50 Careers for People Who Like to Work Alone

Do you have a personality that irritates others?  Or do others have personalities that irritate you?  Does the buzzword "teamwork" make you bristle ... or, worse yet, break into a cold sweat? 

Seriously - my eldest son is blessed with a high IQ, intellectual curiousity, and a great work ethic.  However, he is also an extreme introvert, has a speech impediment, and isn't exactly patient when it comes to tolerating fools.  The kind of guy, in other words, who needs to work somewhere far from the maddening crowd.  All of which has started me wondering what sorts of careers are available out there for folks who would prefer to earn an income without having to deal with a lot of human interaction.
  1. Animal-based careers.  Assuming you're okay with animals, just not people, some possible careers include working as a breeder, vet, kennel worker, dog walker, pet sitter, zookeeper, etc.
  2. Archivist/librarian.  A great career for people who enjoy books, cataloging, and/or find hissing "shhh!" at total strangers to be a power trip.
  3. Artist.  Creating art is an inherently independent effort; painters, photographers, handicrafters, potters, sculptors, and their ilk possess the ability to observe the world without necessarily interacting with it.  The challenge, of course, is finding a way to sell one's artwork without having to deal with galleries, magazines, or craft fair organizers. Thank goodness for the web.
  4. Athlete in solitary sport.  Lots of sports emphasize individual effort over teamwork, to include marathoning, swimming, diving, bicycle racing, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, skiing, rock climbing, surfing, sailboat racing, etc.
  5. Caretaker.  Steven King's novel The Shining may have given caretaking a bad name, but it's not all spooky mansions, snow-bound mountains, creepy twins and demonic hedge animals.  Locations as varied as estates, cemeteries, earth stations and weather stations require caretakers to attend to basic facilities needs.
  6. Close Captioning Typist.  I don't actually have any information about this job, but have always imagined it involves sitting in a cubicle, wearing headphones, watching TV and furiously typing.  Or maybe these days there's software that does the work?
  7. Clothing/shoe creation/repair. Once you've taken the measurements, each job requires blissful hours of solo cutting and sewing.
  8. Computer programming/networking.  If I weren't doing this alphabetically, this entry would probably deserve to be first.  The work is lucrative, easy to find, and wonderfully isolating: a really juicy networking problem or coding assignment can potentially cut you off from all social contact for weeks at a time.
  9. Courier/Deliveries. Lots of stuff besides pizza needs picking up and delivering: think mail, packages, trash, newspapers, dry cleaning, medical samples, confidential legal material, expensive jewelry, cars, etc.
  10. Crime.  Hey, I'm not recommending it as a career choice - simply noting that it is, in fact, a career that lends itself to solitary effort.
  11. Custodian/maid.  Custodians at hotels and office buildings seem rarely to interact with anyone.  Perhaps because they are simply too busy.
  12. Data Analysis.  Tons of jobs out there for people who like to analyze data.  I know this because, in just the past 24hrs, various forms of media have informed me that (1) kids diagnosed with ADD are at higher risk for heart disease later in life, (2) the economy is actually recovering, if you take into account about 20 extenuating circumstances, and (3) it is a statistical improbability that Donovan McNabb will remain healthy enough to work off the huge new contract he just signed for the Washington Redskins. 
  13. Data Entry/Retrieval.  Until every tidbit of information in the world has been transferred to computer (which can't be too far off now), there will continue to be a need for files clerks to categorize, catalog, sort, store, and retrieve paper-based information.   I recommend any organization or agency affiliated with local government.
  14. Equipment Operator. Lots of jobs out there operating big machines with little cabs/offices: toll bridges, cranes, oil rigs, rollercoasters, snowplows, etc.
  15. Explorer.  Make a career out of going places where no man has gone before: the arctic, above a rainforest, under the ocean, outer space ....
  16. Factory Work.  The upside is that, as long as you're doing your job, no one's going to interrupt you.  The downside is the tedium of potentially doing the same tasks day after day after day.  Your call.
  17. Farming/Ranching.  This category incorporates a huge range of jobs, from plowing fields to picking fruit, from raising chickens to milking cows.  Lots of opportunities for solitary work, as long as you don't mind mosquitoes.
  18. Firespotting.  Isn't this the first job everyone things of when you talk about "lonely jobs"?  I don't know how many of these jobs are actually available, but I can think of worse careers than sitting in the middle of a lush forest, reading books and occasionally scanning the horizon for smoke plumes.
  19. Garage/Tollbooth Attendant.  Not a bad gig if they let you listen to your iPod while you're working.  Plus you can work on assembling a first-class coin collection.
  20. Gardening/Landscaping/Nursery Work/Forestry.  The plants aren't going to mind if you don't talk to them.
  21. Graphic Design.  Decided not to lump this in with "artist" since it's more of a career than a vocation.  And a pretty lucrative career at that, if you've got talent and can sign up with an agency that will handle all the pesky client touchy-feely stuff on your behalf.
  22. Internet/Online Careers.  Become a blogger, online journalist, wiki writer or web portal host and interact with the world without ever actually having to change out of your pajamas.
