Alternative jobs

Our careers are not set in stone, things change and over time so do we. The aspirations we have when we leave school or higher education will evolve considerably.

It is important for us to try a range of jobs out before we settle on what we think will be an upward career path. Not until we do that will we be able to learn what we enjoy and what we are good at.

There are infinite roles out there, some require you to sit behind a desk, others behind the controls of a JCB. We take a look at the skills needed to 
do various occupations, from Research Geneticist to pop star.


Educational Requirements: No standard educational requirements, but secondary/high school - maths and English useful.

Training: Apprenticeship or formal on-the-job training.

Skills required: Good manual dexterity required to set up scaffolding and move heavy objects; good colour sense; ability to work at heights; precision and thoroughness; good vision and an eye for differences and variations in appearance and texture.

Average UK Salary: £9.50-£17.50/hour, depending on experience.

Duties: Estimate quantities of materials required for jobs; strip old coats; prepare surfaces; mix and match colours; use brushes, rollers, spray guns, etc. to apply paint; sandblast and apply industrial coatings; apply textured finishes, paper or wall coverings and fire retardant coatings; keep up to date with new products.

Future: Self-employment; contracting to organisations who own large complexes such as schools or apartment buildings; contracting for repair/remodelling work. Most painter/decorators schedule their work for the year so that they can work indoors in the winter and outdoors during summer.

Real Estate Agent

Educational Requirements: University degree not essential but relevant study in surveying, urban and land studies, business-related studies or civil and structural engineering will be an advantage.

Training: On the job and in-house. Three professional bodies exist within the UK: The National Association of Estate Agents; The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers.

Skills required: Good social skills and the ability to persuade trust and inspire ; initiative; foresight; organisational ability; integrity; a good telephone manner; clean driving licence and willingness to work unsociable hours.

Average UK Salary: Range of typical starting salaries: £7,000-£15,000. Range of typical salaries at age 40: £20,000 - £38,300.

Duties: Valuation, sale, leasing and management of property, both residential and commercial on behalf of clients.

Future: Most real estate agents work in independent private estate agency practices, but there are opportunities in banks and building societies who operate estate agencies. It is also common for experienced staff with a client base to establish their own business. Success really depends on the economic state of the property market.

Freelance Photographer

Educational Requirements: No standard educational requirements, but secondary/high school - maths and English useful.

Training: Computer skills are essential for digital, and increasingly other forms of, photography. Photographic technician is an excellent training position, and training in the technical and artistic aspects of professional photography is available from many institutions of higher education.

Skills required: good listening skills; good eyesight and colour vision; artistic talent; manual dexterity; good timing; patience and the ability to put people at ease and the ability to work accurately with details.

Average UK Salary: Range of typical starting salaries: £8,000-£20,000. Range of typical salaries at age 40: £25,000 - £50,000. Paid per job and varies widely depending on perseverance, reputation and experience.

Duties: Liaise with clients to determine needs; select appropriate cameras and props; use equipment including lenses, film, filters and lighting correctly; take numerous photographs to choose from the best; maintain all equipment; use specialised film as appropriate; may use techniques to retouch negatives and prints.

Future: Most photographers work as freelancers in a very competitive field. Some full-time employment is available in areas such as forensic, medical, aerial or scientific photography, but these are very specialised jobs and are limited in number.

Research Geneticist

Educational Requirements: At least 3 years of higher education, plus a Ph.D. or D.Phil in genetics.

Training: A Ph.D. or D. Phil program in genetics during which students take advanced courses in genetics and begin a research project. After obtaining the Ph.D. , most graduates undertake postdoctoral research for 2-4 years, before becoming qualified enough to assume faculty positions at academic institutions or to join the staffs of research institutes or biotechnology firms.

Skills required: An interest in chemistry; persistence; the ability to pay close attention to detail; a willingness to do the reading required to keep abreast of new developments and discoveries; the ability to synthesise information, find innovative solutions to problems, use sophisticated instruments and equipment, and supervise the work of others.

Average UK salary: Depending on experience, anything between roughly £20k-£75k.

Duties: Conduct research into the biochemical and physiological aspects of heredity, particularly the role of DNA, and/or carry out cytogenetic or molecular tests to aid in diagnosing disease.

Future: Geneticists are employed by universities, government departments, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness companies, and biotechnology companies.


Educational Requirements: No standard educational requirements, but knowledge of bee business a must.

Training: Inexperienced beekeepers are advised to obtain related experience by working with established beekeepers and to start their businesses on a small scale.

