5 Risky Jobs Where You Can Earn a Lot of Money

The thing about most dangerous jobs is that the pay often doesn’t come close to counteracting the risk. In fact, many hazardous jobs pay pitiful sums when compared to other options. Take loggers and fishermen. They can expect to earn less than $35,000 per year on average, which is $23,000 less than the national average.

Despite this, the fatality rate for fishermen is approximately 39 times higher than for all other jobs, making it the highest of any profession. Loggers come in second after fishermen, with roughly 28 times the average fatality rate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized the workplace risk scenario. In 2020, workplace illnesses and injuries were generally 5.7% lower than the previous year. However, a closer examination shows that while the number of injuries decreased significantly, illnesses increased quite a lot.

The pandemic also created a new category of low-paying jobs that are among the most dangerous in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants were the ones who had the most days off of work of any job in 2020.

In 2020, they missed around 1,024 days of work per 10,000 workers, which is an increase of 14 times compared to the rate in 2019. Still, nursing assistants earn little more than $30,000.

Going back to the last few years leading up to the pandemic, there were between 10,000-11,000 respiratory infections among US employees per year. However, in 2020, there were around 429,000.

Despite how dangerous work has become for many folks throughout the pandemic, a smaller number of people were injured on the job in 2020 than in any year since 2013 (data from the most recent study made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Yet, the data also showed that an American worker died every 111 minutes from a fatal job-related injury.

The leading cause of work-related deaths was transport accidents, accounting for 1,778 deaths that year, around 37% higher than any of all work-related deaths.

Not unexpectedly, workers in jobs that involved moving material and transportation held the highest share of occupational deaths with a total of 2,258, which is 47% more than all work-related deaths in the country.

We truly believe that if you’re going to accept a risky job, you should at least get paid adequately for it. So, we analyzed the numbers on fatalities, injuries, and salaries to find 5 jobs that compensate for the higher risk by paying more than $58,000 which is the national median.

Those who have one of these 5 jobs can enjoy six-figure salaries, sometimes even without having a college degree. On top of that, many of them can’t be replaced by technology, implying job security.

Take a look at these dangerous jobs that pay some pretty big bucks!

airline pilot
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1. Airline Pilot

  • Number of workers: 42,770
  • Rate of illnesses/injuries: 34.3 (3.4 for all workers)
  • Median annual salary: $115,080
  • Top pay: $197,400*
  • Deaths per year: 4

Plane crashes are extremely rare making flying safer than driving. However, pilots still get hurt. Back strain is the most frequent injury among pilots, which is undoubtedly exacerbated by the many hours spent in flight decks. Yet, the salary could make the risks worthwhile. Airline pilots, copilots, as well as flight engineers, earn the highest annual median wages of any risky jobs out there.

Given the overall weakness of the job market and the industry consolidation, competition for open positions can be pretty fierce. In most cases, you must have the required number of hours spent piloting aircraft before applying for an airline job. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration requires those who apply for pilot and copilot positions to have a total flight time of at least 1,500 hours.

But if you accumulate enough airborne hours and experience, annual income with the leading airlines can reach $200,000 or even more. Similarly, if you land a job offer from one of the major air freight carriers, you should expect to be paid handsomely. UPS and FedEx pay their captains at least $233,000 and $212,000 per year, respectively, starting in their second years.

*According to Airline Pilot Central, United pays its 12th-year captains flying Boeing 777 planes the highest minimum annual wage of any legacy airline. 

2. Private Detective

  • Numbers of workers: 33,700
  • Rate of illnesses/injuries: 122.6 per 10,000 workers
  • Median days away from work due to illness/injury: 43
  • Median annual salary: $60,970
  • Top pay: $98,070
  • Deaths per year: 1

Digging up information can be a difficult task. In most cases, gumshoes’ injuries are due to physical altercations and car accidents. However, the numbers are relatively modest, so the higher-than-average remuneration for private detectives may be worth the somewhat increased risk.

Most detective jobs don’t require applicants to have a college degree, but the ability to learn new things is definitely a must, and prior related work experience is an advantage. In most states, you’ll also need a license. However, the requirements vary.

Now, if you’re interested in certain fields, such as computer forensics or insurance fraud, some corporate investigators may require you to have a related bachelor’s degree.

Not only will expertise help you gather evidence for complex cases, but it will also increase your pay. Investigative agencies, both small and large, are the ones that employ the vast majority of detectives. Distant runners-up are state and local governments as well as law firms.

risky jobs
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3. Registered Nurse

  • Numbers of workers: 3 million
  • Rate of illnesses/injuries: 1023.8 per 10,000 workers
  • Median days away from work due to illness/injury: 8
  • Median annual salary: $75,330
  • Top pay: $103,0
  • Deaths per year: 12

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses were one of the most affected categories during the coronavirus pandemic; there were 78,740 illnesses and injuries in 2020, with 290% more compared with 2019 when there were 20,150 illnesses and injuries among registered nurses.

According to the same source, in 2020, the number of registered nurses who needed days away from work due to illnesses and injuries increased by 58,600 cases to almost 79,000 cases.

Typical wages are about 88% higher than the national median, which may help compensate for the risk. Registered nurses in California earn quite a comfortable wage: six-figure salaries in nine West Coast metro areas.

To become an RN, you must have a diploma from an accredited nursing program or a bachelor’s/associate’s degree in nursing. If you pursue a master’s degree, you can earn much more; the median annual salary for nurse practitioners is approximately $90,000, while top earners can even make $120,500 per year.

4. Police Officer

  • Number of workers: 665,000
  • Rate of illnesses/injuries: 121.7 per 10,000 workers
  • Median days away from work due to illness/injury: 15
  • Median annual salary: $64,610
  • Top pay: $102,530
  • Deaths per year: 105

Working as a cop is definitely a dangerous business. Here’s the proof: the number of work-related fatalities for police officers is the highest of all the jobs on this list. However, the fatality rate is only 18.6 per 100,000 workers, which is comparable with taxi drivers.

If you don’t mind participating in high-speed chases or occasional physical altercations, incomes 59% above the national median may be worth going through some strains, sprains, and tears (the most frequent injuries for cops). Whilst you only need a high school diploma to enter the police academy (or a GED), a college degree can help you increase your paycheck.

The average base paycheck for a US cop is $55,390. Police officers with less than 12 months of experience earn $46,900, while those who have more than 10 years of experience can earn $76,650. The top pay is in San Jose, California, where cops earn $131,000 on average.

Photo by Krasula from Shutterstock

5. Electrician

  • Numbers of workers: 729,600 (2020)
  • Rate of illnesses/injuries: 122.2 per 10,000 workers
  • Median days away from work due to illness/injury: 15
  • Median annual salary: $60,040
  • Top pay: $82,930
  • Deaths per year: 68 (2019)

Since households and workplaces can have a lot of various devices that need to be plugged in, electricians are basically guaranteed profitable careers.

However, this job has its challenges. Falls are the most common cause of injuries among electricians. That’s not surprising since they spend a lot of time on ladders and at construction sites. If you watch your step, you may expect to earn 43% more than the national average.

With a high school diploma (or a GED) and a paid four-year apprenticeship, you can start your career as an electrician. However, a bachelor’s degree can definitely add more money to your income. Here’s the proof: a college-educated electrician can make up to $93,000 per year, according to Payscale.

The average base salary for an electrician is around $56,800 and most states require you to be licensed.

You may want to have a look at this article as well: 19 Jobs Where You Can Earn Over $150,000.


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