The Top 13 Worst Jobs with the Best Pay

[via business week]

These are dirty jobs and somebody has to do them. At least they get paid well for their efforts

Think you have a lousy job? You're not alone. So do about half of your fellow workers—and about a quarter of them are only showing up to collect a paycheck, according to a survey conducted by London-based market information company TNS. Grumbling over the size of that check is common, too. About two-thirds of workers believe they don't get paid enough, says TNS—even though many of them may actually be overpaid, compared to average compensation data.


Average pay: $269,500 (

Let’s face it: None of the reasons to see a gastroenterologist — the doctors who plumb the depths of the human digestive system—is pretty. And that’s one of the reasons why GI remains one of the least-sexy specialties. It also has the potential to be among the more monotonous, since GI docs spend a good chunk of their time on routine (and unpleasant) procedures such as colonoscopies. But all those billable procedures also make GI one of the most lucrative specialties in medicine.


Average pay: $125,663 (

High average salaries and reasonable, flexible hours make podiatry look like a pretty attractive career choice—at least for those who don’t squirm at the thought of dealing with bunions, ingrown toenails, and pus-filled foot ulcers. There’s also the (lack of) prestige factor to consider: Because podiatrists are DPMs (Doctors of Podiatric Medicine), not MDs, they face the same “not a real doctor” stigma as chiropractors and optometrists. Getting started in the field can also be difficult, especially for those without surgical training—loan default rates for podiatrists are among the highest in medicine.

Private Security Contractor in Iraq

Average Pay: $120,000

Calling it a “high-risk” job might be an understatement. Though nobody knows the exact number, more than 300 private contractors have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war. In one particularly gruesome 2004 attack, four employees of security subcontractor Blackwater were ambushed, mutilated, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. And yet, despite the ongoing hazards, companies have had no shortage of willing employees. Why? The money: Hired guns in Iraq can earn $10,000 a month protecting diplomats and escorting convoys in Iraq—about 10 times the base pay of an Army private.

IT Worker

Average pay: $103,400 (

Information technology is a high-demand field—and a demanding one. One survey this year rated IT as the most stressful profession. Four out of five IT workers said they feel stressed before they even get to the office, just thinking about spending another day on the phone with laymen, explaining where to find their computers’ off buttons.

Crop Duster Pilot

Average pay: $53,870

One of the most dangerous (and least glamorous) professions in aviation, crop dusters face the hazards of low-level flying (with potentially deadly obstacles such as power lines, fence posts, and water standpipes), as well as long-term exposure to toxic chemicals. While salaries are generally lower than those of airline flyers, experienced agricultural pilots with a good work record can earn up to $80,000 a year.

Crime-Scene Cleaner

Average pay: $50,400

If crime-scene cleanup was just wiping blood off the floors—well, that would be easy. But CSI fans with get-rich-quick dreams should note the job involves more than handiness with a mop and a tolerance for the smell of decomposing flesh. Getting rid of bodily fluids typically calls for more rough-and-ready methods, such as ripping up carpet, tile, and baseboards. It also sometimes means working in confined spaces (if someone was electrocuted in an attic, for example). And when tearing up old houses, workers face exposure to hazards such as lead paint and asbestos—not to mention the combustible chemicals involved in drug-lab abatement.


Average pay: $46,867

Working 12-hour shifts underneath a drilling rig is no cakewalk. Drilling goes on even in the worst weather conditions, the rig’s engine blares so loudly that crew members communicate with hand signals, and the air swirls with dust and chemicals. Roughnecks get stuck with the dirtiest, and most dangerous, grunt work of all, for instance, changing hot drill bits and connecting new sections of pipe. The cash-rich oil industry is strapped for good workers though, so they’ll pay up to $100,000 for specialized or supervisory positions.

Toll Collector

Average pay: $45,000

The worst part of being a toll collector isn’t the environment (the ever-present smell of exhaust, the deafening traffic noise, exposure to bad weather through those open windows) or the hours (eight-hour shifts that either start early or in the morning or go until late at night), or even the threat of a tollbooth holdup. It’s the sheer boredom of being trapped in a two-and-a-half-foot-wide booth for hours at a time, with only a radio (and the occasional highway flasher) for amusement. The pay is good, though—toll collectors are union workers—with solid benefits and overtime that can double take-home salaries for some workers.

Long-Haul Trucker

Average pay: $43,200 (

With long hours behind the wheel, frequent stretches away from home, and constant pressure to make deliveries on time, life on the open road can be lonely and stressful. Throw in the dangers of highway accidents, irregular sleep patterns, and fatty truck-stop grub, and it’s perhaps no surprise that the trucking lifestyle can shave 15 years off a driver’s life expectancy. While the average American male lives to be 76, the typical male truck driver can expect to live to age 61. Job security is good, though, as is the pay. First-year company drivers can earn $30,000 to $45,000; salaries for experienced drivers with good safety records can push $85,000.


Average pay: $42,400 (

Preparing corpses for public viewing is a skilled job that requires specialized knowledge of anatomy, microbiology, pathology, chemistry, and cosmetology—not to mention a strong stomach. And because the Grim Reaper doesn’t clock out at 5 p.m., hours can be long and unpredictable.

Sewer Inspector

Average pay: $34,960

You get used to the smell, they say. But claustrophobics, hypochondriacs, and the rat- or roach-fearing need not apply for the job of sewer inspector, a job that is self-explanatory: crawling on all fours through several inches of raw sewage, armed only with flashlights and chest-high waders, in search of cracked or clogged pipes. Starting salaries are typically on the low end, all things considered, but a sewer inspector on the town payroll in Hampton, N.H. made $61,058 last year.

Crab Fisherman

Average pay: $29,000

Fishing is the most dangerous job in the U.S., according to the government’s latest statistics, and crab fishing in the stormy waters of the Bering Sea is especially perilous. Workers brave the icy winds and pounding waves to put in grueling 20- or 21-hour days launching and retrieving 800-pound crab pots. The upside: Experienced deckhands could earn $60,000 in just a few months of work—or more, for a big haul.

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