I can haz job? will travelz.
July 7, 2008 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in jobs where you go to some possibly unpleasant place, work really hard and come back flush.

I just spent 3 weeks hitchhiking in Atlantic Canada and heard of many, many people going to Fort McMurray to work in the oil fields. I also have a friend who works as a merchant seaman, and does well (although he's often gone for 3 months at a time).

What other jobs are there like this? I'm thinking about doing something like this, maybe just for a year, to build some capital for some other projects that I'm working on. But I'd like to know what the possibilities are for situations like this before I commit to one.

For the record I'm healthy and strong. Would prefer to avoid extremely dangerous situations but I've worked in boatyards and with machinery before. I'm pretty handy and can usually fix things, but not a mechanic and don't really understand IC engines. But otherwise I think I'd be good at something like this.
posted by sully75 to Work & Money (30 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Coal mining?
posted by phunniemee at 4:40 PM on July 7, 2008

Sorry I should have specified I'm not looking to move somewhere permanently. I'm interested in jobs where you go to a place for a time (18 days on 7 days off kind of thing) or else where you go for a contracted length (3 month contract).
posted by sully75 at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2008

posted by mpls2 at 4:45 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crab fishing in the Bering Strait.

Pay is excellent, conditions are horrible, hours are long. It's also pretty dangerous.
posted by Class Goat at 4:45 PM on July 7, 2008

Fishing, cannery work, roughneck work in the oilfields, contract work in Iraq and Afghanistan, support staff work in Antarctica, etc etc etc.

But it is all really hard -- often physically, and almost always socially and mentally. A lot of people quit, and a lot more say "wow, that would be awesome!" but somehow never bother to fill out an application.
posted by Forktine at 4:46 PM on July 7, 2008

I've got a friend who works laying oil pipelines—mostly in places like Nebraska or Wyoming. As he reports, the work is dangerous and demanding, everyone around him is an asshole, the locations are soul-crushing, and he takes home a bale of cash every week. And he says they're always looking for workers.

If you're interested, mefi-mail me your e-mail and I'll pass it along to him.
posted by adamrice at 4:49 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Crab fishing in the Bering Strait.

Pay is excellent, conditions are horrible, hours are long. It's also pretty dangerous.

Deadliest Catch is available if you want to see more in-depth about this.
posted by Lucinda at 4:52 PM on July 7, 2008

My brother's worked on the beach gangs at canneries in Alaska. It's a lot of money, though relatively miserable, and only lasts for a month or so out of the year.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:54 PM on July 7, 2008

Working in one of the diamond mines in the NWT is one possibility with an in/out schedule. Forest fire fighting is also a possibility, but you would probably be too late to get the good (i.e. reasonably paying) jobs for this summer.
posted by ssg at 5:14 PM on July 7, 2008

Bridge painting and bridge coating inspector jobs are often dirty and dangerous, and you typically travel to a site and stay there 1, 2 or 4 weeks at a time, but they pay well, and most training is On the Job.
posted by paulsc at 5:35 PM on July 7, 2008

Are you a programmer/support engineer?
posted by djb at 5:35 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Consider a career in commercial diving. Once certified, there is tons of work along the lines of what you describe.

Of course, with your background and apparent interests, I'd tell you to go join the Coast Guard and help rescue people for a living.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:40 PM on July 7, 2008

Crab fishing has a high risk of death or coming back missing a few fingers. I hear Iraq is pretty dangerous too. Some of the higher paying commercial diving has you surfacing and then running to get in a diving bell and re-pressurize.

A lot of jobs pay well because they are dangerous. Get some training in something where you work in a remote location with lots of overtime if you want something less dangerous.

Depending on how ¨flush¨ you are looking to be, you can do fish processing, lots of overtime but low wages.
posted by yohko at 5:51 PM on July 7, 2008

http://iraq.jobs.com/ ?
There's a lot of need for all sorts of contractors in the Middle East. Dangerous, but often well compensated. I would also think that oil/gas forms and government contractors would be good sources for that work too.
posted by pointystick at 6:06 PM on July 7, 2008

A few of my friends have gone to work at the research station in Antarctica. It's not terribly dangerous, and doesn't pay that well, but you save money because there are no expenses. It doesn't require any special skills either.

Out here on the west coast there's seasonal work fighting forest fires. That's dangerous and pays well. A lot of college kids do it.
posted by chrchr at 6:06 PM on July 7, 2008

Nuclear power. Contract workers go from plant to plant, working on them during their infrequent shutdowns. I made a ton of money doing that a long time ago.

It also turned me from nuclear-agnostic to nuclear-antagonistic.
posted by intermod at 6:13 PM on July 7, 2008

A bit more info: typically the job lasts about 6-8 weeks, and you're working 72-hour weeks (the NRC max allowed) and you get per diem. Stupid people welcome, per my experience. Random drug tests, background screening. Lots of conservatives, natch.
posted by intermod at 6:16 PM on July 7, 2008

Crab fishing in the Bering Strait.

Pay is excellent, conditions are horrible, hours are long. It's also pretty dangerous.