  23. Inventor.  Isolation is practically a job requirement, lest anyone steal your great ideas.  Potentially lucrative fields include iPad/Kindle apps (Apple/Amazon being equally desperate to justify purchase of their respective products), alternative energies (Obama's still hoping green is the next internet), and/or life-saving technologies for 3rd world countries (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - pockets don't get any deeper!)
  24. Lifeguard.  Another one of those careers where you're surrounded by people but essentially alone.  If anyone tries to bug you while you're sitting on your stand you can just tell them: "Can't talk. Have to stay vigilant."
  25. Lighthouse Keeper.  Another career that automatically comes to mind when someone mentions solitary jobs.  To tell the truth, I'm not even sure this job is available anymore, due to improvements in automation, but it's certainly one of the more romantic options on this list.  Think tretcherous shorelines and storm-tossed seas, moaning foghorns, billowing fog, and the ghosts of dead sailors lingering among the waves.
  26. Long-Haul Truck Driver. Make a downpayment on a rig and start living the life of a long-haul trucker.  No need to be bound by stereotypes:  feel free to eat healthy and spend the time improving your mind by mastering classical music and listening to great literature (or college courses) on audio.
  27. Mathematics-Based Careers.  Try it - just tell someone you're mathematician and watch them hasten to leave you to your own resources!  Respectable wages await folks able to qualify for employment as actuaries, accountants, bankers, investors, codebreakers, handicappers, and statisticians. 
  28. Mechanic.  If you're competent, doesn't matter how rude your are: your customers will never let you go!
  29. Monk.  Again, not necessarily recommending this as a career: just saying that if you fancy limited wardrobe choices, stark accommodations, and atonal music, this is an option to consider.
  30. Movie Projectionist.  Do theaters hire movie projectionists any more, or is this all done automatically?  Am kind of hoping humans are still in charge, as this was the go-to career for loners with a fancy for cinema back when I was a kid.
  31. Musician.  Though you typically have to perform with others, there is no requirement to socially interact socially with them.  Plus, remaining aloof creates the impression that you're brilliant and eccentric.
  32. Night Shift Employee.  When most of the world goes to sleep, a few solitary souls emerge to keep things running through the wee small hours of the morning.  Some institutions that require night work include stores (restocking), hospitals, hotels, convenience stores, tollbooths, airports, and astronomers.
  33. Park ranger.  If you can duck out of having to lead tours, there are plenty of other solitary jobs that require doing, from grooming trails to monitoring/tagging wildlife, environmental testing, and/or maintenance.
  34. Philosopher/Theologist.  People will beg you not to tell them what you're doing.
  35. Pilot.  I'm picturing the sort that fly their own planes, delivering corporate bigwigs to important meetings or packages to isolated locations. 
  36. Reader.  I'm thinking of those folks that record the text of books onto tape for the benefit of folks who have vision impairments or who enjoy listening to books rather than reading them.  Getting the gig to do War and Peace has to qualify as full time employment!
  37. Researcher.  Am distinguishing this from data analysis because there's are plenty of research jobs that don't require numbers.  Consider genealogy, history, or one of the soft sciences.
  38. Restoration.  Become an expert at restoring books, cars, boats, paintings or some other category of possession that people prize and will pay to keep in good repair.
  39. Scanning books into digital libraries.  Speaking of moving hard files to computer archives ... before all the great libraries of the world become accessible online, someone's got to actually, manually scan the books into a hard drive somewhere.  Sounds mind-numbing, but maybe if they let you listen to your ipod as you work ....
  40. Scientist.  Sure, you can work in a lab, like your stereotypical mad scientist.  But there are also careers in fields such as geology, botony, and biology that involve engaging in field work in remote locations.
  41. Seafaring Jobs.  All that lovely water separating you from the rest of humanity!  Careers include boat maintenance, boat relocation, towboat captain, fishing, and mapping/navigation.
  42. Security work.  All you need is a uniform, a badge, an ipod, a bag full of doughnuts and a big thermos of caffeine.
  43. Surveyor.  You may need a partner to hold that pole with all the measurements on it, but at least they'll always be 20yards away from you!
  44. Technician.  Get a job in a laboratory developing photos, sorting samples, or processing DNA.
  45. Trade career.  Many of the more skilled trades - plumbing, electrician, carpenter, welding, car repair - allow you to work solo, and most of them pay well to boot.  
  46. Transcriptionist.  Legal and medical transcriptionists are, I understand, in great demand.  All you need is a lot of patience and a wrist brace to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome. 
  47. Translator. Another one of those great careers you can pursue in the comfort of your own home.  
  48. Umpire/referee.  The only career I can think of where you're surounded by people who you can penalize for trying to talk to you.
  49. Undertaker/coroner/mortician.  The perfect job for folks who possess compassion in combination with a strong stomach.
  50. Usher.  Even though you'll be surrounded by patrons, no one ever talks to the ushers.  All you have to do is hand out programs and show people to their seats.
  51. Writing/journalism.  There are so many niche magazines and newsletters out there, all in need of folks able to organize their thoughouts and output them in grammatical Engish.  It's harder to find those folks than you may think.


