Desk job not for me... what are the alternatives?

So I'm partway into my first job post-uni, and to be honest I'm really not enjoying my time behind the desk. Some days are better than others of course, but the time moves pretty glacially for the most part. My previous job getting up at 4am to do 12 hour days at fruit and veggie markets was way more fun than this and went a lot quicker than 7.5 hrs in a cubical.

So what I'm wondering essentially is… what are some more hands-on positions, or something with an aspect of field work, for someone with a very broad science degree? Happy to look into some further study at TAFE or something that I can do while I work! I just really can't see myself doing this for a long time, it's really not for me.

Thoughts? Cheers, happy to answer questions ofc.


      • …yeah didn't think you had an alternative suggestion besides a desk job…

      • house2015, I just got retrenched from the warehouse job, now looking for a ft job as well,the company I worked at hired all ppl from agencies which means the company can go fast as they want, many people will say stick with it, but your body can only handle that much of stress.

        The question to op is that they want you to faster and faster and pay you less, how do you feel? No everybody can do this, even do it for a few months you will end with physios and your doctor.

        • Good working conditions are important. That sounds like awful employment conditions.

        • +1


          Don't do warehouse jobs, you will get backstabbed even you work rly hard.

        • @Yaren24: I think you would only get backstabbed if you got crap and unlikable bosses or and team members….otherwise warehousing should be okay….I've done a bit of it so I know from personal experience but maybe you had crappy people to put up with and or think the pay is unacceptable for the kind of job you do…?

          It's like $19/hr for full time isn't it for a general warehouse job…? …so basically minimum wage…hah…think you would need to be a forklift driver to earn a more decent amount…like $35/hr or something….

  • Hi OP, one thing come to my mind, what about plant operator jobs? like roller, diggers, etc?

  • +1

    Lab Tech

  • +1

    Go be a removalist in NSW. Apparently they are charging $100/hour.

    • +1

      That's probably for two people and excludes travel to and from. There's probably also a company that takes most of that profit.

      Also the company paying insurance, petrol, truck rental, super.

    • I read that article too and was wondering how plumbers could come in second (knowing a little about the removals industry), until I read the data was from Service Seeking. They probably don't separate the $90 man with his truck from the $120 truck with 2 men, where the offsider makes $25-$35 an hour.

      And having sourced plumbers from Service Seeking before I have a theory for their lower-than-reality rates. Either (a) they're scared of getting a bad review or (b) they're still charging $400 extra to "hire" the water jetter sitting in their truck. It's also possible that plumbers charge more in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs compared to the national average or they've actually stopped charging $150/hr due to web comparison sites (the last few plumbers did charge less than $100 per hour but we thought they were "honest").

  • +2

    Use your stable income to pursue your desires via setting up a small business, learning what you've always wanted to learn.

    Had a very good friend who worked in a big 4 accounting firm and didn't enjoy the desk job. But he worked and got his chartered accounting qualification and earned a reasonable living.

    Along the way he bought camera equipment, started photography as a hobby, got some paid gigs, developed his business and took a huge risk and quit his job to pursue photography as his main job. He's just gotten better and better. But his challenges now involve admin, processing photos… a desk job. But he loves it!

  • +1

    I also don't mean to hijack your thread, but having been in similar shoes, I wonder - do you ever worry you might miss your bulletproof job security (like when you get a 30-year mortgage and worry about involuntary redundancies at private companies)?
    I have always loved reading (anything from fiction to dictionaries) and writing (but not corporate/business writing) but never applied for a job at e.g. a publisher or magazine specifically because of that fear… not to mention having to take a hefty paycut to move.
    Maybe I'm overthinking things but it seems I can't both pursue my passion and feed my family at the same time. :(

    • +1

      That sucks man, I am in a lucky position where I'm not planning on purchasing a place any time soon. I've spent some time reframing my life objectives so that I don't have to worry about getting a massive income or anything like that as that would just stress me out unnecessarily. I.e. don't want a mortgage or fancy cars etc.

      Maybe try reading some early retirement/financial independence blogs so that you can think about that sort of thing, might be able to help with getting a chance to pursue your passion without worrying so much about money?

