Life After 'Dirty Jobs': Mike Rowe Busts The Myths About Blue-Collar Work

mike rowe dirty jobs

As fans of "Dirty Jobs" know, the host of the cable TV show, Mike Rowe, has been out of a job since last fall, when the series aired its 169th and final episode. The program's end, after eight seasons, was bittersweet for Rowe, who called it "the most honest show in the history of reality TV."

Rowe, 50, says that he feels good about his current state of unemployment. "I got way busier than I thought I'd ever be with 'Dirty Jobs,' " he tells AOL Jobs. One of his current projects is a website,, which is designed to be a resource center for people looking for more information about careers in trades. In a sense, it carries on the mission of the show, by providing information about the jobs that many Americans would rather not or simply won't do -- and where and how to get them.

Though some 12 million Americans are unemployed, roughly 3 million jobs go unfilled in the U.S. because too few people have the skills necessary to do jobs such as plumbing, welding, electrical, construction and related occupations. "It's a symptom of a bigger problem," Rowe says. "It's the way we look at work. It's the way we approach our vocation and the degree to which we assign our identity to what we do."

Simply put: Too few people are pursuing trades because the work isn't glamorous. What's more, Americans' views on education -- that everyone should pursue a four-year college degree -- further stigmatize blue-collar work. But Rowe says education isn't only found in ivy-covered halls. It's also found in the everyday lives and occupations of the nation's laborers.

More: Mike Rowe of 'Dirty Jobs' Lobbies Lawmakers for More 'Real' Jobs

Rowe, who started his show business career singing for the Baltimore Opera, says that his career has taught him that the youthful notion of "following your passion" isn't the answer for everyone who seeks job satisfaction, but being passionate about the work you do is. Loving what they did was a trait common to all of the workers profiled on "Dirty Jobs," Rowe says.

So what was it like to tackle a new dirty job week after week? Rowe says that, by definition, all of them were fish-out-of-water exploits. "That was the whole point of it; to try and relive or experience each day as though it was your first day on the job," he says. "There's a measure of 'What the hell is going on?' present in all of them -- even the ones that aren't really physically or mentally demanding."

Dirty jobs are different from the kind of work that many Americans typically do, Rowe says. By and large they are still done by people who are generalists. "They are people who can drill a spring well, run electric, run pipe, work on the plumbing, deliver a calf [and more]," he says.

They are workers who look for opportunity and don't concern themselves with where others are headed. Dirty jobs are difficult, and may involve financial risk or any number of unattractive things. But those who thrive doing dirty jobs become excellent at what they do and then "find a way to love it," he says.

Though his life isn't as hectic as it was when "Dirty Jobs" was on the air, Rowe is sanguine about his future, saying, "I've never been afraid of the feeling of not knowing what's going to happen next or the feeling of having more time on my hands than I might be accustomed to."

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Douglas R. Markell

I had a teacher in the 8th grade (about 70 years ago. He was from Minn. and skied at Ely Mn.
I enjoyed the dirty jobs series, I particularly enjoyed Mike Rowe endorsing trade schools, not every one can be doctors or lawyers.
It would seem to me that you folks missed the dirtiest jobs of all of them. It is something we don't talk about. It has to do with the disposal of human beings, retirement and nursing homes. This would be an extremely delicate subject but is something everyone should be made aware of.

September 21 2014 at 8:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe Public

I have a trade {Automotive Mechanical tradesman} and a Degree, Teacher [High School / Vocational School}, and a Tech school diploma.{ Marine Engineering Tech.}. I make my living as a Marine Engineer, but hope to return to Teaching. As I am now in my mid 50's I just can't keep doing a physically demanding job without doing myself further and potentially life altering injury. The knees, back, upper body does not stop ageing at 35 or 40. I don't want to spend most of my retirement in a rehab clinic or worse yet a wheelchair. The majority of my co-workers who have retired in the last several years did so because of serious {generally repetive strain} injury's. Leave the heavy lifting for the young guy's. You may think you are still as capable as the 35-40 year olds, but your body sees thing's differently. I agree that Trades are generally great job's but have an exit plan incase you are one of the ones that don't make it to retirement with a fully functioning body.

August 18 2014 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a post-graduate degree that took me until 33 years of age to get, work in a highly specialized field and make excellent money--and my favorite job ever is still construction. If I could make anywhere near the money doing manual labor that I make doing my current profession, I'd change in a heartbeat. It isn't about the status or prestige--that's what you make it--it's about doing what you feel good about at the end of the day. I'd rather be dirty, sweaty and physically tired at the end of the day than having the mental fatigue and burn-out I feel now. People who denigrate blue collar jobs are self-deluding idiots.

March 08 2013 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are many good workers in this Country. But mandatory college education is keeping many of them from being able to put their work ethic and their skills to use. The push for education is really hurting this Country.

March 05 2013 at 9:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only work I have ever done was manual labor. I don’t have any college degree. Now even the manual labor jobs require some college education. How stupid is that.

March 05 2013 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am convinced education is one of the biggest scams of our day. Not so long ago, I heard about a man with a college degree. And the only job he could find was dressing up in a chicken suit and walking around in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

March 05 2013 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm probably one of the few plumbers in the area (Nashville) with a BA. I've been in the trenches for 40 years now. It IS hard work, with the result that you do get worn out. Although I never planned on being a turd-tech, I have come to see how it can be challenging on an intellectual level, as strange to a Mensa member as that may seem. I wish I could find a young man that now would come under my wing and understand that you CAN use your brain and your brawn every day in this profession. Sadly, there a few that want to do so.

March 05 2013 at 7:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's simply too much emphasis on going college and getting a degree. We can't all doctors, lawyers or executives. People are needed for the industry that's where the jobs are at today. Stop pushing college.

March 05 2013 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Years ago, there were in Junior high Schools, and High Schools classes that dealt specifically with the skilled trades. Then, the Gov't came along and said Computers are the way forward, so we will give you grants, and you can use them to set up computer labs, and America's youth can learn a useful skill for the job market.
This was all well, and good, but to have a place to put these labs, the schools scrapped their shop classes, and have since been turning out hoards of young folks who can do most anything with a computer, but can't hammer a nail, or cut a piece of wood, or sew on a button, or cook. (hot pockets, and microwaves don't count as cooking) There is no balance to the curriculum in today's school systems. Is it really a wonder why the Asian Nations are taking over manufacturing when they are the ones who still consider it to be an important part of learning.

March 05 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


America is becoming too comfortable in things that provide us instant gratification, kids are not being challenged at schools.. and everything is too hard to do!!..everything has to be done easier..
I believe we enjoy the things we do because we earn them we value them. If we keep GIVING true value of things will never be appreciated... Wait wait... Sex is totally not a part of this !!! I appreciate that whenever I can get it .. Honeeeeyy!! where are you !!??!?!?!?! Yeah right I'll get lucky next X mas I guess!! Ugh!

March 04 2013 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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