2012 Jobs Rated Methodology

2012 Jobs Rated Methodology


How We Determine the Rankings of the 200 Top Jobs of 2012

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.

Below is an explanation of how we determined the rankings in each of these five Core Criteria. After each of these Core Criteria were scored and ranked individually, we computed the Overall Rankings, which are explained as the last item in this explanation of the methodology.


Environment Factors

Jobs Rated calculates the Environment score for each job by measuring two basic factors common to every work environment: the physical and the emotional components. Points are assigned for every adverse working condition typically encountered, so the greater number of points that a job scores, the worse the rank. Conversely, the fewer points a job gets, the better it ranks.

The following categories and points are used to rate the physical work environment:

Physical Environment Factors Scoring Range
The necessary energy component 0-5
Physical demands (crawling, stooping bending, etc.) 0-12
Work conditions (toxic fumes, noise, etc.) 0-13
Stamina required 0-5
Degree of confinement 0-5
Total Maximum Points = 40


The following categories and points are used to rate the emotional work environment:

Emotional Environment Factors Scoring Range
Degree of competitiveness 0-15
Degree of hazards personally faced 0-10
Degree of peril faced by others* 0-8
Degree of contact with the public 0-8
Total Maximum Points = 41


* i.e. co-workers, customers including medical patients, outside stressful situations of all kinds, etc.

Environment Ranking System

The ranking system is designed so that the higher point totals reflect lower quality environments. After the raw scores are added together, the average work week in hours were added to the totals. This adjustment provides that jobs which require longer working hours than most have the point total adjusted upward on a scale that escalates proportionally with the number of hours worked.

The ranking system is designed to give approximately equal weight to the physical factors, with 40 maximum points, and emotional factors, with 41 maximum points. Therefore, jobs that have adverse emotional conditions often as rank as low as those with poor physical conditions.


The scores shown in the ranking tables might look like average incomes to those familiar with pay levels in the jobs to which they relate. However, the scores are actually a derivative of mid-level incomes, and not the average income at all. Since all incomes shown in this table are estimates rounded to the nearest $1,000, there would be many ties if the mid-level income was the sole basis of the score. Instead, the income score was computed by adding the estimated mid-level income and the income growth potential.

Below is an explanation of growth potential, and how it is computed in the scoring system:

Growth Potential

A Software Engineer that is starting at a salary of $55,000 could eventually earn $133,000, hence increasing annual income by $78,000, which is 142% higher than the beginning income. Income Growth Potential, therefore, is 142%. Adding this (142) to the midlevel income, which is $88,000, nets a score of 88,142. In the tables a dollar-sign was added showing the score as “$88,142.” As you can see, the way this score is expressed very closely resembles an average dollar-denominated income found in an income survey. Therefore, the dollar-sign precedes the score as an accommodation to someone who wishes to get at-a-glance estimates of average incomes.


The Three Outlook Factors

The ranking system used to evaluate Outlook awards higher scores to jobs with promising futures. Lower scores indicate a poorer outlook. Our ranking system considers three factors for each occupation. These factors and the weights assigned to them in the ranking system are:

  • Employment Growth:

The "mega factor" for outlook as defined here is expected employment growth through the year 2020, as forecasted by the Department of Labor. It is expressed as a percentage increase in jobs in a particular career field during the period, 2010-2020, which is the Department’s latest available estimate. The Jobs Rated ranking system simply uses this figure as a whole number rather than a percent, and adds and subtracts several numbers to it that are derived from other pieces of data; one is a score for the degree of unemployment and the other is the multiple that one can increase one’s salary. Below is more on these additional factors.

  • Income Growth Potential:

This refers to how much a worker can increase his or her income. See the preceding section about income scores and refer to the subsection “Growth Potential” for an explanation as to what this is. This score for Growth potential is then added to the employment growth score.

  • Unemployment:

Unemployment data reflects estimates, mainly from the Department of Labor, for the third quarter, 2011, the latest available data. Below are five ranges of unemployment that were used in the scoring. Because unemployment is obviously a negative thing, a derivative of the unemployment rate of a particular job is subtracted from the sum of Employment Growth and Income Growth Potential.

Below are the unemployment rankings. Listed after each range in parenthesis is the range of numbers that is subtracted from the sum of the Employment Growth and Income Growth Potential, depending on the degree of unemployment within each designation, which is shown at the far left of the table.

Unemployment Data
Very Low less than 1% - less than 4% (1-3)
Low 4% - less than 7% (4-6)
Moderate 7% - less than 10% (7-9)
High 10% - less than 14% (10-12)
Very High 14% or higher (13-15)



The Physical Factors

The idea of measuring work has long fascinated physicists. They have even devised formulas for it. The Department of Labor has also developed ways of measuring the physical demands of work and, in part, this was used to formulate these rankings.

