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The 10 Best Jobs of 2009

mathematician standing at chalkboard By Tony Lee

This is our 2009 10 Best Jobs report. See the 10 Best Jobs of 2010

Remember that kid in elementary school who always had a pencil and calculator nearby, and while the rest of us drew pictures, read comic books or played cards, that kid was happily crunching numbers – for fun. Fast forward 20 years or so, and it turns out that kid probably has one of best careers around today, according to an exclusive new study of the nation's best and worst jobs.

Compiling research on 200 different positions, this year's report ranks mathematician as the country's best job, followed by actuary and statistician – three jobs for which a calculator and solitude are prerequisites. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Monty Python troupe made famous the song, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK." Unfortunately, our study finds that lumberjacks have the nation's worst job, followed by dairy farmers and taxi drivers, which seems to bear out the old grade-school adage that "it's better to earn a living with your head rather than with your hands."

Of course, it doesn't take much effort to determine that mathematician is a more attractive job to most people than lumberjack. But ranking 200 jobs from best to worst is no easy feat. To compile this year's report, researchers relied on five criteria to compare jobs as different as librarian and sheet metal worker. Those criteria: stress, physical demands, hiring outlook, compensation and work environment (for more info on scoring, visit our Methodology Page).

If advanced equations aren't your strong suit, however, there are plenty of other jobs that score well, too. After the top three math-oriented careers, the rest of the top 10 read like a who's who of well-educated professions:

  • Find This Job1. Mathematician
  • Applies mathematical theories and formulas to teach or solve problems in a business, educational, or industrial climate.
  • Overall Ranking: 1 Overall Score: 104 Work Environment: 89.720
    Physical Demands: 3.97 Stress: 24.670 Income: $94,160 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job2. Actuary
  • Interprets statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters.
  • Overall Ranking: 2 Overall Score: 128 Work Environment: 179.440
    Physical Demands: 3.97 Stress: 20.187 Income: $88,146 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job3. Statistician
  • Tabulates, analyzes, and interprets the numeric results of experiments and surveys.
  • Overall Ranking: 3 Overall Score: 152 Work Environment: 89.520
    Physical Demands: 3.95 Stress: 27.980 Income: $72,197 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job4. Biologist
  • Studies the relationship of plants and animals to their environment.
  • Overall Ranking: 4 Overall Score: 153 Work Environment: 314.370
    Physical Demands: 4.98 Stress: 26.950 Income: $74,273 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job5. Software Engineer
  • Researches, designs, develops and maintains software systems along with hardware development for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes.
  • Overall Ranking: 5 Overall Score: 178 Work Environment: 150.000
    Physical Demands: 5 Stress: 25.000 Income: $86,139 Hours Per Week: 50
  • Find This Job6. Computer Systems Analyst
  • Plans and develops computer systems for businesses and scientific institutions.
  • Overall Ranking: 6 Overall Score: 182 Work Environment: 90.780
    Physical Demands: 5.08 Stress: 24.970 Income: $75,160 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job7. Historian
  • Analyzes and records historical information from a specific era or according to a particular area of expertise.
  • Overall Ranking: 7 Overall Score: 189 Work Environment: 136.410
    Physical Demands: 5.09 Stress: 28.420 Income: $61,209 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job8. Sociologist
  • Studies human behavior by examining the interaction of social groups and institutions.
  • Overall Ranking: 8 Overall Score: 204 Work Environment: 318.290
    Physical Demands: 5.09 Stress: 34.100 Income: $63,195 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job9. Industrial Designer
  • Designs and develops manufactured products.
  • Overall Ranking: 9 Overall Score: 205 Work Environment: 177.000
    Physical Demands: 6.85 Stress: 32.080 Income: $58,206 Hours Per Week: 45
  • Find This Job10. Accountant
  • Prepares and analyzes financial reports to assist managers in business, industry and government.
  • Overall Ranking: 10 Overall Score: 208 Work Environment: 276.780
    Physical Demands: 4.23 Stress: 31.138 Income: $59,173 Hours Per Week: 45

All these positions rate highly in the key criteria, and all require at least a college degree, if not graduate-school credentials. But whatever job you're interested in learning more about, data will be a valuable aid to help ensure that your choice measures up to the standards you've set for yourself. Jobs are also ranked by industry, giving you the best options in fields ranging from Agriculture to Travel.

If lumberjack is currently America's worst job, followed by dairy farmer and taxi driver, what other positions should you avoid? Read on to see's complete list of the 10 WORST jobs you can get.

Continue to the next page to see the 10 WORST Jobs of 2009

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