We’re all asked to give 100 percent at our jobs, but some employees end up giving much more for their careers than others – including their lives. In an increasingly cubicle-filled work world, it can be difficult to imagine workplace hazards beyond the stray papercut, but some professions are still inherently wrought with danger. Using the latest national data on fatalities and compensation, we pulled together lists of the deadliest jobs in America and compared wages for a look at which were (and in some cases, definitely weren’t) worth the risk.
With a job title like “faller,” you’d be foolish not to expect some level of danger on the job. Workers who fell trees for a living are killed at nearly five times the rate of commercial pilots (the second-deadliest profession). Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that faller employment rates are expected to drop 17% by 2024. But pilots don’t have it easy either, with 1.6 in 1,000 commercial pilots dying from the job. We’re often reminded that planes are one of the safest forms of transportation, and they are – but pilots of small planes are subjected to less rigorous training and regulations than airline pilots, which means they’re often less experienced and may be putting themselves and their passengers at greater risk.
Whether or not these occupational risks are worth it is a question that can only be answered by the people taking them. Still, it definitely doesn’t hurt if the deal is sweetened with a higher-than-average salary. Suffice it to say that if you want to be a pilot but are turned off by the danger, steer clear of small aircrafts. Airlines employ airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers who are paid almost twice as much on average as other commercial pilots and accounted for only one-eighth of deaths in the profession. But in the realm of travel, it’s not only planes that are potentially fatal. Working as a traffic technician (often on busy roads) also makes the list of decent-pay death traps, and surprisingly, around 70% of athlete fatalities were transportation-related.
On the other end of the spectrum are jobs that have high risk but low pay. It’s time to yell “timber!” Forest-related jobs (tree felling and trimming) again top the list for most dangerous. Spots five, six, and seven are also a bit ironic, as people are dying in the process of constructing the very structures meant to protect us. Manufactured home installers have to work underneath building sections that weigh up to 40,000 pounds as they affix them to foundations, and roofers put themselves in peril at heights hundreds of feet above ground every day. Although the risk may not seem worth the $18/hour that some of these workers are being paid, it’s possible that these professions may be exactly what the doctor ordered for an adrenaline junkie or outdoor enthusiast.
Despite the shocking figures (and the way they make you rethink your stonemasonry dreams), there’s one job in the America with risks that blow all others out of the water: President of the United States. Of the 43 presidents we’ve had, four have been assassinated while in office. Would you perform a job for which you had an almost 1 in 10 chance of dying? That brand of presidential paranoia makes logging sound pretty darn good.
Data on wages, fatal injuries, and job titles were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and visualized. The average salary of a U.S. citizen ($46,482 per year) was obtained from U.S. Social Security Administration data, and it was used to separate these dangerous jobs into above- and below-average pay.
Feel free to share the images found on this page freely. When you do, please attribute the authors by providing a link back to this page so your readers can learn more about this project and the related research.