25 Dangerous Jobs That Pay $45,000 or More

Updated December 12, 2022

If you're interested in work that comes with a little risk, consider one of the many dangerous jobs that pay well. A variety of industries have roles that involve heavy lifting, complex machinery, sharp tools, strenuous physical activity and the risk of injury, but often, professionals find the pay and interesting responsibilities to be worth it. In this article, we explore dangerous or risky jobs that are available to help you determine the right career path for your goals and fortitude.

Top 25 dangerous jobs that pay well

The following careers involve some level of risk, require diverse skill sets and training and pay close to or above $45,000 per year. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on each salary link below:

1. Tree climber

National average salary: $21.57 per hour

Primary duties: Also known as a tree trimmer or an arborist, this professional climbs up and down trees and maintains their appearance and health by cutting off dead branches, removing excess debris and spraying pesticides. Tree climbers use a variety of sharp and complex tools to prune trees as well as harnesses and protective gear to keep them safe on the job.

2. Diesel mechanic

National average salary: $23.05 per hour

Primary duties: This automotive technician specializes in inspecting, repairing and maintaining diesel engines in trucks, buses and other machines. Being around fumes, heavy machinery and hazardous tools can pose risks to diesel mechanics, but protective gear and effective training prepare these professionals for every task.

Related: Learn About Being a Diesel Mechanic

3. Diver

National average salary: $50,133 per year

Primary duties: A diver, also called a commercial diver, inspects, services and repairs underwater machines, like oil rigs, bridges and pipelines. They use scuba equipment, water-safe tools and diving best practices to efficiently and safely maintain these structures.

4. Carpenter foreman

National average salary: $24.35 per hour

Primary duties: A carpenter foreman is a carpenter with years of experience who leads teams and trains new carpenters on the job. They're responsible for carpentry tasks like building scaffolding and structures and installing features in houses and buildings. In addition, they must coordinate with vendors, oversee carpenters' work, ensure that work is high-quality and monitor the building timeline.

These construction professionals use potentially hazardous tools like saws and drills and may climb heights, but protective gear, following strict safety protocols and having years of experience help carpenter foremen keep themselves and their teams safe.

Related: Learn About Being a Carpenter

5. Farm manager

National average salary: $51,437 per year

Primary duties: A farm manager leads a team of farmhands in planting, sowing and harvesting crops. These professionals typically have more administrative duties like monitoring the budget, overseeing inventory, ordering supplies, coordinating with vendors, hiring farm employees, training new hires and ensuring everyone follows strict safety protocols and farming best practices. These professionals may be around or operate heavy machinery, like tractors, and work long hours.

6. Telecommunications technician

National average salary: $24.78 per hour

Primary duties: A telecommunications technician inspect and service phone lines, towers and other telecom service equipment. In some cases, they may install and inspect equipment in or around consumers' homes, often climbing onto roofs to do so. In other situations, they may climb up telephone poles and telecom towers to service those structures, too. With experience and training and proper safety gear, like harnesses, these professionals can keep themselves and others safe.

7. Pipefitter

National average salary: $25.37 per hour

Primary duties: A pipefitter manufactures, installs and maintains mechanical piping systems, like for industrial machines, HVAC or chemicals. These professionals weld these high-pressure systems together to ensure that any chemicals, steam, water or other materials don't escape the pipes and the machinery or area is effective. Since pipefitters use welding tools and grinders, work with steel and iron and may work on hazardous sites, they complete rigorous training and apprenticeships and become licensed to ensure they and the pipe systems they create remain safe.

8. Forester

National average salary: $52,972 per year

Primary duties: A forester plans and executes environmental projects like planting trees, conserving wildlife habitats, monitoring timber harvesting and finding ways to reduce current and future forest fires. They also lead teams of conservation technicians in adhering to local, state and national regulations on conservation. This role may require travel to hard-to-reach outdoor locations, working in harsh weather conditions and being around heavy machinery and hazardous situations, like forest fires, though some roles focus more on the administrative side of conservation.

9. Police officer

National average salary: $54,698 per year

Primary duties: A police officer serves and protects a local area by patrolling streets, investigating potential crimes, arresting perpetrators, making traffic stops and monitoring hazardous situations. These law enforcement professionals holster weapons and defense items, intervene in dangerous or violent scenarios and risk their lives keeping areas safe. With protective gear like Kevlar, training with weapons and apprehending criminals and safe driving practices, police officers can better keep themselves and others safe.

Related: Learn About Being a Police Officer

10. Firefighter/paramedic

National average salary: $56,466 per year

Primary duties: A firefighter/paramedic is an emergency medical professional who responds to calls of fires, vehicle accidents and many other hazardous situations. They put out fires, rescue people, perform first aid, safely use high-pressure water tools and clear people away from dangerous areas. Firefighters complete rigorous safety and fire training and have head-to-toe protective gear to effectively and securely respond to calls.

Related: Learned About Being a Firefighter

11. Miner

National average salary: $57,351 per year

Primary duties: A miner works underground in extracting coal, ore and other materials and bringing them to the surface. They're responsible for building entryways and exits, installing transportation equipment underground and operating machines and using manual tools to extract materials. Miners may have limited oxygen supply, be exposed to air pollution, use explosives or hazardous tools and risk cave-in.

