No. 10: Corrections officer
The work environment is tough. The patrons are even tougher. For a correctional officer, facing the daily stresses and dangers that come with keeping prisoners in line are just part of the job. Finding positions in federal and local governments, as well as through private security companies, correctional officers earn median salaries of $38,970 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, though overtime is frequently required in some positions.
In addition to having higher exposure to illness and injury -- the BLS deems this job one of the riskiest occupations -- there's also a significant amount of stress that comes with the job. Correctional officers must stay alert while on duty and be well-versed in safety protocols and emergency procedures. They'll also face increased competition for jobs. The occupation is growing slower than average, as the country faces steeper costs associated with keeping people in prison.
No. 9: Firefighter
"When you put on the uniform and you jump on the firetruck, you know that every day you go to work can be your last day," says Mark Treglio, director of strategic campaigns and media relations for the International Association of Fire Fighters. "You don't dwell on it, but you understand that injuries come with the job."
Firefighters typically earn about $45,250 per year, are oftentimes required to work more than 40 hours per week and may stay fighting fires for days. They also face one of the highest injury rates across all occupations, according to the BLS. In his 16 years as a firefighter, Treglio has fallen through floors, tumbled down stairs and had a roof collapse on him, but he still says the job is worth it.
"When you get on scene and somebody's not breathing and you're able to bring them back ... there is not a better reward in the world," he says.
But he admits that it takes a certain mentality to run toward a burning building rather than away.
"I really think our job is more of a calling ... than a job," he says.
No. 8: Garbage collector
Yes, there's some heavy lifting involved. Yes, there are jobs that pay more. Yes, there are risks that come with working on a garbage truck. But in general, collectors are very satisfied with their jobs, says Thomas Metzger, communications director for the National Waste and Recycling Association.
"They understand they're providing a vital service to the American people," he says. "It's a service that is essential to keeping Americans healthy and protecting our environment. The people who work for our companies are very proud of that fact."
The work may be smelly, but the perks are nice. Waste collectors rake in median salaries of $32,720 annually, reports the BLS. Metzger adds that company benefits, including health care, are often provided and jobs are stable.
But Metzger says that garbage collectors do face atypical working hours and safety challenges from drivers.
"In trying to quickly get wherever they're going, (American drivers) may make a bad decision and, in doing so, they may not see a collector or helper on the road grabbing a can," he says. "All too often, our folks are struck by such drivers. That's a problem."
No. 7: Flight attendant
Flying the friendly skies comes with some serious stress, a competitive job market, an erratic work schedule and a salary that pales in comparison to that of other positions. The BLS reports that the industry is shrinking by 7 percent each year and that the median salary for flight attendants is $37,240 annually. That's for veterans and newbies alike. The bottom 10 percent earn $27,240 per year or less. The stress is also sizable. Flight attendants deal with erratic work schedules, jet lag, rude passengers, air sickness, luggage issues, turbulence, changing safety protocols and issues associated with working in an industry that's perpetually cutting costs.
But it's not all bad. If finances are less of a consideration, there are some significant perks. Most major airlines, including Southwest, Delta, United and American, offer seasoned flight attendants free or heavily discounted travel for themselves and often for family members. Most full-time flight attendants also receive health care benefits, along with hotel accommodations and a meal allowance while working away from their home base, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
No. 6: Head cook
"You have to be a certain type of person to be in this industry," says Thomas Macrina, a chef for 40 years and president of the American Culinary Federation. Specifically, the type of person who can manage a kitchen, quality control the food going out, keep up with incoming orders and coordinate with the front-of-the-house staff to ensure customers are satisfied. It's not as easy as it sounds -- and it requires a fair amount of physical labor.
The BLS reports that median pay for head cooks and chefs clocks in at about $20 per hour -- $42,480 per year -- but you'll need culinary training and years of work experience to get there. There are also long working hours, opportunities for injury, health care questions and a fight for the best positions, since the industry is growing slower than average. But the day-to-day stress isn't necessarily bad.
"I don't call it stress; I call it excitement," says Macrina. "That's why you're there. Your goal is to feed, let's say, 200 customers in an hour, and make everyone feel like they've had the best meal in the world. It's an accomplishment."
