The second half of the Twentieth Century saw a drastic increase in the number of college graduates and jobs requiring a college degree. The G.I. Bill following World War II and the passing of the Higher Education Act in 1965 helped make a college education accessible for millions of Americans. The trend has only continued with the availability of student loans, online education, and the boom in for-profit universities.
While there has always been a need for skilled positions, the advancement of technology has also resulted in an increase in so-called “white collar” jobs, or those suit-and-tie workers who sit at a desk and eschew getting their hands dirty. There has also been a massive increase in gig economy jobs and making money online.
But although our society has greatly advanced in the last few decades, there is still a need for those willing to do the dirty jobs. Dirty jobs are those occupations that are difficult, messy, or gross that the majority of society simply isn’t willing to do. And amazingly, because of their dirty nature, you can make pretty some good money.
Why Work a “Dirty” Job
Undesirable jobs and those willing to do them were brought to light in the hit Discovery show Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Throughout its 8 season run, Rowe participated in around 300 dirty jobs, and the show idolized the blue-collar mentality needed to complete the often disgusting jobs day in and day out.
Aside from the fun of having your job featured in a TV show, there are some excellent reasons to consider working a dirty job. Not only are dirty jobs in high demand, but they also are stable, tend to pay well, and have excellent job security.
There is a growing shortage of trade workers, and the demand for skilled trades is only expected to increase in the coming years. There was a projected shortage of a million skilled workers in 2020, and that number is expected to increase to at least 2 million by 2025. Not only are those in trades and other dirty jobs more likely to be older and soon to retire, but young people simply aren’t pursuing trades like they used to.
The result is many unfilled trade jobs and other less desirable positions that afford an excellent opportunity for people to make great money largely without the need for a costly education. Moreover, in response to the shortage, trade schools offer incentives to attract students, and businesses offer more money and lucrative incentives to attract workers.
If you’re willing to do a dirty job and excited about making money, there is no better time to jump right in.
Here are 30 dirty ways to make money for those willing to put in a little elbow grease. These jobs span the full range of the spectrum in terms of education needed and pay, although the majority of them don’t require extensive education. So here are some of the dirtiest ways of making money.
Dirty Ways to Make Money: Working With Animals
A farmer is someone who cultivates land and crops or who raises animals. Common animal farms include beef, dairy, sheep, and pig farms. Farmers’ common crops include corn, cotton, fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, rice, and wheat. Farmers also cultivate crops such as hay and alfalfa for livestock consumption.
While farming is largely thought of as a thing of the past, this career is still alive and well. Although farming has been declining, there are still over 2 million farms as of 2020, encompassing 897 million acres across the United States.
Farming is essential to society because U.S. farmers grow most of our food and raise the majority of our meat products. Anything we can’t grow or raise ourselves must be imported, which drives up costs and has the potential of millions of jobs lost in processing and packing plants.
While a critical job, farming certainly isn’t easy. Most farms in the U.S. are family-owned and operated, meaning a few individuals are providing all the labor. While modern technology and machinery have made farming vast amounts of land with only a few individuals possible, it is still a job that requires long hours in the elements and a willingness to get your hands dirty.
While some farmers hold a degree in agriculture, most farmers learn their trade through experience. Therefore, whether you grow up on a farm or are employed by one, most will be able to gain the required experience without a formal education.
Suppose you would like to learn more about farming. In that case, there are typically courses available in high schools, community colleges, and universities, and the USDA also runs courses on farming and agriculture.
According to salary data, the average farmer or rancher makes nearly $76,000 a year with a median salary of around $66,000.
2. Livestock Sperm Collector
Animal breeding is a huge industry. Most ranchers and livestock farmers raise animals for consumption and breed and raise animals to maintain their stock.
Similarly, horse breeding can be lucrative, with money-producing stallions, mares, and foals bringing in millions annually. A top race or show horse stallion alone can fetch hundreds of thousands a year in stud fees.
While animal breeding isn’t new, increases in technology, reach, and artificial insemination techniques have made the business of collecting and selling sperm a regular process in breeding programs. Not only can you sell more sperm if you can ship it, but it’s far safer for the animals involved.
Although collecting sperm is lucrative, the process is pretty weird and awkward. Collecting semen typically involves a fake mount with an artificial vagina used to collect the sperm. In some cases, a live animal may be used for the stud animal to mount with a person collecting the sperm during the process. Semen can also be collected through manual massage of the stud.
