Some jobs are all about the money. Some are about the satisfaction of making a difference. Some don’t pay all that well but are good fun. But some people want it all. They want the big bucks. They want the excitement, and they want the satisfaction of a job well done. Lucky for those daring few, there are plenty of employers who will pay an enterprising young man or woman a great deal of money to do those fun things – that might just end their lives.
Do you crave an escape from the cubicle? Like hard work and big paychecks? Have a healthy disregard for your own mortality, or just require the adrenaline only a near-death experience can provide? Check out this list of great jobs you can probably qualify for… that may put you in an early grave with a great story to tell at the pearly gates.
What is truly surprising is that few of these jobs are glamorous or outwardly exciting. It may not surprise you that being a stunt pilot has an unusually high mortality rate, but most of these jobs are just that: jobs. Routines. The professionals described in this article wake up in the morning, get dressed, have their breakfast, and go risk their lives for money. And, no, they aren’t military or police officers. They are mainly manual laborers – working class elite – who don’t mind a bit more risk for a lot more reward.
But this is not a list based on greatest risk or hugest payoff, this is a list of great jobs that workers can be excited to head out to in the morning. Whether it’s for the adrenaline, the exotic scenery, or just the satisfaction of doing something not many people can, here is a list of five great jobs… that just might kill you.
5. Oil Field Diver – Salary: $100,000+
There’s a reason oil field divers are being replaced by robots, and it definitely isn’t the low cost of specialized underwater robots and their highly trained operators. Diving in general is a dangerous proposition. It takes a strong body, a cool head, and plenty of guts. The mortality rate for divers isn’t incredibly high but the multitude of ways in which a diver can die is both great and gruesome. Oilfield diving is even more dangerous.
Modern SCUBA equipment is fairly complex and diving techniques aren’t simple either. Everything moves at half speed under the water, so you have to plan ahead. Oilfield divers are typically employed as construction workers and building inspectors and electricians… underwater. They have to weld, build, break, inspect and work on pieces of equipment as small as a hairbrush or as big as several tons and they have to do it in low visibility, freezing cold and with a limited air supply. And they have to do it while they’re getting high.
That’s right, diving gets you high. Known as the ‘martini effect’ of nitrogen at pressure, the gas that divers breathe at depths greater than thirty feet creates a feeling of drunkenness. So add the factor of a nice strong drink to the possibility of being burned, crushed, exploded and drowned and you begin to see why diving school has such a high dropout rate.
The good news is that since not everyone has the guts and brains and brawn to dive it pays very, very well, and you can get started with a $20,000 education and have a job waiting for you right out of school. Divers can get $50,000 – $80,000 a year to start, and upwards of $100,000 a year after two to three years.
Just try not to get lost, trapped under ice, forget to change your air tank, or get your innards turned into outards by explosive decompression in the high pressure undersea hut you may have to call home for six months out of the year.
4. Overseas Contractor – Salary: Current Pay +25%
Want one of the most exciting, well paying jobs you can get without any further education or experience? Got a passport? Ready for a career in the exciting and lucrative industry of… toilet repair?
It used to be that the US Military did its own cooking, cleaning and everything else. In the words of General Patton to his missile crews, “fire all your missiles and welcome to the infantry.” Well not anymore. While the military does do some of its own cooking and cleaning, the majority of construction and menial, specialized labor is performed by contractors working for companies like Haliburton.
In virtually any country that the big green machine has partially flattened, the rebuilding is performed by American civilians who want a bump in pay. The more dangerous the area, the bigger the pay bump is. Carpenters, plumbers, masons, tailors – the list of jobs is as varied as you’d find in any city. Of course you have to take the risk of getting shot at for not being a local, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And it isn’t just the military that hires virtually anyone willing to fly halfway around the world to dodge bullets and mosquitoes and malaria. The oil companies are again the big employers. Operating in unstable countries with notoriously low regard for human life means Big Oil dishes out big bucks to lure specialists to such exotic locales as the Congo.
If you currently enjoy your job, these deals are actually pretty sweet. You get private security, free housing, and live in what amounts to a dormitory style small city. Accommodations change from company to company, but they want you to be happy and comfortable and forget that just outside the compound walls there may just be an armed revolution getting ready to kick off. After all, it’s Tuesday.
