After working in gyms for 26 years, Gina Berta opened her own personal-fitness studio, one that resembled a spa more than a weight room...

Share story

After working in gyms for 26 years, Gina Berta opened her own personal-fitness studio, one that resembled a spa more than a weight room.

Breathe Fitness in Mountainside, N.J., offers personal training, yoga and Pilates to upscale customers.

“It’s a great job, because you help people improve the quality of their lives,” Berta said. “People say to me, ‘You get to work out all day. That must be fun.’ “

Plenty of workers wish they could do what Berta has done: chuck their go-nowhere jobs to find something more rewarding. They envy people with cushy jobs.

But the definition of a cushy job has changed in an era of corporate downsizing, economic uncertainty and a slowdown in the housing market.

“A cushy job means you are doing something you are so passionate about, it does not even seem like work,” said Joan Schramm, founder of Momentum Coaching, an Annapolis, Md., workplace-consulting firm. “The amount of time required by the job is totally irrelevant, because if you are passionate about your job, you don’t even think about the time you are putting into it.”

One job that requires great passion is pet sitting, according to Carole Lini of Ewing Township, N.J. She runs such a business, Whisker Watchers, and a day-care center for dogs.

As a pet sitter, she sometimes visits clients’ homes twice a day to feed a pet or take it for a walk. “I’ve taken care of dogs, cats, snakes, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses and even [had] someone hire me to feed his goldfish twice a day,” she said.

The day-care business is for pets that don’t like to stay home by themselves. “It’s just like a child day-care center because people drop off their pets in the morning and pick them up at night,” Lini said.

For others, a cushy job means a position that pays well or doesn’t require crazy hours.

Olga Sergyeyeva is a foreign-language translator who likes working no more than 30 hours a month, sometimes converting product descriptions into Russian for medical devices to be sold overseas.

She once acted as an interpreter for a group of Russian doctors visiting a U.S. hospital.

“I love it because it’s like art,” she said of her work. “If you do translation from a book, you have to translate it beautifully so all of the words are in the right place.”

Here are some cushy jobs and how you can get them, based on information from Schramm; Alexandra Levit, a Chicago-based career expert and author of “How’d You Score That Gig?”; and John McKee, founder and president of in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who wrote “Career Wisdom — 101 Proven Strategies to Ensure Workplace Success.”

Video-game designer: $44,000-$100,000 per year; 30-50 hours per week.

It’s a hard job to get, but you could start out as a beta tester for one of the big game developers. You will need proficiency with the games out there and experience in graphic design.

Check and for opportunities.

Trend spotter: $70,000-$250,000; 20-40 hours per week.

Imagine being paid to sit and drink beer along London’s fashionable King’s Road or visit Florence, Milan or Tokyo to check out the street scene and determine what’s next for women’s fashion or footwear. Trend spotters sometimes work for magazines such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan.

People with an art degree or a major in fashion, marketing or psychology are best suited.

Pet sitter: $20,000-$75,000; 30-50 hours per week.

Who wouldn’t want to spend each day frolicking in the dog park? You don’t have to move to a particular area because pets are everywhere, and you’ll need little money up front to develop your business plan.

Secure referrals by joining the National Association of Pet Sitters ( and doing targeted marketing on the Web and in your community.

Wellness/fitness coach: $40,000; 25-30 hours per week.

Companies are hiring consultants who can help lower their health-care costs. A wellness coach provides advice to workers on fitness, nutrition and stress management. You can take courses on nutrition and fitness to get started.

Translator/interpreter: $43,000-$100,000; 35-40 hours per week.

Companies that operate in a global economy need self-employed translators. A degree is not required, but you will have to be proficient in a certain language. Spanish, Chinese and any of the Arabic languages are in big demand.

The American Translators Association ( provides certification testing. Other Web resources include, and

Elder-care manager: $50,000; 35 hours per week.

This will be a huge growth field as baby boomers retire. Duties include household cleaning, driving the client to the doctor, basic financial management and coordinating visits by contractors or repair personnel. You will also have to act as a liaison with social-services groups.

Check and

Business coach: $100,000; 40 hours per week.

This is ideal for someone who has an accounting background and can help smaller companies navigate new federal regulations and develop their future business plans. Candidate should be a certified public accountant with a background in business administration.

Solar-panel technician: $50,000-$75,000; 40 hours per week.

This is a growth area because of the green movement around the world to save energy. No college degree is required. Training programs usually last six months. Companies that make panels sometimes offer training programs, and some community colleges and trade schools also offer certification. There are installation companies that pay signing bonuses of $500 to $1,000.

Background investigator: $30,000-$65,000; 30-40 hours per week.

The field will continue to grow because companies and the government require checks on prospective employees. You’ll need a fast Internet connection and a database service such as Nexis-Lexis. A background in criminal justice, forensic sciences, law enforcement or security administration is helpful.

Most states require investigators to be licensed. ASIS, a trade organization for the security industry, offers a professional certification. Check

Interior designer: $25,000-$100,000-plus; 50 hours per week.

Use your creative vision to plan a space and render that plan visually. You generally need an associate or bachelor’s degree in fields such as art or architecture. You will have to pass a licensing exam given by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (