Best and worst jobs

A rather amusing ranking of jobs in the US. The rationale is explained, if you really want to know, with a mix of remuneration and working conditions.

To quantify the many facets of the 200 jobs included in our report, we determined and reviewed various critical aspects of all of the jobs, categorizing them into five “Core Criteria;” that is, the general categories that are inherent to every job: Environment, Income, Outlook, Stress and Physical Demands.

Top and bottom
1. Mathematician………………….200. Lumberjack
2. Actuary………………………….199. Dairy Farmer
3. Statistician……………………..198. Taxi Driver
4. Biologist ………………………..197. Seaman
5. Software Engineer……………..196. EMT
6. Computer Systems Analyst…..195. Garbage Collector
7. Historian………………………..194. Welder
8. Sociologist …………………….193. Roustabout
9. Industrial Designer…………….192. Ironworker
10. Accountant……………………191. Construction Worker
11. Economist……………………..190. Mail Carrier
12. Philosopher……………………189. Sheet Metal Worker
13. Physicist………………………188. Auto Mechanic
14. Parole Officer ………………..187. Butcher
15. Meteorologist…………………186. Nuclear Decontamination Tech

Good to see the economist ahead of the philosopher, the physicist, the parole officer….and Homer Simpson at 186. Not hard to see the dairy farmer near the bottom, tied to the milking shed morning and night for most of the year. But the lumberjack? Dangerous maybe, but what experience in life matches the satisfaction of leaning back on your axe to watch a proud forest giant crash to earth?

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15 years ago

Me? 4/5/6 (although not working as biologist for a long time)

15 years ago

Here’s some fun related surveys and data points

And another survey which crossed my desk last year (which I don’t have to hand right now) claimed the people most pleased with their jobs were film directors and scientists.

At this point one could start speculating about the semantic and emotional differences between ‘vocation’, ‘calling’ and ‘career’.

15 years ago

“…but what experience in life matches the satisfaction of leaning back on your axe to watch a proud forest giant crash to earth?”

Axe? You don’t know many lumberjacks these days do you?

What is interesting though about the surveys we’ve both linked to or mentioned is that remuneration does not seem to be the presiding factor in measuring the quality of your job. Exercising your mind and helping people seem to be the main common denominators.

15 years ago

Interesting to note how many of the top 15 are likely to be jobs on the public payroll.

Also interesting how many are unlikely to impress the opposite sex…hey good-looking, I bet you’ve never dated an actuary…

15 years ago

(Apologies for being blatantly heterosexualist…but I couldn’t think of good turn of phrase that doesn’t assume anything about the relative sex of your prospective romantic relationships.)

15 years ago

That’s ok, NPOV, I forgive you!

15 years ago

\o/ Suck it computer systems analysts.

Stephen Hill
15 years ago

“An actuary is a person who is good with figures but too dull and boring to be an accountant.”

What there are people duller than accountants? Mind you I have known a couple of actuaries, I have to admire the savant-like qualities of these people (also they earn enough money to be able to pay off their home in five years). Accountancy being more a process-oriented job, results in a job description which doesn’t offer much for the intellectually curious (unless you were working for Arthur Anderson).

Fascinating that jobs like cleaner, call centre operator, dish-washer, warden are not in the bottom criteria – it seems to be mainly physical jobs.

15 years ago

What’s an EMT?

Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“Whats an EMT?”

It’s American for ambo basically.

Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“Emergency Medical Technician”

15 years ago

Environment, Income, Outlook, Stress and Physical Demands.

I doubt there could be any physical activity more damaging to your health than sitting mostly imobile behind a desk for long hours (other factors being equal such as air-quality, etc).

15 years ago

Forget about the axing of forest giants, its the opportunity to “press wild flow’rs put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars” that attracts some lumberjacks.

15 years ago

And Homer Simpson comes in stone motherless last.

James Rice
15 years ago

It’s good to see the sociologist ahead of the economist!

Sociologist have been ranking occupations for decades. Initially they started with rankings of occupational prestige, largely because of the link between occupational prestige and the giving and receiving of deference in social relationships. In Australia sociologists haven’t conducted surveys of occupational prestige for quite a while – the last one was conducted in 1978-1979 by Ann Daniel, who reported her findings in the book Power, Privilege And Prestige: Occupations In Australia (Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1983).

The 30 most prestigious of the approximately 160 occupations ranked in this study were, in decreasing order of prestige:

Cabinet minister
Medical specialist
Church leader
General practitioner
Managing director
General, army
International pilot
Department head, government
Solicitor, male
Engineer, professional
Research scientist
Solicitor, female
Veterinary surgeon
University lecturer
Bank manager
Government medical officer
School principal
Chartered accountant
Owner large business
Government legal officer

(It’s interesting to note that being a male solicitor was more prestigious than being a female solicitor, at least in 1978-1979.)

The 30 least prestigious occupations ranked in this study were, in decreasing order of prestige:

Professional punter
Clerk, junior
Bus driver
Sales assistant
Truck driver
Domestic worker
Debt collector
Car assembly worker
Farm labourer
Service station attendant
Process worker
Builder’s labourer
Ticket collector
Seasonal labourer
Massage parlour operator
Garbage collector
Road sweeper

(Again, it’s interesting to note that being a waiter is more prestigious than being a waitress and being a barman is more prestigious than being a barmaid, at least in 1978-1979.)

On average, being a housewife was ranked towards the middle in terms of prestige. There was so much variation in how people ranked this occupation, however, that Daniel herself concluded that being a housewife in and of itself had little impact on prestige – the relative prestige of housewives depended on other factors apart from their occupation as housewives.

Obviously 1978-1979 is a long time ago and the occupational structure and the labour market in Australia have changed significantly since then, in ways that may affect the prestige of occupations. On the other hand the prestige of occupations does tend to be remarkably resilient across time and place. In any case, sociologists have not conducted surveys of occupational prestige in Australia in more recent times.

Actually, the ranking mentioned in the original post would have been improved if it had included a measure of occupational prestige, since the prestige you receive through your occupation is likely to be a significant determinant of the overall attractiveness of your occupation. Prestige – like income – is one of the extrinsic rewards an occupation can give you.

James Rice
15 years ago

Perhaps I should mention that sociologists have continued to develop rankings of occupations in more recent times, although their focus has shifted away from occupational prestige. One way in which these rankings have been developed is through combining information on the education and income of people in various occupations. Education and income have been used either because of their close association with prestige or else because of their close link with occupation, with occupation being viewed as the conduit through which education is converted into income. Another way in which sociologists have developed rankings of occupations is through analyses of patterns of social interaction between people in different occupations. For example, occupational rankings have been developed on the basis of the extent of friendship networks between occupations, or on the basis of patterns of intermarriage between occupations.

One of my partner’s research interests is actually the development of these kinds of occupational rankings. The most recent Australian examples of these were developed by her in collaboration with other sociologists – see F L Jones and Julie McMillan (2001) “Scoring Occupational Categories For Social Research: A Review Of Current Practice, With Australian Examples” Work, Employment And Society, 15(3), pages 539-563. A new Australian ranking will be published later in the year, in Julie McMillan, Adrian Beavis, and F L Jones (2009) “The AUSEI06: A New Socioeconomic Index For Australia” Journal Of Sociology, 45(2).

As an aside, there are other ways of understanding the stratification order in contemporary societies apart from occupational rankings, of course. One of the most well-known (at least in sociological circles around the world), and one I like, is the typology of class locations developed by Erik Olin Wright. For more on class, exploitation, authority, skills, and the parable of the shmoo, see “Class Analysis”, chapter 1 of Wright’s book Class Counts: Comparative Studies In Class Analysis (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997).

15 years ago

An actuary is a person who is good with figures but too dull and boring to be an accountant.

And an economist has the brains to be an accountant but not the personality.

Homer Simpson is the Safety Inspector at the Nuke Plant btw. Which is porbably why being a Decontamination Tech is such a shit job. I’d say working in an abbatoir is worse than a lot of those jobs. I’d also say that mathematicians and philosophers should bloody get a proper one. :)

Baltic breeze
Baltic breeze
15 years ago

Looking at all the posts on this site it looks like none have grasped what blogging is meant to be about. Throwing out statements and quoting others without insight is spineless. Club Troppo is the perfect name for it.

Nic Gruen can’t seriously be published in the Fin Review. If you are I think you better lift your game before you get dumped from them. Your blog about Carbon reduction follows spoiler tactics like the Opposition Leader and Russia.

Everyone else needs to stop spinning wheels on dribble and use your brains to contribute some value to this world and especially people with less opportunity than you have. You are all a bunch of pussies.

Just so typically this particular blog is about occupations. Have you all ever thought about being a business owner rather than being some employee chump. Get with the program and read something Like Michael Porter’s On Competition page 7.

15 years ago

it looks like none have grasped what blogging is meant to be about

Do let me ramble about synchronous serial cards, hopefully I get to the point sometime. Synchronous serial is a communications relic from the age of steam, but it has become a standard. If you order a frame-relay line in Australia, they will deliver an SDSL modem on the end of a twisted copper pair, and the modem will have a V.35 interface. Ethernet is obviously cheaper, faster, easier to use and better featured but still V.35 is the standard. Long ago the actual line would have been sync serial, now it’s really SDSL pretending to be sync serial.

