The world's biggest risks

10 of the most dangerous jobs in America

Careers with a risk factor

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For some, an on-the-job fatality or injury is an everyday reality. Soldiers, law-enforcement personnel and firefighters, for instance, understand the high risks associated with their professions and are well aware that danger is part of their job description.

For others, however, inherent danger in the workplace is less obvious, and a job that seems mundane can be much more perilous than you'd expect.

Job site CareerCast has put together a list of the most dangerous professions around, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor and U.S. Census and weighing that against two factors: how much danger the employee is in directly and the hazards faced by people working alongside those employees.

The hard data, it's worth noting, was taken from a 2013 study, the most recent figures availablebut it's an eye-opening look at the jobs you might want to avoid if you're risk-averse.

By Chris Morris, special to
Posted 12 September 2015

Airline pilot

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Pilots are responsible for the lives of so many, as they shuffle hundreds of people around on a day-to-day basis—one reason they are required to train for six to eight weeks before manning their first commercial flight.

The overall accident rate in general aviation was up 7 percent last year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, with the number of fatal accidents increasing 25 percent from 2013 to 2014. That puts the fatality rate at its highest since 1998.

Median salary: $98,410

Animal-care worker

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Dogs and cats can be cute, but animals are unpredictable, and that can make them dangerous. Injuries, such as bites, are common—and they can be severe. Larger animals, such as horses, are responsible for dozens of deaths per year, per the U.S. Census.

According to CareerCast, this field actually accounts for 11 percent of on-the-job deaths per year.

Median salary: $19,970

Construction worker

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In 2013 there were 4,585 on-the-job fatalities. Of those, 828 were in the construction industry. Put another way: Nearly 1 in 5 on-the-job deaths were on construction sites.

That figure was a 3 percent increase over the previous year and accounted for the largest number of fatalities in private construction since 2009. Falls were the leading cause of death, followed by being struck by objects, electrocutions and being caught in between objects.

Median salary: $29,160

Emergency medical technician

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Firefighters and police officers routinely put themselves in harm's way, but health-care first responders regularly find themselves at risk as well. They not only provide treatment at sometimes hazardous locations, but they then double down on that risk as they transport the sick and injured to hospitals.

Forty-five percent of EMT deaths were due to traffic collisions. And a separate report from the CDC put the fatality rate of EMTs at 12.7 per 100,000 workers—more than twice the national average.

Median salary: $31,020


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Given the frequent deployment to hot zones and disaster areas, it shouldn't come as a surprise that military personnel are among the most at-risk workers.

Beyond those who wish to do them harm, they frequently work around large equipment that can cause accidental serious injury. And the stresses of the job, particularly the uncertainty, can add psychological injuries to the profession as well.

Median salary: $21,664 (Private First Class E-3, United States Army)


A firefighter watches flames grow after setting a backburn in an attempt to control a raging wildfire.
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In 2013, 107 firefighters lost their lives on the job, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, which tracks and collects information on the causes of on-duty firefighter fatalities. (In 2015, there have been 59 reported fatalities so far.)

Half of those deaths occurred on-scene, but the fire itself wasn't the biggest cause of the fatality. Instead, stress and overexertion were to blame for 35.5 percent of the deaths.

Median salary: $45,250

Tractor-trailer truck driver

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Last year large trucks were in 137,739 crashes on the nation's roads, according to the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That resulted in 4,033 deaths and 70,257 injuries.That's a lower fatality count from 2012 and 2013, but the number of injuries is up notably.

Despite those startling numbers, the profession has gotten safer in recent years, cutting fatalities by almost 20 percent since 2002, due in part to the imposition of restrictions on how long truckers could stay on the road.

Median salary: $38,200


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It's not just CareerCast that labels logging as a dangerous way to make a living. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls it "the most dangerous occupation in the United States."

That's due in part to the tools and equipment (like chain saws and logging machines) that are hazardous, and in part to the momentum of trees as they fall and roll. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries in forestry and logging were up 25 percent in 2012, with 81 deaths. That's the highest number since 2008.

Median salary: $33,630

Parole or corrections officer

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While the fatality rate in these jobs is nowhere near that of other jobs on this list, the number of work-related injuries is notably higher. The American Correctional Association says corrections officers have one of the highest rates of injuries, which often come from assaults and confrontations with inmates. They're also often exposed to infectious diseases.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says, "Correctional officers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations."

Median salary: $48,190

Police officer

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Every 60 hours, a law-enforcement official is killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In the first half of 2015, 64 officers were killed on the job and 30 of those occurred in traffic-related fatalities.

Traffic-related incidents are the biggest threat to this profession. The Officer Down Memorial Page notes that traffic fatalities are up 10 percent this year, while so far the number of assaults on officers is dropping.

Median salary: $56,980