The Best Paying States for America's Most Dangerous Jobs

At current rates, if every adult American were a logging worker, more than 300,000 would suffer work-related deaths.

Logging has recorded the highest fatal work injury rate in the United States for the last five years, making it among the riskiest ways to earn a living.

Most Americans nowadays make their money by far safer means. But for the millions of workers in the most dangerous occupations, where is the most lucrative place to earn potentially deadly dollars?

Expert Market has researched salaries across the United States for each of the ten most dangerous occupation groups to find out which places offer daring workers the best opportunities to maximize their earning potential.

Drag the image sliders to the left to reveal the highest paying state for each dangerous job. The overall rankings for all 50 states can be found in the table at the foot of this page.

Logging workers (132.7 fatalities per 100,000)

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), three quarters of logging deaths result from dangerous contact with objects and equipment. Loggers typically handle extremely heavy loads and operate in remote areas far away from medical help.

Nowhere is this truer than in Alaska, the state with the fewest hospitals per square kilometer and some of the most extreme climates in the country. Loggers in Alaska earn $63,220 on average, significantly more than their counterparts in other states.

Fishers and related fishing workers (54.8 fatalities per 100,000)

Florida’s recreational fishing industry generates billions of dollars each year, and is a huge source of work in the Sunshine State. It’s also a lucrative one; no other state’s salary beats the $36,270 average salary earned by fishers and related fishing workers in Florida.

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (40.4 fatalities per 100,000)

Predictably for a profession involving so much air travel, more than 98% of work-related deaths for pilots and flight engineers happened through ‘transport incidents’.

Does the salary reflect the high occupational risk? In a word, yes. The national average of $131,250 makes this one of the highest paying professions, period.

Interestingly, average pay for pilots and flight engineers in Colorado ($186,429) is nearly three times higher than pay for loggers in Alaska ($63,220). This is despite the fact that loggers suffer a far greater fatality rate. It goes to show that even for jobs involving high levels of fatal injury risk, other factors are often more powerful determinants of market pay rates.

Roofers (39.7 fatalities per 100,000)

Roofers repair, replace and install new roofs on buildings of all shapes and sizes. It’s physically demanding work at dizzying heights. Sadly, falls, slips and trips are the prime occupational risk, making it a job strictly for the stout of heart and sure of foot.

Still, high roof replacement needs and job turnover in New York mean that roofers there are rewarded handsomely for their work. The average salary of $62,880 is 49% higher than the national average.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors (38.8 fatalities per 100,000)

The dangers of refuse collection are linked to the dangers of driving, with two thirds of deaths occurring through transportation incidents.

The work may be known more for its grittiness than its glamour, but in New York you can add profitability to that list. Refuse and recyclable material collectors there earn $54,900 on average.

Structural iron and steel workers (29.8 fatalities per 100,000)

Structural iron and steel workers build the structures that support America’s bridges, buildings and roads. Like roofers, having a real head for heights is practically a job requirement. When you’re working hundreds of meters in the air, falls, safety is an important concern.

As America prospers, so too do structural iron and steelworkers. New Jersey claims the top spot for best pay thanks in part to steady growth in high rise construction in Newark and other large cities. The average salary of $87,880 in New Jarsey is a staggering 57% higher than the national average.

Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers (24.3 fatalities per 100,000)

From the big rigs on the oilfields to the tractors on the barley fields, drivers are essential in many of North Dakota’s industries.

Though transportation incidents account for most deaths in this occupation group, they brave many other types of risk. At 24.3 fatalities per 100,000, you face odds of death comparable to being dealt four of a kind in a round of Five Card Draw Poker (24 per 100,000).

Drivers and sales workers earn $47,540 a year – 22% more than the national average.

Farmers and other agricultural managers (22.0 fatalities per 100,000)

In contrast to many of the typically urbanized occupations on this list, farming in Florida seems like a breath of fresh air. That is, until you consider that farmers are exposed to the broadest range of fatal injury risks of any occupation on this list.

The first state to rank twice on our list, Florida’s mean salary for its farmers ($106,020) dwarfs the national average ($75,790).

Electrical power line installers (20.5 fatalities per 100,000)

California's electrical power line installers would be the first to agree that Death Valley deserves its name. Few climates are as hostile to work in, and few jobs are as physically exerting, making for a truly lethal mix.

The mean salary of $94,730 puts California far ahead of the national average for pay in this profession.

First-line supervisors of landscaping (18.1 fatalities per 100,000)

The fatal injury rate for this occupation group (18.1 per 100,000) is higher than the rate of centenarians in the entire population (17.3 per 100,000, per the US Census Bureau).

In terms of salary, first-line supervisors of landscaping in Alaska get the best deal. Their mean pay of $66,510 beats the national average by 36%.

The Complete Rankings

RankStateMean salary for the most dangerous occupationsPercentage difference vs national average
4New Jersey$68,458+20.54%
6New York$66,202+16.56%
8Rhode Island$62,466+9.99%
26New Hampshire$51,611-9.13%
30South Carolina$50,513-11.06%
32New Mexico$50,187-11.63%
34North Dakota$49,578-12.71%
36North Carolina$49,176-13.42%
48South Dakota$44,642-21.40%
50West Virginia$40,866-28.05%

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