We all know that feeling of under-appreciation when it comes to our jobs. Yet there are some workers who do things on a regular basis that the rest of us might not want to do (or touch) with a 10-foot pole. How about digging in someone else's mouth, or making sure the toilet works in a person's home? Not only are these jobs tough, many of them provide a helpful service that often goes unthanked.
With Labor Day around the corner, it's time to give a shout out to the people working tough jobs around the country. We all may think we deserve a pat on the back for our own work, but these workers make important contributions to our lives in some of the toughest conditions. Here is our list of seven thankless jobs that we'd like to salute in celebration of Labor Day.
Not many people look forward to going to the dentist, but having clean teeth is hugely important to your health. And it's usually the dental hygienist that spends most of the time working on your mouth when you go in. And that means literally cleaning away the build-up of plaque that has formed on your teeth and then shining and polishing. Your hygienist may spend more time working on your teeth in that hour than you do in an entire week. On top of that, they have to be excellent conversationalists, keep the squeamish distracted, and be very diplomatic toward the people who aren't happy to be there.
- Education Required: Associate degree
- Average Salary: $72,720
HVAC stands for "heating, ventilation and air conditioning," and these workers often go unseen at your office, apartment building, local mall, or basically any building you can think of. They do just about all they can to help us stay cool or warm in our homes or places of business, but can take a brunt of cold hair when it comes to our impatience and unhappiness. Since they happen to be the people who can make our climate-controlled lives better, if they're not here now to solve our problem, it's often not soon enough. While they encourage regular maintenance of our major HVAC appliances, they often don't get a call until something has completely gone out or stopped working altogether. Yet, they are the ones to check the unit out on the side of house or climb up into that attic to see if the pilot light is still lit in the furnace.
- Education Required: Apprenticeship or certificate or associate degree program
- Average Salary: $47,380
Automotive mechanics may seem like a dime a dozen, but car repairs are hugely important, whether that's changing a tire, fixing the brakes or figuring out what is making that weird clicking sound. Like a doctor, they use their best diagnostic skills to get to the heart of any mechanical matter. And they are expected to know so much more than that, since digital and technical parts are now standard in most cars, and 'smart' technology is the new rage. As most of us may dread taking the car to the shop, we may forget how important of a job this is. Let's face it: In the auto mechanic world, things don't always go as planned, but a good auto mechanic can help prolong the life of your car, as well as save you time and money.
- Education Required: Postsecondary certificate or industry certification
- Average Salary: $40,720
Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters
Without these people, it would be impossible for most of us to live in our homes or to work in a place of business. After all, if you have a bathroom with a flushing toilet, thank a plumber! And if you have pipes in your building that carry anything from liquids to gasses to steam, thank a pipefitter or steamfitter. Steamfitters can even have it rougher, however, because they often can work on larger systems, including those at natural gas power plants or on college campuses. They also are responsible for working on the pipes that carry oil across the U.S. So next time you are taking a relaxing bath, using water to brush your teeth or gassing up your car, keep in mind there are plumbers and fitters of all types making these things possible.
- Education Required: Apprenticeship
- Average Salary: $55,100
Sure, pharmacists have all that core knowledge that is important about medications, whether that's cough medicine or pain pills. They also ensure that prescriptions are filled accurately and do the final sign-off, but when it comes down to it, the pharmacy tech is often involved in the grunt work. Your prescription isn't approved for refilling? Guess who calls the insurance company to find out why. There's a problem at drop off? We all know who consults with the pharmacist to seek a resolution. Pharmacy techs also can be tasked with digging through orders while impatient customers wait or roll their eyes. It can be a thankless job with a lot of unwarranted attitude, but pharmacy techs can be the saving grace in a busy, buzzing pharmacy world.
- Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent
- Average Salary: $31,680
Whether they work in the doctor's office, emergency room or ICU, registered nurses see and do much more than we imagine. Of course, a career in medical care is not for the squeamish, and RNs certainly see the blood and gore of things with patients coming in with broken bones, lacerations, burns, and injuries of every type if they work in a place like ER. On top of that, patients can sometimes be demanding as well as churlish, condescending and unappreciative. Nurses also might work swing or graveyard shift and put in long hours on their feet. The field of nursing is not for the faint of heart, but it does give us reason to be thankful for the many smiling faces that greet us as the front lines of medical care.
- Education Required: Bachelor's degree
- Average Salary: $71,000
Everyone knows teachers are tasked with the challenge of teaching our kids, but the true toughness of this job is often unnoticed. On top of teaching to the curriculum, they must also try to provide important life skills for their class, such as goal-setting and resilience. It's not an easy task for any teacher (or a parent) to discover the best way to instruct each and every child, and teachers may have 30 or more students in their classroom at a time. They have to take calls from unhappy parents or make calls to parents about unhappy kids. They need to deal with bad attitudes, tardy students, overachievers, underachievers, overachievers who are underachieving and everything in between. Across all grade levels, many teachers go far and above in giving their time, dedication and commitment to their class.
- Education: Bachelor's degree
- Average Salary, Kindergarten: $54,510
- Average Salary, Elementary School: $57,730
- Average Salary, Middle School: $58,760
- Average Salary, High School: $60,440