3. Alaskan Crab Fisherman – Salary: $60,000+ For Three Months
No list of dangerous, well-paying jobs is complete without the Alaskan crab fisherman. Historically one of the top three deadliest jobs in America (just below high-rise construction and commercial diving) many fishermen have lost their lives chasing the big catches that let them take nine months a year off.
Yes, it’s true; Alaskan fishermen can make more than one hundred thousand dollars in just a few months, and eat a ton of the freshest seafood the entire time. If all goes well, there is very little danger involved as well, and who doesn’t like a nice relaxing fishing trip? Poseidon, that’s who, and he takes out his eternal grumpiness on Alaska’s sea on a regular basis.
The best season to go crabbing in Alaska? Winter. The best season to go storm chasing off the Alaska coast? Winter. Let go of your dreams of a relaxing sea voyage with a briny goldmine at the end right now – they’ll be washed away with the first ten foot wave of ice-cold water that threatens to drag you to your salty death and permanently erased the first time the boat crashes to the dip at the other side of that same swell. Imagine, if you will, manipulating a hundred pound cage of very angry giant crabs in gale force winds while being hit with an icy saltwater fire hose.. All day. Every day. For three months.
Forget sleep when the wind picks up. Get used to safety drills and a lot of prayer. Washed overboard? You have hypothermia and an endless sea to contend with. Still, for many, the lure of adventure and pay is too great to resist, and so mostly young men show up in droves and troll the port town docks looking for a berth. The lucky ones get one. The unlucky end up working at a cannery.
2. Cowboy – Salary: $50,000
OK, not a real cowboy, but a rancher/farmer. And the pay is far less for a regular farmhand and can be quite a bit more for a man with plenty of cattle. You may find this hard to believe, but according to the bureau of labor statistics you have a 40 in 100,000 chance of being killed on your own farm. Rubbish, you say? Consider that farmers are one of the few groups of people that have easy, legal access to firearms, dynamite, and large quantities of explosive fertilizer. Now consider how much time they spend acres from medical attention around animals that can kill them by accident.
Now consider that cows are deadlier than sharks. Yup. Cows are 40 times more likely to kill you than a shark, and you’re probably not even a farmer! You may have read this startling statistic before, but really think about it. You’re on a horse, out of earshot of home surrounded by sometimes ornery, often energetic animals the size of a pickup truck. One gets spooked near you and lets out a kick, and thus ends the story of you.
But cows and explosives aren’t the only dangers inherent to farming. One little cut and you could be a goner. Everything gets infected on a farm – the place is a living petri dish meant to grow things, including that bacteria on the cornhusk you just nicked your thumb on. And then there’s farm machinery – Deere John tractors and caterpillar combines and all manner of spinning, diesel-powered blades with mechanical disregard for your wellbeing. Being a farmer is quite rewarding, but also quite dangerous.
All around you are the fruits of your labors, and better yet it is all yours. You get to be outdoors all day and watch your investment of money and sweat equity grow on land you own yourself. It isn’t as exciting as the other jobs on this list, but it’s arguably just as beautiful.
1. Airplane Pilot – Salary: $100,000+
Airplane Pilot is one of those jobs everyone dreams about at least once as a kid, right along with astronaut and dolphin trainer. It’s actually quite an accessible dream, as getting a pilot’s license isn’t that difficult and there is plenty of work to go around as small airlines and delivery companies will take novices for little pay.
This isn’t the type of airplane pilot I’m writing about. I’m talking about bush pilots and stuntmen who, when combined with the rest of the piloting field, suffer a whopping 71 in 100,000 chance of meeting their doom on the job. These are no amateur, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants renegades. These are disciplined, smart, experienced professionals who perform such duties as flying into inclement weather to deliver precious cargo to remote locations or perform aerobatics for the entertainment of the masses in person or on the big screen.
Obviously any mistake made in the air can have dire consequences, but when you’re flying into a storm or upside down at three gs, any mistake is quite likely going to result in a crash.
But, man, what a rush. There is absolutely nothing in the world quite like flying a small plane. If you get butterflies in turbulence on your commuter flight, then piloting a two seat Cessna may not be for you. But if you enjoy riding a motorcycle, you may want to consider taking one or two flight lessons and signing up for a lucrative and terrifying career in remote grocery delivery. There is a reason some of the most beautiful poetry comes from pilots.