peabody Ducks to their destination starting in 1940 and held the job for 50 years.
• Weirdest job: Marketing unicorn
Marketing unicorns, so called because they are rare, can run a company’s entire marketing department by themselves. This includes finding a company’s target audience, developing the brand, creating content, doing public relations, and more.
• Weirdest job: Historian
Few states take their history as seriously as Utah. It has a Division of State History, a quarterly history journal, preservations efforts, as well as architecture and archaeology programs.
• Weirdest job: Solar photovoltaic installer
Vermont gets 99.6% of its electricity from renewable sources, by far the highest share in the nation. Solar photovoltaic installer put up the solar panels that help make this possible.
• Weirdest job: Beer taster
It may seem like the perfect job, but tasting beer professionally is serious business. These suds sommeliers ensure that each beer poured is of high quality.
• Weirdest job: Horticultural therapist
Horticultural therapy can help people feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally by having them tend to a garden. The American Horticultural Therapy Association is located in Seattle.
48. West Virginia
• Weirdest job: Mining roof bolter
West Virginia is known as a mining state, and mining roof bolters are needed to ensure that roofs are properly attached to prevent collapses.
• Weirdest job: Floor sander
Floor sanders ensure that wooden floors are smooth and finished in new homes or buff up existing floors.
• Weirdest job: Roof-snow clearer
Wyoming is prone to major blizzards and heavy snowfalls can put tremendous strain on roofs, even causing some to collapse. Roof-snow clearers make sure this does not happen.
24/7 Wall Street is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.