Best and Worst Jobs Unveiled, but Can Workers Be Happy Even if Stressed and Underpaid?

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie May 7, 2019

​Those with a knack for figures can take heart: Jobs for the numbers-minded are considered among the best in the country, according to a new survey.

But people being replaced by technology or facing disruption in their industries might want to haul out the want ads: Their jobs are considered among the worst.  

Stress, pay and prospects for job growth were among the attributes Carlsbad, Calif.-based job search portal CareerCast considered when creating its 2019 lists of the best and worst jobs. Yet some workplace experts point out that other characteristics—such as a sense of purpose and wanting to help people—can make a seemingly undesirable job perfect for the right person. And, they note, some people are well-suited to stressful jobs.

"It's about what's stressful to you," said Shannon Tucker, senior director for media relations at SSPR, a public relations agency with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. "I don't find PR to be that stressful because I thrive on the fast-paced nature of the job, whereas I could never be a doctor or nurse because I'd be stressed every day with someone's life in my hands. So, while stress and pay may give PR a bad reputation, it also weeds out the people who wouldn't be happy in the job."

Data scientist, actuary and information security analyst—jobs that pay about $100,000 per year and have solid prospects for growth—are among the best positions out there, according to the annual survey released May 7 by CareerCast.

Taxi driver, logging worker and retail salesperson—jobs that pay below $41,000 a year and have dismal growth prospects—are considered among the worst.

Beware Technology and Competitors

Increasingly, the logging worker and retail salesperson are finding that machines are doing more of their jobs.

Self-checkout lines, which allow customers to scan and bag their own purchases, are ubiquitous in retail stores these days, which means salespeople aren't as in-demand. Their median annual pay is $24,340, and the number of these jobs is expected to grow by only 2 percent by 2026.

Technology, meanwhile, served the logging industry a double whammy: Online communications and smartphones have replaced written correspondence, which reduces the need for paper and hence tree cutting. In addition, better equipment has streamlined the logging process, meaning the industry needs fewer loggers.

While wood is often necessary for construction and household goods, "the construction industry as a whole was hit profoundly during the Great Recession, leading to declines in employment that still haven't caught up during the recovery," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast.

Loggers earn a median annual pay of $40,650, and the number of these jobs is expected to decline by 13 percent in the next seven years. 

Other jobs are listed among the worst because their industries have been undercut by competitors. Consider taxi drivers, who earn a median annual income of $25,980 with a growth outlook of 5 percent. Popular ride-hailing companies such as Uber have bitten off a chunk of the taxi industry's clientele and reduced drivers' income.

Low pay, however, may not discourage all workers.

Michael Steinitz, a senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, noted that in a recent survey by his company, only 2 in 5 workers said they'd leave their job for one with better pay. While it's true that people want to feel they're being fairly compensated for their work, he said, "a bad commute, difficult boss or lack of a flexible schedule are other factors that can impact job satisfaction."

"Even in the most competitive professions, salary actually ranks pretty low on the list of factors of why employees decide to stay at a job," said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications for HALO Recognition, an employee rewards and incentives company based in Long Island City, N.Y. "We know the two biggest reasons people leave their jobs is a lack of appreciation and a poor relationship with a direct manager." 

[SHRM members-only resource: Salary Survey Directory]

CareerCast’s 10 Best Jobs of 2019



Annual Median Salary

Growth Outlook (to 2026)


Data scientist








University professor




Occupational therapist




Genetic counselor




Medical services manager




Information security analyst








Operations research analyst







CareerCast’s 10 Worst Jobs of 2019



Annual Median Salary

Growth Outlook (to 2026)


Taxi driver




Logging worker




Newspaper reporter




Retail salesperson




Enlisted military personnel




Correctional officer




Disc jockey




Nuclear decontamination technician




Advertising salesperson







The Best Jobs Don't Always Require a College Degree

Most of the jobs on CareerCast's best list require a four-year college degree, CareerCast noted. Several pay an annual median salary near or above $100,000, and all have a seven-year growth outlook of 15 percent or more, with mathematician and statistician having the most-robust outlooks at 33 percent.

However, "a [four-year college] degree isn't necessarily a requirement in some of the IT and data jobs," Kensing said. "It's not like the health care fields, which must meet government regulations [and require degrees]. In fact, in the case of data scientist, universities' offering specific data-science programs is relatively new."

The Worst Jobs Can Still Be Fulfilling

Year after year, CareerCast has noted that newspaper reporter and television or radio broadcaster are among the worst jobs. These positions are highly competitive and stressful, with long hours and tight deadlines.

As newspaper circulation continues to plummet and more news services go online, a reporter's job prospects in the next seven years are expected to decline by 9 percent. The broadcaster's prospects are expected to remain flat.

But one point is "absolutely vital to keep in mind," Kensing said. "Because a job is 'worst' doesn't mean it isn't fulfilling. That distinction refers specifically to the criteria we use to evaluate a job, and in the case of newspaper reporters, [that would be] the decline in positions, typically low pay and stress factors." 

Acacia Parks, Ph.D., is a psychologist and chief scientist at Happify Health, a New York City-based company that helps employees develop skills to reduce stress. 

"The ability to do something that feels unique and important, having room for growth, feeling like your workplace is fair, feeling like your manager understands and supports you—all are more relevant to work satisfaction than the intensity or tedium of the job," she said. 



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