Top 30 Hardest Jobs in the World

We all think our jobs are hard sometimes – but some are harder than others. And we decided to find out which are the hardest and most challenging of them all. Is yours featured on the list?

Most of us think our jobs are the most difficult and stressful in the world. But if you’re sat at a desk working a 9-5 job you probably have it pretty good. Here we take a look at the toughest and most demanding professions in the world. 

The reason why many people decide to pursue these physically, mentally and emotionally demanding career paths is the reward they feel once they have completed their job - knowing they have made a positive impact on society.

Let’s take a look at the top 30 hardest jobs in the world.

30. Chef

While working in the food industry might not be physically challenging, it’s mentally challenging. Trying to give guidance to the rest of the kitchen staff and cook tons of orders with hazards all around can take a toll on anyone!

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29. Lorry driver

Driving heavy-duty vehicles for over eight hours a day can be tiresome. You need to have all eyes on the road at all time, which can be extremely tiring and spend long hours on your own. The pay is not the best, but it’s not that difficult to get into this profession.

28. Scientist

Scientists face daily challenges during their discoveries; while conducting research, they may come into an issue that was not expected and that they’ll need to resolve. It’s even more pressing when they are faced with a deadline for making discoveries, like the scientists working hard to create new vaccines.

27. Scaffolder

Scaffolders are responsible for staggering temporary structure to support construction on a building. They need to lay this structure from the ground up and ensure it’s safe and sturdy for workers and materials - a big ‘no-no’ for anyone afraid of heights.

26. Mountain guide

Between the rocks, glaciers and slippery slopes, mountain guiding can be an extremely challenging job. It’s physically demanding, and you need a lot of stamina to climb mountains day in and day out. You also have to be an outgoing and social person as you will be in charge of everyone’s safety and enjoyment on the trip.

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25. Carpenter

Being a carpenter is not only physically but also mentally challenging. First, you must plan out the work that you will do, whether it’s tiling a floor or building a bookshelf. Then, you must figure out the correct measurements before deciding what tools you will use. Many people find the job extremely rewarding and also well-paying.

24. Stuntman

Being a stuntman can be one of the most challenging careers to pursue; from jumping off buildings to being lit on fire. Dean Foster, a professional stuntman, says‘You’re standing there on the edge ready to jump, and your whole body and mind are going, ‘Don’t do this. You do this, and you’re going to die.’ Yet, despite the danger, it’s what he’s wanted to do ever since a child and loves the adrenaline rush of the job.

23. E-waste recycler

E-waste recycling can be a hazardous job when completed in an unsafe environment, with workers inhaling harmful toxins on a daily basis. According to Forbes, only 25% of total e-waste is being collected for recycling – most are discarded in landfills or incinerators, releasing dangerous toxins into the land and air. While e-waste represents just 2% of America’s trash in landfills, it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.’

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22. Farmer

Farmers spend long hours dealing with large animals and work in intensive, all-weather conditions. It’s not all agricultural, either; self-employed farmers need to be adept at selling their produce and balancing budgets. Being a farmer is a profession that is tough on your mental and physical state, but many talk about how satisfying their job is.

21. Water transportation worker

Water transportation workers are in charge of directing and maintaining ships that are used to move cargo overseas. This job requires plenty of expertise as a small mistake can cause a fatal outcome. Water conditions are also unpredictable, adding pressure onto an already stressful job.

20. Police officer

Being a police officer can be very challenging, with officers receiving a lot of stick from disruptive citizens. They don’t know what type of crime they will face during the day and often put their lives on the line to make their country a better place. Although a tough profession, knowing you have contributed to a good cause is very gratifying.

19. Astronaut

Astronauts must be physically fit and able to withstand the mental isolation of long missions in space. The environment is often stressful and, in a crisis, astronauts must demonstrate the ability to stay calm under pressure. But the job brings with it a great deal of satisfaction. Imagine looking down on Earth from space, knowing that you are the one of the few to live this experience.

18. Bodyguard

bodyguard is essentially paid to serve as a human shield for politicians, celebrities and businessmen. They protect their charges from things like as theft, assault, kidnapping, homicide, harassment, loss of confidential information, threats, or other criminal offences. It’s extremely tough when you don’t know what to expect and need to be ready to react within seconds. Yet, many bodyguards live for the thrill and high paycheque.

17. Metal crafter

Metal crafters have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Besides dealing with the obvious things like heat and metal, these workers typically experience negative health effects in the long term due to inhaling various chemicals that they are exposed to.

16. Sanitation worker

Sanitation workers are faced with horrible stenches and unsanitary environments. Their working hours can be difficult too, with some working from 7 pm to 3 am in any type of weather condition. They often face heckles from drunk citizens and verbal harassment in some cases, but they push through for the hefty wage. CNN reported that two workers, a garbage truck driver and a helper, in the USA, earned $112,000 and $100,000 respectively.

