This article was originally published on CareerBuilder’s blog under the title “America’s Unsung Heroes.”
From the food you eat and the water you drink to the roads and cables that keep you connected, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that affects your life daily. This Fourth of July, CareerBuilder and Emsi are saluting those everyday American heroes we can’t live without, with a closer look at their critical occupations.
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
- Number employed: 494,879
- Ratio to US population: 1 farmer for every 654 people
- Median income: $30,597
- Why we can’t live without them: Farms are responsible for most, if not all, food found in your pantry and refrigerators. Not only that, but according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, 97% of farms are family-owned.
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
- Number employed: 113,370
- Ratio to US population: 1 operator for every 2,856 people
- Median income: $45,968
- Why we can’t live without them: Clean, drinkable water is easy to take for granted—after all, for most of us, it’s just a faucet-turn away. But to move water from one place to another requires a lot of equipment, constant monitoring, cleaning, and frequent testing of water samples.
- Number employed: 4,031,658
- Ration to US population: 1 teacher for every 80 people
- Median income: $55,557
- Why we can’t live without them: Teachers play a crucial role in preparing our children for adulthood and, on a largere scale, shaping the minds of the next generation. This number includes teachers from kindergarten through secondary education, including special education.
- Number employed: 1,335,944
- Ratio to US population: 1 construction worker for every 242 people
- Median income: $31,658
- Why we can’t live without them: Imagine doing all of your normal daily tasks, only outside or in whatever shelter you managed to build for yourself. It’s safe to say it’d be a lot more difficult. Thankfully, we have skilled construction workers who build our bridges, skyscrapers, houses, and just about everything else.
Electrical and telecommunications line installers and repairers
- Number employed: 238,922
- Ratio to US population: 1 line worker for every 1,355 people
- Median income: $60,965
- Why we can’t live without them: Electronic devices are part of our everyday lives. Cables travel long distances from power stations to provide electricity and phone communications to almost every structure in the US. When the power goes out, we also rely on these workers to locate and fix the problem as quickly as possible.
Refuse and recyclable material collectors
- Number employed: 134,250
- Ratio to US population: 1 collector for every 2,412 people
- Median income: $34,258
- Why we can’t live without them: Researchers from Yale University estimated that Americans throw out about five pounds of trash per person per day. That’s a lot of garbage we don’t want crowding our streets, so we need these individuals to keep our neighborhoods sanitary.
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Number employed: 675,939
- Ratio to US population: 1 officer for every 479 people
- Median income: $60,466
- Why we can’t live without them: Police officers across the country respond to emergency situations at a moment’s notice, apprehend criminals, and maintain order and community safety every day.
EMTs, paramedics, and ambulance drivers
- Number employed: 266,853
- Ratio to US population: 1 worker for every 1,214 people
- Median income: $32,510
- Why we can’t live without them: Emergency situations do happen, but we don’t need to spend our lives worrying about them thanks to the trained professionals whose job it is to move fast, think quickly, and save lives. Workers in these professions provide emergency medical treatment and patient transportation to medical facilities in dire situations.
- Number employed: 314,928
- Ratio to US population: 1 firefighter for every 1,028 people
- Median income: $48,859
- Why we can’t live without them: Firefighters keep communities safe from one of the most destructive natural forces on the planet. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires were responsible for 3,275 civilian deaths and $11.5 billion in property damage in 2014.
- Number employed: 2,870,340
- Ratio to US population: 1 nurse for every 113 people
- Median income: $69,077
- Why we can’t live without them: Doctors may get most of the credit, but nurses are the real lifeblood of most medical operations from hospitals and nursing homes to home care. Registered nurses typically interact with patients more frequently than doctors and provide hands-on assistance in a number of ways.
- Number employed: 2,098,652
- Ratio to US population: 1 military member for every 154 people
- Median income: $35,194
- Why we can’t live without them: These heroes protect Americans on a daily basis on various fronts. The US military has enough professions to ensure our safety in any situation. While some operate in combat and training capacities, others operate transport vehicles or provide medical services or legal assistance.
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
- Number employed: 1,926,886
- Ratio to US population: 1 truck driver for every 168 people
- Median income: $39,312
- Why we can’t live without them: Goods of all kinds—from crops grown in other parts of the country to specialized medicines produced in a small number of factories—need to be distributed across the country for sale or delivery. Most products and packages are driven on trucks between cities or states or even cross-country.