Are lucrative, dangerous jobs for real?
August 24, 2006 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Requesting advice for finding and starting anew in a dangerous yet lucrative or rewarding yet non-lucrative job.

An example of the former would be the "I know a guy who's making $150k/year driving a truck in Iraq; an example of the latter would be Doctors Without Borders. If only I were a doctor.

Background: my wife of five years has chosen to divorce me. I grew up just outside Chicago and lived there single and with her for ten years in the city. Three years ago we moved to the suburbs of her home town: St. Louis. I haven't adjusted particularly well and she has fit back in exceptionally and chooses to proceed without me. Having no family or friends to speak of here, and a job where the best aspect is that I get to bring my dog to work, I'm not inclined to stay. But I'm not entirely sold on heading back to Chicago either.

Helpful Details:

- I do not have a military background, nor am I an especially physically imposing figure, though I am physically fit.

- I have, in the past, been certified as an EMT, and worked for our local rural ambulance service during college. (Delivered a baby! In the woman's bathroom!)

- I'm willing to relocate internationally. My sister's husband was just transferred to Singapore so they are moving there with my 2.5 year old nephew; something in that region would be a bonus.

- Unfortunately I do not have any specialized post-graduate degrees in finance, law, medicine, physical or computational sciences or the like.

- I do have lots of experience with and knowledge of the maintenance of Macintosh networks and clients and the applications most people use them for; less so with Linux, grudgingly with Windows. (You can guess what I do now in 3 . . . 2 . . .1 . . .) Where this gets me in the greater world I do not know.

- People describe me as thoughtful, careful, well-read, and exceedingly patient.

- I love animals. More than people given my current circumstances.

Thank you for your consideration and advice. I'm doing the usual internets-based research, but this site is too great a resource to not ask here also.
posted by MarvinTheCat to Work & Money (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What's your question? The only question mark is in your title, but I don't think that's what you want answered (er, yes).

Are you looking for job suggestions? Anything, as long as it's dangerous/lucrative or rewarding?
posted by bonaldi at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2006

How old are you, and can you pass a military-style medical/physical screening?
posted by scrump at 6:13 PM on August 24, 2006

Ever seen Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel? Looks like crab fishing is pretty lucrative and dangerous...
posted by twiggy at 6:15 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: The question is can anyone suggest resources for jobs which are dangerous yet lucrative or difficult and rewarding but not lucrative.

I am 36, and with regard to the military screening: as pertains to drugs I can pass without a doubt; medically most likely unless there is something I'm unaware of (my father received a medical deferment from Viet Nam due to a polio-related curvature in his spine he was completely unaware of); physically, a few months of being more conscientous about the gym should prepare me for what basic training might throw at me. Though the thought of competing physically against a bunch of 20 year olds makes me nervous.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 6:38 PM on August 24, 2006

You only want lucrative if it's dangerous?
posted by bonaldi at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: No, I'll do lucrative without the danger. Any suggestions with regard to lucrative non-dangerous would be helpful. However, I haven't found many of those jobs that don't require either niche knowledge, trading derivatives, for example, or a ruthless business acumen, and I'm not really the ruthless type.

It occurred to me that some people might think in reading this that the combination of divorce with the danger aspect may mean I'm seeking a self-destructive course, and I'm absolutely not. I'm just trying to envision myself three years from now saying to myself either:

"Damn, I made and saved a lot of cash."


"Damn, it sucked living in that hut, but I helped inoculate 10,000 babies and dig a bunch of wells."
posted by MarvinTheCat at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2006

You seem to have a lot of IT/technical knowledge - are you interested in getting further into that? Have you considered something like geekcorps?

I also have a friend who spent a couple years doing EMT/Ambulance driving in the DR - if something like that's of interest, I could try to find her contact information so you could talk to her about doing that...
posted by whatzit at 6:52 PM on August 24, 2006

The obvious answer is the Peace Corps. However, if I were in your shoes, I'd strongly consider nursing school, because with an RN or BSN, you could then practice medicine just about anywhere in the world.

Doctors Without Borders is also constantly seeking nurses, and they work in some of the most underserved parts of the world.

If you already have your bachelor's degree, you should consider a BSN program: it'd be a couple of years, and then you'd be off and running.

For my dime, nursing is an outstanding combination of excellent wages with as much danger and/or genuine "I have done something for humanity" reward as you can get. You can more or less pick your location and risk level, and you have the very real reward of knowing that your work, at the end of the day, made a tangible difference in someone's life.
posted by scrump at 6:56 PM on August 24, 2006

MarvinTheCat: I highly suggest that you do not join the army. It is not lucrative and often not rewarding at all, but has a high probably ability of being dangerous. In short, it doesn't fit your criteria. If you want something like the army, check with private mercenary groups, that's where the money it.