No education is needed to be a livestock sperm collector, but most who do this dirty job are breeders or farmworkers.
Many who collect animal semen do so as part of the larger job of farming and breeding. However, some people work as animal semen collectors, typically focusing on collecting bull semen. According to LiveCareer, the average yearly salary of an animal semen collector ranges from $17,000 to $57,000.
Many of us do fishing in our free time, but did you know that you could be making money fishing?
Commercial fishing is a major industry that provides a tremendous amount of food to countries worldwide. Commercial fishing ranges from family-run businesses to large corporations, and the focus is primarily on various species of fish and shellfish.
Fishermen and women may spend weeks on their boats and typically earn money based on the quality and size of their catch. However, commercial fishing isn’t easy money. Not only must you work with smelly fish in all kinds of weather, but it’s also a dangerous job.
From 2010 to 2014, there were 188 fishing fatalities in the U.S., with fatality rates ranging from 21 to 147 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. This is many times higher than the fatality rate for all U.S. workers.
No formal education is required to become a commercial fisherman or woman—many start by finding work through family and friends or joining a boat looking for crewmembers.
According to Career Explorer, the average commercial fisherman makes just over $37,000 a year.
Another somewhat dirty way of making money is as a pet groomer. While we often think of pet groomers as being specific to dogs, you could also groom cats, horses, and other animals.
Grooming refers to the cleaning and care of an animal. This could include brushing, bathing, nail trimming, and a host of other related activities.
In general, you can become a dog groomer in a few weeks through an in-person or online course run by a state-approved. Once you have the basics, many groomers go through an apprenticeship program and eventually earn certification through the National Dog Groomers Association of America.
On average, a dog groomer can expect to make nearly $36,000 a year, although the salary range varies greatly depending on location, experience, and clientele.
A veterinarian is one dirty way to earn money. They can specialize in small animals, large animals, and exotic or zoo animal care. While there are vets who specialize in specific areas, most vets will be responsible for almost all care of whatever types of animals they treat. In addition, this job can get messy when treating injuries or diseases.
To become a veterinarian, you must complete an undergraduate program and earn your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. This degree typically takes four years to achieve, bringing the total years of required schooling to eight. You will also need to obtain and maintain a license to practice veterinary medicine.
The median salary for vets in the U.S. in 2020 was $99,250.
This next dirty way of making money is not for the faint of heart. Exterminators specialize in getting rid of insects, rodents, and other pests inside a home or business using chemicals and traps. But, first, they identify the problem and design a plan for ridding the space of the pest. This job often requires exterminators to crawl under houses and in attics and dispose of dead animals.
An exterminator will need to hold a license and complete on-the-job training to learn how to identify and eradicate pests and safely use chemicals. A clean driving record and a high school diploma are often necessary prerequisites.
The average salary for an exterminator is nearly $40,000 a year.
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7. Dog Walker/Waste Remover
Pet owners go to great lengths to keep their pets happy, but they don’t always want to do the dirty work that comes with pet ownership. Thus, dog walkers and pooper scoopers have increased in popularity over the past few years and are a great way to generate side income. In addition, pet sitting has also become extremely popular to earn extra money.
While there are dog walker and dog poop cleaner companies like Rover, you could also freelance these services by advertising on an online platform like Facebook Marketplace. Either way, these dirty jobs are attractive for many because you can make your own schedule and earn extra money in your free time.
No formal education is needed for either job, although having experience with dogs is a helpful skill.
How much you earn as a dog walker will depend on how much you work and where you live, but the typical range is from $11 to $16 an hour. How much you’ll make as a dog poop cleaner similarly ranges, but some earn up to $35-$45 an hour and a decent yearly salary if being a pooper scooper is their full-time job.
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Dirty Ways to Make Money: Medical Field
Being a doctor is an extremely dirty job and not for the squeamish. As a doctor, the majority of your patients will either be sick or injured in some way, meaning you’ll be regularly faced with all kinds of awful situations. Especially if you’re a surgeon or specialize in a particularly undesirable area, you’ll likely need a strong stomach to be a doctor.
Like a veterinarian, becoming a doctor requires years of specialized training. To become a doctor, you must complete four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and an additional three to seven years in residency for a total of 10-14 years before becoming fully licensed.
