Veterinarian, Nursing Assistant Join Police Officer, Firefighter on List of Most Dangerous Jobs

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek August 11, 2016

Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs:

  • Construction Laborer

    No. 1: Construction Laborer - Average Salary: $30,890 - Growth Outlook: 13%

  • Correction Officer

    No. 2: Correction Officer - Average Salary: $40,580 - Growth Outlook: 4%

  • Emergency Medical Technician

    No. 3: Emergency Medical Technician - Average Salary: $31,980 - Growth Outlook: 24%

  • Farmer

    No. 4: Farmer - Average Salary: $64,170 - Growth Outlook: -2%

  • Firefighter

    No. 5: Firefighter - Average Salary: $46,870 - Growth Outlook: 5%

  • Nursing Assistant

    No. 6: Nursing Assistant - Average Salary: $25,710 - Growth Outlook: 17%

  • Police Officer

    No. 7: Police Officer - Average Salary: $60,270 - Growth Outlook: 4%

  • Taxi Driver

    No. 8: Taxi Driver - Average Salary: $23,510 - Growth Outlook: 13%

  • Truck Driver

    No. 9: Truck Driver - Average Salary: $40,260 - Growth Outlook: 5%

  • Veterinarian

    No. 10: Veterinarian - Average Salary: $88,490 - Growth Outlook: 9%

Rushing into burning buildings and being dropped into forest fires, as well as dodging bullets and dealing with threatening individuals, are inherent risks that firefighters and police officers face in their chosen fields.

They willingly put themselves at risk for the well-being of others by working in two of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., according to CareerCast, which released its annual list today.

CareerCast created its list of the most dangerous and safest jobs by cross-referencing the 200 jobs the company tracks via its Jobs Rated report with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and various trade organizations. Data is based on 2014 statistics, the most recent data available.

But veterinarians, nursing assistants and taxi drivers also work in jobs considered highly dangerous, according to the CareerCast report. The risks a veterinarian faces go beyond dealing with cat scratches and dogs flashing their canines, according to Kyle Kensing, online content editor at the careers website.

"A lot of veterinarians work with large animals such as horses, livestock and cattle," he told SHRM Online, pointing out that a kick from a horse can inflict serious injury.

There is a high incidence of injury among nursing assistants, especially because they are exposed to patients with contagious illnesses, Kensing said. Fatigue from long hours on the job can weaken those workers' immune systems, he observed. Additionally, a 2015 investigative report by National Public Radio found that nursing employees—nurses as well as nursing assistants—who move and lift patients are injuring their backs and arms more than construction workers.

But nursing assistants, specifically, "take on some of the most hands-on portions of the work as far as intake in an emergency room, as well as the day-to-day, immediate interaction with patients in hospitals," Kensing explained.

Truck drivers, most of whom spend their entire workday on the nation's highways and freeways, also made CareerCast's dangerous jobs list.

Transportation fatality is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States, Kensing said, "and when your workplace is the roadway, you're [working] in a potentially hazardous space."

The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces a 73-hour work limit over a seven-day workweek, with a 34-hour "restart" period, in an effort to prevent fatigued truck drivers from getting behind the wheel, according to Kensing. However, the job is "still inherently dangerous even if you're not pushing the envelope in terms of how many hours you're working," he said.

Farming is new to this year's CareerCast list. It is a dangerous line of work because of the heavy equipment farmers are around; the highest reported rate of injury was from tractor tip-overs, Kensing said. Farmers also work in close proximity to animals, such as on dairy farms, and are exposed to farm-related air pollutants, adding to their risk.

Rounding out the list of the 10 most dangerous jobs are correctional officer, emergency medical technician (EMT), construction laborer and taxi driver.

For correctional officers working with inmates in jails and prisons, the percentage of time lost from injury "is pretty high, and they face a physical risk," Kensing said.

As with truck drivers, transportation plays a "huge role" in the risks EMTs face.

"If you're a first responder, [hitting the roads at high speeds] can be a really dangerous situation." That's especially true for EMTs who work in helicopters to rescue people, he added.

Although the level of danger for taxi drivers has decreased in the last 15 years, according to Kensing, they remain on the list because of the risks they face: being robbed at knife- or gun-point and dealing with intoxicated passengers who can get violent.

Accidents involving construction workers often involve heavy machinery or working at great heights, such as on roofs.

Some of the risks in jobs on this list have been mitigated over the years with the advancement of technology and the implementation of safety rules, like the ones governing the number of hours a trucker may drive, Kensing said, "but for many of these workers, [risk is] just part of the job."

CareerCast also compiled a list of the 10 safest jobs in the U.S., the average salary for those jobs, and the growth outlook:

  • Accountant/auditor: $67,190, 11 percent.
  • Actuary: $97,070, 18 percent.
  • Computer systems analyst: $85,800, 21 percent.
  • Dietician: $57,910, 16 percent.
  • Interpreter/translator: $44,190, 29 percent.
  • Mathematician: $111,100, 21 percent.
  • Medical records technician: $37,110, 15 percent.
  • Paralegal assistant: $48,810, 8 percent.
  • Statistician: $80,110, 34 percent.
  • Web developer: $64,970, 27 percent.


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