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The 7 Coolest Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a movie star. The career had it all: Hollywood glamour, traveling, playing lead roles alongside hot actors. What could be better? It seemed like the perfect plan. Until, of course, I realized that a bazillion other little girls wanted to be movie stars too. And that having a few lead parts in school shows wasn’t exactly going to rocket me to an Oscar nomination. I needed to get real, and pick an attainable career path (though I suppose I’m walking a thin-line with journalism).

Luckily, an attainable career does not have to mean the nine-to-five desk job blues. So for those of you who’ve long ago put aside your dreams of becoming an actress or rock star but haven’t given up on working a super cool job, I’ve got a list of seven careers that will still have you doing awesome and interesting things. But they’re not the ones that every little girl is practicing using her hairbrush as a microphone to prepare for. Here are the seven coolest careers you’ve never heard of.


What it is: Cracking and creating codes. What career could get you closer to the reality of your favorite digital-age thriller movies? Ok, so working as a cryptographer isn’t actually going to be as action-packed as a blockbuster film, but it’s pretty neat. Many cryptographers are employed by technology companies, where they work to keep information shared over the internet, like credit card numbers, private. But many others work for the government, especially at the National Security Agency, where the exact work they do is classified, but could include things like figuring out how to send out secret messages to the military or cracking codes to find criminals.

How you get there: A B.S. in math or computer science is required for almost all entry-level jobs, though if you’ve taken a lot of courses in either without it being your official major, that could work too. Cryptographers are also usually bi- or multi-lingual (you knew that foreign language requirement would come in handy somewhere, right?). And most advanced jobs require a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. in math or computer science, so expect to be spending some more time in school if you want to move up in the field. Once you’ve got the education you need, look through job listings at government agencies or technology companies.

Image Consultant

What it is: Helping people fix all aspects of their image—from their hair and clothes to their manner of speaking and walking. Many image consultants develop a specialty, like working with politicians or TV personalities. Some also work exclusively with one aspect of someone’s image, like their wardrobe or speaking habits. Others work on cultivating the core of their client’s image and refer them to specialists, like hairstylists or etiquette experts, to help with specifics.

How you get there: Though you don’t need it to become an image consultant, certification is available through the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI). Through completing courses and taking tests, you can earn three different levels of certification: First Level, Image Professional, and Image Master. Once you’ve got certification, you can set up a business and start finding clients. College seniors and recent grads make good first clients because it’s easy to reach a lot of them at once, and they’ll be less picky about your prior experience than, say, a CEO.

Sound Design

What it is: Composing music or sounds for businesses, like a commercial jingle, the introduction to a television program (like the music that signifies you’re watching the Olympics on NBC), or even the music playing in the lobby at a Hilton hotel. Ok, so I know this sounds a little like selling out to a musician, but it’s actually cool because you get to figure out how to make a jingle stick, and what sounds people associate with what products or events. So it really involves more than just writing music; it requires understanding how people think. As a bonus, lots of people will actually hear and remember what you write (since hopefully it’s catchy)!

How you get there: Study music, brand management, or marketing in school. Internships are also key in this industry, so look up your favorite brands and see if they’re hiring for the school year or summer. If they don’t have a sound design internship, see if there’s something in the marketing department that would include sound design as part of your experience. Alternatively, if you’ve composed a jingle or song you think is perfect for someplace, you can send a copy to their marketing department and see what happens.

Genetic Counselor

What it is: Counseling families about inherited diseases. Genetic counselors meet with pregnant women or couples who are planning a family to help assess the risk that their child could have a disease that is passed down through genes, like Down Syndrome or Tay Sachs. Once a couple knows their risk level, the genetic counselor explains their options for raising a family and guides their decision-making process.

How you get there: Licensed genetic counselors must get a master’s degree in the field from an accredited master’s program, as well as pass a certification exam. Master’s degree programs all have different prerequisites, but most prefer students who majored in biology or a social science. They also look for applicants with genetic counseling internships or other counseling experience.
Menu Engineer

What it is: Figuring out how much to charge for food at a restaurant. Ever wonder who decided that a frappuccino costs so much more than a coffee? Menu engineers did. They look at how much a menu item costs to make and how popular it is to determine the prices that will result in maximum profits for the restaurants. Specifically, they try to find prices that will encourage the purchase of highly profitable items while discouraging the purchase of less profitable items. They also physically design the menu in a way that gets people to pay more attention to higher priced items. Become a menu engineer and you can be the person everyone blames after realizing they spent $3.00 for a tiny cup of ice cream (but hey, you convinced us we should).
How you get there: Study hospitality, marketing, economics, or psychology. Pay attention to prices when you go out to eat to give yourself a common sense education in the field. Then look for internships in restaurant management or hospitality consulting. Most menu engineers work for hospitality consulting companies, but if you’re really good, you can start you own business after you’ve developed contacts in the industry.
Urban Planner

What it is: Designing cities for maximum well-being. Urban planning includes a bunch of subfields, but the four core ones are urban design, environmental planning, transportation planning, and housing and economic development. Urban designers focus on the physical layout of the city, determining where buildings and parks should go. Environmental planners focus on keeping the environment intact as a city grows. Transportation planners look at how to best get people from point A to point B, whether that be by roads, trains, subways, buses, or trolleys. And housing and economic developers try to create programs and design policies to solve problems like homelessness or joblessness.
How you get there: Most entry-level urban planning jobs require a master’s degree in urban or city planning, though occasionally you can get a job with a bachelor’s degree in the field. Master’s programs have no specific prerequisites, though many applicants study architecture, economics, political science, sociology, or environmental studies during undergrad. Almost all master’s degree programs will set you up with fieldwork or an internship to give you real world experience. Once you’ve graduated, you can look for jobs in government, development agencies, and nonprofits—all three hire urban planners!
Information Broker

What is it is: Conducting in-depth research for clients. If the Works Cited page on your last school paper is twice as long as anyone else’s, this job is for you. Like investigative journalists, information brokers do whatever it takes to find things out that other people just can’t find out. An information broker’s day-to-day duties depend on the needs of her client: one day she might be searching online, while the next she could be physically hunting down someone. Once she has all the relevant information, she must present it clearly to her client.
How you get there: There are no specific requirements for becoming an information broker. However, an undergraduate degree from any of the liberal arts or sciences is probably best because these tend to stress research skills. See if you can become a research assistant for a professor. This is a relatively new profession, and thus most information brokers work for themselves. Many information brokers worked as researchers or librarians first, and then used their expertise and contacts to start their own information brokerage business. For more information on starting your own information brokerage, check out the Association of Independent Information Pros.

Elana Altman adores alliteration, and thus is majoring in economics and minoring in English at Wellesley College, where she is a senior. At Wellesley, she’s co-editor-in-chief of Legenda, the yearbook, and has occasionally contributed to the monthly magazine Counterpoint and the weekly newspaper The Wellesley News. She’s originally from Glen Rock, NJ, which is 30 minutes from NYC and 15 minutes from 5 different malls. Currently, Elana's in Harrisburg, PA, where she’s a features intern for the Patriot-News. She’s previously interned at The Record and TWIST magazine. After college, she is considering moving to Los Angeles to fulfill her lifelong dream of getting a tan, though she wouldn't mind a job either. Elana enjoys anything with coffee in it, cooking, a few good TV shows, and a few too many terrible ones.
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