Dangerous & Risky Careers that Pay Well

Jan 18, 2020

If you're the kind of person who likes to live on the edge, and get paid for it, there are a handful of jobs available to you. You could take risks by working with electricity, aircraft, criminals, combustible oil wells, or even humans.

Options For Well-Paying Careers that are Dangerous & Risky

Profitable careers are commonly assumed to involve desk work or research. Jobs with risks and dangers can pay well too, because many people aren't willing to take on that kind of responsibility. Below you'll find information on some of these lucrative yet potentially dangerous occupations.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018)* Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Surgeons $208,000 or greater (for all physicians and surgeons) 7% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Line Installers and Repairers $65,880 4%
Airline and Commercial Pilots $115,670 6%
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $81,920 3%
Oil Well Driller $85,000 (2019)** N/A

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Information About Well-Paying Careers that are Dangerous & Risky


A surgeon performs corrective, reparative, or cosmetic operations. These professionals may be general surgeons or specialists. Surgical operations always carry a clear risk for error, and its magnitude differs by the kind of surgery being performed. Surgeons have to earn a bachelor's degree, complete medical school, and do 3-7 years of residencies and internships, but the high salary can make it all worthwhile.

Line Installers and Repairers

People in this career install and/or fix electrical power systems, telecommunication wires, and other networks of cables. Line workers are required to work outdoors in variable weather conditions and often at great heights, and together with the fact that they physically handle electricity makes this a risky job. A high school education and lengthy on-the-job training are needed to become a line worker, and many employers take applicants with apprenticeships.

Airline and Commercial Pilots

Pilots are responsible for flying aircraft such as planes and helicopters, which demands strict precision, awareness, and responsiveness. Pilots are in control of jet-fueled, electric machines soaring thousands of feet above the ground at fast speeds, typically with other people's lives at stake, thus the element of danger is quite high. The qualifications for pilots slightly vary, though most pilots need a college degree, a commercial pilot's license, an ATP certificate, and many hours of flight experience. Thereafter, a generous income should be expected.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Detective and criminal investigators are special police agents, commonly plainclothesmen, assigned to investigative work including surveillance, gathering evidence, interviewing possible witnesses, and interrogating suspects. Their job can involve a significant amount of undercover work, thereby increasing the risk of danger, especially if they are discovered; the very nature of the job is dangerous as it often involves confrontation and use of arms. Generally, detectives and criminal investigators first must work as police officers for some time, which means they had to complete police academy training. One then becomes a detective through experience and by passing an exam, and afterward, you'll make more than regular officers do.

Oil Well Driller

Being an oil well driller is a job of toil, wherein one must operate heavy machinery for long hours. Oil well drillers typically work in teams, each assigned to an oil rig, where they penetrate the earth's surface and extract the oil. This job is very hazardous because it involves hefty equipment and chance of explosions, and these perils are what make it pay well, considering it is manual labor. These workers usually have a high school diploma and must be licensed or certified, and additional training from a vocational/technical school can prove useful.

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