The years of training, student loans, and gross working conditions do come with the perks of an excellent salary. Generally, physicians earn $242,000 a year, and specialists earn $344,000 annually.
Believe it or not, nurses typically have an even dirtier job than doctors. While doctors diagnose and design treatment plans for patients, nurses are responsible for carrying out most of the treatment and doing the majority of the care. In addition, hospital and care facility nurses must assist with hygiene, toileting, and cleaning and dressing wounds.
The extent of your nursing education will depend on your professional goals. Most nurses start with a bachelor’s in nursing but may earn masters and doctoral degrees. Regardless of education level, all nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed registered nurses.
The salary for a nurse will vary depending on licensure and level of education. However, the median wage in 2020 was just over $75,000.
10. Hair Removal Specialist
Hair removal is very much in demand and is part of the beauty and cosmetology industry. Those in the hair removal business remove unwanted hair from various parts of individuals, typically using either laser or wax treatments. Wax or laser technicians meet with clients to discuss their hair removal needs and determine appropriate techniques and tools to use.
Hair removal technicians will need a high school diploma and pursue certification through an accredited cosmetology or esthetician school. States differ on their requirements for certification, so it’s best to determine the requirements of your state before enrolling.
The average salary for hair removal technicians is around $30,000 a year and varies depending on location and level of experience.
Dirty Ways to Make Money: Cleaning
11. Roof and Gutter Cleaning
This dirty job is exactly as it sounds. Roof and gutter cleaners are responsible for removing leaves, moss, and other debris from the roof and gutters of homes and businesses to help avoid damage and increase longevity. While companies specialize in roof and gutter cleaning, you can also freelance these services for a few extra dollars.
No formal education is needed to clean roofs or gutters. However, you can earn roof cleaning certification through online courses.
How much you earn as a gutter or roof cleaner will depend on whether you do it as a side hustle or a full-time gig, but the average income is around $35,000.
12. Pool Cleaner
Pool cleaners are another job that can be part of full-time pool service employment or a side hustle. A swimming pool technician repairs and maintains pools, water and filtration systems, and pumps. A pool cleaner working for extra cash will typically just remove debris.
You don’t need a college degree or specific certification to become a pool cleaner, although those working as pool technicians will need training in repairing and maintaining pool equipment.
Pool cleaners make an average of $12.69 an hour and have a median income of $26,000 a year.
13. Porta-Potty Cleaner
Yes, this is a job and one of the grossest ways to make money. Portable toilet cleaners deliver porta-potties to needed locations, sewage disposal, cleaning the toilet, and replenishing sanitary supplies within the toilet before deployment.
No formal education is required, but cleaners will need on-the-job training to safely handle equipment and chemicals and ensure sanitary guidelines are followed.
The average hourly salary is $13 for a porta-potty cleaner.
14. Window Washer
Being a window washer is one of the riskier ways of making money, but it’s also a unique job. Thousands of high-rise buildings worldwide get dirty, and high-rise window washers are there to do the job. High-rise window washing has been compared to urban mountaineering, and washers are experts with ropes, knots, safety harnesses, and rappelling.
Window washers can receive certification and training through the International Window Cleaning Association. Still, it may not be mandatory for getting a job as long as the company you work for provides training. Some experience with climbing and safety equipment is helpful.
Window washers make around $50,000 a year.
Housekeeping isn’t a new profession, but there has been an increasing number of freelance and small business maid services in recent years. In general, those that clean residential homes or hotels are considered housekeepers, while those that clean businesses and larger establishments are considered janitors.
There is no formal education required to become a housekeeper or janitor.
Income will vary greatly depending on whether housekeeping/janitorial work is your main job or a side hustle. Housekeepers earn $13.21 an hour on average, but freelancers may charge upwards of $20 to $25 an hour. The average janitorial income is similar at $13.26 an hour.
16. Crime Scene Clean-Up
One of the most gruesome ways to make money is crime scene clean-up. Also known as forensic cleaners, these individuals are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting an area where a crime occurred to remove all traces of the crime. Be aware that this dirty job takes a strong stomach and may take an emotional toll, as you’ll regularly be subjected to blood and other bodily fluids and strong smells.
Required certification varies by state, but you’ll need training in handling blood-borne pathogens and bio-recovery as well as using PPE and respiratory protection.
National averages for crime scene clean-up technicians are $18 an hour and $37,000 annually.
17. Roadkill Collector
Roadkill collectors find and dispose of roadkill or animals killed by cars on the road. Roadkill collectors drive around looking for animals killed on roadways and may cover a specific region or section of roadway. Typically, those who collect roadkill work for the state or private contractors may be on call.
No education is needed to be a roadkill collector.
Roadkill collectors typically make around $15 per hour or a set rate per animal collected.
18. Waste Disposal
There is a vast array of waste disposal jobs available, including working at landfills, removing garbage from homes or businesses, or disposing of hazardous waste. Similarly, the role of an individual in the waste disposal industry could vary from driving trucks to cleaning up and processing waste.
Waste disposal jobs require no formal education. However, you will receive on-the-job training and may receive specialized training in handling hazardous or biomaterials based on what type of waste you’re working with.
Salary will range depending on the specific waste disposal role and location, but typically, waste disposal workers will make $20 to $30 an hour.
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19. Landfill Equipment Operator
The United States has millions of tons of waste every year, and much of that waste ends up in landfills. A landfill equipment operator is responsible for the safe operation of any heavy equipment used to move and sort items in a landfill.
While no formal education is required, landfill equipment operators will need to complete training and any necessary certification to operate heavy equipment.
According to Zip Recruiter, the national average salary for landfill equipment operators is nearly $44,000 a year.
20. Hazardous Materials Removal Workers
Hazardous materials removal workers have one of the dirtiest and potentially harmful jobs on this list. Also called hazmat workers, these individuals identify and dispose of toxic materials like asbestos, lead, and radioactive materials.
Most training for hazmat workers is done on the job and follows OSHA standards. However, some workers may need to complete or obtain state or federally mandated training, licensing, or permits.
The median annual salary for hazmat workers was $45,000 in 2020.
Dirty Ways to Make Money: Maintenance
Much fun has been made of plumbers, but it’s a respectable position with a good salary. Plumbers repair, install, and maintain water and other pipes in homes and other buildings. In addition, plumbers may need to crawl under houses, work outside in inclement weather, or deal with sewage depending on the situation.
There are different levels and specialties in plumbing, but you’ll most likely need to complete coursework through a trade school and an apprenticeship to become a licensed plumber.
A plumber typically starts at around $20 an hour, and the average base salary in the U.S. is $25.68 an hour.
22. Oil Rig Tech
An oil rig technician or mechanic is responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining the equipment used for drilling oil. Those that work on off-shore rigs may be away from home for weeks at a time.
Most employers require a high school diploma or GED and experience as a mechanic or oil rig worker. Many employers also require you to work under a senior oil rig mechanic while training.
An oil rig technician’s national average annual salary is $69,000 but can be as high as $143,500.
A mechanic is a person who builds, maintains, and repairs machinery, although most people associate the term mechanic with someone who works on cars. Mechanics are typically classified into two categories based on the type of machinery they work on: heavyweight or lightweight.
Mechanics are usually certified through a trade commission, and many employers require a high school diploma or even an associate’s degree. Additionally, auto mechanics must attain Automotive Service Excellence certification and may also be trained in specialty areas.
The average mechanic salary in the U.S. is $21.71 an hour.
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24. Septic Tank Tech
Septic tanks are primarily used in rural areas that cannot be connected to city sewage systems. These tanks collect and treat sewage before releasing it back into the environment. Septic tank technicians install and maintain these systems by regularly flushing them out.
A high school diploma is required for most septic tank technician jobs and various licenses and certifications, depending on the state.
The average salary for a septic tank technician is just over $40,000 a year.
25. Sewer Inspector
A sewer inspector uses a snake line with a camera to inspect sewer systems and find any damage or debris within them. Sewer inspectors are most commonly called as part of home inspections done by potential home buyers but may also be employed by homeowners or cities having issues with their system.
Sewer inspectors typically receive on-the-job training, and many gain experience working for utility companies. You can also become a certified sewer scope inspector through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
The average annual salary of a sewer inspector varies by state and ranges from $34,000 to nearly $48,000.
Other Dirty Ways to Make Money
26. Health and Safety Inspector
A health and safety inspector evaluates the work environment in various industries to ensure it is safe for employees and the products being produced are similarly safe.
Health and safety inspectors typically have a background in the sciences and must have a bachelor’s degree. On-the-job training is also provided in the specific industry you will be working in, and you can advance your career through various certifications.
According to Zip Recruiter, the average national health and safety inspector salary is $92,579.
27. Coal Miner
Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground to be used as energy. While the working conditions of coal miners have significantly improved with advancements in techniques and technology, it remains a dirty and challenging job.
Coal miners generally hold a high school diploma, but some even have bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
The average annual salary of a coal miner is $46,000.
28. Crime Scene Investigator
A crime scene investigator, or crime scene technician, collects, identifies, and analyzes physical evidence from crime scenes.
While a criminologist typically requires a four-year degree, a crime scene technician job typically only requires certification or training in crime scene investigation or forensic science from an accredited program. Some agencies will also require you to be a sworn police officer before becoming a crime scene investigator.
The average salary of a crime scene investigator ranges from $40,000 to nearly $60,000, depending on the state.
The most morbid of the dirty jobs on this list, a mortician or embalmer, is charged with preparing dead bodies for burial and arranging funeral services. Embalming is a process of treating human remains to forestall decomposition, while a mortician arranges the funeral and guides the family through the process of putting the loved one to rest. Embalming may be done by a mortician/funeral director as part of the funeral preparation process or by a separate individual trained in embalming.
To be a mortician, you must have an associate’s degree in funeral service or mortuary science accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. You’ll also need an associate’s degree in mortuary science to be an embalmer.
30. Selling Used Socks Online
Earning money online can be done in many different forms. Consider selling your worn socks for those looking for weird, dirtier ways to make money online. Strangers will allow you to earn money online by selling them your worn, smelly socks.
This online business does not require you to have any formal education to make money online. You can start selling your socks, and your bank account will reap the rewards with little effort.
The average price for used socks sells for $10-$30 online, with some pairs going for as much as $200! So depending on how many you’re able to sell, you may be able to make a full-time income from selling your used socks through an online marketplace.
Read our related article on how to earn an extra $1,000 per month!
The last dirty job on this list is construction, which encompasses many potential duties and jobs. Construction workers are responsible for building and maintaining roads, infrastructure, and homes. Jobs in construction range from tradespeople and skilled workers to managers to engineers.
Most construction workers will only need a high school diploma to begin working and receive on-the-job training. However, some construction workers must obtain specialized training in a trade such as welding. Some certifications may also be required depending on the job and company.
The median salary for a construction worker was nearly $38,000 in 2020.
Salary Ranges for Dirty Jobs
As you can see, most of these dirty jobs afford an excellent way for individuals to earn money either as a career or in their free time. While there is a lot of variation, most of the dirty jobs discussed yield annual salaries in the $40,000 to $60,000 range.
Dirty Ways to Make Money FAQ
What Dirty Job Can I Make the Most Money?
The dirty jobs where you can make the most money will require highly specialized skills and education, such as doctors and veterinarians.
Do I Need Special Training To Get a Dirty Job?
It depends on the job. Many of the dirty jobs in this list require extensive education and training, others require specialized training in the area you’re working, and some require little to no training.
Are Dirty Jobs Safe?
Most dirty jobs are safe, albeit gross and undesirable. However, some dirty jobs like commercial fishing, mining, and waste removal are more hazardous and can even be deadly.
How Can You Monetize a Dirty Job?
You can consider starting a YouTube channel to document your journey, then share the videos online to social media platforms as an extra way to earn money online.
The Bottom Line
If making money while getting dirty doesn’t bother you, it may be worth your while to pursue one of the dirty jobs on this list.
Dirty jobs tend to be stable, in high demand, and pay good money precisely because they are undesirable and most won’t do them. While many of these jobs make excellent careers, other dirty jobs can help you earn money on the side or grab some quick cash.
Someone has to do the dirty work, why not you?
Samantha Hawrylack is a personal finance expert and full-time entrepreneur with a passion for writing and SEO. She holds a Bachelor’s in Finance and Master’s in Business Administration and previously worked for Vanguard, where she held Series 7 and 63 licenses. Her work has been featured in publications like Grow, MSN, CNBC, Ladders, Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loans, Clever Girl Finance, Credit Donkey, Crediful, Investing Answers, Well Kept Wallet, AllCards, Mama and Money, and Concreit, among others. She writes in personal finance, real estate, credit, entrepreneurship, credit card, student loan, mortgage, personal loan, insurance, debt management, business, productivity, and career niches.