If you want something potentially rewarding and governmental, try peacecorps or americorps. Although both orgs have their problems, they are less of a commitment and you don't have quite the same danger of landing yourself in the middle of guerrilla warfare. It's also sometimes possible to network with NGO that you might find meaningful to work for while at peacecorps or americorp.
posted by milarepa at 7:01 PM on August 24, 2006

sigh, not probably ability - probability.
not it - is.
been up since 5
posted by milarepa at 7:03 PM on August 24, 2006

Wildland firefighting? It used to be (and my information is 15 years old) that hot shot crews made huge bucks in a big fire season. And you'd have great stories.
posted by LarryC at 7:16 PM on August 24, 2006

What's your undergrad degree in? There are lots of biology jobs out there doing fieldwork, also geology, hydrology and surveying. They are usually pretty fun and you get to meet cool people and go cool places.

Crabbing has completely changed with the new regs that allocate quota by boat. No more derbies so the need for crew has decreased considerably and you will work a much longer season for the same money. However the jobs are still very in demand so getting on a good boat will not be easy for a total outsider. You could try for a spot on a fishing boat. That pays OK.
posted by fshgrl at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2006

I love animals. More than people given my current circumstances.

If you want to continue spending more time with your dog, why not investigate the possibility of training him/her to be a therapy dog? Of course you won't get paid, but you get the added bonus of helping others and yourself (insert psychological mumbo jumbo about how pets are therapeutic for humans going through a rough or stressful time.)
posted by invisible ink at 7:27 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks for all the answers. Damn, I love this community.

Milarepa The military is not a serious consideration for many reasons, including the fact that my parents thought I was insane to take my advertising/design career and move it out of Chicago and into St. Louis. Joining the military on top of that would give my military-school educated father a heart attack, and the dude just retired.

fshgrl My undergraduate degree is a liberal arts one from a small private midwestern university, majoring in Political Science. OT but: my advisor was Lebanese and was educating me in the inefficacy of all the stupid maneuvers our government has made over the past several years more than ten years ago. That contributed to my blue state sensibilities having a hard time finding a home in my current red state.

Thanks to those with the nursing suggestions. St. Louis has excellent medical facilities and universities, so it's a good place to pursue that educationally. I believe there's another type of medical provider—Medical Technician?—that is somewhere between nurse and paramedic, possibly? They may work more in the assistance of procedures as opposed to rehabilitative care (I know nurses do more than assist rehabilitation, no aspersions being cast intentionally). But I should weigh what might be more advantageous.

Finally, I had considered the Peace Corps, but my assumptions were that it needed people who are younger than myself and people with more technical knowledge, ie civil and environmental engineers, etc.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2006

firefighting? adventure training instructor? fishing in alaska? definitely RN would be cool! travel guide? Nursing has benefit of being both a ticket and a career, and a reason to get up in the morning.
[on review none original, just my $.02]
posted by anadem at 7:48 PM on August 24, 2006

Fourthing nursing. If you have the flexibillity to take the hours that no-one else wants, it can be damn lucrative. And it's literally life-and-death. (Not necessarily in the dramatic ER way, but you'll get more than your share of joy and heartbreak.)
posted by desuetude at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: Interesting. There are billboards up and down the highways here begging people to get into nursing. What is the barrier to entry keeping more people from getting into nursing? Is it the cost of education? Or is it a union thing?
posted by MarvinTheCat at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2006

According to the American Nurses Association, lots of people want to get into nursing, but there's not enough faculty to teach them.

Re: the Peace Corps. Jimmy Carter's mother joined the Peace Corps at age 67, so I think at age 36 you're still young enough to join.
posted by mogget at 8:42 PM on August 24, 2006

My father was an engineer on big tuna fishing boats. Got paid lots of money to work an unpredictable schedule that involved him being away for months at a time, not to mention he had to ride out some pretty terrible storms.

To put it mildly, he would not recommend it to anyone else.
posted by Brian James at 8:54 PM on August 24, 2006

Response by poster: The commercial fishiing idea was a popular myth during my college years, and some of my friends partook. I don't remember any of them coming back with positive stories.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 8:58 PM on August 24, 2006

Truck driving in Iraq. Dangerous, and very lucrative. I've heard of 6 figure salaries.
posted by matkline at 9:17 PM on August 24, 2006

How about working for a local campaign for the next few months? It certainly won't pay well, but there's a senate campaign going on right now in your neck of the woods, and you could help push things over the edge. The Missouri race is considered one of the closest in the country. If you're one who believes that our current government is threatening world stability, etc., it's hard to think of anything more important right now than getting a few checks and balances going. Hell, if you think this government is the only thing standing between us and ISLAMOFASCISM, you could do your part to re-elect the incumbent. Either way, you've got the background.
posted by one_bean at 10:33 PM on August 24, 2006

SoYouWanna join the Peace Corps?

