Jobs Rated 2011: Ranking 200 Jobs From Best to Worst

Jobs Rated 2011: Ranking 200 Jobs From Best to Worst

By: Andrew Strieber

This is our 2011 Job Rankings report.
See our 200 Jobs Rated Report for 2012

When searching for a new job, how do you decide which opportunities are worth the time it takes to complete an application? Do you only apply to jobs within a certain salary range, with a certain number of hours per week or with responsibilities you know you can handle easily? Or do you apply for every opening that seems to match your skill set? Perhaps you search for positions that "sound cool" or "feel right" or are in industries that get a lot of positive coverage in the media?

Using any of these criteria to search for a job can lead to disaster in today's employment market. Jobs that promise a 40-hour week often require 60 or more, and positions that advertise a six-figure salary may achieve that level only if unreachable conditions are met. Company recruiters say it’s a buyer’s market, and they treat desperate job seekers accordingly. After all, even if your supposed dream job turns out to be more of a nightmare, there's no shortage of job seekers who would be happy to take your place.

While the "buyer beware" atmosphere of the current job market can be challenging, you do have ways to protect yourself. Want to know if a job's work environment, hours per week and salary are really as advertised? Or whether that supposedly "hot" field actually has any available job openings? The 2011 Jobs Rated report examines 200 jobs to help you look beyond hype and uncover the facts about different professions – everything from typical salaries to average worker stress.

Each year Jobs Rated researchers survey 200 jobs – from Accountant to Zoologist – scoring them according to five key criteria: Physical Demands, Work Environment, Income, Outlook and Stress. Some factors remain relatively constant from year to year, but others fluctuate greatly due to changes in the job market, technological innovations or current events. Using data from government sources, trade groups and private organizations, every job receives a score and rank in each category, and these ratings are then combined to form a complete ranking of 200 jobs for 2011, from best to worst.

For more information on how we rank all 200 jobs, see our 2011 Jobs Rated Methodology

In 2011, thanks to the popularity of smartphone applications and "cloud" based software, technical positions involving computers have risen to the top of the rankings. Indeed, Software Engineer, Computer Systems Analyst, Technical Writer and Computer Programmer all rank within the top 30 this year, although the Outlook for Computer Programmer is considerably worse due to outsourcing. That said, you don’t need to go back to school for a computer science degree just yet – jobs that rank in the top 50 for 2011 cover a wide variety of disciplines, from medicine and engineering to law and the arts.

Not sure whether that opening you find online would be a great opportunity or a career killer? Check out the Top 200 Jobs of 2011 and their scores in each major category to see which professions truly live up to the hype – and which you’d be better off avoiding. 

Of course, just because these jobs all score highly in the five Jobs Rated measurement criteria doesn’t mean they’re right for everyone. Some workers might find that their "dream job" actually ranks much further down the list – the old saying "one man’s trash is another man’s treasure" is especially true when it comes to employment. If you want a well-paid job with a great outlook and don’t mind intense stress and physical demands, for example, a career as a Surgeon might be perfect for you. But because of its stress and work environment negatives, the job ranks 100th for 2011, behind careers that pay less and are arguably less prestigious. On the other hand, a person who can’t handle a high-stress environment might be better off with a job like Jeweler, which boasts a serene working environment, but suffers from a poor hiring outlook.

Software Engineer
1
Overall Rating:
1/200
60
Median Salary:$87,140

Researches, designs, develops and maintains software systems along with hardware development for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes.

Work Environment
Very Good
5/200
150.00
Stress
Very Low
15/200
10.400
Projected Growth
Very Good
5/200
27.40
Mathematician
2
Overall Rating:
2/200
73
Median Salary:$94,178

Applies mathematical theories and formulas to teach or solve problems in a business, educational, or industrial climate.

Work Environment
Very Good
2/200
89.72
Stress
Very Low
31/200
12.780
Projected Growth
Very Good
19/200
19.78
Actuary
3
Overall Rating:
3/200
123
Median Salary:$87,204

Interprets statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters.

Work Environment
Very Good
9/200
179.44
Stress
Low
61/200
16.040
Projected Growth
Very Good
29/200
17.04
Statistician
4
Overall Rating:
4/200
129
Median Salary:$73,208

Tabulates, analyzes, and interprets the numeric results of experiments and surveys.

Work Environment
Very Good
1/200
89.52
Stress
Very Low
39/200
14.080
Projected Growth
Good
51/200
11.08
Computer Systems Analyst
5
Overall Rating:
5/200
147
Median Salary:$77,153

Plans and develops computer systems for businesses and scientific institutions.

