12 Gross Jobs That Pay Pretty Well
"Where there's muck, there's brass" is an expression frequently used in Britain. I know I heard it a lot growing up, and it remains true today. Brass is a slang term for money in the UK, for obvious reasons, and muck can mean any type of dirt, or even manure. Therefore, the phrase can be simply translated as "wherever there are dirty jobs, there is money to be made." (See also: 10 Awesome Jobs You Didn't Know Existed)
How much money doesn't always depend on the amount of dirt or the severity of the job. And, of course, a lot of money is relative. If you're a CEO of a major corporation, you're not going to give it all up to become a coal miner or garbage collector. Still, if you're willing to get your hands dirty, or risk more than just a few grubby fingernails, you can make a lot more money in this line of work than you ever could working behind the cash register at McDonalds.
Here's the list, in no particular order, starting with a truly unusual way to make a living.
1. Crime Scene Cleaner: $35,000–$80,000
You've probably seen hundreds of TV shows and movies that contain crime scenes. The detectives and forensics experts come in, analyze everything, and then rush off to catch the bad guys. What they leave behind, however, doesn't go away. It has to be dealt with. Professional crews come in, and they specialize in crime scene cleaning. To be a crime scene cleaner, you have to have a strong stomach and take lots of precautions. In many cases, you're dealing with hazardous waste, harmful viruses, and deadly bacteria. It's also not a 9 to 5 job; you need to be ready to jump into action at a moment's notice, so you have to organize your social life accordingly. However, if you can handle it, you can make over $80,000 a year with just a few years' experience. Crime may not pay, but cleaning up after it certainly does!
2. Garbage Collector: $40,000–$60,000
Most of us don't even like putting out the trash, so those who deal with it for a living deserve a decent wage. Garbage collectors work in all conditions, all year round. Rain, sleet, hail, snow, and the burning sunshine. That last one may be the toughest to deal with, as hot trash is not a pleasant smell at all. Have you ever been to Manhattan on a really hot day? The smell of garbage is quite potent. It's also a dangerous job, and garbage collectors deal with angry motorists who hate being stuck behind the truck. Having all that to deal with does bring some rewards though. The average salary for a garbage collector is around $43,000, but overtime can shoot that to over $60,000 a year. (See also: Difficult Jobs That Are Worth the Effort)
3. Gastroenterologist: $100,000–$750,000
When it comes to medical professions, gastroenterology ranks highly for compensation. The average salary is $342,000, but over 19% of gastroenterologists earn more than $500,000 a year! However, there are a few drawbacks to this field. Dealing with the digestive tract, and conditions like colon polyps, colon cancer, hepatitis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and a whole host of other nasty conditions, it's not surprising this job pays well. And of course, it can cost as much as $250,000 in medical school fees and 10 years of hard studying to become a qualified gastroenterologist. (See also: Ways to Pay Back Student Loans Faster)
4. Sewer Inspector: $40,000–$55,000
We go from the digestive tract to the sewer, quite a nice segue. Working in a sewer is no one's idea of fun. Sewers smell horrendous. They're a breeding ground for all sorts of dangerous bacteria and are home to human excrement, bugs, rats, cockroaches, and sometimes, a dead body or two. Although dressed in protective clothing, sewer inspectors have to wade through rivers of the nastiest sludge imaginable. And that odor sticks, even after the most vigorous shower. Still, an average salary of $47,000 helps take the sting out of that job.
5. Portable Toilet Cleaner: $35,000–$58,000
From sewers to, well, more human excrement. Lovely! Few people, if any, would ever say they always wanted to be a portable toilet cleaner when they grew up. It's just not that kind of job. And if you've ever used one of these things, you know just how awful they can be. They can really stink on hot days, and there are nasty people out there who treat these portable toilets with no respect, leaving their business over the seat, the floor, and even the walls. Portable toilet cleaners have to deal with this, using a huge vacuum to suck out all the waste, and then cleaning down the surfaces. It's tough work, but it pays well.
6. Crab Fisherman: Up to $60,000 for 2–3 Months' Work
If you've seen TV's "Deadliest Catch," you know just how tough and grueling this job can be. Icy winds, freezing rain, stormy seas, huge waves, and massive 800-pound crab pots make this a truly tough job. Not to mention the fact that you're spending 20 hour days surrounded by crabs, fish, and foul smelling creatures — like your crewmates. The work is done for only a few months of the year, but it's lucrative. A seasoned deck hand can earn a whole year's salary in just a few months, and spend the rest of the time doing other work or just relaxing. (See also: How to Get Free Accommodations and Paid Jobs on Boats)
7. Podiatrist: $115,000–$292,000
Feet. Some people love them. Most people try to avoid them. The first issue with feet is that they can smell. And smell pretty bad, too. Being trapped in socks and shoes all day doesn't help, but then you get things like corns, bunions, athlete's foot, ingrown toenails, and nail fungus. Not the kind of thing anyone wants to see first thing in the day. However, the financial rewards are great. The average podiatrist takes home $177,000 per year. Of course, it takes time and money to become qualified, but that soon pays off.
8. Oil Rig Worker: $35,000–$236,000
It's dirty, dangerous work, and you have to spend a lot of time away from your family. But if you don't mind getting your hands dirty or risking your life from time to time, and you can handle living in middle of the ocean, you can reap the rewards. Entry-level jobs in this industry start at $35,000. The average salary of an oil rig worker is almost $100,000 per year. And if you take on a skilled role, like drilling consultant, you can take home as much as $236,000 per year.
9. Coal Miner: $50,000–$100,000
Just as dangerous and dirty as working on an oil rig is working in a coal mine. It's considered one of the most dangerous professions, with the constant risk of the mine collapsing or exploding from trapped methane gas. Coal miners also breathe in coal dust, which can turn into something very nasty called Black Lung (although the risk of that is rare these days compared to coal mining back in the day). But, if you are willing to put up with that and the claustrophobic conditions, you can take home an average of $64,000 per year.
10. Embalmer: $26,000–$62,000
Another job that's not for the squeamish. Embalmers have a long list of duties when it comes to preparing a dead body for burial. It starts by logging any bruising or discoloration on the body, and then includes such tasks as gluing the eyelids shut, tying the jaw together, gluing lips together, injecting embalming fluid, and suctioning fluids out of organs and torso. Personally, I couldn't do it. But if you can handle it, you can pick up an average salary of $40,000 per year.
11. Plumber: $20,000–$93,000
Depending on who you work for and what you do, plumbing can be a 40-hours-a-week job or something round the clock. And if you're a plumber doing late night callouts, you can earn a lot of money. Of course, plumbing is not just leaky pipes and dripping faucets. A lot of time you're dealing with raw sewage, dangerous chemicals, nasty weather conditions, and major home repairs. When water is pouring through a ceiling, people get anxious. However, if you have the training and the resolve, you can earn a very nice living indeed.
12. Landfill Gas Operator: $53,000–$148,000
Perhaps the phrase used at the beginning should be changed to "where there's gas, there's brass." Landfills contain millions of tons of garbage, and that garbage festers. It's teeming with bacteria, nature's natural process of breaking down the waste. And the byproduct of that process is methane gas; lots and lots of methane gas. It's not pleasant to smell, but as a landfill gas operator you remove this gas, which can be dangerous if left unchecked, and funnel it to pipelines, which can power homes and businesses. And the take home pay doesn't stink at all!
Any gross, but well-paying jobs I've missed? Please share them in comments!
Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.