Would You Take This Job? The Toughest Jobs In America

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2012-06-0728

In your opinion, what’s the toughest job in America today? I think that these examples may all be competing for that title:

Refuse and Recyclable Material Collector

garbage collector

Logging Worker, Lumberjack

logger, lumberjack



Zoo Worker

zoo worker

Septic Tank Worker

septic tank worker

Police Officer

police officer

Or what about the myriad other really difficult jobs (in my mind), such as working at a slaughterhouse, being a firefighter, or manning a prison or juvenile hall? When I think about all those employees who wake up each day to get this kind of work done, it’s hard not to feel foolish about complaining about the paper jam that put my printer out of commission, or of feeling miffed about the coworker who put me on the spot during my last presentation (which thankfully, was a long time ago). With all the job classifications that are out there, you may want to resist the urge to sweat the smaller things at work.

Tough Jobs Are All Relative?

Some of these jobs are hard, but they’re only made harder because of how we feel about them. At any rate, this may allow us to reflect upon the fact that at this very moment, somebody out there is not having a good day at work. In fact, there could be entire factories of people out there who are on the verge of walking away from their jobs, but can’t or don’t. Many such individuals just don’t have a choice in the situation.

And a job that’s tough to do does not equate to being the worst job in existence. There are a lot more of those that you’ll find around the world, such as what you’ll view in this video, which portrays some Chinese factory workers who are hard at work within a huge metal press.

A different perspective on this video comes from some viewers who’ve commented that this is how foreign economies are able to steal our factory jobs. Whether it be true, I’m more apt to focus on something else entirely — on the difficulty of performing this sort of occupation day in and day out. Turnover for this sort of work must be extremely high just from injuries alone, but I’m speculating.

In America, where some jobs like this do still exist (surprise!) but in relatively palatable surroundings, some outfits pay pretty competitively. I have a buddy whose 62 year old mother works here in Silicon Valley at one of those bag manufacturing factories that have shared some profits with their workers. She received something like $80,000 for a one time distribution, care of the successful sale of their company. Stories like these are what entices and attracts would-be-immigrants who believe they can do the same job here for much better pay and conditions. To them, this is the American Dream.

I have many friends who are second generation immigrants whose parents perform work in hotel housekeeping, fish mongering, at small restaurant kitchens or even at highly risky jobs, and I’m always awed by their dedication to such occupations that have helped pave the way for their own children to lead better lives. Those children today work at IT departments or have careers as Silicon Valley engineers; some are doctors or nurses or professors or lawyers, while their parents continue to work into their senior years to eventually collect retirement, social security and sometimes, disability checks. I’m glad to see that class mobility is alive and well in my backyard, especially for the newer immigration population.

This still doesn’t change the fact that achieving class mobility is still a clear struggle for many: so even as I sometimes feel like complaining heartily about my job, these stories and images — no matter where they originate — serve to remind me that I’m not the one who has it so tough.

Would You Take This Job? The Toughest Job In America

But let’s answer my earlier question — what’s the hardest job to do out there in America today? My personal take is that the toughest job around is that held by the soldier and by those who work in the military. I’ve given some thought to the sacrifices made by American soldiers who’ve given their lives for our country.


When I think about it, any job that puts your life on the line must be the hardest job you could ever have. Not only does a soldier risk their own life when they perform their job, in many instances, they’re also doing it under the worst of conditions. So how about putting into perspective what it really means to be making a sacrifice?

No matter what job we have or situation we find ourselves in — I believe there’s always room for us to look on the bright side and count our blessings.

Images by CNBC and Grad Money Matters.

Created May 25, 2009. Updated June 7, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristy @ Master Your Card May 25, 2009 at 10:05 pm

I would take any of the above jobs only if I had no other choices. I’m not above doing what I need to do to survive, but at the same time, I’m not looking to work in a job where I come home smelling like an outhouse, either. I definitely agree that a soldier’s job is the hardest, but I think it’s more than just putting their lives in danger. Most of us would gladly do so for those we love. What makes a soldier’s job difficult is the fact that it’s not just their families they’re fighting for. They fight for complete strangers, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but when those strangers choose to mock them or spit in their faces, that’s hard. It’s hard to know that the very freedoms you risk your life for – and the despair and anguish of your family should you be lost – are taken for granted by ignorant people.

cara membuat website May 26, 2009 at 1:28 am

If you personally do it, maybe you’d have to think how much you should get paid, but if you have a company, it may become a profitable business, because few people are willing do it.

