We all have our dream jobs in mind, but the truth is that those jobs don’t always pay the best. In fact, it’s often the dirty jobs and the less-glamorous careers that are the most lucrative. If you’re looking for a job that pays well and you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty, here are 20 jobs paying more than $50,000 a year that you might want to consider.
1. Garbage collector
When we think of dirty jobs, most would agree that garbage collection is one of the dirtiest. But garbage collection can be lucrative, especially compared with other jobs that have few educational requirements. Depending on where you live, a garbage truck driver can make as much as $100,000 annually.
2. Head lice removal
If you are a parent, you’ve most likely received the memo from school advising that they are seeing cases of head lice among students — and if you’re unlucky, your child was one of them. Millions of new cases crop up each year, especially among grade school kids, and getting rid of these annoying and itchy ectoparasites isn’t as easy as just shampooing your hair. So there is perennial demand for head lice technicians — and it’s a job that pays pretty well. If you’re willing to do the job (and deal with the constant feeling of crawling skin that comes with mention of the word, “lice”), you can expect to earn $50,000 or more per year. A quick web search turns up many private and nonprofit opportunities to get trained and employed as a head lice technician.
Here’s another position that involves getting rid of rodents and bugs — exterminator or pest control technician. Whether it’s getting rid of mice, cockroaches, termites or other critters people don’t want in their homes, exterminators are often well-paid for their dirty work. With bonuses, commissions and profit-sharing opportunities, pest exterminators can make a decent amount of money. WikiHow describes what it takes to become qualified for these positions, including a high-school diploma or GED, a good driving record and a certification program.
Plumbers answer many calls that represent — for the rest of us — emergency situations, like leaky pipes, plugged sewage lines and broken hot water heaters. There’s plenty of icky work here, but these professionals also build water and heating systems for homes and businesses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual income for plumbers, pipe fitters and steamfitters is $56,030, with the highest mean income among states in New York, at more than $76,000. ExploretheTrades explains the basic steps to getting qualified as a plumber, which include vocational training and apprenticeship.
Does the idea of touching people’s smelly feet make you cringe? Then, you probably don’t want to be a podiatrist. This job requires you to examine and treat feet and lower limbs for problems like toenail issues, corns, calluses, and foot and ankle pain. The median earnings for podiatrists, who must have a doctor of podiatric medicine degree, is nearly $193,000 annually, according to Salary.com.
6. Landfill equipment operator
This job requires you to operate heavy equipment to move garbage — with all the attendant dust, chemicals and odors. This job pays anywhere from $39,000 to $63,000 per year — with the average base salary at about $48,020 and an average annual bonus of $1,450, according to SalaryExpert.
7. Roof and gutter cleaner
Roof and gutter cleaning can involve clearing out anything from actual dirt and leaves to dead animals and anything else that might end up on your roof or in your gutters. This job might also include other duties such as window cleaning, and can pay anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per year.
This business is variable — depending on the season and whether it is a main job or side gig. Here’s a great blog post that addresses how much you need to invest in equipment, how to handle seasonal swings, and more, to do this job. According to this gutter-cleaning expert:
Even though a gutter cleaning service requires little startup capital, you can earn a significant amount of money in a matter of a few months. In terms of profit, it’s very common for two people to earn $500-$1,000 per day.
8. Crime scene cleanup
If you were to rely on TV crime dramas, you might think the carnage at crime scenes seems just disappears on its own. However, in real life, someone has to clean up the mess. This could mean cleaning up blood, bodies and other damage and debris left behind after a crime. Additionally, crime scene cleaners often have to deal with hazardous materials and chemicals. But on the upside, the job can pay in the six-figures, according to PayScale. A college degree is not required for the job, the article says, but there is a certification process through the federal government.
Proctologist is an old term for colorectal surgeons, those who deal with the lower half of the digestive system. This can mean anything from examining you for colon cancer and treating diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, to helping you manage issues like hemorrhoids and itchiness. A dirty, but essential job to be sure — and one that requires long years of medical training. That’s the other reason proctologists or colorectal surgeons typically make at least $300,000 per year.
