What Are The Hardest Jobs In The World?

These crazy jobs pay a lot (but is it enough)?


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Arielle Executive - Sydney, Melbourne, New York

Last updated: May 13th, 2024

hardest jobs in the world
Arielle Executive - Sydney, Melbourne, New York

Last updated: May 13th, 2024

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Have you ever considered quitting your job and doing something more exciting? You’re not alone. One-third of Australians are considering quitting their jobs. If you’re chucking one too many sickies or struggling to get out of bed on a morning, you may be ready for a career change.

Anatomically speaking, your body is built for roaming the savannah and surviving in wilderness, not poking keyboards.

If you’re ready to embrace your primal instincts and take up a job that will get your heart racing and the adrenaline flowing, here’s a list of options to explore.

Do you have what it takes to do one of the hardest jobs in the world?

(Related: How To Deal With Difficult People At Work).

1. Alaskan Crab Fisherman.

dangerous jobs in the world

Fishing is all fun and games until you’re in a ship being tossed around by some of the most dangerous waters. In the Bering Sea, a place where snow is common in the summer, fishermen brave such waters in the search for Alaskan crab – AKA red gold.

To bring in their catch, they often set out in the dead of night.

The water is freezing cold, and if you fall off the boat, you can freeze to death in minutes. There are an estimated 300 fatalities per year – 80% of which are caused by either drowning or hypothermia.

When singer Sam Smith said he’d “love to be a fisherthem”, I doubt this is what they had in mind.

Crabbing boats have a lot of heavy machinery and equipment, and the fishermen are susceptible to crippling injuries when operating them under such treacherous conditions.

If you’ve never seen Deadliest Catch, check it out.

This show will give you a deeper insight into the workplace hazards these fishermen deal with. While it’s a TV show, TV star Todd Kochutin died in February 2021 after sustaining injuries while aboard the F/V Patricia Lee.

2. Military Personnel.

most dangerous jobs

Any job that requires you to get shot at by an enemy makes the list of the hardest jobs in the world. And while military personnel get paid well, money is rarely the motive.

Danger, adrenaline, survival skills, mental toughness, adventure, and defending one’s country are among the other reasons that draw people to military life – whether that’s the Navy, Army, or Air Force.

Whether you’re a bandsman, rifleman, bombardier, gunner, or fusilier – all military personnel are soldiers first and foremost, irrespective of rank.

In the West, we owe our freedom to those who fought in WWI and WWII.

An estimated 10 million and 60 million people died in those conflicts, respectively. While casualties in modern wars are much lower, they’re enough to make you think twice about signing up at your nearest recruitment centre:

  • Gulf War: 147 U.S. personnel and 47 British troops were killed in action.
  • Afghanistan: Coalition deaths (Britain, USA, and allies) totalled 3,486.
  • Vietnam: 282,000 U.S. and allied military deaths.

Even though there’s a risk of being stationed in war zones and hostile environments, in any given week you can find yourself on other exciting operations that involve skiing, mountain climbing, kayaking, and urban warfare training.

3. Special Forces Operative.

dangerous jobs in the world

There’s military personnel, and then there’s batsh*t crazy military personnel who are the elite of the elite.

They don’t just let any old civvie in off the street and apply to the special forces.


The entry requirements are gruelling, and if you’re lucky enough to make the cut (only around 8% of applicants do, all of whom are veteran soldiers), it gets even tougher after the selection process.

As part of their training, special forces undergo extreme physical strength and mental conditioning, such as cold water immersion exercises and other forms of mild torture to develop resilience when working in this stressful job.

Other training includes:

  • High-altitude jumping to infiltrate enemy territory.
  • Close-quarters combat training, both lethal and non-lethal.
  • Survival skills such as building shelters, starting fires, and administering first aid.
  • Weapons and ordnance training, including rifles, pistols, snipers, machine guns, and RPGs.
  • Operating surveillance and reconnaissance tools such as drones, radar, and cameras.

Being in the SAS is like belonging to an elite club that you’re a member of for a lifetime. Check out SAS Australia: Who Dares Wins to see if you could handle this physically demanding job.

(Related: 12 High Paying Jobs That Don’t Require Experience).

4. Mine Worker.

most dangerous jobs in the world

Mines are full of danger. They’re prone to cave-ins, explosions, and toxic gas releases.

A miner’s lungs take a serious beating over time, and miners commonly suffer from chronic respiratory conditions from inhaling dust and other toxins in the air, such as:

  • Asbestosis.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Byssinosis.
  • Silicosis.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

While mining jobs pay well, and many miners are now receiving compensation for developing these conditions, can you put a price on your health?