Data Entry Services May 26, 2009 at 4:08 am

I’ve always said that I would do what it takes. I have cleaned toilets, waited tables and delivered telephone books when the need arose. I would RATHER work smarter than harder but we do what it takes!

Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook May 26, 2009 at 8:02 am

I don’t know what the toughest job in America is – but the toughest job I’ve ever had was working as a laborer for an asphalt road paving crew while I was in high school. The asphalt would come off the truck at about 375 degrees in 100 degree heat, and since I was the young guy on the crew, if anyone ever had to get up in the truck and stand in it for some reason (such as shoveling out small amounts for patch work), I got chosen for the job. It was the toughest $6 per hour I ever made. Just thinking about it makes me appreciate the job I have now as an attorney, a job that has it’s own hazards, but by comparison is a great job.

Janet | Web Design May 27, 2009 at 3:13 am

Just came across your blog, and I have found it really great, would I take ones of these jobs, if I had no other choice then yes but not by choice if that makes sense, the one that would stick out would be the zoo keeper, for me that cant really be all that bad working with animals and I love animals so I wouldn’t find this too hard to manage.

TStrump May 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm

First of all, I respect anyone that works hard for a living and brings home an honest paycheque.
These are some pretty unsavoury jobs – I think I would try to find something else.
But, if I didn’t have a choice, I wouldn’t say no.

Trefl June 1, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Great Blog!
I think that there are no bad jobs, work is work!
but is just that there are better jobs than others!
when I was like 9 years old (I’m 21) I had my first job collecting coffee, my first payment was almost three dollars, for around two weeks of work!
Last year I worked as a debt collector in the middle of the crisis, and it was not very good!!!
But for sure We do really need to eat! and stay on foot! I would take any of the jobs above but I would prefer the Zoo worker too! love animals

sheikh mohammad rubel June 8, 2009 at 10:44 am

i am poor boy. i want every job in america. i can show my CV. plz give me a job with my qualification and exprience, I like every job in america, plz give me a job then i will show my performance. Here is my C.V:
Résumé Of Sheikh Mohammad Rubel
B.C.S.I.R Staff Quater
Mirpur Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205
Contact Number: 01911-091825
E-mail: rubel_syed2000@yahoo.com

Career Objective:
To build up a challenging and rewarding Career in an organization that provides structured Career advancement with the extent of Comparative opportunities with Self- Confidence, hardworking and Synergic ability. Desired satisfaction will come out where my creative talents and innovative capabilities can be effectively utilized.

Educational Eligibility:

Name of Exam. Group Board/ Result Passing Year
H.S.C Commerce Dhaka Board GPA 3.30 2003
S.S.C Science Dhaka Board 1st Division 2001

Computer Proficiency:
Windows 98, XP 2000
Microsoft word, Microsoft Excel,
Microsoft power point
Internet Browsing
Pad, Card and Document Design with Photoshop & Illustrator

Language Proficiency:
Efficiency in Writing & Communication both in Bangla & English.

Experience :
• Working experience as a Computer Operator from 01.07.2006 to tile now

Silicon Valley Blogger June 8, 2009 at 10:48 am

Thanks for your resume, best of luck to you on your job search.

cara membuat blog June 29, 2009 at 1:19 am

Thx for the article…

still searching for a job now…

Alex August 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Great article. It’s good that people are willing to take these jobs- someone’s gotta do it!

Patrick September 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I think this is a great article, with great visuals. You are right, too many people have a sense of entitlement and aren’t willing to do the required hard work and sacrifice to become successful.

The Financial Blogger September 11, 2009 at 4:39 am

Whoa, I think we should send them a “thank you” card for taking these kind of job away from us.