No special technical knowledge needed. Good luck.
posted by LadyBonita at 11:22 PM on August 24, 2006

"Interesting. There are billboards up and down the highways here begging people to get into nursing. What is the barrier to entry keeping more people from getting into nursing? Is it the cost of education? Or is it a union thing?"

It's a tough job. Very high stress, and on top of that you have to deal with patients and take a lot of crap from families of patients who are dealing with sick loved ones.

Having said that, I'd also recommend looking into nursing. If you are willing to travel there are many opportunities to work locum tenens (work in a different place every six months), and these positions often pay even better than standard nursing jobs. Also, you can go for another year of school and become a nurse anesthetist; these guys make more than some doctors.

I'll throw out another idea, though: air traffic controller. It sounds like it could be a pretty exciting job, and they make very good money, with federal benefits and limited work weeks to boot.
posted by btkuhn at 2:41 AM on August 25, 2006

What about rope access? Basically you do the most simple of jobs, except you're hanging off a rope somewhere. This carries a reward.
posted by wackybrit at 4:23 AM on August 25, 2006

My brother asked me to post this link: Jobs in Antarctica

I also remember reading about David Sedaris (I think it was him... one of those TAL guys) working as a cook on an off-shore oil rig. If I were single and young I'd love to do something like that. The only danger is probably the daily nipple twisters and atomic wedgies.
posted by bondcliff at 4:55 AM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

That was Dishwasher Pete, who wrote a zine about being a traveling dishwasher. The This American Life piece about washing dishes on an oil rig was on an episode called First Day. It's a good one.
posted by redfoxtail at 5:01 AM on August 25, 2006

Take up a trade. In my experience, the people with the most money who weren't PhDs were all tradesmen. And hey, you can join the ranks with me when I finally get my apprenticeship. $25/hour starting salary, along with the factory beside me paying $40/hr with triple overtime pay on holidays smells good to me!

The only tradesmen I saw that were broke had serious addiction problems.
posted by shepd at 6:49 AM on August 25, 2006

I'm going to go with the Peace Corps. Much less dangerous than Iraq, you'll get good stories, a life change from what you're doing now, a chance to do good, and (for your mental health) the chance to see that other people are more screwed than you are. Your EMT training will be useful.

Plus there's lots of unmarried women.

You won't make a lot of money, but I think that in all the other respects, it fits what you desire.
posted by jellicle at 7:14 AM on August 25, 2006

I was in the Peace Corps. Age does not matter, as long as you are healthy. And trust me, most volunteers I met did not have any significant techincal knowledge, and those that did didn't really utilize it because of the grass roots, small scale type of projects we were involved in. It sounds like a perfect fit for you- no, it's not easy, it's certainly not lucrative and you probably won't save the world or anything, but is worth it for the adventure, the experience, and the people you meet.
posted by emd3737 at 7:46 AM on August 25, 2006

"Interesting. There are billboards up and down the highways here begging people to get into nursing. What is the barrier to entry keeping more people from getting into nursing? Is it the cost of education? Or is it a union thing?"
Honestly, in most places, it's the difficulty of getting a nursing-school slot. For numerous reasons, almost every nursing school has 4 or 5 applicants for every open slot, and they can only put people through the required education and practical training so fast.

One of the biggest reasons this is so is because a very large number of nursing educators went back to work when the national nursing shortage drove salaries through the roof. It's not very hard to choose a six-figure salary at a hospital over the $40K you'll make teaching at a community college.
posted by scrump at 10:26 AM on August 25, 2006

You would definitely be eligible for the Peace Corps. Sometimes older, less healthy people are not sent to really rough locations, but I'm sure you wouldn't fit in that category, so you would probably be eligible to go anywhere. Language skills are a plus but not necessary. Ditto for technical skills, although you have MORE than enough health skills to qualify as a health volunteer, and I think some countries have programs that could use your tech skills.

Is Peace Corps rewarding? Not necessarily. I found it quite rewarding, and surprisingly so, but that is a complicated question tied up in your feelings on international development, Peace Corps methodology, and your relationship with the community.

Is Peace Corps safe? Not necessarily. Some of the countries PC sends volunteers to are full of hazards. Two people died in my group, and three or four were severely injured. (Out of 100.) But safer than Iraq....

I think Peace Corps was one of the most rewarding, interesting, stimulating experiences of my life - the most, so far actually - but it's not for everyone. (That's why the disclaimers above.)
posted by Amizu at 1:07 PM on August 25, 2006

For not lucrative and rewarding, there are always public libraries. Some even use Macs. Unfortunately, most of the non-MLS jobs (and many of the MLS level jobs) are part time, no bennies, at least around here.

But, helping people to get the information they want, in a format they can use..I can think of nothing better to do until the revolution.
posted by QIbHom at 10:19 PM on August 25, 2006

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