When you’re risking your neck in the course of your daily job, you deserve to get paid more. So much more!
There’s a bit of irony in the term “make a living” when we’re talking about occupations that pose a threat to living, breathing humans.
Look, we get it: The risk factor really can’t be dialed down for some jobs. At least there’s a semblance of justice and compassion when it comes to the salaries these jobs fetch.
Some of these professions are deeply linked to infrastructures and utilities. Others have something to do with transportation, healthcare, public safety, and agriculture.
Oh, sports, too. Don’t ever underestimate the brutality of sports.
In short, if your job entails pain, it better pay handsomely.
To find out what the world’s most dangerous jobs pay, check out the list below!
Aeronautics and Space Administrator
As illustrated by the tragedy of the Challenger space shuttle, it’s not only the astronauts who are at risk during launch sequences. Aeronautics administrators on the ground are in danger, too.
Agricultural workers have to deal with scratches, bites, and infection.
Air Traffic Controller
To say that air traffic controllers need to be mentally alert at all times is a grave understatement. Their daily work certainly causes mental exhaustion.
When you’re working on an aircraft, dangerous fumes like carbon monoxide are prevalent in the air.
Aside from the obvious risk of high-altitude crashes, airline pilots can also be vulnerable to dehydration, insomnia, and skin cancer.
Animal Care Worker
Large livestock can be a handful as they can be territorial and awfully protective of their offspring.
While the work they do to take care of trees is admirable, it’s rather dangerous. Imagine having to climb really tall trees while carrying a bunch of sharp tools.
Arts and Recreation Service Worker
Artists, athletes, performers, and even casino workers can get sprains and strains from all those repetitive movements.
In the first place, why would you even agree to be a killer for hire? The physical and psychological toll is all on you.
Don’t let the Fantastic Four fool you: Astronauts could suffer from health issues caused by exposure to radiation from the cosmos.
For the love of the game, athletes will push their bodies to the limit. Unfortunately, that’s when injuries are most likely to occur.
Athlete, Coach, Umpire, and Related Worker
Even coaches, umpires, and ball boys can get hit with a stray ball (or a stray elbow) by an irate player.
Mechanics can sustain burns from various sources, such as hot oil, battery acid, and hydraulic fluid.
Bomb Disposal Technician
Aside from the risk of explosive material, well, exploding, bomb disposal technicans also have to endure excessive heat strain.
BSL-4 Lab Technician
These labs contain very dangerous microbes. The diseases transmitted by said microbes are usually the ones for which there is no vaccine yet.
Ole! Or not…If the numbers are to be believed, bull riders get a significant injury every 15 rides.
Research shows that bus drivers have a higher rate of mortality compared to other workers from a wide range of occupations.
These pilots deliver goods and supplies to locations that are tremendously difficult to reach. The weather and wildlife in these places are no joke.
Camper and Travel-Trailer Manufacturing Worker
Assembling these campers and travel-trailers is certainly not easy, especially when injuries and illnesses are right around the corner.
Care and Nursing
Can you stand this? At times, healthcare workers have to stand for hours at a time. This makes them prone to back injuries and other physical ailments.
If the pilot is suffering from fatigue, the entire flight is compromised.
An assortment of equipment can lead to an array of injuries. And don’t forget those slips and trips.
They can get caught up in shootings and robberies. It’s one thing if the cash in their register is taken, but quite another if they get seriously hurt.
Celebrity or Political Bodyguard
They put their bodies on the line so that their clients don’t get hurt.
Is there any job out there that requires as much kneeling as a cement mason’s? Those knee injuries can be excruciating.
Chemical Plant Operator
It can be really, really hot inside a chemical plant. That doesn’t bode well for the plant’s operators.
Now this is a lethal form of entertainment! If a lion or a crocodile decides to go in business for itself, that circus performer is in serious trouble.
There are many pitfalls to avoid in this line of work: falling from elevated spots, taking a header into trenches, tumbling down slopes, and the like.
Cleaner / Groundskeeper
Cleaners are exposed to chemical and physical hazards.
This job has a lengthy history of occupational hazards. Foremost among these are respiratory illnesses like pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung and silicosis.
Underwater excursions can lead to difficult situations, such as lack of oxygen and getting stuck in a submerged state.
Their work out at sea is life-threatening in more ways than one—from harsh weather conditions to the risk of falling overboard.
This definitely isn’t a glamorous job. All the stress and burnout that jail guards experience can lead to worse things, such as heart disease.
You’re playing with fire when your job description is to contain the threat of terrorism.
Here’s a double jeopardy situation that can unfold: A courier can get jumped by a robber, then have to explain to the waiting customer why the package can’t be delivered at the present time.
At mind-blowing heights, gravity is not a friend of these workers.
These folks are meant to facilitate a smooth flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. They are NOT meant to bear the brunt of vehicle crashes.
Crude Oil Hauler
These folks are hauling trucks with combustible materials like crude oil and refined fuel. If anyone nearby gets careless with a cigarette…
These members of a ship crew can get pushed to their physical limits after working for a prolonged period of time.