That makes you think that your job is not only good but enviable for a lot of people. Once back home, we should all be grateful for what we have!

Brian September 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm

And I thought MY job was boring some days. I can’t imagine doing some of the work you listed here — in particular, sitting inside that metal press contraption in the video for a full workday.

I’m going to say a special prayer tonight to thank God for being born in the good ol’ USA!

Brip Blap September 11, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I think we should also remember that when we’re buying cheaply made Chinese goods we’re tacitly supporting the type of labor propagated in factories. We need to throw more support in this country behind unions and making it easier for American manufacturers to compete, because how can an American manufacturing concern hope to compete against a country where this type of horrific labor practice is allowed?

My job may be close to that boring, though. Anyone want to hear about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act? Didn’t think so 🙂

Doug October 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Pumping out septic tanks or portable toilets may not be the hardest job in the world but it can be dirty and quite smelly. But someone has to do it.

Srinivasan November 25, 2009 at 7:37 am

I have lived in certain parts of the world where jobs are hard to do. America is still a far better place to live and work and the great American dream lives on.

The quality and standards of life for the majority in Asian countries, still leaves a lot to be desired compared to their American brethren. This, despite the rapid development in Asian countries.


CG Walters November 25, 2009 at 9:53 am

Thanks for keeping us aware about some of the tough jobs…there is a price for any “can’t believe how cheap this is” item that we so casually purchase. I’m certainly not one who has it tough.

Toms River December 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

This sure makes me feel better on those days when I think my job sucks.

Jayson January 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

Great post. Yeah it’s pretty hard to act like our lives/jobs are so bad when you see pictures and videos like those above, or images and videos of other things going on in the world. These types of images remind me that my life and job is a cake walk.

Huey Harden | Get Paid For Your Opinion April 26, 2010 at 12:45 am

These tough jobs really need a certain mindset to survive. But what will distinguish a clerk from a nuclear physicist is the vision they have about themselves. If you encounter a setback and need to make ends meet temporarily, by all means, take those menial jobs. Do whatever it takes to pay the bills, but you have to find ways and means to keep your dreams burning bright.

Toughen your skin to the slings and arrows of low-minded people, preserve the core and change according to the circumstance, find like-minded encouragers, persist, persevere, do not give up, then you will win.


frontlinefilm June 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

These are all hard jobs. I believe the hardest job as some have said is that of a soldier, I recently nominated a co-worker to be represented as the hardest working American. He is a Drill Sergeant in the US Army. The job of the Drill Sergeant is incredibly difficult to explain, as is the sacrifice.

krantcents June 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The toughest jobs are not the ones you expect, but the ones you do not enjoy. I cannot think of anything worse than have to work at a job I hate. For me, that would be the toughest job.

Silicon Valley Blogger June 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

@Krantcents, great points. When it comes to what we think of our jobs, it’s actually all relative. Someone who enjoys physical work under the sun will not enjoy working at a desk job (or vice versa). I have realized too, that we can actually find it within ourselves to like a job that we may not appreciate at first. It may take a change in attitude to begin enjoying one’s work, but it’s worked out for me many times before.

Charlotte@EverythingFinance June 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for giving me a wake up call. I have been complaining about my office job for a while now and now I feel foolish. I have to agree with you that the military and those who choose to protect our lives have the toughest jobs and for little pay.

Josh @ Live Well Simply June 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I’m intrigued by the guy who posted his entire resume from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhaka is quite the city.

Funny about Money June 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

IMHO, teaching freshman composition (especially on a grossly underpaid adjunct basis) is right up there with some of these candidates. Difficult, depressing, tedious, badly paid, and sometimes dangerous.

Silicon Valley Blogger June 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Any job that compromises safety and security should have a corresponding compensation that takes into account the commensurate risks that are built into the job. If not, then such a job surely ranks as tough and depressing.

@Josh, we get commenters from everywhere!

@Charlotte, It helps quite a bit when we’re able to scope out the big picture. It sure helps to gain some perspective.

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