Dangerous jobs often come with more than just bragging rights. Jobs that are specialized, requiring specific training, years of experience, and a certain knack for throwing caution to the wind are admirable because they’re so exotic and dangerous. There’s no sitting behind a desk pushing pencils and yawning at 2 pm when one of these dangerous jobs are your career. These jobs require a level head, constant training, and the knowledge that danger is simply part of the job description.
Part of how these jobs are compensated is through pay. Dangerous, specialized, high demand jobs allow the professionals that fill these roles to make a significant amount of money based on the risks and expertise needed to get the job done. Whether it’s working as a public servant, serving in the military, being part of a commercial dive team, working in Hollywood and entertainment, or working to save lives every day, these career paths are mentally and physically demanding. When working in these fields, a work hard, play hard mentality is crucial to saving one’s sanity. Keeping up with the pace of work can mean the difference between staying safe or even dying.
While the exact pay amount can fluctuate based on where the job is located, whether or not the job is per diem, or how specialized a professional is, each of these ten dangerous jobs offers a killer paycheck to go along with the brag-worthy title.
10. Police Officer
Working as a police officer is grueling work. You are dealing with the public on a minute to minute basis, and you never know what to expect when you encounter a civilian. While many people are kind and respectful towards police officers, others have a more hostile, agitated approach to anyone wearing a badge.
Earning good money as a law enforcement officer may take years to achieve, but the pay off for the years of service to the community and the experience gained is well worth the hardships it takes to advance in rank and pay.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the average pay for a police officer was $56,980 per year. This may not be a grand amount of money, but for a median pay it’s decent considering the risks and education level needed to work in the field. The high end of a police officer’s pay was projected at $70,000 per year. They can make over $100,000 per year if they serve in a high ranking position, such as a police Major.
9. Stunt Double
Stunt doubles are professionals with elite athletic abilities and (hopefully) bare a close resemblance to a specific actor or actress. In a Hollywood film, stunt doubles can perform physically demanding and dangerous stunts in place of the star of the film.
Stunt doubles’ annual earnings can fluctuate greatly depending upon how many gigs they land within a year, but the Screen Actors Guild, which sets standards for pay and treatment of theater based jobs currently has the daily stunt performer wage listed as $880. If you only worked five days a week for say eight weeks at this rate, you would make over $35,000 for those eight weeks alone.
Dangers to consider in this field include personal injury while performing or preparing for a stunt, potential exposure to extreme weather, and risk of injury from equipment malfunctioning on set.
8. Iron Worker
Iron workers are workers within the construction industry who fabricate and manipulate steel and other materials to create and reinforce nearly all structures we use every day. From staircases to the Brooklyn Bridge, iron workers are responsible for creating and keeping structures of most any size functional and safe.
While pay range can vary depending upon whether or not the worker is part of a union or a non-union group, the demand for the area and the scope of the job, iron workers can make a comfortable salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average wage for an iron worker is currently $53,000 a year, but that in areas like New York, the average is over $80,000 per year.
What makes iron working a dangerous job is that iron workers are exposed to all weather conditions, work in small spaces, on roofs, bridges, in tunnels and nearly anywhere that commercial construction work takes place. Iron workers use welders and work with power tools in these cramped spaces, increasing the chance of injury for workers.
7. Commercial Diver
Commercial divers have adapted themselves to performing various tasks under water. These professionals can work with scientists, assist in conservation efforts, gather information about a structure, or preform various repairs on items in underwater environments.
The scope and intensity of these jobs depends upon who the diver is working with and what their specific job target may be. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average wage for a commercial diver is around $22 per hour with the high end of pay being closer to $40 per hour.
The dangers involved with this job include injury, loss of oxygen or suffocation, losing consciousness, becoming trapped or snarled in equipment, being attacked by sea life or a wide range of other risk factors. Commercial diving may be a unique experience, but it is not a career to pursue lightly.
6. Commercial Fisherman
Commercial fisherman put their bodies and minds through gruesome circumstances to provide a wealth of fish products to people around the world. Whether it’s crab fishing in the remote waters of Alaska, or fishing for tuna off the coast of New England, commercial fisherman are rugged, hard working professionals.