Even so, how do you handle being in tight spaces? Are you claustrophobic?

If you hated playing Hide-and-Seek (or 44 Homes) and hiding under the bed as a kid, you might not be the ideal candidate for this tough job.

(Related: 11 Weirdest Jobs In Australia).

5. Logger.

dangerous job

Ah, yes. A job that involves working in the great outdoors… Beautiful as Mother Nature is, she has her sadistic side. What she gives with one hand, she taketh with the other.

You might be surprised to hear that logging is the most dangerous job in the civilian sector.

Loggers use chainsaws and other dangerous tools to fell large trees. With that comes numerous occupational hazards:

  • Falling trees and limbs being cut can fall unpredictably…Tiiiimbeeeeeeer!
  • Chainsaw and equipment accidents can lead to cuts, amputations, and even fatalities.
  • Working at precarious heights means that you’re more likely to suffer a fall.
  • Wildfires are often caused by sparks from machinery and equipment.
  • Environmental hazards such as poisonous plants and animals.

On top of that, they often work in tight spaces and on slippery terrain, and loggers also have to work in all kinds of weather. Conditions like rain, snow, or ice exacerbate these difficulties.

(Related: How To Turn Down A Job Offer Gracefully).

6. Adventure Sports Guide.

Recreational activities are supposed to be fun, right?

Have you ever been skydiving, white water rafting, or hiking in the wilderness, only to tell the instructor they have the best job in the world?

While they probably agree, what they might not discuss is the heavy burden they shoulder when it comes to safety.

Having someone’s life in your hands is not for the faint-hearted.

An adventure sports guide has to be on high alert and remain vigilant to the dangers in unpredictable environments, following safety procedures at all times.

Being physically fit is also a prerequisite. Couch potatoes need not apply.

Guides take on extreme weather, tackle challenging terrain, and handle different technical equipment. Each type of recreational activity has its own risks, such as:

  • Skydiving – unexpected parachute deployment.
  • Scuba diving – equipment failure and dangerous marine life.
  • Caving – hazardous cave formations and falls.
  • White water rafting – collisions with rocks and other obstacles.
  • Paragliding – wind conditions and loss of control.
  • Mountaineering – avalanches, rockfalls, and altitude sickness.
  • Skiing – high-speed collisions, severe weather, and avalanches.

7. Demo Team Pilot.

Being a commercial pilot must be so much fun… you know, travelling the world. One day you’re eating pasta in Rome, the next day you’re in Paris sipping Dom Pérignon overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

However, most pilots aren’t commercial pilots. They actually come in a variety of flavours:

  • Commercial pilots fly as captains and co-pilots for commercial airlines like Qantas and Jetstar.
  • Military pilots are trained to fly military aircraft for defence and tactical purposes. The best part is that you actually get paid to train.
  • Helicopter pilots work in various sectors such as transport, emergency medical services, search and rescue, and law enforcement.
  • Bush pilots typically fly in remote and challenging environments, such as the wilderness or regions with limited infrastructure.

The most challenging of these is that of a military demonstration team pilot.

Your job is to fly at near supersonic speeds, often less than 1 metre away from your fellow teammate, while performing complex manoeuvres for the benefit of the crowd below.


If thinking about the above scares your pants off, hit the “eject” button now!

8. Chief Executive Officer.

You might not have expected to see chief executive officer appearing on a list of the most stressful jobs, but they put up with so much flack.

Contrary to popular myths, they don’t smoke cigars and fire people all day.

A CEO works 62.5 hours per week on average. That means they don’t have time to binge-watch the latest series of Black Mirror or The Witcher.

They’re too busy dealing with strategic problems. The buck stops with them. That’s why Elon Musk sleeps on the factory floor. He wants Tesla employees to live, breathe, and sleep the company values.

A CEO has to lead by example and take responsibility for a company’s failures.

Did You Know?

Back in 2019, Musk tossed a brick through the window of the Cybertruck, in a stunt designed to prove how strong the vehicle was. After his embarrassing gaffe, he and the Tesla team have spent the last four years developing and fine-tuning every aspect of the Cybertruck.

Compare that with the CEO of Bud Light (owned by brewery Anheuser-Busch), who has been at the centre of a socio-political storm in which millions of customers have boycotted the brand, costing the company millions.

The company is now laying off hundreds of staff, but so far no senior bigwigs have faced the axe despite public calls for the resignation of board members.