  1. Computer programmers who work alone are probably not in a corporate environment. I can tell you from personal experience that in such an environment you will be working with people daily if you want to maintain a career in programming.

  2. Great list, glad I stumbled upon it! All the jobs I have ever had was one of these, sadly there was never enough work to make a living at. Librarian: every place I worked only offered part-time, unless you were the Director/Librarian and had a master's degree and also had to be the voice to the public and PR person. Caretaker: The problem with that I found is that you had to constantly have jobs lined up or else you were going to become homeless and if you can't get work in one area, the cost of traveling gets expensive. Otherwise it is really great work if you can keep yourself motivated. Hotel maid(my first job and have occasionally done it since then): The top reason I did this was the very reason of being left alone, down side is that it very thankless, high burnout and minimum wage. Pet sitter: Did this job separate and with caretaker. Same issues as caretaker, but really fun. Farming/Ranching: Did some of this in conjunction with care taking and separate. I do like this work the best, as long as it is solo, especially if I had my own garden/land. Thought about doing an apprenticeship type work on an organic farm, but then realized that a lot of these places like to make it into a commune where on your downtime you are sitting around campfires making small talk and whatnot, too trippy for me. Dreamed about being an inventor once and never thought of lighthouse keeper, but that does sound awful romantic...I LOVE lists and I love all the list you have made here, kudos!

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  4. Veterinarians and many others in the animal care industry (e.g. vet techs/vet nurses/assistants) must have some serious "people skills". You deal with a diverse array of people on a daily basis, and many of them are upset about their pet's illness and/or angry with cost of treatment (nevermind that vets, techs, and assistants literally work for a quarter on the dollar compared with physcians and nurses). Vet assistants are often expected to be friendly, bubbly, and confident with clients while being subserviant, friendly, calm, and low-key toward to their boss, the veterinarian. Furthermore, one is often treated in a hostile fashion by more experienced vet assistants and/or techs (especially if one has greater aspirations and is working around bitter people who've given up their own pursuit of vet school due to financial considerations and/or being tied down with a family). Despite being a high IQ person, you will be treated like a grunt idiot until you "earn your stripes" and even after that, you'll still be treated like a grunt idiot. For the most part, people who want to be vets are conceptual types yet in order to get your experience hours just to get into vet school, you must do a lot of procedural assistant tasks - it is hard to remember this stuff because you don't know the rhyme or reason behind it at this stage. While it is true that many vets tend to be introverts, vet techs, in general, tend to be intermediary along the introversion/extroversion spectrum. Regardless, you must be able to "put on the show" in this field and come off as a warm caring extrovert who loves to dance with fluffy kitties all day even though you were just in the OR watching blood literally squirt out of an artery and/or watching maggots crawl out rotten flesh hanging off your patient. Btw, I really do like dancing with fluffy kitties... Anyway, working in the vet field is not for the faint of heart. I'm a vet school hopeful who sometimes questions my pursuit of it. Although I've only been in this field for a few months, I can already tell you that going into this field to avoid working with people is NOT realistic. On the other hand, your love for animals may be the catalyst to overcoming any social difficulties you have. You might never enjoy working with other humans, but you might be willing to suffer and do it in order to help animals not to mention have a very interesting job with a much greater scope of practice than your human healthcare professional analog. It won't be easy to get their if you aren't good with people, though, so don't fool yourself.

  5. Librarians are public servants who provide programming and outreach to the public. They constantly interact with people on a daily basis: often as teachers. Also the modern public library can be a rather noisy place. Librarians aren't really shushers anymore. Seems like an odd choice for number 2.

  6. Good Work. I wonder if you are familiar with MBTI typology test? These jobs are good for introverts but there is a deeper schism between thinking and feeling orientations and thereby make people more prone to working with human or artifacts respectively.

  7. Reading your introduction made me wonder, is he diagnosed on the autism spectrum, specifically with Asperger's? I have that and I just got fired from my job today and so I'm sitting here trying to figure out what to do. I am going for disability, but I'm also looking for solitary jobs, as my social skills SUCK! Thanks for the list, but I was going into graphic design, but took a break from school.

  8. Nice list but you can cross off projectionist. This job barely exist anymore with the advent of digital cinema

  9. Great effort, great! But can you please become a bit more concerned for the sake of people who truly need to work but would like to work alone. Believe me, these type of persons are NOT LONELY, they are just like your son. Plus, if he/she is good-looking, they're REALLY in trouble, and the PRESSURE of working around people becomes menacing.

  10. Polysomnographic Technologist AKA Sleep Tech! If you don't mind working nights, this is perfect. There are some daytime positions, too, for people who need sleep studies done during the day, or an experienced Sleep Tech who can analyze the nighttime data collected (from home or a coffee shop!) and then send to the sleep doctor.

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  12. Interesting. I have good social skills and enjoy working with the public. It's having to work in a group/team I hate. I prefer a thousand unpleasant customers who leave my life in 10 minutes to people I have to socialize with for hours a day and years on end in the stifling setting of an office.