A Career in Leech Farming: Really Odd Jobs

June 13, 2006 — -- Tired of your job? Fresh out of college and looking for direction? If you're looking for odd jobs, you've come to the right place.

The economy might be tight and opportunities may be hard to come by, but new jobs are always springing up. In recent years, corporate recruter Linda Haneborg of Express Personnel Services even found the perfect job for slackers: Some delivery companies actually pay $11 an hour to have someone sit in their trucks, just so they can ride in the express lanes.

But Haneborg says the job market is actually improving, especially for kids out of college. "You won't see as many youngsters forced to take unpaid internships," she says. "You have a much better chance of starting your career with an entry level job that comes with a paycheck."

Of course, thinking creatively always helps, and if you need some help, you may want to check out Nancy Rica Schiff's "Odder Jobs" (Ten Speed), her second picturebook of America's most unusual occupations, including dog food testers (and, yes, they do it dog food), horse dentists, and jellyfish farmers.

Several of the strangest jobs are actually in burgeoning industry. And in the years to come, they might not be so strange. Here's a look at a few:

Leech Purveyor -- Think you work with some bloodsuckers? Rudy Rosenberg actually does. As a purveyor of hirudo medicinalis (medicinal leeches), this entrepreneur from Garden City, N.Y., sells these carnivorous little critters for $8 a piece. Bloodletting was long ago dismissed as the quackery of medieval barbers. But in recent years, doctors have used leeches on patients for removal of engorged blood. They've even been used to reduce knee pain from osteoarthritis. Some researchers believe that the saliva from leeches has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Pollen Collector -- Being a pollen collector is nothing to sneeze at. Anne Schrempp of Spokane spends a good part of her day on a 16-foot ladder, vacuuming pollen from trees. Once gathered, her employer, Hollister Stier Laboratories, harvests pure pollen extracts, useful in developing medicines for allergy sufferers. Pollen collectors are also useful at times when the bees can't do their job.

Snow Researcher -- One of the few upsides of the Greenhouse Effect is the new jobs it's creating. Randy Borys is the chief snow researcher at Storm Peak Laboratory in Steamboat Springs Colorado. For the past decade, he's been examining the pollution levels in ice crystals. He says his results are discouraging. But at least, for a good part of the year, he gets to enjoy some of the best skiing in North America and call it work.

Gross Stunt Producer -- Scott Larsen's career is one of the new realities of reality TV. There are now "gross stunt" coordinators -- producers who specialize in staging stomach-churning exhibitions. As a producer on "Fear Factor," he's worked with cow intestines, tarantulas, hissing cockroaches and pig snouts, all of which have been considered tasty treats for the show's contestants. "Fear Factor" may have gone away, but there's always another show looking for a second helping.

Casino Surveillance Expert -- Every modern casino has hundreds of surveillance cameras, and Michael Craig is among the prying eye at Harrah's in Las Vegas. He and his team work eight-hour shifts, and have instruments strong enough to zoom in and read the dial on a gambler's wristwatch. If you visited the casino several years ago, they probably have record of it in their video vault, which allows them to dig deep in the past to find patterns of criminality.

Hazardous Waste Cleenup Crew -- Theresa Borst and Stacy Haney trained with the American Red Cross, but now they work for Bio-Clean in Everett, Wash., as certified HAZWOPERS (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response). They've cleaned up chemical spills, sewage, mold asbestos, and they've also been called in by police to clean up a crime scene. Scraping the blood off the sidewalk after a homicide might not sound like a fun day at work. One day they were called in by a medical examiner after a heart attack victim died in a hot tub. They needed a pool skimmer to collect the remains.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.