Seeking a Job? Math Whizzes Rejoice; Wordsmiths Beware

CareerCast’s annual report lists ‘best’ and ‘worst’ jobs of 2017

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie April 27, 2017

​Good with numbers?

Then you'll probably have no trouble finding a well-paying, stable job in today's economy. Statistician, mathematician and operations research analyst—all jobs that require solid math skills—are among the best jobs of 2017, according to CareerCast's annual Jobs Rated report on the best and worst jobs in the U.S.

Comfortable crawling around in confined spaces and coming face to face with rodents?

Then you may be suited to pest control. That job—along with firefighting, news reporting and military service—was ranked among the worst of 2017, thanks to low pay, high pressure, poor working conditions, and declining or relatively flat growth prospects.

The report, released Thursday ranked 200 jobs across several industry sectors, using the key metrics of growth outlook, income, environmental conditions and stress.

"The demand for workers with math skills spans a variety of professions and industries, including marketing, banking, government, sports, retail and health care," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based company that hosts an online job search portal and publishes career management and HR advice. "Those with math and analytic skills are highly prized for their ability to develop solutions [or] uncover hidden solutions to business challenges."

Statistician tops the best jobs list, with an annual median salary of $80,110, and a growth projection of 34 percent in the next seven years.

[SHRM members-only resource: Salary Survey Directory]

Computer jobs also dominate the best list. Information security analyst, at No. 4, is the highest-rated job in the technology field. Software engineer, with a $100,690 annual median salary and a growth outlook of 17 percent, is No. 8.

"From celebrity photos being leaked to the breaches of major companies, and even the ongoing controversy surrounding the 2016 presidential campaign, the protection of cloud-based data is one of the most important jobs in this day and age," CareerCast noted in a press release.

Three health care careers made the best jobs list: No. 2, medical services manager; No. 9, occupational therapist; and No. 10, speech pathologist.

Jobs that Are Stressful, Dangerous or Just Plain Icky


Newspaper reporter and news broadcaster were the top two "worst" jobs—although not just for the reasons one might expect. While news reporters have for years suffered from low pay, declining readership and viewership, and a dim job growth outlook, some of them are now under increased pressure to step up their game.

Kensing pointed out that the advent of misleading stories, or "fake" news, means that "the value of trained, professional newspaper reporters and broadcasters has taken on heightened importance recently.

"The prevalence of purposefully misleading stories on social media platforms has become so problematic," he said. "With audiences already inundated by information, traditional newspaper reporters and news broadcasters must be especially diligent in establishing and maintaining credibility against false information." 

The advertising salesperson—No. 7 on the worst list—earns, on average, less than $50,000 a year and must work in a fiercely competitive environment at a time when advertising venues like the traditional media are on the decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 3 percent decline in jobs for advertising sales representatives.

Several jobs that can be dangerous landed on the worst list.

Loggers—No. 3 on the list—face a higher fatality rate than any other worker, according to CareerCast. They earn an annual median salary of $36,210 and face a 4 percent decline in job growth.

Firefighters—No. 8 on the list—constantly face precarious work conditions, earn an annual median salary of $46,870 and can look forward to only a 5 percent increase in job growth.

Enlisted military personnel—No. 4 on the list—also face danger, especially when deployed into war zones. They earn an average salary of $27,936; the study had no projected job growth for military positions.

Finally, pest control workers—No. 5 on the list—not only earn an average $32,160 a year, but they also perform what is arguably one of the ickiest jobs around.

"Arachnophobia—the fear of spiders—is the third-most prevalent phobia of Americans," CareerCast noted. "Removing spiders from homes is just one job a pest control worker takes on. Imagine having to take rattlesnakes from a building in Arizona or remove an alligator from a residential space in Florida." 

CareerCast's 10 best jobs of 2017:

Profession and how it changed in rank from 2016Annual Median SalaryGrowth Outlook (to 2024)
1. Statistician (+1)$80,11034%
2. Medical Services Manager (new to list)$94,50017%
3. Operations Research Analyst (new to list)$78,63030%
4. Information Security Analyst (-1)$90,12018%
5. Data Scientist (-4)$111,26716%
6. University Professor (tenured) (+32)$72,47013%
7. Mathematician (-1)$111,10021%
8. Software Engineer (-1)$100,69017%
9. Occupational Therapist (+2)$80,15027%
10. Speech Pathologist (-1)$73,41021%

CareerCast's 10 worst jobs of 2017:

Profession and how it changed in rank from 2016Annual Median SalaryGrowth Outlook (to 2024)
200. Newspaper Reporter (no change)$36,360-9%
199. Broadcaster (-1)$37,720-13%
198. Logger (+1)$36,2104%
197. Enlisted Military Personnel (-1)$27,936N/A
196. Pest Control Worker (+1)$32,162-1%
195. Disc Jockey (+2)$30,080-11%
194. Advertising Salesperson (-1)$48,490-3%
193. Firefighter (+2)$46,8705%
192. Retail Salesperson (+2)$22,0407%
191. Taxi Driver (+1)$23,51013%


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