No. 5: Broadcaster
Competition for jobs is already fierce in this occupation -- and it's only going to get worse. The job market for broadcast news analysts is shrinking by about 2 percent each year, according to the BLS, as television stations, radio stations and news organizations face dwindling advertising dollars. Since 2008, the media have seen an enormous shift in revenue models for print, radio and television, which leaves fewer jobs and more responsibilities for those who are still employed. The BLS reports that the median salary for broadcast news analysts is about $55,380, though many individuals report earning significantly below that mark. PayScale.com reports median salaries for television news producers and reporters to be approximately $49,600 and $37,000, respectively, while radio broadcasting program directors rake in about $48,300 annually. Expect long and erratic working hours, particularly when major events and breaking news unfolds, as well as constant deadlines.
No. 4: Taxi driver
Barry Korengold, a seasoned driver and president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association, says that in addition to driving skills, it takes serious zen to deal with the rude customers cabbies face every single day.
"We get a lot of disrespect, and then after a while that wears on you," he says. "People treat you like crap, so you have to defend yourself. You end up putting up this wall."
Cabbies have always had it tough. While the market is growing by 16 percent annually, the median pay is approximately $11 per hour, or less than $23,000 annually, according to the BLS. But that number dramatically changes depending on geography. Workdays are long -- sometimes 10 to 12 hours for full-timers, says Korengold -- and there's stiff competition with other drivers, though Korengold says he appreciates the job's flexibility.
Thanks to ride services like Uber and Lyft, competition is getting fiercer. Now that anyone can be a part-time driver, the job is increasingly difficult since these services aren't regulated in the same way taxis are, Korengold says.
"We're playing on a very unfair playing field right now," he says.
No. 3: Enlisted military personnel
Some noncommissioned jobs in the U.S. military are less than pleasant, but grouping all enlisted personnel together is too ambiguous, says Michael Arsenault, vice president of candidate services for the military job placement and recruiting firm Bradley-Morris.
"In such a large organization, there are all different types of specialties and trainings and occupations and jobs, ranging from the infantrymen to the logistics specialists to the person who does intelligence work to the band," he says. "It's really painting a broad brushstroke that the enlisted job occupation, if you will, is one of the worst."
Stress, job risks and salary drag this profession into the "worst jobs" list. Enlisted military personnel may live in dangerous situations and get stationed away from their families for long periods of time. Median pay for an enlisted soldier is $28,840 annually, reports CareerCast, but that depends on experience. Basic pay for active-duty Army privates with less than two years of training, for example, is $18,378 annually, reports GoArmy.com.
Arsenault is quick to point out that military compensation extends far beyond base salary and includes education benefits, job training, health care, paid vacation, cost-of-living allowances, free housing and travel opportunities.
No. 2: Newspaper reporter
"You have to cope with stress efficiently or basically just surrender to it," says Sonny Albarado, a former board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, a trade organization based in Indianapolis. "You (have) pressures from your supervisors to produce copy, sometimes on really tight deadlines, and then you (have) the stress of actually having to go out and talk to people, interview them for the topic ... and then there's the stress of making sure that you're accurate and not misquoting people or getting facts wrong or libeling anyone."
There's also stiff job competition, stagnant salaries and unpredictable work schedules. The BLS shows that the median salary for reporters is $37,090, and jobs in the field decreased by 13 percent between 2011 and 2012.
However, many journalists love their career, and the outlook is bright for those with a reporter's skill set, Albarado says. Reporters could apply their research and writing skills to communication gigs for online news venues, nonprofit organizations or other media outlets.
"Despite the doom and gloom, being a journalist is still one of the best damn jobs on the planet," Albarado says.
No. 1: Lumberjack
"My day usually starts at 6 o'clock in the morning and I get home when I get done what I have to do that day," says Doug Fleegle, owner of DF Logging Inc. in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. "It's a 12-, 13-hour day."
Long hours, physical demands, high risk of injury and paltry job growth earn lumberjacks the No. 1 worst job in the country for 2014. Logging workers rake in around $33,630 per year and don't need postsecondary education to break into the field, according to the BLS, but it can be tough finding work with the industry losing about 3,800 jobs each year. Even still, the physical work and ability to be outside make the profession worthwhile, says Fleegle.
"You can take a 30-inch or a 36-inch poplar or oak tree that weighs thousands of pounds and you can lay that down in a spot exactly where you want to put it, exactly how you want to do it without damaging trees around it, doing the minimal amount of collateral damage," he says. "To be able to do that with something that size, to me, is just fantastic."