Mishaps at the demolition site can result in these workers getting stuck or buried under debris.
Derrick Operator in Oil, Gas, and Mining
These operators don’t have a particularly easy time as they work in the vicinity of a derrick, which holds drilling equipment. Erroneous contact with lethal objects and equipment can be costly for these operators.
These mechanics have to contort their bodies in peculiar positions, which can cause back and muscle injuries.
Sometimes, unsolicited visitors aren’t just rude. They’re also aggressive, which means the door staff might get into a scuffle or two.
Look, just don’t—you could end up in front of a firing squad.
Electrical Power Lineman
One wrong move, and they can end up burned or electrocuted.
Electricians run the risk of sustaining burns and shocks. They can also get caught up in explosions.
Just to ensure the convenience of people who go up and down, elevator mechanics put their lives on the line. Those vertical drops can lead to severe injuries or death.
Embalmers have prolonged exposure to formaldehyde, which can have adverse effects on their health.
Emergency Medical Technician
It’s challenging enough to ensure the well-being of patients, but when said patients take on a combative stance for one reason or another, emergency medical technicians have their hands full.
Their drilling equipment is as dangerous as it is gigantic.
Factory workers are constantly exposed to chemicals. Also, the very nature of their work calls for repetitive motions, which eventually lead to injuries like carpal tunnel.
Animals can get unruly on a farm. Plus, heavy equipment can cause aches and bruises.
Think you can get as lucky as Mulder and Scully? Real-life FBI agents face real-life threats from dangerous criminals.
They have to save people from houses on fire. ‘Nuff said.
Food Service Worker
The kitchen can be a hotbed for burns and cuts.
The work of foresters is filled with grave threats. Inclement weather, falling branches, chainsaw mishaps, and the risk of falls all over the place are just some of the dangers that foresters face.
It’s not easy to handle those forklift trucks. The operators have to endure pain in the back, neck, hands, and arms.
Collecting trash is no easy feat, especially as it comes with back pain, cuts from sharp edges, and exposure to nasty bacteria.
Government Restricted Building Security
Government buildings are in the cross hairs of criminal groups. To ensure security in these places, guards have to be ready to avert all sorts of threats.
Health Care and Social Assistant
Health care assistants can suffer from mental health problems brought about by long hours and repetitive tasks.
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
Never, ever inhale a refrigerant! Plenty of mechanics and installers have suffered because of this.
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technician and Mechanic
These technicians and mechanics often find themselves in awkward standing and lying positions. While they’re at it, they can sustain burns, cuts, and bruises.
Instead of saddling up on a horse, helicopter cowboys get into choppers in order to round their herd. The helicopter part, sadly, causes the danger factor to rise.
Some heavy good vehicle drivers lose consciousness at the wheel. This is never a good development.
Highway Maintenance Worker
The highway is where workers live life on the fast lane. Car crashes can occur right beside them at any moment.
Since they are working in close proximity to machinery that’s, you know, moving, they’re in harm’s way.
Industrial Machinery Installation, Repair, and Maintenance Worker
Asbestos, vapors, and solvents are just a few of the chemicals these workers have to deal with.
Joiner and Painter
Their daily work includes constant exposure to solvents and other toxic materials.
King Crab Fishing Boat Captain
Equipment like coil lines and crab pot launchers can cause a world of hurt to fishermen.
Landmines can, you know, go off.
Landscaping and Groundskeeping Supervisor
Those working in landscaping are exposed to toxic substances.
Large Animal Vet
Vets dealing with large animals can get accidentally exposed to X-rays, which can cause injuries and, sadly, even increase the risk of cancer.
Timber! The logs, heavy equipment, and environmental factors can be too much.
Maintenance and Repair Worker
Maintenance and repair workers are highly susceptible to injuries like cuts, bruises, and electrical shocks.
Meat Rendering and Processing Laborer
Meat processing laborers are really, really prone to injury and illness.
These supervisors face the same risks of injury as mechanics and installers.
Mental Health Caregiver
These caregivers tend to have ramped up cardiovascular responses to situations that unfold with their patients. This makes them prone to heart disease.
Microchip manufacturers have to work with arsenic, which can cause respiratory diseases and cancer after prolonged exposure.
From the frontlines to the army bases, the threat of warfare, contamination, and illness hangs over the heads of men and women in uniform.
Way before they step into the octagon, MMA fighters can tap out to injuries sustained in training or the unbelievable psychological pressure in this cutthroat industry.
Mount Everest Sherpa
The world’s highest mountain is filled with chunks of ice that can get dislodged at any minute.
All those heavy boxes stuffed with your personal belongings? Too many of them can cause injuries to movers.
Movie Stunt Performer
While VFX can make it look like they’re falling off a building, there’s nothing simulated about the cuts, burns, and sprains they can sustain while filming a movie.
Before you start your engines, think of all the burns, fractures, and concussions that you might suffer on all these laps.
The hard knocks out on the gridiron can take a deadly toll.
Ionizing radiation is a huge problem, whether you’re exposed to it in high or low doses. That’s exactly what nuclear technicians have to deal with regularly.