One method they use is similar to that used by physicists. It relies on how much weight a person is normally required to lift on the job. Five categories are specified:

Physical Demands Categories
Sedentary Work Requires the occasional lifting of 10lbs or less
Light Work Requires lifting a maximum of 20lbs
Medium Work Requires lifting a maximum of 50lbs, but with frequent lifting of up to 25lbs
Heavy Work Requires lifting a maximum of 100lbs
Very Heavy Work Requires lifting in excess of 100lbs, with frequent lifting of 5lbs or more


But the federal government also considers other aspects of a job's demands, such as whether the work is primarily indoors or outdoors, and whether or not it involves stooping, kneeling, climbing or balancing. Only when all these factors are considered together can the true physical demands of an occupation be determined.

The ranking system for physical demands used in this report includes many of the elements measured by the Department of Labor. However, an important criterion is added: Overtime – that is, work time in excess of eight hours daily. After all, an executive working till 10 p.m. is likely as tired when he gets home as many construction workers who quit work at 5 p.m.

The Ranking System

In order to compute the Physical Demands of a job, we awarded higher scores to jobs with greater Physical Demands and lower scores to jobs with lesser demands. We arrived at these scores by compiling data used by the U.S. Department of Labor. One point was awarded for each physical component of a job. These components include lifting, pulling, pushing, standing, walking, stooping, kneeling, crawling, climbing, crouching or reaching. We also awarded points for hazards faced, exposure to various kinds of weather, the need for stamina and the work environment.

One to five points was also added for each degree of lifting required based on the five categories previously mentioned, which range from 10 pound lifting at sedentary jobs to 100 pound lifting for very heavy work. One point was also added for each hour, or fraction thereof, that the average worker puts in that exceeds 40 hours per week. These determinations were based on U.S. Census data and sundry estimates provided by those familiar with the work habits of various professionals and tradespeople. The total number of points accumulated represents the score used to determine the rankings.


The 11 Stress Factors

The amount of stress a worker experiences can be predicted, in part, by looking at the typical demands and crises inherent in his or her job. Our ranking system for stress considers 11 different job demands which can reasonably be expected to evoke stress (see list below). Each demand is assigned a range of points. A high score is awarded if a particular demand is a major part of the job, fewer points are awarded if the demand is a small part of the job, and no points are awarded if that demand is not normally required. For example, "deadlines" was one demand measured. Journalists, who often face daily deadlines, received the maximum of 9 points in this category. In contrast, biologists, who seldom face deadlines, received no points. The demands measured and the point ranges assigned to each area are as follows:

Stress Factors Scoring Range
Travel 0-10
Outlook/Growth Potential Income ÷ 100
Deadlines 0-9
Working in the Public Eye 0-5
Competitiveness 0-15
Physical Demands (stoop, climb, etc.) 0-14
Environmental Conditions 0-13
Hazards Encountered 0-5
Own Life at Risk 0-8
Life of Another at Risk 0-10
Meeting the Public 0-8
Total Maximum Points = 97 + Outlook/Growth Potential


To compute a score for each occupation, points are added together for all 11 categories.

However, note that these scores reflect only a typical stress profile for any given occupation. For any individual worker, stress can vary greatly depending on the particular working conditions, his or her boss and co-workers, mental outlook and a multitude of other factors which play a part in stress.


Overall Rankings refer to the sum of the rankings in each of the above five Core Criteria above, however, they are not equally weighted. In the Overall Ranking system, one third of the score is based on Income rank, one third on Outlook rank and one third on “Preferential Factors,” which are the rankings in Environment, Physical Demands and Stress, each one of these last three being weighted equally, though their sum is weighted as one-third of the Overall score. You can also think of them as “comfort levels” pertaining to the workplace environment, the physical demands and the stress factors that we’ll accept if the money and long-term security is good.

The logic, simply put, is that most of us work mainly to earn a living and the most important criteria are therefore Income and Outlook, the latter being of course related to employment and income security over the long haul. If we can work at a job that has a high income and a good lookout, we will accept with lots of things that go with these jobs, ie. Stress, Physical Demands and the Environment, be it good or bad, in our opinion.

After the weights of these five Core Criteria are adjusted, they are added to derive the Overall Score. Because a high rank in an individual category means it is more desirable than a low rank, this ranking system translates to the lowest score being the most desirable; therefore, the lower the score, the higher the Overall Ranking.