Work Environment
Very Good
3/200
90.78
Stress
Low
65/200
16.530
Projected Growth
Very Good
33/200
15.53
Meteorologist
6
Overall Rating:
6/200
175
Median Salary:$85,210

Studies the physical characteristics, motions and processes of the earth's atmosphere.

Work Environment
Very Good
10/200
179.64
Stress
Low
51/200
15.100
Projected Growth
Good
47/200
12.10
Biologist
7
Overall Rating:
7/200
182
Median Salary:$74,278

Studies the relationship of plants and animals to their environment.

Work Environment
Very Good
28/200
314.37
Stress
Low
58/200
15.780
Projected Growth
Good
49/200
11.78
Historian
8
Overall Rating:
8/200
192
Median Salary:$63,208

Analyzes and records historical information from a specific era or according to a particular area of expertise.

Work Environment
Very Good
4/200
136.41
Stress
Low
73/200
17.080
Projected Growth
Good
51/200
11.08
Audiologist
9
Overall Rating:
9/200
195
Median Salary:$63,144

Diagnoses and treats hearing problems by attempting to discover the range, nature, and degree of hearing function.

Work Environment
Good
61/200
463.43
Stress
Very Low
11/200
9.440
Projected Growth
Very Good
13/200
21.44
Dental Hygienist
10
Overall Rating:
10/200
197
Median Salary:$67,107

Assists dentists in diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of a group or private dental practice.

Work Environment
Fair
84/200
593.25
Stress
Very Low
23/200
12.070
Projected Growth
Very Good
2/200
33.07
Sociologist
11
Overall Rating:
11/200
200
Median Salary:$70,122

Studies human behavior by examining the interaction of social groups and institutions.

Work Environment
Very Good
33/200
322.24
Stress
Medium
90/200
19.470
Projected Growth
Very Good
20/200
19.63
Accountant
12
Overall Rating:
12/200
216
Median Salary:$60,174

Prepares and analyzes financial reports to assist managers in business, industry and government.

Work Environment
Very Good
26/200
276.78
Stress
Medium
95/200
19.740
Projected Growth
Very Good
30/200
16.74
Paralegal Assistant
13
Overall Rating:
13/200
217
Median Salary:$47,153

Assists attorneys in preparation of legal documents; collection of depositions and affidavits; and investigation, research and analysis of legal issues.

Work Environment
Very Good
21/200
263.82
Stress
Low
65/200
16.530
Projected Growth
Very Good
10/200
23.53
Physicist
14
Overall Rating:
13/200
217
Median Salary:$106,196

Researches and develops theories concerning the physical forces of nature.

Work Environment
Very Good
23/200
269.46
Stress
Low
72/200
16.960
Projected Growth
Good
48/200
11.96
Financial Planner
15
Overall Rating:
15/200
223
Median Salary:$101,164

Related to careers in portfolio management, the financial planner offers a broad range of services aimed at assisting individuals in managing and planning their financial future.

Work Environment
Very Good
14/200
225.00
Stress
Medium
84/200
18.640
Projected Growth
Fair
106/200
3.64
Philosopher
16
Overall Rating:
16/200
225
Median Salary:$61,221

Studies questions concerning the nature of intellectual concepts, and attempts to construct rational theories concerning our understanding of the world around us.

Work Environment
Good
43/200
361.44
Stress
Very Low
28/200
12.560
Projected Growth
Good
68/200
8.56
Occupational Therapist
17
Overall Rating:
17/200
230
Median Salary:$70,193

Develops individualized programs of activity for mentally, physically, developmentally and emotionally impaired persons, to aid them in achieving self-reliance.

Work Environment
Good
72/200
505.56
Stress
Very Low
35/200
13.220
Projected Growth
Very Good
8/200
24.22
Parole Officer
18
Overall Rating:
18/200
236
Median Salary:$47,155

Monitors, counsels, and reports on the progress of individuals who have been released from correctional institutions to serve parole.

Work Environment
Good
47/200
381.06
Stress
Very Low
27/200
12.550
Projected Growth
Very Good
26/200
17.55
Aerospace Engineer
19
Overall Rating:
19/200
240
Median Salary:$95,130

Designs, develops, and tests new technologies concerned with the manufacture of commercial and military aircraft and spacecraft.

Work Environment
Very Good
17/200
230.30
Stress
Medium
100/200
20.300
Projected Growth
Good
71/200
8.30
Economist
20
Overall Rating:
20/200
247
Median Salary:$87,240

Studies and analyzes the effects of resources such as land, labor, and raw materials, on costs and their relation to industry and government.

Work Environment
Very Good
15/200
227.35
Stress
Low
76/200
17.400
Projected Growth
Poor
130/200
-0.60