You might think that American workers are most fearful of handling snakes, swimming in shark-infested waters, or handling combustible materials. But as usual, we’re an unpredictable bunch, and our fears are as varied as our favorite foods and football teams. In fact, a nationwide survey commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted by Harris Poll found that the majority of the most dangerous jobs in Americans didn’t make the list of the most fearful occupations.
For example, logging and fishing are the two most dangerous jobs in the country, but they don’t strike fear in the hearts of American workers. Pilots, roofers, and iron and steel workers also face daily hazards, but they’re not on the list either. Neither are agricultural workers, construction laborers, trash collectors, and truck drivers, all of whom also have a higher-than-average fatal injury rate. In fact, only one of the 10 most dangerous occupations is also on the list of jobs that American workers fear the most.
And while it would appear that the likelihood of death would be the decisive factor in determining the most “fearful” jobs, some of the occupations on the list involve no danger at all, and perhaps prove that there are things that people fear more than death. The list also reveals that some occupations are considered more dangerous than they really are.
So keep reading to discover the 10 jobs that American workers fear the most.
10 10 – Politician
Number of active workers: Almost 57,000
Annual wage: Ranges from $10 an hour for local politicians in small communities to over $174,000 for members of Congress
While influencing public policy might sound appealing, the survey reports that this is a scary career for workers who fear rejection, responsibility, and being accountable to a large number of people. Also, once you toss your hat into the political ring, you’re saying, “Expose and critique every thing I’ve ever done,” which includes cheating on your math test in the 5th grade, or getting drunk at a frat party in college. Many people are terrified of that kind of scrutiny.
9 9 – Microbiologist for Infectious Diseases
Number of active workers: 20,100
Annual mean wage: $75,230
Microbiologists who work with infectious diseases are usually exposed to these communicable viruses on a daily basis. Although they wear protective gear, recent high-profile Ebola cases have heightened concerns that those who work with infectious diseases are highly susceptible to catching these viruses. Ironically, pens and pencils are the primary source of contamination, according to retired microbiologist Cornelio Antonio Sotelo, who says that microbiologists frequently use pens and pencils while wearing contaminated gloves, and forget to disinfect these writing utensils before using them again.
8 8 – Security Guard at Teen Pop Idol Concert
Number of active workers: 1,074,300
Annual mean wage: $27,550
You might think that working as a security guard at a bank or similar environment would be more fearful than working at a teen pop idol concert. However, according to the survey, there seems to be a great fear that security guards at teen pop idol concerts will be trampled by screaming tweens. Occurrences in the U.S. are often rare, and stampedes are more likely to occur at nightclubs and other adult-themed musical events.
7 7 – Kindergarten Teacher
Number of active workers:
Annual mean wage: $52,840
What could possibly be fearful about teaching kindergarteners? For starters, children in preschool and kindergarten have a higher chance of getting respiratory and intestinal infections, according to Dr. William Sears, and they pass these infections to their teachers and fellow classmates on a routine basis. And then there are the epic temper tantrums and the parents who don’t believe that their child could ever do anything wrong. In addition, the expectations for kindergarten teachers have changed drastically, and in many school systems, the play-based format has been replaced by an academic-based format.
6 6 – Crime Scene Investigator
Number of active workers: 12,900
Annual mean wage: $57,340
CSI may have been one of the most successful TV franchises, but workers prefer watching actors portray crime scene investigators to actually pursuing this career. Harris Poll researchers found that they prefer not to deal with blood, and would also struggle explaining that their jobs are nothing like the glamorized 60-minute episodes present on TV. In other words, no they can’t swab the inside of a suspect’s mouth with a Q-tip and determine within 5 minutes if the person is guilty or not.
5 5 – Animal Trainer
Number of active workers: 41,600
Annual mean wage: $31,030
The concept of “training” a “wild” animal implies a certain degree of risk since these workers are trying to teach/coach/cajole lions, tigers, bears and other types of animals to go against their nature. Regardless of how many times a trainer workers with an animal, there’s always a chance that something may go wrong. As comedian Chris Rock once said regarding animal attacks, “The tiger didn’t ‘go crazy’ when he bit his trainer. That’s what tigers are supposed to do – they bite people who get to close to them. The tiger was “crazy” when he was riding around on a tricycle with a little hat on his head, because that’s not what tigers are supposed to do.”
4 4 - Mortician
Number of active workers: 23,500 (this includes morticians, undertakers and funeral directors)
Annual mean wage: $51,720
The fear surrounding this career may be rooted in urban legends or too many horror movies. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that morticians may be exposed to bodies with contagious diseases, but this is not one of fears that workers listed. Instead, they are more fearful of being around dead bodies and they’re terrified of the silence. And then, of course, like most rational people, they fear zombie attacks.
3 3 – Radio, Cellular and Tower Equipment Installers and Repairers
Number of active workers: 14,090
Annual mean wage: $48,380
This is the only profession that is also on the list of deadliest jobs, and for good reason. According to a study by ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” tower climbing has 10 times the death rate of construction. These tower climbers often receive insufficient training, work overnight or under hazardous conditions, and don’t have adequate equipment to dangle hundreds or even thousands of feet off the ground. And even though safety gear is vitally important to their job, the study also reveals that some subcontracting companies make workers pay for their own gear, and many can’t afford – and don’t purchase – safety equipment.
2 2 – Stand-Up Comedian
Number of active workers: Department of Labor stats not available
Annual mean wage: $16.89 to over $1 million
For workers who fear public speaking, awkward silence, rejection, and heckling, being a stand-up comedian can be torture. Timidity, a lack of comedic timing, and the inability to win over an audience has probably humbled – and possibly, permanently scarred – many would-be comedians. Especially since comedy club audiences have usually chugged a few beers before a comedy set starts. As a result, their responses can range from indifference to hostility, and there are always hecklers willing to go the extra mile.
1 1 - Parent
Number of active workers: Too many to count
Annual mean wage: Never enough hugs and kisses
While it’s the most populous job in the country, it’s also the most fearful job, according to American workers. While Harris Poll does not list a specific reason, no doubt there are plenty, including such fears as leaving the child in a hot car, school shootings, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, access to unsecured guns, and childhood diseases. And don’t forget the cost of child-rearing: according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average middle-class couple will spend over $245,000 in housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, education, clothing, etc. to raise a child to the age of 18. And that doesn’t include college.