Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It was the best of jobs, it was the worst of jobs...

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal published a listing, compiled by Len Krantz and put out by CareerCast.com, of the best and worst jobs "out there." (Note: Access to content may require a subscription.)
Well, who doesn't like a good list, let alone one that talks about jobs.
The study...evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress.
Krantz drew on data Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, studies done by trade association, and his "own expertise," so there's obviously nothing supremely scientific about the list.

Still, it's interesting to look at what he came up with.

According to Krantz, here are the twenty best jobs:
The Best
1. Mathematician
2. Actuary
3. Statistician
4. Biologist
5. Software Engineer
6. Computer Systems Analyst
7. Historian
8. Sociologist
9. Industrial Designer
10. Accountant
11. Economist
12. Philosopher
13. Physicist
14. Parole Officer
15. Meteorologist
16. Medical Laboratory Technician
17. Paralegal Assistant
18. Computer Programmer
19. Motion Picture Editor
20. Astronomer
Well, it certainly looks like it pays to be good with numbers, doesn't it? What with those top three jobs, plus economist and accountant in there.

Techies and scientists are also right up there. (What else is new?)

What really jumps out at me from this list is that they state that, in coming up with it, the employment outlook is factored in.

Sure, software engineers, parole officers, and medical laboratory techs would logically seem to have healthy growth - especially parole officers, given our national urge to incarcerate.

But where, pray tell, is the demand for historians, sociologists, and philosophers coming from?

Especially philosophers.

I understand that the job would score some points because it's not exactly physically demanding or stressful. Hey, I can think great thoughts about the meaning of life while in the shower or lying in bed. And what does it matter if I don't get those great thoughts right? Nobody gets hurt - unless your great thoughts turn to nihilistic, violent political theorizing, and you manage to get yourself appointed dictator. (Or to religious theorizing that sets your religion up as the one and only, but let's not go there.)

But how, precisely, does a plain old philosopher get paid? Unless they're teaching, and there can't be all that much demand for philosophy teachers. Who's letting their kids major in philosophy these days?

Sociologist is another interesting position in the top twenty.

I was a sociology major, and maybe I should have stuck with it.

The article talks about some guy making well over $100K for a 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. job at the Department of Agriculture, studying hunger from his desk, where, he admits "The main occupational hazard is carpal tunnel syndrome." Sort of like blogging - only I haven't quite figured out how to get paid for it, let alone how to get a pension ou of it.

It's not the salary that's so attractive for the job  as sociologist. It's the idea that the government is pretty much the only place you can count on these days for a pension. (At least until the citizen taxpayers decide that they're no longer willing to foot the bill for a benefit that they no longer enjoy. Not that I'm looking forward to that day - the spite and venom that will be unleashed will be no fun to witness - but, I'm afeered, that day is coming.)

And just how many motion picture editors does the economy require?

As for the worst, these jobs pretty much speak for themselves - and for the most part, the word they speak is "ugh."

The Worst
200. Lumberjack
199. Dairy Farmer 
198. Taxi Driver
197. Seaman
196. EMT
195. Garbage Collector
194. Welder
193. Roustabout
192. Ironworker
191. Construction Worker
190. Mail Carrier
189. Sheet Metal Worker
188. Auto Mechanic
187. Butcher
186. Nuclear Decontamination Tech
185. Nurse (LN)
183. Child Care Worker
182. Firefighter
181. Brick Layer
Most of them are physically demanding and/or dangerous and/or smelly (garbage collector, child care worker, dairy farmer).

I feel especially bad for mail carriers in the snow-belt this time of year. It's been a very rough winter, and with so much ice on the sidewalks, the broken hip hazard must be immense.

Nurse and EMT are jobs I wouldn't expect to find among the worst. Not as long as there are still jobs that entail working in a chicken factory or fish cannery.

Yes, nursing and EMT-ing are stressful and physically demanding, but I would think that the feel-good benefits - and the fact that, at least with nursing, there are shortages, and the salary has been bid up - might at least balance things out. I'd certainly rather be a nurse or EMT than a nuclear decontamination tech, roustabout, or butcher.

Since Krantz applied his own insight to developing this list, I took the liberty of using my own to come up with what would be my idea of the best and worst jobs.

Personal Best
  1. Newspaper columnist - Yes, newspapers are going bye-bye, but this would be my absolutely ideal job.
  2. Grant administrator - Sure, it wouldn't be pure joy to turn worthy causes down, but I know I would enjoy reading applications, vetting causes, and awarding those grants. (Is there a foundation out there that could use my services?)
  3. Librarian - Hanging around books all day, answering questions and going "sshhhhh." I'm there.
Personal Worst
  1. Ironworker - I have supreme fear of heights.
  2. Chicken factory worker - Smelly, boring, dangerous, ill paid.
  3. Walmart greeter - Well, it might not be particularly smelly or dangerours, but talk about boring and ill paid. At least they don't have to wear the vests anymore.


John said...

I'm surprised that auto mechanic is on the worst list. Seems to me that it involves regular pay, it's in demand as long as people have cars, it's can be mentally stimulating (problem solving, etc.) and it's not terribly dirty or dangerous - not the way, say, dealing with animal entrails is. For those with an aptitude for it, I would expect it to be pretty satisfying (I mean, people work on cars for fun...)

The C-Suite Executive Assistant said...

Please allow me to add a category: "Least appreciative job": Executive Assistant.

Maureen Rogers said...

John - I was kind of surprised by mechanic, as well.

As for the Exec Ass't: I'd probably agree that it's under-appreciated, but I would think it would be a pretty good job.

That reminds me, on that list of jobs that would be ideal for myself, I should have put "second in command" or "internal consultant".

Rick said...

I remember thirty-some years ago when I was going to school, a neighbor in my apartment building, a recent college graduate, telling me that she was going to hold out until she got what she said was her ideal job, that of an "appreciator". It would entail reading books, attending movies, visiting museums, and so forth, and developing opinions on these things which she would teach to busy executives who wanted to appear cultured and well rounded but couldn't spare the time to do any of that themselves. Nice work if you can get it, but I think she had to compromise her ideals and take something else instead.

Jerry said...

When I saw the list, I couldn't help but notice that it looked more like blue collar VS white collar. I can not believe that the person who came up with this is anywhere close to objective. There are several "best jobs" that I see as unmarketable and low demand positions. On the other hand plumbers, carpenters, and auto mechanics are reasonably well paid and in high demand.

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Title: Hospital Jobs
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