Joining the ranks of garbage collecting and fishing, coal mining is also one of the most dangerous professions today [source: Alford]. Although mining has come a long way since "How Green Was My Valley" days, it remains a tough job. Coal mines contain methane, and explosions can occur when falling rocks cause sparks. What's more, unstable mines can collapse and kill workers.
Aside from these dangers, working directly with coal is literally dirty. Forget getting your hands dirty -- working in a coal mine will get your everything dirty. Coal dust coats all surfaces and contaminates the air. Just from breathing, coal miners ingest coal dust and sometimes develop black lung, a condition that causes shortness of breath and emphysema. Although improvements in mine ventilation have reduced the number of cases of black lung, it's still a problem [source: HealthAtoZ].
Nevertheless, even if it's covered in a film of black dust, money is still money. In West Virginia, where coal is a huge industry, coal miners earn an average annual salary of around $64,000 [source: Brook].