Surprising Salaries

Income isn't considered polite conversation for most Americans. We'll talk about our jobs, our families, the weather, the couple down the street who is obviously hiding something in that garage ... but not how much we earn.

In our culture, the more off limits a topic is, the more it intrigues us. Unlike other taboo subjects, your neighbor's income isn't likely to keep you up at night with burning questions you must hear answered before you die.

Still, curiosity gets the best of us. Sometimes you hear somebody's occupation and wonder, "How in the world can you survive on that salary?" Or you hear another job title and daydream about running through fields of money.

To keep you from breaking into your neighbor's home to take a peek at his or her checkbook, we've put together a list of occupations and the salaries that just might surprise you.*

1. Fishers

What they do: The seafood we eat has to get on our plates somehow, and chances are you're not skilled enough with a fishing pole to catch a swordfish or lobster. Fishers work on various sized boats to catch fish and various sea life, which we not only eat but also use as bait.

What they earn:$28,280/year

Why it's surprising: Being a fisher is tough, dangerous work. Not only are you subject to the whims of the day's weather, but you're also battling the mood of the water, the unpredictability of the fish -- all while avoiding collision with other boats.

2. Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic and installer

What they do: HVACR mechanics install heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units in residential or commercial sites. They also perform maintenance, such as yearly check-ups and troubleshooting on the HVACR units.

What they earn:$40,630/year

Why it's surprising:Getting an engineer out to your home to look at an AC problem seems to cost an outrageous fortune (and it always occurs when you're strapped for cash). You've probably assumed the person fixing your unit probably just tightened a bolt and overcharged you so they could pocket the money and take a trip to the Bahamas.

3. Construction and maintenance painters

What they do:The fresh coat of paint you see on the walls of a home, in a store, on a bridge or on a building were applied by painters in the construction and maintenance industry.

What they earn:$35,230/year

Why it's surprising:Painting often falls into one of two categories: bothersome or dangerous. Homeowners hire painters because they don't want to go through the trouble of taping down plastic to cover the floor, applying coat after coat until the walls are covered or having to balance on a ladder to get that hard-to-reach spot. Businesses and agencies hire painters because not just anyone can -- or is willing -- to paint a bridge or a building, which are way more involved than painting the four walls of your living room.

4. Court reporters

What they do:Court reporters transcribe what is said during trials, mediations and other legal proceedings.

What they earn: $48,380/year

Why it's surprising:When you think about all the activity taking place during a trial, you probably think more about the excitement of a John Grisham novel than of the quiet observer meticulously writing down every word that's spoken aloud. Yet, court reporters play a vital role in several stages and types of legal proceedings.

5. Foresters

What they do: Foresters work with landowners, whether they're businesses or the public, in order to keep forested land healthy and productive. They decide when to plant trees and how to treat or prevent threats, such as tree diseases or fires.

What they earn:$54,030/year

Why it's surprising:Few of us probably even realize that being a forester is a real job. Yet, the amount of forested land in the United States is large, and managing the health and well-being of these areas is a huge task.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

Copyright 2009

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