The World’s Dirtiest Jobs

Would you prefer a job in a clean, air-conditioned office, or would you like to jump into a job that requires heavy protective gear and working in downright filthy conditions? Most people would choose the former, but others have found great satisfaction and success in so-called dirty jobs (though, of course, not everyone who has a dirty job has one by choice–many dirty jobs are also dangerous and low-paying).

Here are some of the world’s dirtiest jobs:

Wastewater-Treatment Technician
Do you ever wonder where all the water you use goes at the end of the day? Every time you flush a toilet or run the dishwasher, that water heads through a series of pipes and ends up at a wastewater-treatment plant. Wastewater-treatment technicians then work to remove pollutants from the water before it’s released back into streams, rivers, and oceans.

Dung Curator
According to Popular Science magazine, the members of the Quarternary Paleontology team from Northern Arizona University have one of the ten worst jobs in science. These folks curate “the largest collection of excrement in the world.” The job also entails collecting these special treasures from zoos and archaeological digs. The reason for doing this? To research DNA, plant matter in the dung, and climate.

Cave Biologist
Does the thought of crawling around in a dark, enclosed, and damp space sound like a good time? Maybe not, but when you throw in the wonders that can be found in underground caverns, from the interesting colonies of bats to the amazing eyeless fish in dark waters, you might start to see the appeal of working as a cave biologist. Biological scientists enjoy annual salaries of $66,510, according to BLS reports.

Crime-Scene Cleanup
Dealing with the aftermath of violent crimes and accidents is not something that most relatives and friends of lost loved ones can handle. That’s where crime-scene cleanup crews come in. They sweep in after investigators are done with a crime scene and do their best to return it to its original condition.

Disaster Cleanup
Major disasters leave a lot of debris in their wake. From tornadoes that rip open homes and throw insulation everywhere, to floods that can leave several feet of brown mud when the water recedes, natural disasters can lead to messy and even dangerous cleanup jobs.

Garbage Collector
You know how you hate taking out the trash? Imagine doing it eight hours a day, week in and week out. This is the job of the garbage collector. These guys and gals must work in all sorts of weather (and in many municipalities, garbage collection happens year-round–even on major holidays). Wages vary greatly, but the median hourly pay for a garbage collector with five years of experience is around $20 in many states, according to’s salary calculator.

Hospital Laundry Employee
Rotting food and bodily waste are the least of a hospital launderer’s worries. Hospital linens often come straight to the laundry after being scooped up from the operating room or hospital beds. Hazardous fluids and even dangerous medical instruments and needles may be mixed in with the laundry.

Kitchen-Exhaust Cleaner
Commercial kitchens get cruddy and gunked up with grease. If the grease isn’t cleaned, fires and unhappy health inspectors can result. Caustic chemicals, pressure washers, or sometimes a combination of both are used in cleaning, and gunk must sometimes be scraped off before washing begins. The stuff that comes off is so unpleasant that it can’t be washed down a drain. It must be hauled away.

Poultry Processor
Gizzards and guts and offal, oh, my! While it’s pretty easy to imagine that any job location where animals are being changed into food might not be the cleanest place in town, poultry processors have it worse than most. On top of being filthy, the work is achingly repetitive, and injuries are common.

This is a job many kids have aspired to–and let’s face it, zookeeping is pretty cool. Where there are animals, however, there’s usually a mess. Exhibit and living areas must be kept clean of debris and waste. Mike Rowe, star of the reality TV show “Dirty Jobs,” compares it to cleaning a cougar-sized cat-litter box. Animals must also be fed. If you work with aquatic animals, for example, you may end up knee-deep in fish guts. This job, which pays $19,550 per year, can be highly competitive, despite the low pay and dirty work.

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