Helpful resources we recommend

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    15. Landmine remover

    In some parts of the world, this is part of the military’s job. However, it’s becoming a private market in other parts. Landmine removal is extremely dangerous and requires skilled workers to complete the job without causing a potential disaster.

    14. Pilot

    Being a pilot is one of the toughest professions; in addition to always being on the go, airline pilots also must deal with weather delays, disgruntled or unruly passengers and exposure to cosmic radiation. Despite anticipated job growth, competition for jobs at the major airlines is fierce, making it difficult for many to jump up the ladder from a regional airline to a top carrier.

    13. Brickmason 

    Working as a brickmason requires a lot of physical strength and stamina! The job involves plenty of heavy lifting and manoeuvring of substantial materials. All work is conducted outdoors, making it even more challenging in intense heat or wet weather.

    12. Prison warden

    The role of a prison warden is extremely stressful as they are responsible for managing a large group of convicted criminals. As you can imagine, the work environment is not exactly safe, with them being surrounded by offenders, and can thus be highly demanding.

    11. Mortician

    Morticians are forced to face death every day, having to prepare the deceased for burial. This includes cleaning, embalming, grooming, and dressing them. Also, they tend to work long and irregular hours, supporting the family of the deceased.

    10. Search and rescue worker

    Working for a search and rescue team can be extremely difficult. To succeed in this career, you must be able to think on your feet and have great attention to detail. Whether it’s the Coast Guard facing high seas or a mountain rescue team facing sub-zero temperatures at night, search and rescue members must be able to work fast under extreme circumstances.

    9. Logger

    If you have great physical strength and enjoy being in nature, then this dangerous profession could be for you! Loggers strap on hard equipment to help them cut down large trees. While this might sound simple, it has to be done in harsh weather conditions, making it unpredictable to determine how a tree will fall.

    8. Roofer

    The physical strain of working on a roof all day makes this a tough job. Besides the fear of falling, roofers also deal with adverse weather conditions, from intense heat and potential heatstroke to harsh winds and rain.

    7. Firefighter

    The role of a firefighter is to protect the lives of the general public during potentially life-threatening situations. They are on call 24/7 to respond to emergencies including car crashes, water rescue, chemical spills, and of course, fires. The job is challenging, dangerous and often incredibly stressful but provides high levels of job satisfaction.

    6. Iron and steel worker

    Most iron and steel workers unload and erect fabricated iron members from the skeleton of a structure. Dealing with heavy materials and dangerous tools all day is extremely challenging on the mind and body. 

    5. Cell tower climber 

    Tower climbing is one of the deadliest jobs in the world. According to an experienced cell tower climber, Joe Poulin, many dangers come with this job: ‘If you’re putting things on the tower and someone isn’t paying attention, they could crush your hand. Or if you’re on the ground, tools or equipment could fall on your head. You could fall. You could get struck by lightning. There’s a long list of stuff that could go wrong.’

    4. Alaskan crab fisherman

    Often described as the most dangerous job in the world, crab fishing involves long hours at rough seas searching for crabs. Weather conditions are arduous, and conditions on board can be gruelling. Fishermen are required to work for up to 24 hours non-stop searching for crab, and if there are no crabs to be caught, there is no money to be made. But a good catch can earn tens of thousands of pounds in one month, so if you have what it takes, you may be in a position to earn a great deal of money.

    3. Oil rig worker

    This is a physically and mentally taxing job that involves long hours in a challenging and hostile environment. Jobs can vary from cleaner to painter right through to driller or tool pusher. Wages are often calculated on an hourly basis with accommodation and meals included. The typical work schedule will involve working on the rig for six weeks, followed by six weeks of leave. There is great potential to make a substantial amount of money, and so the risk associated with oil rig work is often downplayed by those wanting to earn a high salary.

    2. Healthcare worker

    Whether you’re a nurseparamedicdoctor, anaesthesiologist or surgeon, your job is going to be difficult! Each day is different, and you never know what to expect. Regardless of the hardship, this job is among the most rewarding in the world, too!

    Want to work in healthcare? Get started with the Introduction to Healthcare course by Stanford University over at Coursera.

    1. Military

    All military roles have their difficulties, but challenging roles such as a marine and mercenary are among the hardest in the world. These positions require soldiers to put their lives at risk on a daily basis. However, the high paycheque can make up for the serious stress and possible trauma that may result.

    Equipped to do one of these jobs?

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    Final thoughts

    So, there you have it, the top 30 hardest jobs in the world. The difficulty of a job role is largely dependent to the work environment and physical pressures, but there are many jobs out there which are just as mentally challenging.

    Join the discussion! Are you considering going into any of these professions? Surprised by any of the jobs in our list? Let us know in the comments section below.

    This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published in September 2016.