      • You simply can't retire early if You don't have a house (without mortgage) otherwise how else you're gonna pay mortgage/rent and feed family at the same time.

        • Course you can! Go read some finance blogs ;) ETFs, 4% rule, live off the interest. Also, my parents (and my partner's parents) both own properties that we will inherit at some point in the future… so I would like to avoid having the worry of a mortgage and the lack of flexibility while I can.

        • +3


          Knowing my luck my mother will live for a very long time and use all the equity before she dies. My great-grandmother lived to 100. I would be 80 if my mother lived to 100.

          What I'm saying is don't rely on an inheritance.

        • @jrowls: You would need upwards of at least one million dollars in the bank to live off interest at 4% comfortably….

        • @mysterytal: That's absolutely not the plan, wouldn't wanna rely on it. That's what the ETFs are for!

        • @Zachary: Not hard to get that much between two people over 15 years.

        • +2

          @jrowls: lol rip 30 years for me then….

        • @Zachary: Hahahaha sorry mate ;)

  • +3

    I've worked at a desk job and in the field (asset mapping). I find it is more a matter of perspective.
    When I'm working at a desk, I wish I was out in the field. When I was in the field I wanted a desk job.

    Are you sure you enjoyed the market job? Or are you looking back on it with nostalgia?
    It's human nature to question your current circumstances.

    On another note, if time is passing slowly in the office, then you probably don't have enough work to do.
    If you're busy, time will absolutely fly.

    Best of luck!

    • I completely get that, I know what you mean. Your job sounds cool though!

      I honestly did enjoy the market job, it absolutely wrecked me, and I didn't like being on my feet for 12 hours straight, but fast-paced work and talking with people was great.

      I definitely don't have enough work to do, but even when I do have work I'm getting lost in it because it's so high-level. I feel like… it's unrelateable because it's so far above anything on the coal face if you know what I mean?

  • +2

    Nursing/Physio/Occ. Therapist/Speech pathology/Medcine - all will make good use of your science degree and you'll be fighting for a desk the rest of your career!

  • i was in a similar predicament - although I wanted out as I had a young family and felt bad that my wife was at home dealing with the kids and everything else while I was sitting at a desk feeling like I wasn’t really doing much.

    If I didn’t have a family I would have trained like crazy and joined the armed forces - not sure if that’s your cup of tea?

    • Think I'd be in the same boat as you if I had kids etc, would definitely feel guilty+like I'm missing out.

      No interest in the armed forces unfortunately, though I get the appeal!

  • +1

    Surveying may be what you're after if you want to get outside a good amount of the time. I have a friend who completed a Bachelor Degree + Honors (4 years?) before moving interstate to work at Veris near Melbourne CBD. He travels around VIC a fair bit, sometimes away from home multiple days. Surveying needs to be done in all sorts of places. Imagine needing to survey land for a pine plantation way out in the sticks!

    There is a lot of study involved. I think after honors another year or two of postgrad study is required to be a licensed surveyor. My friend seems quite satisfied with is job 👍

  • +4

    Electrician - interesting work and great $$$$

  • I've been in a similar situation..I suggest you start your own business in whatever you find even slightly interesting or go work at a startup, it's very hand on.
    Most people say they hate a desk job but in reality they haven't worked with a company or team with the right culture.

  • +1

    Water quality testing

  • +1

    Crime Scene Investigator

  • +2

    Become a tradesman, it's a licence to print money. You'll own 4 investment homes in next to no time.

  • Thought about the defence force? Lots of various roles in there; all with a field work basis.

  • +1

    Sale calls to business customer car lots of KM relax meet people chat about a product they want. I am like you I hate stuck at a desk all day I felted like a dog chained to a pole. I would pace in the call center.

  • +1

    Thought of some more - have you considered emergency services? My friends husband was in IT and had enough of it so decided to become a firefighter instead - that was over ten years ago and he hasn't looked back. Paramedic is a great job too. Only thing is you have to be okay with shift work (which does have the upside of having days off during the week so you can get life admin done).

  • Hey jrowls, is the issue more being in the office environment or that your working autonomously? Some of your comments sound like the lack of co-worker collaboration or customer/client interaction is the real issue.

