The winter blahs are starting to set in, leaving many a cubicle dweller staring longingly beyond the gray half walls that surround them on three sides, wondering what else is out there.
In fact, there are quite a few cool and in-demand jobs outside the cubicle. Some capitalize on the demand for health care as Baby Boomers come of age, while others capitalize on the trends in technology and social media. Whatever the reason, these jobs aren't bound by Dilbert-onian rules.
"I think many people secretly fantasize about the freedom that working outside the office provides," said Jeremy Redleaf, a filmmaker and creator of the job site Odd Job Nation. "Jobs outside the cubicle allow you the freedom to construct the life that you want."
Here are a dozen of the coolest jobs outside the cubicle:
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Virtual Question Answerer
The economy may be improving but companies are still trying to cut costs -- and one of the ways they do that is by reducing the number of full-time employees physically in the office, and taking advantage of the push to move more business online.
"We've seen a proliferation of e-businesses looking for 'virtual field agents' to answer basic questions in real-time or write articles about simple tasks," Redleaf said. "While it's a great way to make money wherever you are, this one's not for slow typists or the easily fatigued -- it's a volume game when they're paying per answer."
One ad for a virtual question answerer on Craigslist appealed to job seekers' interest in getting paid for things they're already doing: "Do you spend your day looking up random things online?? Might as well get paid for it!! We are searching for people to reply to questions received by the most popular mobile service in the country. We get thousands of questions every hour and need people to get online and find the answers. You must be at least eighteen years of age and extremely proficient at using various search engines. Pays per question," the ad read.
Mobile App Developer
Sick of your cubicle? Yeah, there's an app for that.
Developers who make mobile apps are in demand -- and they don't always need to be in the office or even employed full-time as an app developer.
"That's really a rare skill," Paul Forster, CEO of Indeed.com, said of mobile app developers. "People who have those skills can dictate their working conditions, he said. "If you want to get the best app developer you may not be able to say come and work from our office here ... you may have to fit in with their working priorities."
There are over 3,000 job listings for mobile-app developers on Indeed.com, paying $50,000 and up -- some over $100,000, and it's the No. 2 trending topic on the site right now. One ad for a mobile-app developer read "Rockstars Only," while another from Nokia sought a "User Interface Evangelist."
It's every kid's dream: To be a professional videogame tester.
There are a couple hundred listings for game testers on Indeed.com, with pay ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 or more.
The cool thing is that you get to test the games before they're released. The downside is you have to keep playing the same games over and over and over again until you break them, find a glitch, etc.
Hey, that's the price you pay to play!
As the Baby Boomer generation ages, demand for health-care workers is surging. But not all of those jobs require you to be in a doctor's office or hospital, which, let's face it, is the medical equivalent of a cubicle.
Recreational therapists help patients who were injured recover using all kinds recreational activities, from sports and games to arts, music and dance.
The average wage is about $40,000, according to the Labor Department.
The Labor Department projects demand for recreational therapists will outpace the average for all occupations in the next decade due to the aging Boomer population.
Most doctors are feeling the crush of having to see several thousand patients a year, and patients are feeling rushed. And, with health-care reform threatening to flood waiting rooms with even more patients, an increasing number of patients are choosing to pay extra for the privilege of having a personal physician.
"Concierge doctors," as they're known, are private doctors that charge patients an annual fee of anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 per year for more personalized service. Patients can call or email them anytime of the day or night, don't have to wait for appointments and get longer appointments. Plus, they'll make house calls if you want them to.
Doctors appreciate having 50 to 500 patients instead of a couple thousand and the patients appreciate the quality of care they get.
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Social media hasn't just changed the way we live, it's changed the way companies operate -- and advertise.
"Every business can benefit from some tender Twitter care ... and they're often willing to pay an impressive hourly rate if you can turn those 140 characters into 100 percent brand loyalty," Redleaf said. "We highly recommend building up your individual following before going after these juicy virtual positions."
It's still a growing field, so a good chunk of these jobs are on a consulting or part-time basis. On an hourly basis, it's about $10 to $50 an hour, Redleaf says.
There are over 40,000 jobs on Indeed.com that in some way involve Twitter, ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 or more. It's so hot, it's the No. 4 trending topic on Indeed.com right now.
It's not just Twitter, companies are increasingly hiring people to be their "brand ambassadors," really working the interactivity of their marketing.
"It's been clear that there are conversations about products taking place on the web and companies need to engage in those conversations," Forster said. "They're becoming less unidirectional, where companies broadcast their brand messages and more interactive."
It's not just the Internet, either. With growing markets in Spanish-speaking countries and emerging markets like China, companies are increasingly hiring bi-lingual brand ambassadors.
There are more than 4,000 listings on Indeed.com for brand ambassadors, paying $20,000 to $100,000 or more. Plus, there are companies emerging like Jason Sadler's IWearYourShirt.com, where companies pay for Sadler, a professional T-shirt wearer (pictured left), and others to wear their shirt and then engage their fans in discussions about the products, from Twitter to Facebook and YouTube.
Hiring in the field of geology is expected to increase by 22 percent over the next few years, according to a recent survey by CareerCast.
The field is benefiting from concerns about the environment, with demand rising for everything from petroleum geologists, who study ocean or land terrain for oil and gas deposits to engineering geologists, who are used for everything from land development and construction to environmental remediation.
The typical starting salary is around $42,000 but can triple to $155,000 or more, according to CareerCast. Indeed.com has about 2,000 listings for geologists.
It's great for the cubicle-averse -- much of your time is spent in the field, though you're still going to need to be able to use a computer as many jobs still involve computer modeling and data analysis.
This one is for those who seek the thrill of the open skies.
(Cue the "Top Gun" music.)
The top 10 percent of commercial pilots earn an average of $120 an hour, according to PayScale.com. Though, most pilots aren't in the air 40 hours a week as the FAA limits flying time to a max of 100 hours a month.
The best opportunities are still with commercial airlines, but as aviation requirements get stricter and stricter, private planes are becoming more popular.
Indeed.com has nearly 20,000 listings for pilot-related jobs, paying anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 or more.
Spending cuts for public schools and escalating competitiveness driven by a tighter economy mean tutors will increasingly be in demand as students seek to get an edge.
Tutoring jobs pay anywhere from $10 to $80 an hour, depending on location and subject.
Indeed.com currently has nearly 16,000 listings for tutors, from pre-K to pre-calculus.
Focus Group Participant
Here's one that you don't think of as a job but if you need the extra money, it can be a good gig.
Companies are always looking for focus group participants to give them real feedback on their products. In this tight economy, companies can't afford any missteps with products that bomb.
Focus groups can pay upward of $200 an hour for your time, according to Redleaf. "The focus group consistently supplies the best time-to-money ratio," he says.
The key, he says, is to sign up with several focus group facilities as many have limits on how much of your opinion they're willing to take!
Indeed.com has about 80,000 job listings involving focus groups, including focus group designers and focus group moderators -- two roles you probably didn't think of!
Cable Box Recovery Technician
This one is a sign of the times: As Internet-connected TVs proliferate, and cable companies increasingly tighten the screws on customers to squeeze more money out of them, an increasing number of customers are cutting ties with their old cable companies and keeping the set-top boxes.
These are pretty pricey little items, so Redleaf reports that companies will pay you $500 to $1,000 per week to recover those boxes.