So, I've actually fished and stuff.... couple things: a) yes it's dangerous but it's not Iraq dangerous. YOu very seldom get shot at by anything more dangerous than a potato gun. And AK is not as dangerous as CA or some of the smaller east coast fleets. The big earning boats AK are mostly well run and relatively safe as fishing boats go b) you don't just walk into a job on one of those boats: if some boat is willing to hire a greenhorn off the dock, you don't want to work on it c) as a greenhorn you make half share, you probably also will get hired in the low season, meaning you could work 16 hours a day for a month and make <>
The canneries might be a better bet, you make less money but you make it every day and they will hire anyone. Literally. There are canneries running year round, most hire out of Seattle.
posted by fshgrl at 6:53 PM on July 7, 2008

<> should read: two thousand dollars. You have to pay your dues, fishing is a career for most fishermen.
posted by fshgrl at 6:55 PM on July 7, 2008

I know someone who is a translator in Iraq. I think he goes with the troops when they break down doors but he's pretty quiet about any details. Of course, he speaks Arabic and, once hired, was trained in whatever specific languages he needed for Iraq. The only reason he went was to bank a ton of money.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:01 PM on July 7, 2008

My brother is currently in Northern California fighting the wildfires. He's probably going to make close to $20k this summer. You might need to permanently be attached to a firehouse to get this opportunity, and it obviously requires lots of training.
posted by splatta at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2008

I live in Alberta, and my friends in the oil industry go to Dubai and Russia to make bundles of cash.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:50 PM on July 7, 2008

Out here on the west coast there's seasonal work fighting forest fires. That's dangerous and pays well. A lot of college kids do it.

It maybe used to pay well. Now a lot of the crews are contract crews, rather than being employed directly by the BLM or Forest Service, and wages can be pretty low. (More of a concern is that training and safety can slip, too, since the companies are trying to make a profit on slim margins.) Because of the tough conditions and low wages, a lot of the contract companies are relying more and more on immigrant labor, which has created some dangerous situations when no one on a crew is English-fluent and hence can't understand information coming over the radio.

It's not exceptionally dangerous -- lots of minor injuries, but deaths are comparatively rare. The work is really, really tough, though -- you are digging fire lines in triple-digit heat almost 24/7, with a few breaks, and then you have to pack all your gear back out again after. Little privacy, lots of long rides in vans driven by a crazy guy who maybe used a bit too much speed, and all the other fun and games that go with high-pressure, high-stakes physical work.

You can still make money in a fire-heavy summer, just because you work so many hours and you don't have much to spend it on except beer. But the hiring for this is months past; you would have to try to get on for the next fire season if this is of interest. This link says that hiring is done in January; here is a centralized jobs website for wildland fire jobs; this is old but probably still fairly accurate in describing the working conditions. This wikipedia page gives a pretty good description of how a hotshot crew works.
posted by Forktine at 8:51 PM on July 7, 2008

Second nuclear work. I've known people that have done that and made some bank. You don't have to know that much to start, either (though you make more if you do.)
posted by ctmf at 10:55 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Friends of mine worked in mining exploration for years. They started young and unskilled and were making AU$4k per week ten years ago with very little outlay for expenses, working three weeks on/ two weeks off, testing for and mapping minerals in the bush.

Australia's currently undergoing a mineral boom - this page lists a whole lot of exploration companies to wade through.
posted by goo at 12:07 AM on July 8, 2008

oops, borked link: try here.
posted by goo at 12:10 AM on July 8, 2008

Another merchant seafarer here. If you're not looking for something with such long trip lengths as your friend is doing, consider either the ferry or offshore support sectors; as well as the ship's crew, there are jobs offshore for all sorts of people working for the charterers - e.g. on pipe- or cable-laying ships, doing all the pipe or cable stuff, and leaving the ship's crew to get on with their side of it. I've never worked on that kind of ship, but apparently you'd most likely be working month on, month off, doing a twelve hour shift and sharing a cabin with a guy on the other shift. Subsea 7 are hiring; no doubt other companies are too. I've worked on an anchor handler and a supply boat, which is also one for one, but working as ship's crew which is six hours on, six off during busy periods. Some people don't mind this; I am currently not one of them.

My last ship was a ferry, where people generally worked eleven or twelve hour days; British crew did two weeks about, while the international crew did eight on, four off.

Some jobs on oil rigs are going three weeks about, but I don't know anything more than that. But they seem to be pretty keen for new people to get into the industry.
posted by Lebannen at 3:25 AM on July 8, 2008

Ice road trucker.
posted by KathyK at 6:31 AM on July 8, 2008

I apologize if this clarification is asking too much, but what is one's idea of 'bank' or 'flush'?

I considered myself pretty flush at some point during college after an internship, but that feels fairly silly to me now, considering my current employment.

Also, if fishing half-share and off season results in 2k, what's full share on season result in? 8k? 80k?

It's sort of my impression that the more education one has, the more one can make, on one's own terms. See recommendation for commercial diving cert.
posted by enkiwa at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2008

I had dinner with a guy who made about a thousand dollars a week as a chauffeur in a ski town. That's not an super lot of money, but it also does not involve getting shot at, digging trenches, losing fingers or working hard. He also said wait staff at restaurants made ~$250-600 a night...

The season starts right around Thanksgiving and goes until the snow melts. Housing is $600/month for crap and most of your co-workers will drink/smoke away their earnings, but it did sound like it was possible to walk away with $10-20k in a season.

You also get to ski every day, if that interests you.
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:50 AM on July 9, 2008

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