Working the graveyard shift can be grueling, particularly if you're used to a traditional schedule. Workplaces are typically deserted at night — with the exception of employees who work out of necessity or to earn the extra pay that usually comes with late-night labor.
Although employers aren’t legally required to offer extra compensation, many do to entice workers to exchange their pillows for the bigger paychecks they can earn overnight. The padded paycheck can be worth it, at least for those who are wired to adjust to graveyard shift jobs.
Here are 10 professions that typically pay a premium to employees willing to work the night shift. If you happen to be in one of these fields, consider working graveyard — it might be more challenging for your schedule, but the paycheck could be worth it.
Night Shift Dos and Don’ts
Although private employers aren’t legally required to pay a premium for overnight shifts, it’s important for employees to take the work perks they deserve, said Janet Lamwatthananon, recruiting coordinator at ZipRecruiter. “After-hours employees are still entitled to their legal rights,” said Lamwatthananon. “Some after-hours positions might have limited supervision, so definitely remind your employer you intend to take your designated meal and general breaks.”
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Night shift workers should prepare meals in advance and eat on a regular schedule because their bodies might not be sending them the same hunger signals when they’re required to dine in the dark, according to Lamwatthananon. It’s also important for night workers to set aside time to sleep when most of the world is at work, she said.
“It can be easy with all this new-found time to participate in everything you didn’t have time to before with a regular daylight job,” Lamwatthananon said. “Try not to push yourself — if you’re constantly falling asleep during your shift it can cause serious problems with your job.”
1. Machine Operator
The lowest-paid 10 percent of metal and plastic machine workers earned less than $22,470 a year as of May 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But machine operators willing to work night shift jobs could boost their salaries. The average, annual, graveyard shift salary for a machine operator is $22,137.33 — according to the job search site ZipRecruiter — compared with the daytime shift average of $21,365.58.
2. Food Server
Servers who work the dinner rush might not make significantly higher wages than those who work during daylight hours, but bigger evening tips can add up fast. Respondents reported shelling out $11.14 on average for every midday meal they ate out, according to a November 2015 Visa survey, and the average dinner meal cost $36.30 per person, according to a January 2016 Zagat survey. In that same poll, respondents reported tipping an average of 18.9 percent.
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3. Forklift Operator
Forklift operators typically spend days transporting goods around construction sites, mines, ports or warehouse and factory floors. Overtime and overnight shifts for forklift operators are common because many manufacturers ship goods around the clock.
Forklift operators willing to work night jobs could pad their paychecks significantly. The lowest-paid 10 percent of these workers made less than $22,980 a year as of May 2016, according to the BLS. The average salary for forklift operators who work overnight jobs is $25,458.37 — and $24,680.71 for those who work a traditional schedule.
Caregivers help clients take care of themselves and assist with everyday tasks. They might work as home health aides or in institutional settings like nursing homes, where evening jobs and weekend jobs are common. Part-time employment as a caregiver is also a possibility, but keep in mind that part-time jobs with benefits are hard to find.
Pay for personal care aides varies significantly. The lowest-compensated 10 percent of caregivers earned $17,310 annually and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $29,760 as of May 2016, according to the BLS. Night work could boost an entry-level caregiver’s salary: The graveyard shift annual earning average is $19,444.18.
Machinists might work in machine shops, tool rooms or factories setting up and operating computer- and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce instruments, tools and precision metal parts. Many machinists work full-time jobs during regular business hours, but overtime, weekend and evening work is also common.
Signing up for the late shift could be a good way to land an apprenticeship or job in this potentially lucrative profession. The lowest-paid 10 percent of machinists earned less than $25,900 and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $62,590 a year as of May 2016, according to the BLS. Compare that with the typical salary — $36,188.69 — an employer pays a machinist to work the night shift.
6. Truck Driver
Typically, tractor-trailer drivers' routes span several states, so many spend significant periods of time making long road trips. The salary scale for drivers varies widely: The lowest-paid 10 percent earned an average annual paycheck of less than $26,920 and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $63,140 as of May 2016, according to the BLS. The graveyard shift annual compensation average for Class A truck driving positions is $51,879.54.
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7. Material Handler
Material handlers typically spend shifts manually moving freight, stock or other materials around warehouses, grocery stores, storage facilities or similar sites — and their paychecks can vary significantly. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $18,510 per year and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $41,570 as of May 2016, according to the BLS.
Working overnight hours is common in this profession, however, particularly for those whose employers might be shipping goods around the clock. The average, annual, graveyard shift salary for material handlers is $22,629.21, compared with the daytime average of $22,310.43.
8. Customer Service Representative
Customer service workers handle customer complaints, process orders and provide information about products and services — and they often work weekend and holiday hours. Assuming they clocked in for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, the lowest-paid 10 percent of customer service representatives earned around $20,020 or less per year as of May 2016, according to the BLS. Switching to the night shift would earn those workers an average annual salary of $21,162.26.
You might wonder, “Are there any night jobs near me?” If you want to assume a customer service representative role, the answer is yes. The need for customer service people is expected to rise by 10 percent until 2024, according to the BLS.
9. Security Officer
Many security officers are required to work at night, guarding secluded areas or keeping an eye out for rowdy patrons at crowded clubs and casinos. The lowest-paid 10 percent of workers in this field make $18,860 per year, according to the BLS. But the graveyard shift for security guards pays on average $21,693.85 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.
10. Federal Employee
Government employees whose salaries are dictated by the Federal Wage System are entitled to a night shift differential when the majority of their regularly scheduled, non-overtime hours fall between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m. The amount of that bonus depends on when the employee works the majority of their hours. For example, a shift that goes from 3 p.m. to midnight would earn them 7.5 percent on top of their base pay, and a shift that goes from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. would net them an extra 10 percent.
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Working the graveyard shift isn’t for everyone. But if you want to make more money, it might be for you.
More money is a great incentive to get people to take on night jobs, but doesn't make sense for someone who is giving up a lot of “normalcy” to make the same amount as someone with a desirable schedule, said Valerie Streif, career adviser at Mentat, a company dedicated to making the job search process easier. “A lot of people who commit to night shift work end up leaving or asking for their schedule to be changed when they realize the impact on their schedule and personal life isn't worth it. Most job candidates, unless really desperate, are not interested in night shift work unless it comes with some sort of monetary incentive,” said Streif.
Salary data is from ZipRecruiter, unless otherwise noted.