Related: Learn About Being a Miner

12. Aircraft mechanic

National average salary: $27.92 per hour

Primary duties: An aircraft mechanic is a technician who specializes in inspecting, maintaining and repairing airplanes and helicopters. They may use mechanical tools, manual tools and welding machines to work on various aircraft, but they complete specialized education and training, follow Federal Aviation Administration regulations and wear adequate protective gear to stay safe on the job.

Related: Learn About Being a Mechanic

13. Journeyman electrician

National average salary: $27.96 per hour

Primary duties: These experienced electricians train apprentice electricians while also completing electrical tasks like inspecting equipment and systems as well as installing and repairing systems. Working with electricity can be hazardous, but years of training, experience and proper use of tools ensure journeyman electricians and their clients all stay safe during and after maintenance.

Related: Learn About Being an Electrician

14. Sheriff

National average salary: $60,000 per year

Primary duties: A sheriff is the leading law enforcement officer in a county and is responsible for leading a department of sheriff deputies, overseeing and training new deputies, patrolling areas, enforcing county laws, investigating crimes and filing reports. They're typically elected by county residents or appointed by county officials. The risk for this role includes using weapons and safety gear and intervening in dangerous or violent situations.

15. Fisherman

National average salary: $60,383 per year

Primary duties: Fishermen work on bodies of water, like lakes or oceans, and collect fish and other water animals to be processed as food. Some responsibilities include operating a boat and fishing equipment, setting traps and nets, storing catches, cleaning animals, maintaining equipment and delivering catches to markets or processing plants. Being out on the water, operating heavy equipment, dealing with hazardous weather conditions and working long hours pose risk to these professionals.

16. Cargo pilot

National average salary: $61,050 per year

Primary duties: A cargo pilot flies planes that only carry cargo like consumer goods and packages. They're responsible for charting a course to and from delivery destinations, coordinating with air traffic control to time landing, taxiing and takeoff, monitoring fuel levels and equipment calibrations and operating aircraft in hazardous weather conditions.

Related: Learn About Being an Airline Pilot

17. Zoo veterinarian

National average salary: $61,395 per year

Primary duties: A zoo veterinarian inspects, diagnoses and treats animals housed in a zoo, including large wildlife like elephants, tigers and bears. They're responsible for identifying injuries and illnesses, prescribing medications, operating diagnosis machinery and performing surgeries. Since zoo veterinarians can work with a variety of animals, they may risk being injured by large or dangerous animals. However, with a skilled team of technicians and assistants as well as adequate and safe sedation methods, these professionals can securely help animals in need.

Related: Learn About Being a Zookeeper

18. Registered nurse

National average salary: $29.83 per hour

Primary duties: A registered nurse cares for patients by providing medication and treatment, monitoring vitals, tending to wounds and educating patients and their families on proper treatment and wellness. These healthcare professionals may be at risk for catching illnesses, handle volatile patients and work long hours.

Related: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse (RN)

19. Truck driver

National average salary: $69.175 per year

Primary duties: A truck driver operates large trucks to deliver consumer goods, packages or other items across the country. Driving a large truck requires specialized training and licensure that helps these professionals stay safe on the road. They also are trained to inspect their vehicles and monitor fuel levels to ensure the truck is safe to operate. In addition, they may help load and unload cargo and work long hours, too.

Related: Learn About Being a Truck Driver

20. Operating engineer

National average salary: $36.06 per hour

Primary duties: This construction professional operates heavy machinery, cleans and maintains equipment and collaborates with team members to move materials, dig holes and more with tractors, lifts and other machines. Specialized training on heavy machinery, certification and licensure and knowledge of safety protocols enable these professionals to keep everyone safe on a site.

21. Crude oil hauler

National average salary: $75,932 per year

Primary duties: A crude oil hauler operates large trucks that carry oil, gasoline or other chemicals to gas stations or other locations. In addition to being able to drive a semi-truck or tractor-trailer rig, these professionals must safely load and unload materials, follow safe driving practices and closely monitor the truck's operation to securely reach their destination.

22. Professional athlete

National average salary: $81,107 per year

Primary duties: A professional athlete plays a sport like football, basketball, baseball, soccer or hockey at the top level. These professionals are at risk for various injuries due to playing against equally skilled athletes, working long hours and excessive training. With adequate protective gear and sports physicians monitoring their wellness, professional athletes can perform safely.

23. Construction manager

National average salary: $85,610 per year

Primary duties: A construction manager leads an entire team of construction workers and monitors a project, including supplies, vendors, machinery, training and budgeting. Being around heavy machinery, large materials, hazardous tools and air pollution can pose a risk, but protective gear and following protocols keep everyone safe on the job site.

Related: Learn About Being a Construction Manager

24. Mining engineer

National average salary: $92,448 per year

Primary duties: A mining engineer inspects mining areas and designs underground systems of entries, exits and tunnels to safely allow miners to extract materials and deliver them to the surface. They're often around heavy machinery, air pollution from extraction and explosives as well as being at risk for cave-in.

25. Rig manager

National average salary: $102,400 per year

Primary duties: A rig manager supervises a team of rig operators and technicians by coordinating drilling, overseeing machine operation, training new technicians, enforcing safety measures and coordinating supply shipments and deliveries. A rig can be a volatile location with a risk of explosion or pollution.


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