15 High-Paying Jobs People Don’t Want Anymore

Charlie from <em>It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia</em> tries crab fishing, one of our unwanted high-paying jobs.
Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia tries crab fishing, one of our unwanted high-paying jobs. | FX

Listening to certain political and media figures, you’d think the United States is experiencing economic strife on the same level as Greece or Spain. Although there are definitely some economic issues to contend with, by and large America is doing well. There are plenty of high-paying jobs out there if you know where to look.
One of the biggest issues with the labor market is there are jobs nobody wants. This was something touched on during our interview with Dirty Jobs‘ Mike Rowe, who told The Cheat Sheet there are more than enough jobs available to American workers — they just need to be willing to take them.

High-paying jobs nobody wants

Why won’t Americans work some of these jobs, you ask? Well, in many cases, they’re dangerous, dirty, and don’t command a lot of respect. You aren’t going to dazzle your friends or family by choosing some of these career paths, and for a lot of people, that’s a very important element of a chosen trade. In other words, you’ll be doing the dirty work and won’t realize a lot of the glory or clout that comes with other trades or careers.
Even so, there are high-paying careers out there that are rife with opportunity. We’ve listed some of them, which combine high pay and low participation rates. If you want a high-paying job — one that you actually have a good chance of landing — here are 15 career paths to check out.

1. Crab fishing

Fresh crab
Fresh crab is picked from the sea by hardworking fishermen. | iStock.com

One of the most notorious “dirty jobs,” crab fishermen experience a unique set of circumstances while on the clock. A single mistake can mean death, and if you’ve seen an episode of Deadliest Catch, the isolation and crazy conditions of the sea can make even the most hardened men and women miserable. Still, you can earn pretty good money on a boat — up to $15,000 per month.

2. Mine management

Miners prepare for a shift
Miners prepare for a shift. | Thinkstock

Mining is notoriously dangerous and dirty, and for a long time, it was a solid middle-class gig that sustained many communities throughout parts of the U.S. Although it’s on the decline in many areas, you can earn a good living if you can make it into mine management. These positions usually pay more than $200,000 annually. Even that amount, however, isn’t making this job particularly attractive.

3. Adult entertainer

Lingerie on mannequins
Lingerie is a staple used by escorts and strippers. | John Parra/Getty Images

The adult entertainment industry isn’t a career path a lot of people choose, but if you have dreams of living out a Magic Mike reality, it can pay pretty well. Strippers, escorts, adult film actors and actresses — all of them can earn a decent living (for a stretch of time, at least). But there are, naturally, many reasons why people wouldn’t want to be associated with the industry.

4. Sanitation

Garbage awaits cleaning up
Garbage awaits cleaning up. | iStock.com

“Sanitation” can refer to a number of different things, but in this case, we’ll loop in jobs, such as garbage collectors and sewer inspectors. A good number of these jobs across the country are protected by unions, and that can mean great earnings for workers. Although salaries vary from city to city, some garbage collectors earn surprisingly high salaries.

5. Toll booth operators

Heavy traffic
Not everyone throws money away at a toll booth. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Working in a toll booth certainly isn’t a glorious job, but it’s not the worst gig out there either. If you can handle being stuck in a box all day, dealing with surly drivers, you can actually do pretty well for yourself. These are often union jobs, as well, meaning there’s a strong sense of job security and good pay. That security might be short-lived, though, as automation creeps into the conversation.

6. Police officers

Police stand guard.
Police stand guard. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Being a police officer is a tough gig, and with the recent rash of heavy criticism in the wake of numerous police shootings and misconduct, it’s even tougher. Although police officers typically earn pretty good salaries, the hours are long, hard, and filled with uncertainty. Many cities and states are having trouble recruiting new police officers, so if you’re qualified you might have a good chance of getting your foot in the door.

7. Oil rig workers

An off-shore oil rig
An off-shore oil rig | iStock.com

Like crab fishing, working on oil rigs is dangerous and isolated. You can end up on an offshore rig, miles from land, or you could end up in some of the most remote parts of the country, such as North Dakota or western Texas. A lot of people aren’t willing to do it, and that means higher pay and plenty of opportunities for job seekers. If the conditions are right, oil rig workers can make six figures annually.

8. Plumbers

A plumber hard at work on a sink
A plumber is hard at work. | iStock.com

You should never discount a career in the trades, and that includes the plumbing profession. Plumbers are absolutely essential — and yet, a lot of people wouldn’t even consider it as a viable career path. It’s not the most lucrative job in the world, but as a plumber, you can make a decent middle-class salary with plenty of job security. If you want job security and a fair salary, plumbing is worth investigating.

9. Crime scene cleaners

Crime scene tape at the site of an incident
Crime scene tape is at the site of an incident. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

There is nothing more grisly than having to clean up after a crime has been committed. Most people can’t stand or stomach even the thought of it, but somebody has to do it. If you’re willing to become a crime scene cleaner, you can make as much as $80,000 per year. For some people, this isn’t nearly enough. For others — particularly those with a strong stomach — it might be a viable path.

10. President of the United States

President Barack Obama
Barack Obama might consider POTUS as the dirtiest dirty job of them all. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Obviously, there are some people who want to be the president. But judging by the quality of our candidates, it seems the right people aren’t always attracted to the job, even though it pays relatively well — but maybe not well enough to justify the demands of the gig. POTUS earns $400,000 per year, plus expense accounts. Considering the scope of the job, though, it really isn’t that much.

11. Truck driver

A driver waits outside his truck on a snowy road
A driver waits outside his truck. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Truck drivers face a very uncertain future. Autonomous vehicles are hitting the roads, and it seems it’s only a matter of time before drivers — of all sorts — are made redundant. That might be one of the reasons trucking companies are having a hard time attracting drivers. These jobs usually pay pretty well, too. Some earn more than $70,000 per year.

12. Railroad engineers

An Amtrak train travels through a field of wildflowers. | Source: Amtrak
An Amtrak train travels through a field of wildflowers. | Amtrak

It’s not just trucks that need driving. Trains do, too. There’s a shortage (that’s set to increase in coming years) in the railroad industry for locomotive engineers. Although this seems like a very cool job, it’s a pretty dangerous gig. And it can keep you away from home for long stretches. You might not earn six figures as a locomotive engineer, but you’ll get close.

13. Proctologist

Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange | Marvel Studios

Is a career in the probing arts something that piques your interest? It’s not a very glamorous job, but it’s one that pays well. Proctologists and gastroenterologists typically make these “dirty jobs” lists — and for good reason. They pay a lot. You’re a doctor, after all. But it’s not just the intricacies of the job that make these somewhat unattractive positions. It’s the years of study, investment, and preparation to get one that turns off a lot of people.

14. Sales

A car salesman shows off a new model to a customer
A car salesman shows off a new model to a customer. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A lot of people don’t want to work in sales. It’s inherently uncomfortable to try to persuade someone to buy something. And many people just don’t have it in them. But many of these jobs can bring in big bucks. Of course, one of the reasons people don’t want to work in sales is because most of your pay is based on your performance. If you sell big-ticket items, you can expect big commissions. Still, it’s a career many people don’t want.

15. Podiatrist

Feet on a mat
Feet can make you big bucks. | iStock.com/Sasha_Suzi

Although it’s not quite as dirty as proctology or gastroenterology, podiatry is another stinky job in the health care world. Yet, like those other concentrations, it requires a large investment in both time and money to earn your credentials. This means many people don’t want to do it — creating shortages but also higher salaries. The world’s feet need to be taken care of, but few are willing to do it, it seems.