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Killer jobs? No, really


Is your job killing you? Depending on your profession, it might.

The federal government keeps tracks of how many people work in each profession, and how many of them die each year on the job. In 2012, the latest year where data is available, 4,628 Americans died due to their occupations. Is that a lot? Statistically speaking, no. The Labor Department says Americans worked more than 264 billion hours in 2012 and there were 3.4 fatalities per 100,000 full-time U.S. workers that year.

Diving down into the numbers, however, it's clear that some jobs are riskier than others.

For example:

  • 13 of every 100,000 full-time employees in a bar or drinking establishment die each year.
  • 15 of every 100,000 full-time landscapers do (the same number as police officers).
  • 25 of every 100,000 full-time truck drivers die on the job.


Here are the five most dangerous jobs, according to the government and other sources, along with their average pay.

#5: Pilot

Flying an airplane killed 72 professional pilots in the U.S. in 2012, but averaged out over 100,000 full-time aviators, the number is closer to 54. This number covers everyone from pilots flying jumbo jets to those controlling a single-engine prop and getting paid for it. The median salary for airline pilots (meaning half make more, half make less) was $114,200 in 2012. The median salary for commercial pilots—corporate, charter, etc.—was $73,280. (FYI, pilots can't get long- term disability insurance. I know, I'm married to one.)

#4: Fisherman

How dangerous can it be hanging out on a boat catching fish? Have you ever actually watched "Deadliest Catch?" That is no joke. According to the Labor Department, 121 professional fisherman die annually out of 100,000 full-time workers in the field. As for pay, well, it's better to be a pilot. Not only are your chances of survival better, you make more money. The government reports the median pay for someone in the fishing industry in 2012 was $33,430.

#3: Logger

The government reports 130 professional loggers die each year out of 100,000. But since there really aren't 100,000 loggers in the U.S., the actual number in 2012 was 63. By the way, the median annual pay for loggers is only $200 more than for fishermen, yet you have an 8 percent greater chance of dying. Your call.

#2: Astronaut

OK, the Bureau of Labor Statistics admits it doesn't really track this category. About 550 people have trained to be either astronauts or cosmonauts, and 30 have died. Some have died during training, and some have died during launch or re-entry. This means you have about a 1 in 20 chance of dying if you become an astronaut. NASA says the pay can range from a little under $65,000 to almost $142,000 a year. But you're not really doing it for the money.

#1: Underwater Welder

This is such a small, hearty crew of daredevils that the government doesn't break them out into their own group. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps them in with commercial divers. "Fatal injuries are not available for commercial divers," the BLS told us. However, the occupation has a whopping 15 percent fatality rate, according to welding equipment maker Westermans International, as quoted by Upstart Business Journal.

Thirty out of every 200 underwater welders don't survive, which means either these people are crazy, these number are suspect, or the pay must be so outrageous it's worth the risk. Salaries reportedly range from $58,600 to $94,600 a year. DOES ANYONE ACTUALLY KNOW AN UNDERWATER WELDER? Please get back to me.

So, what are the safest jobs to have? Surprisingly, one is working in a hospital, where only 1 in 30,000 full-time workers dies every year. That is also the same small chance of dying on the job experienced by professionals in the insurance business. I bet their life insurance rates are low!

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