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50 Most Dangerous Jobs for Seniors as States Reopen

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding close contact with others as the most effective way to protect yourself from getting COVID-19, but for some workers, this is impossible. Certain jobs require person-to-person contact, putting these workers at risk for exposure. Healthcare workers might get paid well, but they are at the greatest risk because they have person-to-person contact every workday, often exposing themselves to people who have the coronavirus. But they’re not the only ones at high risk.

Seniors are at the highest risk of acquiring a severe form of COVID-19 because they are the most vulnerable to its effects. The risk of getting a serious case that can lead to hospitalization and even death is especially high for people age 65 and older. This is partly due to the fact that as we age, our immune systems weaken. Seniors are also more likely to have underlying health conditions known as comorbidities, which are shown to increase the risk factors for COVID-19.

Many seniors are retired and don’t necessarily have to come into contact with a lot of people, but there are also many who still work and thus have a greater risk of exposure. An estimated 80% of those hospitalized and ventilated for the virus are age 65 and older, according to the National Institutes of Health.

To determine the 50 most dangerous jobs, GOBankingRates sourced data from Visual Capitalist. The site used information from the Occupational Information Network to calculate a “COVID-19 risk score” ranging from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest risk. Keep reading to learn about 50 of the most dangerous jobs for working seniors during the pandemic.

Last updated: Nov. 5, 2020

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51. Seniors Are Still Holding Jobs

Not every senior has the luxury of retiring. According to the Wall Street Journal, older workers continue to hold jobs such as bus drivers, doctors and surgeons, security guards, personal aides and janitors — many of which put them at risk of infection.

These seniors continue working for a variety of reasons. Some need the money, others want to stay busy and avoid boredom, and some must help out other family members who have lost jobs.

Many of these older workers are going to work every day, despite being at increased risk of coronavirus infection. They, like those who work in the jobs listed here, reflect the essential employees who help keep the economy going at great risk to their personal health.

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50. Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

  • Risk score: 53.8
  • Average income: $58,230
  • Number employed: 1,410,970
  • Essential, but varies by state. However, most schools were closed throughout the U.S. for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. By August of 2020, nearly 93% of households with school-aged children reported some form of distance learning.

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49. Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education

  • Risk score: 55.2
  • Average income: $29,780
  • Number employed: 424,520
  • Essential, but varies by state. However, most schools were closed throughout the U.S. for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.
SolStock / Getty Images

48. Teacher Assistants

  • Risk score: 55.7
  • Average income: $26,970
  • Number employed: 1,331,560
  • Essential, but varies by state. However, most schools were closed throughout the U.S. for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. By August of 2020 nearly 93% of households with school-aged children reported some form of distance learning.
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47. Amusement and Recreation Attendants

  • Risk score: 56.0
  • Average income: $22,260
  • Number employed: 319,890
  • Nonessential. Many theme parks, including Disney World and Disneyland, have been closed.
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46. Pharmacists

  • Risk score: 56.8
  • Average income: $126,120
  • Number employed: 309,550
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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45. Child Care Workers

  • Risk score: 57.9
  • Average income: $23,240
  • Number employed: 564,630
  • Childcare workers are deemed essential on a state-by-state basis, but those who provide child care to essential healthcare personnel are considered essential by the U.S. government.

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44. Healthcare Social Workers

  • Risk score: 58.1
  • Average income: $56,200
  • Number employed: 168,190
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers — including healthcare social workers — to be essential.
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43. Social and Human Service Assistants

  • Risk score: 60.3
  • Average income: $33,750
  • Number employed: 392,300
  • Essential. Social service organizations are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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42. Correctional Officers and Jailers

  • Risk score: 60.4
  • Average income: $44,330
  • Number employed: 415,000
  • Essential. Law enforcement and public safety workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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41. Nurse Practitioners

  • Risk score: 60.9
  • Average income: $107,030
  • Number employed: 179,650
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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40. First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers

  • Risk score: 61.0
  • Average income: $63,340
  • Number employed: 43,760
  • Essential. Law enforcement and public safety workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
Jacob Ammentorp Lund / Getty Images/iStockphoto

39. Hairdressers, Hairstylists and Cosmetologists

  • Risk score: 62.1
  • Average income: $24,730
  • Number employed: 377,210
  • Nonessential. Most salons were closed down around the beginning of the pandemic. By the summer of 2020, however, individual states and counties allowed salons to open under certain circumstances. Salons were restricted to a limited numbers of patrons, and workers were advised to wear personal protective equipment.

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38. Pharmacy Technicians

  • Risk score: 62.5
  • Average income: $32,700
  • Number employed: 417,860
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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37. First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers

  • Risk score: 62.8
  • Average income: $32,450
  • Number employed: 964,400
  • Most food service workers are nonessential at the federal level — except for those who serve healthcare personnel and patients. In California and other states, however, certain food service workers are considered essential regardless of whether they are in the healthcare sector.
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36. Municipal Firefighters

  • Risk score: 63.2
  • Average income: $49,620
  • Number employed: 321,570
  • Essential. Law enforcement and public safety workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.

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35. Medical Equipment Preparers

  • Risk score: 63.9
  • Average income: $36,240
  • Number employed: 55,610
  • Essential. Vendors and suppliers of medical equipment are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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34. Personal Care Aides

  • Risk score: 64.0
  • Average income: $24,020
  • Number employed: 2,211,950
  • Essential. Outpatient and home care workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.

