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9 unusual jobs that earn $100,000 or more

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Hitting the $100,000 salary mark is the dream of many a worker bee. And it's a dream that doesn't come true for many, not with median household income stuck at just under $52,000 in the U.S. That's down from a peak of $56,800 in 2000, adjusted for inflation.

Nope, earning $100,000 remains a pipe dream for most Americans. But there are plenty of jobs where that salary level is the norm. A handful of those jobs are unusual and don't keep you trapped in a cubicle all day crunching numbers. Fewer still are the jobs that are interesting and don't require advanced degrees.

We turned to 2012 compensation figures (the latest data available) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify nine unusual jobs that earn at least $100,000 a year.

Click ahead to see what they are and how much they pay.

Government astronomer

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2012 median pay: $139,140 a year

This isn't one of those easy gigs you can get with just a bachelor's degree. An astronomy job usually requires an advanced degree, but the payoff is handsome.

The median annual wage for astronomers was about $96,000 in 2012, but those lucky enough to work for the federal government took home a median $139,000 a year.

There is one downside to the job: Astronomers may need to work at night, since there is less radiation from the sun to mess with observations then. But most astronomers work normal office hours and only visit observatories a few times a year, according to the BLS.

Air traffic controller

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2012 median pay: $122,530 a year

The stress from this job is one reason that the pay is so high. Air traffic controllers are also needed at night and on the weekends. The level of education needed isn't high; controllers need to complete a training course at a Federal Aviation Administration Academy, according to the BLS.

Because the job can be stressful, controllers often retire earlier than other workers. Those who have worked 20 years in the post are eligible to retire at 50, and they are required to retire at age 56.

Petroleum engineer


2012 median pay: $130,280 a year

Only a bachelor's degree is needed to get an entry-level job in this field. These engineers design ways to extract oil and gas from beneath the earth's surface, and they also try to wring more oil and gas from older wells.

Petroleum engineers have been in high demand as fracking took hold across America. But now, after the price of oil plunged 50 percent in 2014, the industry has been hit by major layoffs. Some of those engineers whose talents were so valued a few years ago may now find themselves out of a job.



2012 median pay: $101,360 a year

There are positions for mathematicians across a number of industries. They can work with chemists to develop new drugs, for example, or study the aerodynamics of new car designs.

Wall Street has become a big fan of the mathematicians who are quantitative analysts. These "quants," as they are called, develop sophisticated mathematical models that give trading firms an upper hand when it comes to pricing stocks and other securities. Some of these quants can earn more than $500,000 when fat Wall Street bonuses are factored in.


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2012 median pay: $116,440 a year

If you spend all day looking at feet, well, you deserve to take home a decent salary. Podiatrists also examine ankles and lower legs, and can perform surgeries. They need to get a degree from an accredited podiatric medical college -- there are only nine of those in the U.S. -- along with some undergraduate education.

Hollywood art director

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These directors oversee the design of images seen in movie and television productions. That often includes the design of a movie set or of the overall visual style of a film.

For some directors, a big part of their jobs is keeping the work within a budget while at the same time juggling designers, location sites and construction workers. For big budget films, art directors are on the job four or five months before shooting begins, according to MediaMatch.

There aren't many job openings in this niche. Most art directors end up in advertising, public relations or publishing businesses.



2012 median pay: $169,130 a year

This is another job that doesn't come easy. Prosthodontists are specialized dentists that complete four years of dental school and then get another three years of focused training on reconstructive treatments.

Their work revolves around replacing missing teeth with crowns, bridges, dentures or other fixtures. Over the last several years, they've been developing dental implants and other advanced technologies.

Airline pilot

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2012 median pay: $114,200

Not every airline pilot is in this elite salary group. Airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers saw a median pay of $114,200 in 2012, but commercial pilot pay was much less, at a median of $73,280.

There can be a big pay difference between regional and major airlines, too. The average captain at a regional airline takes home just $55,000 a year, according to the BLS, while a captain at a major airline earns an average of $135,000.

Oil and gas geoscientist


2012 median pay: $137,750

There are geoscientists in a number of fields, including environmental protection, construction and land cleanup. But the ones that know how to explore the earth for oil and gas deposits are very valuable to the energy industry, and they are paid accordingly.

But like petroleum engineers, these geoscientists may not be in such demand these days with the price of oil hitting lows not seen in years. Drillers have cut back on their budgets for research and exploration, canceling many projects and laying off employees until the commodity rebounds.

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