10. Livestock sperm collector
This job involves collecting sperm to be used for breeding purposes — and getting bulls to ejaculate on command is, well, a dirty and dangerous job. Although there isn’t a lot of salary information available for this job, most sources quote a salary ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 per year. That kind of money that could go pretty far in many rural communities.
No matter what you’re mining, it’s typically going to involve a dirty job. Besides being dirty, mining is especially dangerous, with injuries and fatalities being common. Because of this, mining in states like West Virginia can pay quite well — typically more than $70,000 per year.
12. Portable toilet cleaner
Most of us rarely think about portable toilets until we are at a festival or event with a full bladder. Although using one seems dirty enough, consider what might go into cleaning a portable toilet. Portable toilet cleaners are generally responsible for cleaning out the units and pumping out the waste. Luckily, this job pays decently to make it worthwhile, and if you also own the unit, you can earn a six-figure income.
A corporate recruiter for Northwest Cascade Inc., which owns Honey Bucket portable toilets, concedes, “Sure, it’s a dirty job. Yes, it is indeed pumping poo, and yes, your friends and family will make puns at your expense,” but then goes on to offer “10 Reasons You Want to Work for Honey Bucket,” including decent compensation, mobility and some pretty good-looking benefits. And, Katie Colito notes, the demand is unlikely to go away: “As long as people are eating, they will need us. Plain and simple.”
13. Urine farmer
You’ve probably never heard of a urine farmer, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. A urine farmer collects urine from deer to be used as hunting lure. The process involves collecting the urine, bottling it and preserving it in a refrigerator until it’s sold. In this 2012 Bloomberg feature, a deer urine farmer explains how the collection is done — a process he says is really not that nasty. He makes enough cash to make it seem fairly attractive, though exactly how much remains a trade secret, according to the article:
Deerfarmer.com, an online information network for deer and elk farmers, estimates that a typical urine farmer stands to gross “$93,440 to $303,680 per deer per year.” If that math is correct—and [these deer urine farmers] will neither confirm nor deny those numbers—then [their] annual profit… is likely in the multimillions.
14. Sewer inspector
Is there anything dirtier than a sewer? Although sewer inspectors make more than $60,000 per year, they also have to deal with navigating through sewage and clogs, which could include everything from dead bodies to rats and other stuff commonly found in sewers.
Dealing with the dead is not everyone’s cup of tea. As you can probably guess, this job comes with a fairly high salary at $32,000 to $48,000, according to Recruiter.com. However, the site notes that if embalming is your calling and you live in Massachusetts, you can make nearly $60,000 per year.
16. Odor judge
At first glance, you might not believe this is a real job. However, there are people who get paid to smell things and, as you might guess, not every smell is pleasant. Although your job might mean judging scents like cologne, it could also mean purposely smelling things like armpits, breath, bathrooms and kitty litter. After the scent is rated, scientists can use the information to figure out what causes the odor. How much can you make sniffing stuff? Anywhere from $39,000 to $116,000.
17. Dental hygienist
For some people, poking around in mouths and cleaning out plaque and other gunk isn’t as horrible as it seems. For the most part, you’re probably dealing with people who attempt to floss and brush properly, at least before their appointment. However, keep in mind that dental hygienists also have to deal with patients with bad breath and poor hygiene (and who may not want to be there). Their typical annual salary — almost $88,000, according to PayScale — is very well-earned.
18. Diaper service worker
There are parents who don’t have the stomachs to deal with their own children’s diapers. Imagine dealing with everyone else’s children’s diapers on a daily basis. This job typically involves picking up diapers, cleaning them and then returning the clean diapers to families to reuse — pretty smelly, as you can probably imagine. Although it doesn’t always pay as much as $50,000 per year, you can make that much or more depending on the company and where you live.
We don’t often think about how our meat makes it to the store before we pick it up for a barbecue. However, someone has to do the job of animal slaughtering in order to make it possible — and it’s something that not everyone can think about without getting queasy. A maintenance supervisor in this industry can make nearly $60,000 per year.
20. Hair removal
How do you feel about obliterating someone else’s back hair or bikini hair? There is an array of jobs within the hair-removal industry that are pretty lucrative. Laser hair techs, who typically make more than waxing technicians, can make as much as $60,000 per year.
Which of these jobs would you consider taking on, given the pay? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
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