    I say this because Field work or on road/move work can be just as isolating and unmotivating if interaction is the issue.

    Try and get into a different team or department first before doing a 180 on your career.

    • Thanks for the reply mate! I mention the interaction more as like a mitigating factor? A good team makes a shit job better, I know that from my time in retail lmao.

      I actually quite like working autonomously. I've burned through days working by myself on projects at home, late into the night and stopping and realising what the time was. Just has to be something interesting I guess.

  • +1

    Depends how much on hands work you want…

    Electrician - one of the better fields
    Boilermaker / pipe welder / fitter - good money and hard work
    Crane driver / plant operator - good decent salary and hands on

    If you want a uni course - engineer / site engineer - it can be most site office with good amount of hands on job… running out on site..directing people etc.

  • +1

    Tradies are making it rain, so why not be an electrician? I'm actually considering leaving eight years of tertiary education behind me and pursuing an apprenticeship with a relative who is an electrician. Compared to being a legal practitioner, I'll be earning much more, have far less stress and will actually have time to see my family.

    • You should do it! That actually sounds really cool. I'd only be leaving 4 years of uni behind me so it would be even easier. Just don't know how I'd go finding someone to take me on? Seems hard, and tough wage situation when you're an adult right? Low paying? How long until you get qualified?

      But yeah questions aside, it would definitely be more fulfilling to be a tradie than doing this.

      • +1

        4 years u til fully qualified, just over 3 if you knock out the exams nice and early and can get signed off (good luck).

        Very rewarding trade. I've branched off into telecoms and a few other things and been in domestic right through to oil and gas and it's just a trade that keeps on giving.

        Very grateful for what I've achieved. 13 years ago, I never would have pictured being where I am now.

        Also, there are/can be a lot of drop kicks within trades just riding the gravy train. That's no different to the rubbish that goes on within the office space though. If you're good at what you do, you WILL rise to the top and you'll very rarely be without work. It's definitely one of those who you know, not what you know fields!

        FYI, I finished year 12 and got accepted into Mechanical Engineering, I was just done with school by then and knew I preferred being hands on. Breezed through trade school, went back to uni full paying a year out of my time, completed 2 out of the 4 years with flying colours, threw it away and went back to my trade. Same reason as you, I couldn't stand being behind a computer and I could see that straight away. Even being out of work for technically 2 years, I found a job after just over a month. I'm now 30, so do the math, this was a still in the recent years, not the golden opportunity years of my first boss' time that I like to refer to them as.

        I say go for it!

        • +1

          Thanks for sharing :) glad things have worked out great for you.

  • +2


  • a few i can think of-
    1. Porn
    2. Professional ninja
    3. Freelance masseur (the naughty type)

  • +1

    It sounds like you want to work for yourself, earn good money and have FUN whilst doing it! Can I interest you in Amway? Perhaps herbalife?

  • +1

    If you're looking to get out of the office, there are so many law enforcement type programs out there that offer interesting work, good pay and your work is different every day.

    Customs environment is good fun - airports, cargo, immi/visas etc. And you don't have to fire/posses weapons.

  • +1

    Police? Correctional Services? Trade? plenty of jobs out there that aren't tied to a desk.

  • +1

    Not sure if any one has mentioned it but have you thought of out door jobs like fiery, postie, paramedic or even the police ???

  • Surprised noone has mentioned full time BTC investor….. Still need to sit behind a computer though. Haha

  • +1

    How long does your grad program run for? maybe you just need a change of scenery as opposed to a change of career? I'd be trying that first anyway. With a science degree, maybe something in water supply/treatment might be a good option, could probably stay in a government sector or go to the mines if you are feeling like more of an adventure.

