While there are only a relatively scarce 10,000 cell tower climbers nationwide, these daring scramblers have a death rate about ten times higher than construction workers, according to a 2012 report by Pro Publica and PBS's Frontline. The bad news doesn't end there: In 2008, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration called tower climbing the most dangerous job in America. The Wall Street Journal reported that by August 2013, ten workers had already plunged to their deaths from communications towers this year. Nine of those were on cell towers, a spike attributed to carriers racing to build out their 4G networks.
Even if the thought of hanging hundreds of feet in the air by a thin strap appeals to you, Pro Publica reports that the extreme time crunch under which cell climbers constantly work forces many workers to disregard basic safety procedures. Overnight hours, dangerous working conditions, and poor training have all plagued the profession in the past, despite tower climbing's relatively modest pay of $10 per hour on average.
To top it off, most cell climbers are subcontractors working for other subcontractors working for other subcontractors, to insulate the actual network providers from legal responsibility for the carnage. Geez, thanks.
Apple factory worker
Some of the worst jobs in tech are overseas. The most obviously crappy careers belong to the contractors that build iPhones, iPads, Macs, and more in Chinese factories. Reams have been written about the poor working conditions, riots, and rash of suicides at Foxconn, but working conditions at Pegatron, another major Apple supplier, may be even worse.
To be fair, things aren't much better in most Chinese mega-factories. Samsung and others have been accused of forcing long hours and atrocious conditions on its workers -- some of whom are allegedly underage.
Amazon Mechanical Turk
Amazon's Mechanical Turk program is only tangentially a tech job -- hey, you do it on the Internet! -- but any job that has you manually inputting text from pictures of Walmart receipts or filling out lengthy surveys for mere pennies is worth an honorable mention on any list of crappy tech careers worth its salt. Named after an 18th-century chess "machine" that was actually powered by hidden humans, Mechanical Turk tasks are the kinds of menial chores that are normally left to software bots, but they can't be done by said automatons for one reason or another.
Fortunately, one NYU study found that only a fraction of all Mechanical Turks rely on the site as a primary source of income. It's easy to see why: For all the time spent earning pennies from inane tasks, most Turks take home a whopping $1 to $5 per week.