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Up in the Air: 7 High-Altitude Jobs

Kaitlin Madden, writer

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If you're a thrill seeker or get bored easily, you might want to try changing your perspective on work -- literally.  The following jobs require workers to spend their days high above ground, providing an on-the-job rush that comes with, say, washing windows 40 stories up or teaching children how to ski mountain peaks 3,000 feet above sea level.

So if you're not afraid of heights and like the view from the top, trying one of these high-altitude jobs could take your career to the next level (all puns intended).

1. Ski instructor

Ski instructors teach technique to novices and black-diamond experts alike. Job perk: A season pass often comes with a job, so plan to hit the slopes after teaching your day's lessons.

Requirements: Instructors must be skilled skiers and are often required to complete a training course sponsored by their employer.

Salary: Varies, based on the size of the ski resort where the instructor is employed, as well as whether or not the instructor receives tips. Private ski instructors typically earn more than those working for a resort. The average weekly salary for those employed in the recreation industry is $355.*

2. Flight attendant

Flight attendants provide boarding assistance, food and beverage service and safety information to passengers, ensuring that everyone onboard is safe and comfortable.

Requirements: A high-school diploma is required, but college is preferred. Flight attendants must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires completion of training programs in air safety, emergency evacuation, first aid and  fire safety. Once employed, flight attendants must attend regular retraining sessions to maintain their FAA certification.

Salary: Median annual salary is $35,930; new hires make significantly less and those with seniority earn more.

3. Window washer

Someone has to keep those skyscrapers shiny. If you're a window washer, plan on polishing glass dozens of stories above the ground.

Requirements: Training typically takes place on the job, and workers are required to be in good physical condition.

Salary: Across all building-cleaning occupations, average hourly wage ranges from $8.42 to $13.30.

4. Art preserver/restorer

Great works of art can be hundreds or even thousands of years old, and art restorers keep them looking their best. High altitude comes into play for those who repair statues, monuments and paintings on the ceilings of chapels, for example.

Requirements: Art restoration is a highly skilled craft. Although a bachelor's degree in art or art history is a great start, practice is what truly makes a preservationist perfect.

Salary: Median yearly wage for museum conservators is $36,660.

5. Pilot

Pilots fly commercial or cargo airplanes, ranging from small turboprops to large passenger airplanes like the Airbus A380F, which can hold up to 853 economy-seated passengers.

Requirements: Increasingly, pilots are required to have a college degree, though many get their start as officers in the U.S.  armed forces. Regardless of educational background, aspiring pilots must be at least 18, have 250 hours of documented flight time and be licensed by the FAA.

Salary: With a median salary of $111,680, pilots often make more than double the U.S. median household income.

6. Chairlift operator

Working at ski resorts, chairlift operators are stationed at either the bottom or top of the mountain lift. Responsibilities include safe lift operation and instructing passengers in boarding procedures.

Requirements: Becoming a chairlift operator usually requires time as a chairlift attendant, assisting skiers onto the lift at the bottom of the mountain. After success in an attendant role, transitioning to an operator position typically requires additional on-the-job training.

Salary: The average hourly wage for workers employed as amusement and recreation attendants is $8.40.

7. Tree trimmer

Tree trimmers, or arborists as they're sometimes called, cut down trees and limbs that block light, pose a safety hazard or are in the way of construction projects. Tree trimmers are often employed by local or federal government, colleges or power companies or are self-employed.

Requirements: Tree trimmers aren't required to pursue formal education past high school and learn most of their skills through on-the-job training. Certifications from professional networks such as the Professional Grounds Management Society and the Professional Landcare Network are available for those wishing to advance their career.

Salary: Mean annual wage for tree trimmers is $31,450, though those employed by the federal government can make over $48,000 annually.

*Salary information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, "The Work Buzz." She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 21/06/2010 - 12:30 PM

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