Skills required: Stamina; the ability to withstand bee stings; good organisational skills; the numerical abilities required to keep financial and production records, and the mechanical aptitude required to maintain equipment.

Average UK salary: Beekeepers' incomes depend on: the market value of honey; the amount of honey produced per hive; the amount paid for pollination services; weather conditions, and production costs.

Duties: Maintain colonies of bees to produce honey and hive by-products, pollinate crops and/or produce queens and bees for sale. In summer, beekeepers must: inspect colonies for vitality, queen performance, level of food reserves and the presence of parasites or disease; move colonies to new locations as required; replace queen bees; control hive size to prevent swarming; protect hives from predators; collect and extract honey or pollen; market products to consumers or packers, and keep records of production and colony conditions. In winter: regularly check colonies; repair and maintain hive boxes and equipment in preparation for spring.

Future: Some beekeepers are employed as assistants in commercial operations. However, few operators are large enough to keep beekeeping assistants employed on a year-round basis.

Pet Groomer

Educational Requirements: No standard educational requirements.

Training: Training is mainly on the job, though some salons provide more formalised training. Many employers prefer to hire applicants who have previous animal care experience.

Skills required: Physical fitness and good health; strong interest in animals; ability to work with and clean up after animals; artistic with grooming styles; ability to maintain control while remaining gentle, quiet and patient with animals; ability to deal with pet owners tactfully and gain their trust.

Average UK salary: Most pet groomers work on a commission basis. Their earnings vary considerably depending on their reputation for good work and their business skills.

Duties: Shampoo, clip and groom dogs, cats and other pets to improve and maintain their hygiene, comfort and appearance; answer inquiries from the public; schedule appointments and record pet and owner information; clip claws, and clean pets' ears. Pet groomers may also advise customers regarding pet grooming.

Future: Advancement opportunities are limited. With experience and small business management skills, pet groomers may eventually become managers or start their own businesses.

Pop Singer

Educational Requirements: No standard educational requirements but need a good business sense and an understanding of how to sell themselves to agents and managers.

Training: Although many popular singers have little formal music training, there is a growing trend for professional contemporary singers to pursue formal technical training. Singing lessons are offered by various music schools, independent teachers and music departments at colleges and universities.

Skills required: business and entrepreneurial skills; vocal talent; a discerning ear for music; ambition; self-discipline; the ability to handle criticism and rejection; good health and stamina; a dramatic stage presence and the ability to sense the mood of an audience and respond accordingly, and a good memory for music. Singers should enjoy diverting and entertaining audiences, and developing their own style.

Average UK salary: Performers or their agents negotiate performance fees with owners or managers. Therefore, your income as a singer can fluctuate dramatically, depending on how much work is available and whether you're a Robbie Williams, or a Gary Barlow.

Duties: Rehearsing; performing; looking for new material that fits their particular style; auditioning or preparing and submitting audition tapes to obtain work; practising daily to maintain voice-elasticity, and working with business agents or managers to find work and negotiate contracts.

Future: Singers need to build their reputations by gaining mass appeal on recordings or with live audiences. It also helps to develop contacts with music directors, agents, songwriters and producers.


Educational Requirements: 4 years of higher education. The recommended route for those interested in becoming translators is to obtain a degree in one or more languages, followed by a specialised program in translation.

Training: The best practical training for translators is to spend a considerable length of time living in the culture of the target language, as European standards for translators require at least two or more languages in addition to their mother tongue. Internships at a translation agency can also provide an insight into the industry and provide experience.

Skills required: Mastery of languages; excellent linguistic capabilities; knowledge of current affairs; an understanding of the fundamentals of business, technology and law; word-processing skills; inquisitiveness, meticulousness; an ability to pay close attention to detail, and an interest in learning and researching information in new areas. Often legal terminology will have to be known too. Knowledge of translation software such as Trados may be required.

Average UK salary: Translators may work on a contract basis for a specific project and be paid by the word. Full-time government translators earn from £18k-£35k a year. Working for the police is paid by the hour and is significantly profitable.

Duties: Convert written text from one language to another; conduct research; compile terminology information and revise, edit, proof-read and check translated material. Translators generally convert texts into their mother tongue and sometimes work in teams, each person translating a different part of the same text.

Future: Translators work for: governments; private translation firms, and private corporations. They may be employed full-time or part-time, or work on a freelance basis. Translators may also work as terminologists or revisers. Advancement opportunities are limited.

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