Want to Become an NYC Sanitation Worker? If You’re Lucky, It’ll Only Take Seven Years


The race to join New York’s Strongest is about to begin. The New York City Sanitation Department exam, which will be held in February 2015, is open for applicants until the end of the month.

Getting in with the crew, though, sounds like a lottery — or some kind of Kafkaesque shit-show — only with feats of strength.

First, you’ve got to be 17 and a half years old with a high school diploma to be eligible for the exam. And you’ll have some competition: If 2007 — the last time the test was administered — was any indication, you’ll be taking it with more than 30,000 other people.

If you pass the test in February, you get to take another test, one of physical strength, known as the “Superman” test, which involves lugging around 30-pound trashcans and may or may not have caused heart attacks. You’re then placed on yet another list and ranked according to your overall scores. Along with the written and physical tests, you’ll have to pass a medical exam and possess a commercial driver’s license. And once you’ve done all that…keep waiting.


The list won’t even go into effect until February of 2016, when the last list — compiled from prospective sanitation employees who passed the exam seven years ago — expires.

Usually, the sanitation exam happens every four years. But because of a hiring freeze, the city has postponed any tests until now, to give more employees from the 2007-era list a chance to get the gigs.

“In 2007, about 32,000 took the test, and about 29,000 passed. Hiring depends on the needs of the department, but we could hire about 500 per year,” says a spokesperson. “We are approaching list number 6,000 from the current list.”

Potential employees on the bottom of that 2007-era list are encouraged to take the written test again this February. In other words, the Department of Sanitation expects that some people will wait for these jobs for more than nine years.

If you’re 17, a long wait is par for the course — you have to be 21 to get your commercial driver’s license, so even if your number comes up on the list, you won’t get a job. You will, however, be able to get your status on the list “reinstated” when you’re of age.

If you pass all these requirements, the years sweep by, you get that final call, and you still want the job, then you begin four weeks of training at the city’s sanitation academy in Brooklyn. And there’s a lot to learn. From the Times:

The equipment that sanitation workers use…can be every bit as intricate as the gear on a fire engine. At the academy, one group of students was being trained in how to work a front-end loader, which is used to move heavy materials, like snow, salt, dirt and other debris. Operating the vehicle requires manipulating three pedals, two levers and a steering wheel that controls the body and front axle at once.

It’s tough, thankless work, but the DSNY exam is the most popular civil service exam in the city, according to the Daily News. Sanitation workers’ salaries start at $33,746 per year, according to the department’s website; after five and a half years, workers get $69,339.

And hey, to all of you who jump through the hoops and jump off the truck to deal with our shit — thanks. You make this city work.


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