10 High-paying Dirty Jobs


Garbage Collector

All in a day's work: a garbage collector cleans up our streets.
All in a day's work: a garbage collector cleans up our streets.
©iStockPhoto/Mike Clarke

Most of us wash our hands of garbage as soon as we set it on the curb. If we can avoid the chore of taking the trash out, we toss our rubbish in the trash can and forget about it. Not so for the garbage collector.

If you've ever noticed an overflowing trashcan on a public street, you may have taken a moment to feel bad for the person who'll have to clean it all up. In the pinnacle of dirty jobs, garbage collectors have to deal hands-on with our trash, day in and day out. In this thankless job, they make sure it gets from our curbs to the landfill. Sanitation workers often put in long shifts, traveling up and down our streets to pick up trash while dodging impatient drivers -- who occasionally hit the guys who are emptying trash cans. That's one reason why trash collecting consistently ranks high on lists of dangerous jobs [source: Morsch].

Aside from angry drivers, these guys deal with forces of nature as well -- working in rain, snow and sleet. And let's not forget the smell. The reek of dirty diapers and rotting eggs can't be pleasant, especially combined with -- and particularly after -- stewing in the sun on a hot day. Even if sanitation engineers eventually get used to the smell, it probably doesn't make them popular after working a long shift.

Despite the dirt, the danger and the smell, there's no shortage of garbage collector jobs. The average annual salary for this occupation is about $43,000 [source: SimplyHired]. In California, the average hourly wage is $16.04, and in some places, the overtime can help shoot the pay to over $60,000 a year [source: CEED, Parsons].