Take responsibility or shirk responsibility? I’d rather have a lie down and watch Netflix.

9. Bomb Disposal Expert.

(Image by the United States Department Of Defense).

Anytime your job requires you to be around something that can potentially blow you up, your job deserves to appear on a list of the hardest jobs in the world.

Explosive disposal experts work in exceptionally stressful scenarios and must stay calm under pressure.

But it takes more than just a gigantic pair of gonads (metaphorically speaking, of course…) to defuse bombs and other explosives.

Technicians need to identify threats and analyse them using specialised equipment such as X-ray machines, radio frequency devices, robotics, and drones.

They’re also involved in the implementation of strategies to counter improvised explosive devices.
  • They carry out signal analysis to identify and locate dangerous technology.
  • With radio frequency devices, they can disable electronics, preventing detonation.

Workers in this field typically work for the military or the police force, but other private companies require disposal experts in the construction, mining, and entertainment industry.

Still think you have a difficult job?

10. Stuntman.

most dangerous job

Being a stuntman is one of the more glamorous jobs on this list of hardest jobs in the world. As a stuntman, your job is to do the dangerous things that actors and celebrities won’t do because they are afraid of getting hurt.

To be a stuntman, you need to be brave. You’ll also need to develop a very particular set of skills; skills that you’ll acquire over a very long career… You’ll develop a repertoire of techniques including:

  • Driving and horseback riding.
  • Fight scenes.
  • Weapons handling.
  • High falls.
  • Underwater sequences.
  • Acrobatics.

Fun Fact.

Some actors perform their own stunts. Viggo Mortensen chipped his front tooth when filming for The Lord of the Rings and broke his toe when he kicked an Uruk helmet in this improvised scene (at 0:33). That scream, though… Ouch.

Preparing for a stunt requires a tremendous amount of preparation and planning, and scenes are almost always choreographed down to a T.

11. Commercial Diver.

Among the list of the world’s toughest jobs is a commercial diver. The deep blue sea is about the most unforgiving clime in the world – over 80% of the world’s oceans remain unexplored.

The further you go, the darker and more eery it gets, and the pressure gets unbearable.

You’ll no doubt have heard about the OceanGate submersible tragedy that gripped the world in June 2023. It’s likely that those guys visiting the Titanic shipwreck imploded due to the colossal pressure.

According to associate professor Eric Fusil, director of the Shipbuilding Hub at Adelaide University, the pressure would have amounted to 4,000 tonnes pushing on an area of one square metre.

While most commercial divers won’t venture this deep, the risks of diving are still apparent:

  • Decompression sickness (DCS) occurs when ascending too quickly, causing nitrogen bubbles to form in the body tissue. It can be life-threatening!
  • Underwater barotrauma is caused by rapid changes in water pressure and leads to injuries in the ears sinuses, and lungs.
You think you can handle the pressure?

You’ve also got a tonne of other risks to be wary of, such as equipment failure, cold water exposure, limited air supply, challenging weather conditions, and currents.

What Are Some Other Dangerous Jobs?

While the list of hardest jobs in the world above provides examples of some lesser-known jobs, here are some everyday examples of high-risk professions.

You’ll likely have a family member or friend who’s served as one of these.

  • Police officers get a bad rap, but a police officer always has to be ready for confrontation. Ask any police officer and they’ll be able to recount some tense standoffs with threatening citizens.
  • Firefighters enter burning buildings to rescue trapped occupants. Is there anything more heroic? They risk exposure to smoke, toxins, fire, and psychological trauma.
  • An oil rig worker faces unforgiving conditions on offshore platforms. Catastrophes such as explosions, oil spills, and storms are commonplace, not to mention the geographical isolation that comes with living in such a remote place for weeks at a time.
  • A healthcare worker will often put their own lives in danger when saving others. They’re routinely exposed to contagious diseases, and the emotional burnout of working long hours and witnessing tragedies can take its toll.
  • Coast guards face treacherous sea conditions that put their lives in jeopardy, for instance, when rescuing surfers and swimmers who have been dragged out to sea by currents.
  • News reporters covering conflicts, protests, natural disasters, and crime scenes put themselves in imminent danger to keep the world informed of injustices and bring you the latest breaking news.
  • First responders and paramedics are the first ones to arrive at the scene of an accident, even when there is still a risk to life, such as when a building collapses, during hazardous materials incidents, and in active shooter scenarios.
  • Personal bodyguards are paid to be a human shield for the likes of a president, celebrity, or businessman. Would you take a bullet for your boss? Sorry, Karen! Not today.


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