8 Niche Careers You Didn’t Even Know Existed

UPDATED: April 19, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 22, 2024
piano technician at work to exemplify niche careers you didn't know existed

“So, what do you do?” It’s a question we’ve all been asked on long plane rides and at awkward cocktail parties. Sometimes, the answers are quite boring and vague. But for those with niche careers, they are unlikely to ever meet someone else in their field, and they’ve become some of the only experts in the world who can do what they do. Imagine the next time you ask someone what they do for a living and they respond, “Oh, I test waterslides for a living,” or “I study the curious contents found in the pockets of antique clothing.” 

8 niche careers you didn’t know existed

If you’re in search of a new career and have a super niche hobby, consider this inspiration to make your next calling as original and unique as you want it to be. You’ve probably never heard of the following eight careers but people are making a living doing some pretty amazing things.

1. Archaeological curator 

Think you love finding antiques at a thrift store? Sara Rivers Cofield, an archaeological curator at Maryland’s MAC lab, might have you beat. She is into historical fashion and has been collecting antique bags since age 12, Atlas Obscura reports. The article details an 1880s bustle dress she found in an antique mall with a hidden pocket containing a note that changed the field of meteorology. 

Other similar positions involve tasks like being responsible for “intellectual and physical control” over archaeological collections and preserving old objects, a Delaware government job posting suggests. Shoppers and historians—this one’s for you.

2. Sorority house interior decorator

Liz Toombs, certified interior decorator and owner of PDR Interiors in Lexington, Kentucky, isn’t just any interior decorator—she has quite a specific niche designing sorority houses and similar spaces. 

“With PDR’s niche in decorating sorority interiors, I have to understand the nuances of Greek life and what things are important to them. The ‘them’ in that sentence can get tricky, because there are a lot of layers of people involved in the process—including those from the headquarters level to alumni providing input to the chapter women who will be using the space daily,” she says.

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“On install days, I am directing delivery crews where to place furniture, hang art and install window coverings. We start the day with empty rooms, and when the day ends, we have a fully completed sorority space. It’s very gratifying.”

She became an expert in this part of her industry through networking after designing a fraternity house refresh. Her favorite part of her niche career? “Creating safe and inviting spaces for sorority women to live in as they go through their college years, and offering college-aged women experience in the design field as a way to jump-start their careers.”

3. Ethical hacker

If you’ve always secretly thought you’d make a great hacker but don’t want to be an actual criminal, the field of “ethical hacking” might be for you. According to the EC Council, ethical hacking is “a process of detecting vulnerabilities in an application, system or organization’s infrastructure that an attacker can use to exploit an individual or organization. They use this process to prevent cyberattacks and security breaches by lawfully hacking into the systems and looking for weak points.” 

To become an ethical hacker, most people have a degree in computer science. The average salary range for ethical hackers is between $95,000 to $119,000, according to Crowdstrike. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the occupation for security analysts (who perform ethical hacking) is expected to grow 32% by 2032.

4. Professional bridesmaid

The “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” adage Katherine Heigl lived out in her 2008 movie 27 Dresses might be closer to reality than rom-com fans thought. Jen Glantz shared with Today that she “quickly mastered the role” of being a professional bridesmaid, even sticking with a one-drink maximum to be able to take care of people around her—after all, she was on the clock. 

No professional education is required to be a professional bridesmaid, but if you’re self-employed, a knowledge of business practices is a must. Depending on how packages are developed, a professional bridesmaid can make between $2,000 and $5,000 per wedding. According to Jen Glantz, she’s had over 100,000 people apply to be professional bridesmaids since her company Bridesmaid for Hire launched. Don’t need a bridesmaid? Her company also offers maid of honor services and vow or speech writing services.

5. Cardiovascular perfusionist

Ralph Kodjovi Abalo, originally from Togo, West Africa, and living in Omaha, Nebraska, works as a certified clinical perfusionist for Adjanou Perfusion Solution, Inc. “My job required education from an accredited college, with a degree in perfusion science. My typical day can go from nothing going on if there is no scheduled open-heart surgery, to crazy trauma with someone coming in with a heart attack. It is very unpredictable what we do,” he says. “The day can be very smooth until the last minute or during the middle of the night when we have to save a life.”

He was working as an X-ray technician when he learned about the field. “I was at the right place at the right time because not a lot of people know about what I do. I can say I was lucky. There is no open-heart surgery where I’m originally from, and not every hospital in the nation does open-heart surgery,” he says.  

“No one knows what we do, even at the hospital where we work,” he jokes. According to Mayo Clinic, a cardiovascular perfusionist is responsible for “operating extracorporeal circulation equipment, such as the heart-lung machine, during an open-heart surgery or any other medical procedure in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient’s circulatory or respiratory function.”

“I wish there was more education to the population or patients about what we do. We are always shorthanded in our profession, so the more we tell people, the more people would know or maybe study what it is and become a perfusionist,” he says. “My favorite part of my job is seeing the smile on the face of the patient when going home after discharge.”

In addition, Abolo does charity work to help children in Africa get an education and health care through Friends of Togo

6. Piano technician

Understanding the inner workings of a piano is no small task. A piano technician’s typical day will depend on their skills. Some piano technicians focus strictly on tuning pianos, while others can repair or rebuild various parts of the piano, such as the soundboard, in their own workshop or studio. 

A piano technician’s work will also vary based on their service area. Some technicians help care for pianos at schools or universities. Others might provide tuning and repair services in private homes or churches. While there are programs that help train piano technologists or technicians, many piano technicians gain education through apprenticeships. 

The Piano Technicians Guild out of Kansas City, Kansas also provides a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) course for those interested in leveraging their career. On average, education and training can take two to five years of study, depending on the program or skill set.

7. Prosthetist

Having the skill to help someone who has lost a critical part of their body regain function is a rewarding niche career. A prosthetist makes and fits artificial limbs for patients and often works in hospitals, rehabilitation centers or private practice. 

A prosthetist will meet with patients to determine their need for a prosthesis and how it should function in their life. They will often take measurements and impressions so the prosthesis fits properly and will then design it based on the prescription. They also maintain an ongoing relationship with patients so they can continue to educate them on best practices and adapt and repair the prosthesis as needed. 

A master of science in prosthetics-orthotics (MPO) is often the standard education for prosthetists, along with internships and residency programs. The average salary for a prosthetist is around $77,000 per year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is expected to grow 15% from 2022 to 2032.

8. Airline repossession specialist

Nick Popovich has been featured for his super niche career repossessing airplanes from delinquent owners. “I’ve been held at gunpoint, thrown in a Haitian prison and have tracked down $40 billion worth of aircraft,” one headline reads. 

Like many niche jobs, his career was derived from networking, and the pilot-turned-repossessor changed careers. He was shocked, as with some other niche careers, at the potential for lucrative income in a highly specialized field—after all, how many people do you know who could repossess a whole airplane? 

Another airplane repossessor shared that it isn’t all fun and games and money, however, after he had to have a knee replacement following a repo gone wrong. So, before you quit your day job for this, or any niche career, consider the risks. 

Photo by Petrychenko Anton/Shutterstock.com