What makes commercial fishing dangerous is the exposure to the elements, being out at sea for hours if not days and weeks at a time with no real way to get back to shore in an emergency without having to radio for emergency services, and the potential to contract diseases from the fish that are being handled.
Pay rates for commercial fisherman varies greatly depending upon a fisher’s experience, whether or not they are self employed and how much of a profit their ship makes each year. The BLS notes that fisherman can make an average of $58,000 a year, however a 2012 CNN report on Alaskan King Crab fishing noted the increase in crab market value from $3 per pound up to $7 per pound. While there may be a bit of glory in calling yourself a commercial fisherman, the risks of the job can be fatal.
5. Airline Pilot
With all the advances in technology today, it is easy to forget that the airline flights that allow us to travel most anywhere in the world within a matter of hours are controlled and operated by people. With the responsibility of safely delivering passengers, trade goods, relief packages and other items, airline pilots are given the extreme responsibility of safely transporting life and life saving goods every day.
Working as a pilot, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes you can make around $98,000 per year. While this job has a nice paycheck, the dangers of flying in poor weather conditions, traveling to foreign regions, and needing to be able to cope with any mechanical issues that may arise while flying make this job particularly dangerous.
4. MMA Fighter
The sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting has become a phenomenon since its introduction into the United States. The Ultimate Fighting Championship brings together MMA fighters to duel in a combat style that is fast paced, intense, and dangerous. These fighters train for brutal matches against other fighters who have their own unique skill sets and training styles, making it more challenging for opponents to predict their next moves.
Being a highly televised combat sport, elite MMA fighters who compete in the UFC can make massive amounts of money. MMA Weekly notes that fighter Chris Weidman makes $500,000 including bonuses for winning a match. Fighters can easily earn six figures if they have a winning streak or become undefeated thanks to winning bonuses. With the pressure to train hard, making the possibility for injuries greater, and fighting in grueling matches make MMA fighting extremely dangerous for fighters.
3. Nascar Driver
Nascar is one of the most popular sports today. While it may appear monotonous to outsiders, Nascar fans are fiercely loyal to both the sport and their favorite drivers. Nascar drivers are experts at working under pressure while maintaining composure and keeping their competitive edge. Thanks to the massive industry that Nascar has become, winning Nascar drivers can make an obscene amount of money.
In a 2014 article called Nascar’s Highest-Paid Drivers 2014, Forbes magazine reported fan favorite driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s earnings as $25.6 million ($14.6 million from winnings and salary and $11 million in endorsements and licensing). Despite the overwhelming amount of money a successful Nascar driver can earn, burns, concussions, broken bones and even death are potential dangers every time a driver is on the track.
As some of the most highly specialized people in their field, surgeons perform life saving duties on a day to day basis. Whether it’s a plastic surgeon, general surgeon or a specalist, these medical doctors spend years training to become the best physicians they can be.
While there is the obvious danger to the patient who could have an adverse reaction or complication from surgery, the surgeons themselves are also at risk due to their field of work. With each surgery, these doctors are exposed to the bodily fluids of another person (or multiple people in cases of transfusions and transplants), making it shockingly easy for the surgeon to contract any number of infections or transmittable diseases their patients may have.
While surgeons average an annual wage of $224,000 per year according to the BLS, the rate of pay can vary depending upon the surgeon’s specializations and area of work. Still, the stress of the work and the potential for contracting potentially life threatening infections or injuring themselves during a procedure makes this job extremely dangerous.
Of every high paying, dangerous job in the job market today, nothing is quiet as alluring and terrifying as being an astronaut. While countless numbers of kids grow up dreaming of soaring into outer space, the demands on both the body and mind that are required to prepare for being an astronaut make these professionals an extremely elite group.
While NASA notes on their website that there is not a specific field of study or college that must be attended (so long as it is an accredited institution) to become an astronaut, potential candidates strive for the Astronaut Candidate Program. This rigorous program ensures that all astronauts are properly prepared for space and that they are the ideal candidate for the job.
NASA notes that an astronaut’s salary currently begins around $64,000 per year, and can grow to over $140,000 per year. This money may be well invested, but the dangers of leaving earth and going into outer space to conduct research for any number of months is something that can never have a true monetary value.