One of the earliest sync-serial cards with Linux support was the widespread and well respected Cyclades PC300. Then Cyclades decided to drop the PC300 and now they are almost impossible to buy. I was paid to find an alternative, and it turns out that sell something very nearly a drop-in replacement clone (also with excellent Linux support). Being conscientious I also researched various other options such as Farsync and Sangoma “Wanpipe”. The Goramo card was the cheapest, and the most compatible with the existing system. The decision makers in question (might be best not to mention any names) went with Sangoma (at nearly double the price per card, plus additional retooling costs) for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, Sangoma has an Australian agent who is pretty good with getting back on quotes and ships promptly. Also, Sangoma is a bigger company, an American company, who also provide Linux support, and has better documentation, and gives a feeling of confidence. Goramo will direct-ship from Poland (which is slow, and requires going through Australia’s import process) and their documentation is like this:

In short, Goramo just didn’t seem trustworthy, regardless of how good their products are and how good their prices are. It’s not even like the people in question are the type of people to never take risks, they just take carefully calculated risks and not too much risk all at once. The sync-serial cards tend to be installed in locations where downtime is highly detrimental so spending a bit of extra money for the perception of a more reliable (American) option seems sensible.

Anyhow, good luck with your Latvian commerce.

James Rice
15 years ago

I doubt there could be any physical activity more damaging to your health than sitting mostly imobile behind a desk for long hours (other factors being equal such as air-quality, etc).

It’s certainly true that sitting at a desk for long periods isn’t great for your health, although it’s also true that many physically demanding jobs involve little of the aerobic, cardiovascular exercise which is most beneficial to health. Actually, there is a well-known social gradient in health, disease, and death. For example, here are some standardised mortality ratios for ischaemic heart disease derived from a study of men aged 25-64 years in New South Wales between 1984 and 1988 (average rate = 100).

Professionals: 66
Managers and administrators: 79
Para-professionals: 92
Clerks: 94
Salespersons and personal service workers: 97
Tradespersons: 113
Labourers and related workers: 118
Plant and machine operators: 125

In other words, this study suggests that plant and machine operators die from ischaemic heart disease at about twice the rate that professionals do.

Some of these differences are explained by differences in lifestyle (for example, diet and smoking). Nevertheless, the social gradient in health seems to persist even after a variety of lifestyle-related factors have been controlled for. Here are some relative risks of death from coronary heart disease – derived from a study of British civil servants – after a range of lifestyle-related factors such as smoking, systolic blood pressure, plasma cholesterol concentration, and blood sugar, as well as age and height, have been controlled for (administrators = 1.0).

Administrators: 1.0
Professional/Executive: 1.5
Clerical: 1.7
Other (mainly unskilled manual workers): 2.1

In other words, the social gradient in death from coronary heart disease persists even after various lifestyle-related factors have been controlled for.

A range of other explanations have been offered for this social gradient in health, in addition to the lifestyle explanation. These include explanations that focus on levels of control and levels of stress at work, access to supportive social relationships (which are protective of health), and exposure to adverse conditions during childhood.

Another speculative explanation links the social gradient in health, disease, and death to factors like social status and prestige, which sociologists have been studying for a very long time. According to this explanation, human beings are extremely sensitive to their social environments and to their places within these environments. In particular, the experience of living as a person with a relatively low social status leads to comparatively high levels of prolonged stress. Conversely, the experience of living as a person with a relatively high social status leads to relatively low levels of prolonged stress. In short, it’s stressful to have a low social status. (Experiments have been conducted on non-human primates in which high and low status animals receive the same diet and live in the same compounds. Apparently these experiments have uncovered clear stress effects of social position.) Higher levels of prolonged stress, in turn, lead to higher rates of disease and death.

(I know this is uncalled for, but here are some short pieces on these topics, just in case anyone’s interested.

Gavin Turrell (1995) “Social Class And Health: A Summary Of The Overseas And Australian Evidence” pages 113-142 in Gillian M Lupton and Jake M Najman (eds) Sociology Of Health And Illness: Australian Readings, 2nd edn, Melbourne: Macmillan Publishers Australia.

Richard G Wilkinson (2006) “Ourselves And Others – For Better Or Worse: Social Vulnerability And Inequality” pages 341-357 in Michael Marmot and Richard G Wilkinson (eds) Social Determinants Of Health, 2nd edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Richard Wilkinson and Michael Marmot (eds) (2003) Social Determinants Of Health: The Solid Facts, 2nd edn, Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office For Europe.)