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TODAY contributor

Explainer: You get paid to do this stuff?

  • Man in on beach
    Getty Images

    Many of us work hard for our money, and let's face it: Much of the time, it's a big, fat slog. But not for everybody.

    In fact, some people get to make a living by taking care of paradise islands and testing water slides and playing video games and cycling through France. Here are 11 jobs that spell F-U-N, not G-R-I-N-D.

  • Water-slide tester

    Image: Shelly Rucinski and Sara Haines
    Durrell Dawson / NBC News
    Shelly Rucinski, in blue shirt, pictured on a scooter at the waterpark with TODAY correspondent Sara Haines.

    Shelly Rucinski knows she's the envy of almost every kid in the world — not to mention many adults who toil away in cubicles under bad lighting. Her job? Director of operations at Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Translation of that "director of operations" job title? Chief water-slide tester.

    "I knew that I didn't want to sit behind a desk and this was a great opportunity for me not to have to do that," Rucinski told TODAY. "You get to swim and do a lot of things that I wouldn't get to do if I worked in another job. I mean there's downfalls, we work a lot of hours in the summertime. But I get to be outside and this is my office. ... Not bad, not a bad view."

  • Chocolate taster

    Image: Chocolatier Prepares For Valentine's Day
    Getty Images
    Remember that scene from "I Love Lucy" when Lucy and Ethel landed jobs on a chocolate assembly line and everything started moving too fast and they had to shove chocolate after chocolate into their mouths? While hysterical, that didn't look like too much fun — but actually tasting chocolate for a living can be divine.

    Sally McKinnon once told British newspaper The Independent that her job as a chocolate taster and product development manager for the grocery chain Tesco was "the best job in the world."

    "I get paid to taste chocolate every day," she said. "My desk is absolutely covered with chocolate — it's fantastic."

    The downside to the job? "The calories," McKinnon said. "You have to make a conscious effort to eat healthily for the rest of the time. ... You also have to get over your fear of the dentist, because you'll be making a lot of trips there for checkups."

    So how can a person break into this field and taste chocolates for a major chocolate company or for a retailer? "You need a food qualification or degree in nutrition or food science," McKinnon explained. "Get some experience in product development, from the retail side or the supplier side. There are so many opportunities available, I'd say people should go for it."

  • Caretaker of a paradise island

    Image: Ben Southall, right, and Sandy Oatley
    Torsten Blackwood  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Ben Southall, right, of Britain is congratulated by Hamilton Island owner Sandy Oatley, left, after being declared the winner of the "Best Job in the World" competition.
    Most people don't get paid to relax on exotic beaches. Or to blog, for that matter. But in the "you've got to be freaking kidding me" department, Ben Southall managed to score a $120,000, six-month gig as caretaker and unofficial ambassador of a tropical Australian island. The 34-year-old British man beat out nearly 35,000 applicants for the position, including 15 other finalists who had to snorkel, indulge in spa treatments and eat barbecue on the beach as part of the interview process.

    That's not to say that the job — which was designed to attract tourists to Australia's Great Barrier Reef — didn't have its drawbacks. During his final days in paradise in December 2009, Southall endured a jellyfish sting that could have been fatal. He survived the scary experience, but it did shake him up.

    "I thought I'd done particularly well at avoiding any contact with any of the dangerous critters that consider this part of the world their home," Southall wrote in his blog. "This was not what I'd wanted at all and had caught me little off guard to say the least — I'm supposed to be relaxing in my last few days on Hamilton Island."

    Related links:

    Tough day at the office for 'best job' winner

    British man begins Australian island dream job

  • Inventor of fried foods

    Image: Abel Gonzales Jr. cooking at fair
    Kevin Brown
    Abel Gonzales Jr. of Dallas has made headlines across the United States for the fried foods he's dreamed up for attendees of the annual State Fair of Texas. One year he made Texas Fried Cookie Dough. Another year he made a Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich. On yet another occasion he invented Fried Coke.

    But in 2009, Gonzales concocted his boldest and most audacious invention of all: Deep-Fried Butter. To make it, he took 100 percent pure butter, whipped it until it was light and fluffy, froze it, surrounded it with dough and then dropped myriad butter-laden dough balls into the deep fryer.

    Why is Gonzales' job being included here? Because it's an American fairy tale of sorts: He now does so much business at the state fair that he only has to work three weeks out of the entire year. "Mainly I just take it easy the rest of the year and think of new things to fry," he toldAOSFU98AQEWTASKFDNA0ADGAG2#@$A.

    Related link: Hold onto your hearts! It's deep-fried butter

  • Cyclist in Paris

    Image: Arthur Poirier
    Jacques Brinon  /  AP file
    Google employee Arthur Poirier, on a camera-equiped tricycle, records images outside of Paris for Google's Street View Maps.
    Ah, Paris in summertime. There's nothing quite like it — especially when you're on a leisurely cycling trip. Just ask the two young cyclists Google hired to ride ultra-high-tech, three-wheeled bikes through the French capital in the summer of 2009.

    Their fancy tricycles were equipped with nine cameras, GPS, a computer and a generator so the cyclists could capture thousands of digital photos for GoogleMaps. Their targets: historical sites, gardens and other pedestrian-only areas of the City of Light.

