The 7 Most Dangerous STEM Jobs

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April 28, 2015

The 7 Most Dangerous STEM Jobs

STEMers beware. These are some pretty dangerous STEM jobs..that you could have!

1. Astronaut
I mean, have you seen Gravity? Most roughly estimate that The Space Shuttle Program fatality odds are about 1 in 62. Famously horrific space accidents include Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. More recently, in October 2014, a private Virgin Galactic-owned spaceplane crashed during a test flight, killing one and injuring another. Fatalities aside, astronauts take great risk with space travel and must prepare for and deal with dangerous incidents so that they don’t result in death.

2. Volcanologist
Like a geologist, but in an active volcano. Actual death toll is relatively low, but the constant danger of collecting tephra, rock, and lava samples from active volcanoes is kind of like spending your life at Hellmouth and hoping for the best.

3. Electrical Power Line Worker
According to Business Insider, the fatality rate for electrical power line installers and repairers is about 21.5 per 100,000 full time worker. Not surprising considering both the voltage and height obstacles they have to deal with–and so much of the job is contingent upon weather. When a power line goes down because of a bad storm or worse, those conditions factor into the

4. Storm Chaser
Researchers (plus those who do it recreationally) literally chase storms that often leave devastation in their wakes. A recent notable tragedy happened last year when 3 veteran chasers, including a father and son, lost their lives to a huge Oklahoma tornado. They were scientists who studied storm patterns, not just thrill-seekers, and their loss was deeply felt in the community.

5. Chemical Engineer
The nature of chemical engineering is to work with chemicals to ensure that they are reacting correctly and producing the desired effects. The nature of chemicals is that they are often unstable. You do the math.

6. Cave Diver
Like astronauts, aquatic researchers face perils that accompany not having oxygen readily available. But cave divers specifically have to watch every kick and stroke so as not to dislodge dangerous debris and sediment that could trap or kill them. According to a study in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 368 Americans died while cave diving between 1969 and 2007. Of course, not all were scientists, but the number highlights the dangers of the activity.

7. Mining Engineer
One of the most dangerous working environments, mines are often unstable and volatile. Plus, working in mines can have lasting health effects that can continue well into your life.

Take our STEM Type Quiz to find out if you may end up in one of these dangerous lines of work! If you’re looking for some other cool articles, check out these top undergraduate engineering schools and top STEM colleges for women. If you’re psyched about exciting careers of tomorrow, read about these future STEM Careers and even some cool math jobs.

By | 2018-01-16T16:14:08+00:00 April 28th, 2015|Career, College, Featured|2 Comments


  1. Mark A. Purschwitz November 9, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    With all due respect, I think we do a disservice to STEM if we ignore science, i.e., scientific data, to write articles like this. What was written here is a teaser about jobs that may face extreme hazards, which is different than risk. Furthermore, these are definitely NOT the seven most dangerous STEM jobs — the jobs are not even described accurately — so if the desire is to point out STEM-related jobs that might have extreme hazards, it should be titled that way. Other websites are picking up this article, and just perpetuating incorrect information.

    To be more specific, engineering jobs are some of the SAFEST STEM-related jobs, so why give people the wrong impression? (By the way, chemical engineers do not generally work with chemicals, and mining engineers do not generally spend much inside mines the way mine workers do.) According to Oregon State University “Volcano World”, an outreach program, it is wrong to think that volcanologists work at the lip of live volcanoes; they work with the remains of dead or dormant volcanoes, monitor dormant volcanoes for signs of activity, and spend a lot of time in laboratories. In actuality, being an astronaut is actually rather safe, do to all the safeguards used and the incredibly large support system behind every flight. Cave diving is considered a sport, not an occupation, so it shouldn’t even be in the mix. I could go on.

    To truly discuss the most dangerous jobs, we must look at the accepted data for such, which is the Bureau of Labor Statistics CFOI (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries) and the death rates, which are given in deaths per hundred-thousand workers. Depending on what is considered a “STEM-related job”, in 2014 the most dangerous STEM-related job was airline pilot/flight engineer, with 63.2 deaths/100,000 workers.

    As I said, I have no problem with getting the attention of youth who might be risk-takers, but let’s not mislead people. I’m not sure what bothers me the most, not basing the story on accepted data, or writing inaccurate descriptions of jobs and careers.

    Mark A. Purschwitz, Ph.D
    Extension Professor
    Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
    University of Kentucky, Lexington

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