The Toughest Service Industry Jobs

List Rules
Vote up the most stressful gigs.

The toughest service industry jobs are those that deal with the general public. These occupations are physically and mentally demanding, and the pay is rarely decent. In fact, a Southern Medical University study found that demanding jobs are among the most detrimental to mental and physical health. This means people who work as baristas and call center employees may deal with more stress than a neurosurgeon.  

Unless you’ve worked a service industry job, there are some things you’ll never understand. The work is difficult, but the bonds you develop with co-workers are deep. You’ll absolutely have some crazy employee stories, but the laughs may not be worth the lack of job satisfaction.


  • 1
    150 VOTES

    Septic Tank Servicer

    Septic Tank Servicer
    Photo: SuSanA Secretariat / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    If you're having trouble with your sewage system, a septic tank servicer comes to help. Dealing with sewage is easier than it was in the past, but technicians still have to get their hands dirty. They climb into small, unsanitary places and do all sorts of he dirty work. Plus, they have to deal with frustrated home owners. Richard Rosano, owner of R.W. Rosano Excavation and Septic Specialists, said hiring for his latest tank servicer position took nine months because the job was so intensive. The starting hourly wage was $17.

  • 2
    131 VOTES

    Window Washer

    Window Washer
    Photo: Adam_Jones / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Window washers have behind-the-scenes service jobs that almost always involve scary heights. Window washers also face daily exposure to chemicals, weather, and other malignant elements. Injury rates are high; about eight window washers in New York City are involved in accidents each year, and 75 died on the job there between 1983 and 2008. 

    These workers must all deal with the pressure of being watched by people on the other side of the windows.

  • 3
    172 VOTES

    Call Center Employee

    Call Center Employee
    Photo: Marcin Monko / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    When your laptop is permanently frozen, your bank lands you with a random fee, or the cable is out for the hundredth time, you may be outraged as you call the 800 number for help. But the person on the other end of the phone isn't the person who caused the problem. In fact, they are trying to help you.

    Working in a call center is hard. By default, every person you speak to either has an issue with your service, or you have to sell them something. On the sales end of the industry, the job can make you feel like you're taking advantage of people. One call center employee noted: 

    The worst experience was [taking calls at the] credit card company because most of the people were elderly and I felt bad selling them an online credit card they probably wouldn't use. I quit that job about two weeks after I started because I had morals.

  • 4
    172 VOTES

    Restaurant Server

    Restaurant Server
    Photo: Alpha / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Being a restaurant server is tiring. Research has shown that while highly lauded jobs may seem challenging, work-related stress is largely dependent on whether or not your job allows you to feel in control and respected. Dealing with rude, demanding restaurant clientele, is emotionally draining work, and servers can't really expect to be in control of their work environments. 

    On top of that, serving is also physically demanding. Food service employees who track their steps claim to walk at least six miles per shift while carrying heavy plates and trays.