The ten most embarrassing, exploitative, soul-killing, downright dangerous tech jobs

Think your job stinks? Hope it isn't one of these.

The tech industry's image can seem as sleek and glossy as the products it sells, but as oh-so-many of us know, geek isn't always synonymous with glamour. In fact, some tech careers are wretched: soul-killing factory work, mind-numbing support gigs, and retail positions ranging from embarrassing to exploitative. And then there are the jobs involving serious, physical peril.

Before you start bemoaning your workplace's lack of casual Fridays, take a gander at this list of the ten worst jobs in tech. You may just realize that an annoying cubicle neighbor isn't such a bad deal.

Google content cop

Imagine gawking at the most horrific images you can find online--the kind of stuff that makes 4chan's /b/ board look tame. Now, imagine doing that all day, every day, and you get an idea of what it's like to be a Google contractor tasked with keeping tabs on YouTube and Blogger for inappropriate content.

One ex-Google contractor wrote a piece for BuzzFeed in August 2012, describing a job where he spent nine months--nine months--weeding out images of child porn, sexual fetishes, bestiality, and other offensive imagery. After spending the better part of a year bathed in all that digital horror, the worker says he received little emotional support from the company and was ultimately let go despite being promised a non-contract job.

Microsoft store employee

In 2012, The New York Times claimed that working in an Apple retail store was a rip-off, since employees are paid the slightest, smallest sliver relative to the bucketloads of cash each Apple drone brings in. But even so, most Apple Store employees really, truly like those Macs and iPhones they're hawking--and the ones who don't are really good at faking it.

Compare that to the Microsoft Store above, where employees were shambled and shook in a display of forced exuberance so bad it hurts just to watch. I'm not sure how much you get paid at the Microsoft Store, but the mortification factor of being caught in one of these "impromptu" dance lines should be enough to deter even the most desperate job seeker.

And while I'm at it: Is that woman in the white shirt visible at the 2:10 mark swiping merch, or was she just a Microsoft plant in consumer clothing?

Semiconductor processor

The good news: Semiconductors are still being made in the USA. The bad news: The people who oversee their production are slowly being replaced by job-killing robots.

And that's why, despite the fact that these jobs pay moderately well and require some post-secondary education, employment prospects for semiconductor processors are pretty bleak going forward, according to a Kiplinger report. The business forecasting firm took a look at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and says that job growth for semiconductor processors will shrink even faster than Intel's chip transistors.

IT director

Sure, your job may suck, but CareerBliss says your boss has it even worse. The online jobs site took a look at its user-review data and determined that IT directors loathe their jobs more than anyone else, giving the career the not-so-grand title of the Most Hated Job in America. Sure, the pay is good, but settling endless debates between whether Windows or Linux offers the better server system is liable to drive you nuts.

Fulfillment centers for online retail

Amazon's logo may sport a sly smirk, but the people schlepping boxes in the warehouses of online retailers don't do a lot of smiling, according to a slew of scathing reports like Gawker's True Stories of Life as an Amazon Worker and Mother Jones's I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave.

The tell-alls describe a workplace that continually pushes employees to work faster and faster and faster, where people are forced to work overtime, where it's virtually impossible to chill out and grab some lunch, and where chronic physical injuries are common. All the while, in a point system for poor performance you're racking up points until you're ultimately fired.

RadioShack employee

As bad as the choreographed cha-cha at that Microsoft Store was, working retail can be a lot worse than shuffling around with a Surface--just ask anybody who works at RadioShack.

In June 2012, AOL Jobs looked into the most poorly reviewed retail jobs on Glassdoor.com and found RadioShack ranked among the worst. Shack employees complained of low pay (average hourly wage for sales associates: $7.92) and high pressure to meet sales targets, while managers say their schedules left little time to spend at home. But hey, where else are you going to find a job with enough spare parts to make super-awesome stuff like this?

Technical support specialist/software support engineer

Who ya gonna call when you got ghosts in your machine? Tech support! And they absolutely hate you for it.

In March, CareerBliss said call center workers have the ninth unhappiest job in America, while Salary Explorer ranks technical support specialist as the most boring job in tech, with an overall rating of 2.5 out of 5. Check out PCWorld's guide to dummy-proofing the PCs of your friends and family before your nontechie pals drive those poor tech support workers to drink.

Cell tower climber

Can you hear me screaming now?

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 conditionsriots, 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.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags technologyMicrosoftbusiness issuesGoogleyoutubeTech Events

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?