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 four "Core Criteria;" that is, the general categories that are inherent to every job: Environment, Income, Outlook, and Stress. In the environment scores each job’s physical demands are taken into account. See “Environment” below for more details.
To a large measure, the data used to evaluate each job comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, hereinafter referred simply as the Department of Labor.
Below is an explanation of how we determined the rankings in each of these four 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.
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The environment ranking system is designed so that the higher point totals reflect lower quality environments.
Environment Factors: The ranking system used to evaluate a job's environment considers and measures two basic components of every work environment: the physical and the emotional environments. For each occupation, points were assigned for any adverse working condition typically encountered in that job. Thus, the greater number of points a job scores, the worse the rank; the fewer points awarded, the better the rank.
The following categories and points were used to rate the two basic components of work environment--emotional and the physical--each accounting for approximately half of the total environment score:
- Degree of competitiveness 0-15
- Degree of hazards personally faced 0-10
- Degree of peril faced by others working alongside 0-8
- Degree of the public contact 0-8
TOTAL MAXIMUM POINTS: 41
- 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 idea of measuring the physical component of 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: (1) sedentary work, which requires the occasional lifting of 10 pounds or less; (2) light work, which requires lifting a maximum of 20 pounds; (3) medium work, defined as lifting a maximum of 50 pounds, but with frequent lifting of objects weighing up to 25 pounds; (4) heavy work, which requires lifting up to 100 pounds maximum; (5) very heavy work, which requires lifting in excess of 100 pounds, with frequent carrying of objects weighing five-pounds or more. But the federal government also considers other aspects of a job's demands, such as whether a job is 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.
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 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 on the job. 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 points accumulated represents the score used to determine the rankings.
Average Work Week (Hours) Factor: 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 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, though they are very close, and within $1,000 of the annual mid-level income.
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 score was computed by adding the estimated mid-level income and the Growth Potential. Below is an explanation of Growth Potential and how it is computed in the scoring system.
Growth Potential: An example is offered here. An actuary that is starting at a salary of $57,000 (“beginning income”) could eventually earn $176,000 (the “advanced level”), hence increasing annual income by $119,000, which is 209% higher than the beginning income. Income Growth Potential, therefore, is 209%. Adding this (209) to the “midlevel income,” which is $94,000, nets a score of 94,209.
In the tables that lists income rankings a dollar-sign was added showing the score as “$94,209.” 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 determination of what constitutes each level of income used in our scoring is as follows:
- Beginning income: The 10th percentile of workers in the field
- Midlevel income: The 50th percentile of workers in the field
- Top level income: The 90th percentile of workers in the field
3. OUTLOOK 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 2022, as forecasted by the Department of Labor. It is expressed as a percentage increase in jobs in a particular career field during the period, 2012-2022, 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 annual unemployment rate 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 entire year 2014. In our data analysis we divided the percent unemployed into quintiles. The first quintile is the lowest unemployment and is assigned as score of 1. The highest unemployment scores is assigned 5.
We did this because we regard the Department of Labor’s figures as unreliable and nothing more than an estimate, even though they present their data with some specificity, for example to the nearest 1/10th of a percent (i.e. 7.7%).
As many know, the Department of Labor’s unemployment rates do not account for discouraged workers, or those who are “underemployed,” such as a college graduate who may have a low paying job such as a waiter, simply because he or she cannot find a job commensurate with their educational level. In sum, the quintiles used in our scoring translate to:
- 1= very low unemployment
- 2=low unemployment
- 3=average unemployment
- 4=high unemployment
- 5=very high unemployment
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 considered 11 different job demands which can reasonably be expected to evoke stress (see list below).
Each demand was assigned a range of points. A high score was awarded if a particular demand was a major part of the job, fewer points were awarded if the demand was a small part of the job, and no points were awarded if that demand was 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:
- Travel, amount of 0-10
- Growth Potential (income divided by 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
When computing a score for each occupation, points were added together for all 11 categories.
These scores, of course, 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.
The scores –given we rank 200 jobs – generally have many ties. To break these ties, we added a derivative of income growth potential, since jobs with greater rewards for a good performance often have a stress component. See “Growth Potential” under “INCOME” on page 3 for an explanation. We took this growth potential figure and expressed it as a multiple, rather than as a percent. (i.e. 103% would be expressed as 1.03) This multiple was not used for multiplication in our scoring, rather as an addition to the demands measured listed under “STRESS” on page 4.
5. THE OVERALL RANKINGS
Overall Rankings refer to the sum of the rankings in each of the above four Core Criteria. Each are equally weighted in the overall scoring, which is used as the basis for rankings.
You may see the point values of each, in the table for Overall Rankings. These point values for each criterion is simply the rank for that particular criteria. For example, the job with the best income is Surgeon, which has the number one rank in the Income category; hence in the Overall Rankings it is awarded one point for income. The lowest income job is Dishwasher, the 200th ranked job in the Income category. It gets 200 points awarded to it in the Income category, one of the factors in computing the Overall Rankings. The same principle is used in scoring Environment, Outlook and Stress.
This methodology provides that the jobs with low point totals in the Overall score will be ranked high; those with relatively high scores will fall toward the bottom of the Overall Rankings.
In a few instances, some jobs achieved the same overall point totals. When this occurs each job with identical scores is assigned the same rank, hence there may be a jump in the consecutive rankings. For example, in the 2015 Overall Rankings, Accountant and University Professor (Tenured) achieved point totals of 276, tying for 40th rank. Therefore there is no rank of 41. The rankings jump from 40 to 42 for the next highest scoring job. This method of treating tying scores was also used in the other 4 rankings for Environment, Income, Outlook and Stress.
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