    "The idea is to be able to offer 360-degree images of places that were inaccessible before," Google spokeswoman Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce told The Associated Press.

    So people really can get paid to cycle around Europe? You betcha!

  • Beer taster

    Image: Beer steins at Oktoberfest 2009
    Getty Images
    For all you true beer lovers out there, here's a pop quiz: Did you know these key details about professional beer tasting?

    —The ideal time of day for beer tasting for the pros is lunchtime, from about 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., before your taste buds — and you yourself — become too fatigued.

    —Unlike wine tasters, beer tasters actually have to swallow the beer they drink and rate the entire experience.

    —No crackers or snacks are allowed between professional tastings; that would affect the flavor of your next brew. Instead, use water to cleanse your palate.

    So, hey! If you're armed with information along these lines, and if you know how to tell hoppiness from maltiness in a cool nanosecond, then who knows? You just might have a future in beer tasting for a major brewing company, a microbrewery, a beer magazine or a pub that has lots of rotating taps. As Homer Simpson once said: "Ah, beer. The cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems."

  • Video-game tester

    Image: Hand-held video game
    Getty Images
    Some people give video-game aficionados grief because they sit mesmerized in front of a screen for so many hours in a row. But you know what? They might be working.

    Yes, people who are passionate and knowledgeable about video games really can land jobs as video-game testers. Their challenge, should they choose to accept it, is to take on a quality-assurance role, playing an unreleased game over and over and over again. In this way, they'll be able to see whether they can "break" the game or identify any bugs in it before it ships out to the general public.

    All new video games need to be tested, whether they're PlayStation games, Xbox games, Nintendo games or PC/computer games. And plenty of websites out there point would-be game testers toward job openings. May the force be with you!

  • Medical marijuana reviewer

    Image: Medical marijuana
    Getty Images
    This job wouldn't appeal to everybody, of course — and it also wouldn’t be open to everybody — but if this is your thing, then, wow.

    With so many medical marijuana dispensaries popping up in states like California, Colorado and elsewhere, a new job niche is forming for reviewers who can critique the quality of these places and their products. New reefer-review websites are surfacing all the time, and the Denver newspaper Westword received an overwhelming response when it posted an ad for a medical marijuana critic. The Associated Press reported that one potential job candidate enthused, “Marijuana isn’t just important to me, it is my life.”

    The catch? Legitimate reviewers have to be able to buy their own weed legally for medical reasons. No fakers allowed!

    Related link: Dope gig! Paper hiring reefer reviewer

  • Tester of luxury beds

    Image: Roisin Madigan on bed with laptop
    Roisin Madigan
    OK, so this job didn't go on forever, but it sure sounded fun while it lasted. In August 2009, Roisin Madigan, a college student from Birmingham, England, got paid about $1,600 to spend a month trying out top-of-the-line beds and mattresses ranging in price from $8,000 to $43,500.

    The only catches? The 22-year-old had to participate in a detailed sleep survey for Simon Horn Ltd., the maker of the luxury beds. And she had to sleep during the day in a Simon Horn showroom.

    “The staff will be performing a series of tests for the sleep survey, such as temperature, light, noise, alcohol, caffeine and many more,” Madigan wrote on Facebook. “If you [are] out and about in Birmingham, come down to the Simon Horn Showroom and give me a wave through the window!”

  • Internet-savvy globe-trotter

    If you're the type who invariably ends up sitting in front of your laptop when you go on vacation, then a gig like this could be ideal for you.

    Thailand tourism officials — who, interestingly, were inspired by the Australian tourism officials who handed Ben Southall the keys to that tropical island — recently advertised for five couples who could blog, tweet and chat about their trips to the country's most popular beaches and cities. Applicants were expected to be "good storytellers" and seasoned users of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

    Image: Island paradise
    Getty Images
    The five winning couples would have all of their travel expenses covered, and the couple who did the most outstanding work online while in Thailand would win $10,000, a video camera and a BlackBerry.

    While this particular opportunity in Thailand is no longer open, similar offers do crop up. Why not do some sleuth work online and apply for one? Here's just one possibility that a quick Internet search turned up: If you'd love to do volunteer work in a foreign country but you can't afford to foot the bill all on your own, you could apply for a Travel for Good Change Ambassadors Grant through this site.

    Related link: Free trips to Thailand for the Internet savvy

  • TV corpse

    Image: Scene with corpse from "CSI: NY"
    So this job pays almost nothing, but it has these things going for it: It's bizarre; it's interesting; it would give you a funny story to tell your grandkids; and — big bonus — it involves just lying around.

    The advent of grisly crime shows on network television — such as "CSI" and its ilk — has given rise to the need for people who can lie very, very, very still. That's right: These shows need people to play corpses.

    On the one hand, the job sounds kind of easy. But on the other hand ... what if you're a corpse whose eyes are open? You can't blink, that's for sure. And what if you're a naked corpse? You might get pretty cold. But on the upside, you'd be given lunch on the set and pay ranging from about $125 to $200. Don't spend it all in one place!

Video: Make a splash managing a water park


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