The 7 Best Jobs for Night Owls

computer in bed, working

Employee staying up late to work | Source: iStock

The early bird gets the worm. The night owl, meanwhile, gets a stern look from the boss when he slinks in late to work. But if you have trouble making it to the office in time for that 9 a.m. meeting, there may be a good reason. Some people are hard-wired to be chipper and awake in the morning, while others prefer to sleep in but are alert and active late into the night.

“If you’re a morning-type person, you can’t become an evening type, and vice versa,” Frederick Brown, a professor of psychology at Penn State, told LiveScience.

Most people fall somewhere in between being an an early bird and a night owl, but a handful are outliers, preferring to get up much later or much earlier than the rest of us. Extreme night owls may have delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), functioning best when they go to bed between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. and then sleeping until somewhere between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., according to the American Sleep Association.

Because their natural sleep patterns conflict with conventional school and work schedules, people with DSPS may suffer from tiredness, insomnia, and other problems. Light therapy and gradually adjusting sleep schedules can help them adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule, but for some, the condition is so serious it affects the kind of jobs they can take.

People with DSPS may need to “consider a career that permits later shifts, flexible scheduling, or freelancing. Yes, it stinks that delayed sleep can be a career changer,” Maya Kochav, a freelance writer with delayed sleep syndrome, told

Finding a job that fits with your natural sleep-wake patterns isn’t just a matter of convenience. Constantly going to work on less than a full night’s sleep can affect your ability to pay attention, make decisions, and remember things. If you’re always exhausted, your performance will suffer, and that can make it hard to get a raise or promotion. Plus, sleepiness can lead to accidents, both on the job and while commuting to work, according to WebMD.

Rather than mainlining coffee and sneaking cat naps in an empty conference room, a late riser might be better off finding a job that accommodates his natural rhythms. Here are seven careers that are good for night owls.

All data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unless otherwise noted.

1. Freelancer

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Studies have shown that night owls are more likely to be creative thinkers, which may make them well suited to freelance writing, design, software programming, and other creative pursuits. If a freelancer wants to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and sleep during the day, they’re free to do so. But working a non-standard schedule has drawbacks. Clients may expect you to be on call during business hours, and scheduling meetings or completing work on site can be difficult if that’s when you normally sleep. You’ll have to accommodate their needs or miss out on paying work.

2. Chef, bartender, or waiter

Late-night dining and bars that stay open into the wee hours creates a need for a workforce that’s able to work past many people’s bedtimes. Thirty-four percent of people employed in the food service industry are typically at work at 9 p.m., according to the BLS.

3. Police officer or fire fighter

Emergencies don’t happen according to a schedule, which is why police officers, and firefighters must sometimes head to work at times when most people are asleep. One-quarter of people in these positions are typically at work at 11 p.m., according to the BLS. But if you want a consistent nighttime schedule, becoming a first responder isn’t for you. Firefighters often work in 24-hour shifts, for example, followed by 48 hours off, and police officers may have to switch between day and night shifts.

4. Security guard

Overnight shifts are common for security guards. Nineteen percent of people working in protective services (a group that includes security guards) reported being at work at 3 a.m. Offices and some public buildings may have round-the-clock security, and people may also be hired to patrol apartment complexes and residential areas at night. Casinos also employ 24-hour security.

5. Healthcare support worker

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Healthcare workers of all types, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, are sometimes called to work in the wee hours. But healthcare support staff, including nursing assistants, veterinary assistants, and psychiatric aides are even more likely to work the graveyard shift. Eleven percent of people in this field were on the job at 3 a.m.

6. Air traffic controller

People who work in transportation, including air traffic controllers, are often on the job late at night. Twenty-two percent of air traffic controllers worked at least one overnight shift in 2010, CNN reported. Controllers will often switch off between day shifts and night shifts. That schedule may appeal to some, but when combined with a high-pressure work environment it can also make for exhausted employees.

“It was very difficult to stay awake, extremely difficult,” Ron Connolly, a retired air traffic controller who sometimes worked overnights at Charleston International Airport, told CNN.

7. Taxi driver

People need cabs at all times of the day, which means that taxi drivers often end up working overnight. Drivers for companies like Uber can set their own hours, while drivers for cab companies may work set schedules, including late-night shifts. While many people enjoy the freedom to work independently, driving a taxi can also be dangerous. Cabbies are far more likely to experience violence at work than most people, according to OSHA.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: