When your dream job doesn’t pan out, what’s your next step? Some people go back to school, while others move to cities with better hiring prospects.
For job searchers with strong stomachs, there are positions that always seem to have opportunities available. You can earn decent or even really good money, but -- we've got to warn you -- the jobs can be stinky, dirty and germy.
In a word, gross.
Here are a dozen jobs that might be disgusting for some, but lucrative for others. You'll want to invest in some nose plugs. Pay data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unless otherwise noted.
Average annual salary: $52,590 ($25.28 an hour)
When pipes get clogged, a plumber might get called in to do the unclogging. Plumbers often contend with masses of hair, household sludge and musty smells like mildew and worse, especially when servicing toilets and septic tanks.
But plumbers do much more than just clear pipes and toilets: They install and repair the pipes and fittings for water and drainage systems, specialized heating systems, and appliances like sinks, bathtubs and dishwashers.
Plumbers usually complete a four- to five-year apprenticeship after high school, and most states require them to be licensed. The government expects demand for plumbers to grow at a faster-than-average rate through 2026.
2. Trash collector
Average annual salary: $37,270 ($17.88 an hour)
Our cities would be disaster zones without the hard work of dedicated trash collectors.
It’s a messy job: Collectors may encounter everything from bed bug-filled furniture to hazardous materials to taxidermied animals dressed in children’s clothes.
Thankfully, these hardy folk earn a good living for their trouble. Many garbage collectors work for publicly traded companies where employees receive shares of company stock and great retirement packages.
Other trash collectors work for states and municipalities, which also offer good retirement options.
3. Animal slaughterer
Average annual salary: $28,000 ($13.46 an hour)
Even with our focus on organic and local food, we rarely think about all the steps it takes to get that juicy burger on our plate.
The fact is that not long ago, the burger was a living, breathing cow that had to be slaughtered and butchered. The process includes draining the blood, removing the less edible parts, and dividing the meat into the cuts consumers want to eat.
It may sound to some like a bit of a horror show, but it’s an important job. Slaughterhouses must meet strict standards of cleanliness, and the final animal products must be safe for human consumption.
Average annual salary: $208,000 ($100.00 an hour)
Proctologists, also known as colorectal surgeons, work with the last few stops in the digestive system. They perform prostate exams, treat hemorrhoids, fissures and anal cancer, and discuss patients' colon health — and bowel movements — on a daily basis.
It goes without saying that proctologists can’t be shy about these topics, and they also must be compassionate and empathetic to their patients' needs. Maybe the only thing more awkward than being a proctologist is being a nervous patient!
It takes about 10 years of schooling and residency work before proctologists can practice independently and earn their high salaries.
Average annual salary: $45,040 ($21.65 an hour)
Embalmers clean and prepare the bodies of the recently deceased and ensure that they are presentable for viewing and funeral services.
To achieve this, first embalmers must drain the body of its fluids and replace them with formaldehyde or another preservative. They may perform reconstruction to disguise injuries, and style the person’s hair and makeup.
Embalmers can't get queasy dealing with gruesome sights and strong bodily and chemical odors. In every state, embalmers must be licensed and have at least a two-year accredited degree in mortuary science.
6. Deer urine farmer
Average annual salary: At least $93,440 ($44.92 an hour)
Hunters have found that the best method for luring deer into traps is to sprinkle deer urine so the animals will think an area is safe.
Deer urine farmers work to meet market demand by capturing deer and housing them temporarily in an enclosure with a grated floor and collection bin underneath. When the deer do their business, the farmers collect it in the bin.
This work can earn you anywhere from around $93,000 a year on up to close to $304,000, according to DeerFarmer.com. But pay depends on local hunting and the health of the local deer population.
7. Crime scene cleaner
Average annual salary: $41,400 ($19.91 an hour)
You need more than a pair of sunglasses and snappy one-liners to work a crime scene.
Real crime scenes can be grisly, with blood, body parts and more scattered around the area. Forensic cleaners need to get up close and personal with the sights and smells of these scenes.
Thinking of quitting your job to enter the CSI world? You don’t necessarily need a degree for this type of hazardous materials removal, and it pays fairly well — but does the salary make up for the potential nightmares?
8. Sewer inspector
Average annual salary: $59,090 ($28.41 an hour)
Problems with the public sewer system can result in costly floods, spreading of diseases and explosions in pest populations. Sewer inspectors look for potential issues and determine how to fix them.
Some inspectors use closed-circuit cameras for underground investigative work, to analyze the situation and give orders to work crews. A sewer inspector also may have to enter the sewers and encounter the realities of human waste, chemicals and rodents.
Inspectors may have construction experience and are often certified in pipeline assessment, manhole assessment and lateral assessment by the National Association of Sewer Service Companies.
9. Roadkill collector
Annual salary: Up to $72,000 ($34.62 an hour)
When animals die on busy streets and highways, their remains can create unsafe road conditions for drivers. Enter roadkill collectors, who are paid to clean up these furry departed souls.
Roadkill collectors may be full-time employees or independent contractors who earn a commission per animal collected. Full-timers make the most money: CNN found one who was earning $72,000 annually.
In heavily wooded areas, local government may hire roadkill collectors at busy times of the year. Some collectors also collaborate with conservationists to track animals’ migration habits and stop them from being hit by cars.
10. Portable toilets cleaner
Average annual salary: $36,591 ($17.59 an hour)
Portable toilets are often used in construction zones, during public festivals, and in parks and by beaches. And somebody has to clean them out.
By the time a cleaner has access to the portable toilet, there may be gallons of waste inside. Rowdy revelers and beach visitors may have left the toilet in disarray — and worse, sometimes pranksters tip portable toilets over for fun.
Our average pay figure comes from ZipRecruiter, and it's for a cleaner job — but if you own the port-o-potties, you can really make a killing. One business owner who rents portable toilets for upscale events says she pulls in up to $120,000 a year.
11. Landfill equipment operator
Average annual salary: $46,080 ($22.15 an hour)
A landfill may look like a disorganized heap, but the trash must be put into safe piles to avoid a dangerous garbage avalanche. Landfill operators use construction-type equipment to move and resize the piles.
In addition to dealing with the smells on site, operators are at risk for developing respiratory issues because of the dust created by the piles of garbage.
Equipment operators must be able to use track loaders, excavators, bulldozers, trash compactors and trucks to move earth and trash.
They also may need to operate grinders, material screening machinery and compost turners — and be able to maintain their machines.
12. Odor judge
Average annual salary: $69,893 ($33.60 an hour)
Ever wonder how a cosmetics lab knows that their deodorant actually works? They call in an expert to test the product on a sweaty individual. This lucky duck is called an odor judge.
Researchers create smelly situations to see if the cologne, mouthwash, deodorant or air freshener they are testing can mask the odor. And the pay doesn't stink, according to ZipRecruiter.
An odor judge uses his or her sharp sense of smell to detect whether a scented product is effective. Judges may need to literally stick their noses into someone’s armpit or mouth to get a clear before and after scent sample.