That compassion and level of attention that your nurse displays? All of it comes at a price: exposure to whatever ailment you’re dealing with.
Don’t underestimate the dangers lurking in innocent-looking workspaces. There are physical threats such as floor or power cords and psychological concerns such as bullying and harassment.
Offshore Oil Platform Worker
The oil part of this job is dangerous enough with all the explosions that could occur, but this is also offshore.
Construction sites and heavy machinery make their workplaces a danger zone.
As the sworn protectors of civilians, police officers take on danger headfirst.
It’s you, the canvas, and the palette…plus a whole host of fungi, bacteria, and molds.
They can get infected with diseases either through transmission from patients or contact with needles.
Personal Transport Worker (E.g., Rickshaw Driver)
Sadly, workplace violence has become far too common among workers in the informal transport sector.
It’s not as easy as it looks. Hazardous substances like lead, asbestos, and silica can compromise the health of plumbers.
President of the United States
Lincoln, Garfield, Kennedy…Need we go on?
PIs that go undercover in rough neighborhoods can be exposed; when this happens, they can get badly hurt.
Private Military Contractor
Though these individuals have extensive military training, they’re not exactly going for a walk in the park when they work special assignments for companies or nations, especially those that have made plenty of enemies.
These workers have to worry about both ground failure and instability. Lack of vigilance can result in very bad slips.
They’re in danger of meeting train accidents. Yikes.
Real Estate Agent
Agents who work solo can be preyed upon by cold-hearted criminals.
When you’re standing on top of a house for a lengthy period of time, you’re bound to get heat cramps, heat rash, heat stroke, and other heat-related ailments.
Route Sales Driver
Just like any other type of driver, they have to steer clear of road mishaps. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those.
The competition among sales representatives can get pretty intense. Tremendous stress, lack of sleep, and loss of confidence can take their toll.
The danger level here is high due to large equipment and exposure to the elements.
Those scaffolds can be a doozy. In particular, scaffolds that are in poor shape can lead to nasty outcomes for construction workers.
Scuba divers can suffer from decompression sickness or arterial air embolism. Not what you want when you’re supposed to be enjoying underwater wonders.
Search and Rescue Operator
Danger is all around these operators, who are surrounded by sharp edges, unstable structures, and noise pollution.
Customers and even staff members can get pretty rowdy within an establishment. When security guards step in to contain the situation, they’re putting themselves at risk of an ugly beating.
Sewer flushers can go blind or sustain other permanent injuries after getting exposed to high pressure water.
If there’s a new sheriff in town, it might be because the previous one got caught up in a precarious situation.
Snow blindness, sunburns, and avalanches are no fun to deal with.
Slaughter House Worker
These people are at risk of both physical injuries and psychological issues like dissociation.
When remote areas of forests go ablaze, smokejumpers are deployed as a form of quick response. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: They jump from aircraft and parachute into the fire area. That description right there gives you an idea of how many things can go wrong in this line of work.
Snake. Milker. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
Specialized Construction Worker
A construction site is no playground. The wide array of dangers includes heavy loads, staggering heights, and less-than-ideal working conditions.
This is why James Bond was always paid handsomely: One slip of the tongue from a spy, and their cover, along with perhaps their head, is blown.
Welding can cause serious burns, and flammable materials all around the site can get ignited.
Criminals can barge into their stores and attempt to steal cash or goods. When this happens, the staff in those stores can get badly hurt—or worse.
As they do their thing in the streets, they’re at the mercy of exhaust fumes and dust particles.
After all those grueling hours in the operating room, surgeons can sustain injuries to their hands and wrists.
Unfortunately, all those film and TV scenes depicting taxi drivers at gunpoint have a basis in reality. Many taxi drivers have been assault, robbery, and even murder victims.
First of all…yes, there is such a thing as a tree surgeon, one who treats old or damaged trees. Second of all, their job is rather risky. All that falling timber and all those nasty chainsaws? Scary.
As if welding wasn’t dangerous enough, the underwater part ups the ante.
Count how many times your dog has scratched your vet in the face or on the arm. Now multiply that number by, say, a dozen. That’s a lot of scratches.
Those unbelievable photos and videos of war-torn spots? That’s the work of war correspondents, who are constantly seconds away from becoming casualties.
These workers can get badly hurt when their machines malfunction.
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There are all sorts of diseases lurking around solid wastes. Waste managers, unfortunately, are often on the receiving end of those.
Water Treatment Worker
It’s not really the water that’s the problem in water treatment plants, but the air—low levels of oxygen, high levels of methane and hydrogen sulfide.
A welder’s job isn’t pretty, on top of which there are the risks: lung cancer, skin cancer, asphyxiation.
Worker in Rope, Cordage, Twine, Tire Cord, or Tire Fabric Mills
These mills expose their workers to a particularly high risk of getting ill or injured.
Note: All salaries mentioned in this list are average annual salaries in U.S. dollars, as obtained from the sources cited. The majority are median salaries; however, depending on the source, some mean salaries are also given.