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33. Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education

  • Risk score: 65.8
  • Average income: $55,470
  • Number employed: 131,160
  • Essential, but varies by state. Most schools were closed throughout the U.S. for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. By August of 2020, nearly 93% of households with school-aged children reported some form of distance learning.
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32. Home Health Aides

  • Risk score: 66.3
  • Average income: $24,200
  • Number employed: 797,670
  • Essential. Home care workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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31. Bus Drivers, School or Special Client

  • Risk score: 67.3
  • Average income: $32,420
  • Number employed: 504,150
  • Essential. Transportation workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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30. Skin Care Specialists

  • Risk score: 68.0
  • Average income: $31,290
  • Number employed: 50,740
  • Nonessential. Spas were closed down around the beginning of the pandemic. However, some have begun to reopen on a state-by-state and even county-by-county basis with new safety and sanitation protocols in place, which might limit the type and number of services performed.
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29. Psychiatric Aides

  • Risk score: 69.0
  • Average income: $29,180
  • Number employed: 56,910
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.

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28. Psychiatric Technicians

  • Risk score: 69.8
  • Average income: $32,870
  • Number employed: 71,360
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.

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27. Veterinarians

  • Risk score: 70.0
  • Average income: $93,830
  • Number employed: 71,060
  • Essential. Veterinary health is considered an essential service by the U.S. government.
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26. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

  • Risk score: 70.7
  • Average income: $34,320
  • Number employed: 257,210
  • Essential. All direct patient care workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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25. Nurse Anesthetists

  • Risk score: 70.8
  • Average income: $167,950
  • Number employed: 43,520
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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24. Medical Assistants

  • Risk score: 72.2
  • Average income: $33,610
  • Number employed: 673,660
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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23. Nursing Assistants

  • Risk score: 72.5
  • Average income: $28,540
  • Number employed: 1,450,960
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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22. Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

  • Risk score: 74.9
  • Average income: $27,540
  • Number employed: 89,480
  • Essential. Veterinary health is considered an essential service by the U.S. government.
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21. Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • Risk score: 75.0
  • Average income: $60,220
  • Number employed: 42,660
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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20. Flight Attendants

  • Risk score: 75.6
  • Average income: $56,000
  • Number employed: 118,770
  • Essential. Air transportation workers are considered essential by the U.S. government.
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19. Occupational Therapists

  • Risk score: 77.7
  • Average income: $84,270
  • Number employed: 126,900
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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18. Physical Therapists

  • Risk score: 78.6
  • Average income: $87,930
  • Number employed: 228,600
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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17. Physical Therapist Assistants

  • Risk score: 79.3
  • Average income: $58,040
  • Number employed: 94,250
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

16. Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

  • Risk score: 79.3
  • Average income: $56,850
  • Number employed: 56,560
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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15. Internists, General (Internal Medicine)

  • Risk score: 79.8
  • Average income: $194,500
  • Number employed: 37,820
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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14. Physician Assistants

  • Risk score: 80.0
  • Average income: $108,610
  • Number employed: 114,710
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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13. Physical Therapist Aides

  • Risk score: 80.3
  • Average income: $26,240
  • Number employed: 47,260
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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12. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

  • Risk score: 80.4
  • Average income: $72,510
  • Number employed: 71,130
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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11. Surgical Technologists

  • Risk score: 80.6
  • Average income: $47,300
  • Number employed: 110,160
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

10. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

  • Risk score: 82.1
  • Average income: $46,240
  • Number employed: 701,690
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.

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9. Radiologic Technicians

  • Risk score: 84.1
  • Average income: $59,520
  • Number employed: 205,590
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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8. Respiratory Therapists

  • Risk score: 84.2
  • Average income: $60,280
  • Number employed: 129,600
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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7. Registered Nurses

  • Risk score: 86.1
  • Average income: $71,730
  • Number employed: 2,951,960
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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6. Family and General Practitioners

  • Risk score: 90.1
  • Average income: $201,100
  • Number employed: 114,130
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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5. Orderlies (Patient Care Assistants)

  • Risk score: 90.2
  • Average income: $28,060
  • Number employed: 50,100
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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4. Dentists, General

  • Risk score: 92.1
  • Average income: $151,850
  • Number employed: 113,000
  • Essential. Although all healthcare professionals are considered essential by the the U.S. government, many dental offices chose to shut down or limit patients to emergency appointments during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most have re-opened, but many still have limited appointments and stringent safety and sanitation protocols in place.
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3. Dental Assistants

  • Risk score: 92.5
  • Average income: $38,660
  • Number employed: 341,060
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential, though many dental practices chose to shut down or limit patients to emergency appointments during the early stages of the pandemic.
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2. Respiratory Therapy Technicians

  • Risk score: 95.0
  • Average income: $60,280
  • Number employed: 129,600
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential.
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1. Dental Hygienists

  • Risk score: 99.7
  • Average income: $74,820
  • Number employed: 215,150
  • Essential. The U.S. government considers all healthcare providers to be essential, though many dental practices chose to shut down or limit patients to emergency appointments during the early stages of the pandemic.

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Jordan Rosenfeld contributed to the reporting for this article.

To determine the 50 jobs that are the most dangerous in terms of contracting the coronavirus, GOBankingRates sourced data from Visual Capitalist. The site used information from the Occupational Information Network to calculate a “COVID-19 risk score” based on three factors: (1) how much the job requires contact with others; (2) how much the job requires tasks to be performed in close proximity to others; and (3) how often the job requires exposure to hazardous conditions. Scores ranged from zero to 100, with 100 being the highest risk. Data on each occupation’s average annual income and number of employees was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data gathered by Visual Capitalist. Information on whether the dangerous job is considered to be essential or nonessential is based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on essential workers, plus reporting on which businesses and services closed during initial shutdowns because they were deemed nonessential.