  • -2

    The reality is… Most people do not particularly enjoy their work. They do it because they get moneys .
    If you can find something you love doing, and get paid for it, then you're lucky (and/or wise in your choices) .
    You will probably have to compromise, ie. Take less moneys, and do something you like more, or go back and study some more (although you would prefer not to pay for it etc) .
    I have made a conscious choice to do something for much less money, but which will leave me reasonably well off, and more importantly for me, with great job satisfaction and sense of that I will be doing good.
    Maybe you should just go back to the fruit market thing for a while, until you decide what else to do. Or you could choose to stay at current position which probably pays more, and you may get used to it there, and not hate it so much. You might just be adjusting to change, and dislike your current role atm due to it being such a change from the fruit market.
    So many variables involved. You have to make your choices, and you are the one that has to live with them. Life isn't always great, but you choose how to deal with things, and how to accept or deal with things.
    You're not really going through a hard time. There are many many people without any job, money, or even a place to live.

  • Thought about social work? There's an element of paperwork/admin to it, but most of your interactions are assessing people one on one, and determining what help they need (medical, social services, whatever). My partner does it. Did criminology at uni, then a masters of social work after that. Loves it and finds it super rewarding. Pays pretty well too thanks to public service CBAs.

  • Try something like Environmental Health Officer (EHO) at a local council. With your current experience in government and policy I'm sure you could make the switch pretty easily, especially if you went regional. EHOs often spend a fair bit of time on inspections (things like wastewater system installations etc) and can get involved in stuff like bush regeneration too.

    • Wouldn't you need some sort of knowledge or experience for that? That does sound super good though.

  • +3

    If you’re a science grad and in Canberra PS there’s only a few depts I can think you went to. Some are good some are bad. My wife is an ex grad at Agricultre, still there many years later.

    Her rotations were absolutely crap and boring. Some of them were just horrible. Some of the grads were ‘odd’ as well, considering my wife had already a few years work at other government sectors. Other family members were also not a fan of the grad program.

    I too hated my grad program (finance/law based) but found my niche after the program and spent many happy years until I quit (tried for a redundancy) and now earn about the same as an SES at 32yo. It met a need and I learned a lot in my area and now I consult in my own business for $300/h. I also did some adhoc grad training, and seriously some of the grads had serious problems and acted like self entitled children.

    Hunt around for some APS4 jobs - you now have access to the internal job boards. If you get it, you can leave the program straight away as it’s a promotion. Once you finish and find somewhere you like, it all changes. You get real work and can see progression/future. While on grad program, try for a rotation needing security clearance - the grad program will pay for it, rather than the business area. If you have a clearance later on, it can make getting promotions (unofficially of course) a lot easier. In my wife’s area, only her and her director have TS- neg vet. Usually only EL2s have them but because my wife worked on some dicey stuff during the grad program, she needed TS- (god it was a pain in the ass - I’m glad my clearance was lower).

    Canberra for us was a temporary thing - 3/4 years max. We’ve now bought our second house, had a child and will never move back home as it’s too good here. We’re coming up to 10 years in February. When we moved here, it’s tough as you’re poor, away from friends/family. But priorities and lifestyle changes and once you’re financially comfortable at APS5 and above, life is pretty rosy.

    FYI - if you’re in Ag, compliance has APS 4/5/6 advertised at the moment. They are desperate for science people.

  • If you're healthy and honest and brave, be a police

  • After spending 4 years getting a degree I got my "dream job" only to find it soul crushing. So I got out. That was over a decade ago and I have no regrets.

    From the sounds of it you're just not the office type. Neither am I.

    I would suggest finding something hands on that compliments your degree. That way you add to your experiences without completely throwing out your degree.

    Have you considered doing some work in the country on a vineyard or something. Winter is planting/prep time rather than picking but the work is pretty varied. Also if you get in good with the farmers then you often get work on the machines later in the year where the hours are long but get pay is good. Easy to clear 30-50K for a month's work.

    Otherwise go get some working holiday visas and travel the world. Until you're 35 the world is basically your oyster as far as working holidays go.

    There are quite a few relatively high paying entry level jobs around such as garbo, train/tram driver, various warehousing/construction positions that just require a day or 2 to get licensed for such as forklift, traffic controller etc

    I wouldn't recommend going back and getting another degree.

  • Opal mining

  • Own a string of vending machines. Do all the work yourself; sales, marketing, install, servicing, repair, money collection, stocking etc…. until you get so many that you can employ someone. Then just go around and do onsite quality control and more marketing/sales.

Login or Join to leave a comment