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Most Underrated Jobs of 2011

Most Underrated Jobs of 2011 By Victoria Brienza

This is our Most Underrated 2011 report.
Click here for the 2012 report
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When most of us were in elementary school, our teachers taught us to aim high in our careers and strive for such prestigious jobs as doctor, lawyer, pilot and even President. But as we learned in the years that followed, the excitement those jobs promise typically sounds a lot better than the reality. On the other hand, the jobs held by our parents, neighbors and siblings, which seemed like “normal” jobs, may actually provide many more rewards than we ever imagined.

To that end, the CareerCast.com editors reviewed our in-depth Jobs Rated data to identify the most underrated jobs based on a range of criteria. While terms like flashy, glitzy, glamorous and prestigious aren’t typically associated with our list of underrated jobs, these careers have some great advantages that are often overlooked. They’re professions that don’t woo people with the high salaries or notoriety, but instead have characteristics that make them especially worthy. For instance, our most underrated jobs typically have median-to-higher income levels, lower stress, lower environmental dangers and lower physical demands. And even in this tight economy, all share one great attribute: a lower than average unemployment rate.

"I have the best of both worlds. I get to do the work that I want, but I don't have the high demands that a lawyer does,” says Jennifer Dahms, a paralegal at a Milwaukee law firm.. "I wouldn't say that my job is underrated. I would say it's equally balanced. I get to take vacations, leave work and have a life."

While paralegal takes top honors in our ranking, insurance agent isn’t far behind. "I think it's interesting, but not a surprise we made the list," says Sherri Primes, an Orange County, Calif., insurance agent. "It's the only career or job that I've ever had that I feel I get to do something good for people. I can impart change in people’s lives."

While the paparazzi may not be knocking down their doors, the following jobs are worth a look if you’re considering changing careers. They also apply if you’re a recent graduate looking for a career that will reward you for many years to come.

  • 1. Paralegal/Legal Assistant

    Income Average: $47,153.00
    Unemployment Rate for 2010: 4.6%
    Job Description:

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

Continue to see the next Underrated Job of 2011


I love what I do!

Being a paralegal is so fulfilling. I work at a small firm where we help entrepenuers with their small businesses. I've been doing this for almost 10 years. Yes...I do work long hours at times (we do both transactional and litigation work)...yes...it is stressful (I wear lots of hats including answer the phones and filing at times), But, to me, it is worth it to make a difference for your clients and continue to grow through the fellowship of my peers and continuing education.

Why Complain?

I am currently going to school to be a paralegal. One of the first things my Intro to Paralegal proffessor told us was everything you have all said, wouldn't you expect that going into legal work? Long hours, working for jerks, getting the blame for "their" mistakes. When you take on a job you should know what you are getting yourself into. Of course lawyers are going to be jerks, of course you're going to be working long hours it legal work it's not simple work, of course you are going to blamed for mistakes, it is the paralegal's job to make sure everything is done right and has it ready for court. Yes of course it is going to be stressful, but what job isn't? I am looking forward to working the long hours and getting into a job as a paralegal.

Legal Assistant/Paralegal

Speaking as someone who has worked in this field, and still has a family member and contacts in the industry, there is no way that a Paralegal or legal assistant's position can be classified as low stress.

The people that I know of working in legal support roles, work a minimum of 47 hours a week, don't get time for lunch breaks and are not entitled to overtime, because of work place agreements, and therefore only earn their basic $32,000 to $45,000 per annum.

Perhaps if you are very lucky you can work for the right firm you can get to leave on time and not have to work through your breaks and be under continual stress.

Low Stress???

I absolutely agree with the above poster, myself having worked in this field for over ten years now. Also, it is highly likely you will at some point find yourself working for some of the biggest, narcissistic A holes on the planet. I have seen some of the most hardened assistants/secretaries reduced to quivering wrecks in tears. You will very often be blamed for your boss's mistakes and any good work on your behalf will NOT be appreciated. If you can, consider any other career than this. Money may seem good but, honestly, it is just not worth it.

Low stress? Seriously?

I don't agree that being a legal assistant is a low-stress job at all! I am in the office before all the lawyers, I am the one who drafts up nearly all the documents for court, drafts up all the co-hab/separation/pre-nup etc agreements, drafts up nearly all the wills, does all the conveyancing documentation and filing and is responsible for ensuring that all the aforementioned work is done on time and correctly. The lawyers review it for content and then sign with the client - it's my work they are presenting.

If anything goes wrong or is behind - it is the legal assistant who bears responsibility and it is up to us to push the lawyers to ensure that everything is completed on time and filed properly. We may not have the education to give us the depth of knowledge on WHY something is the way it is, but we certainly have the hands on knowledge regarding HOW to make it happen and without us, there would be no legal practice!

I think you need to be

I think you need to be careful stating that a Software Engineer and Computer Systems Analyst are "low stress" jobs. I started as a Software Engineer, became a Systems Analyst, moved to Project Manager and am now a Business Analyst. I have found all levels of this type of work to be extremely stressful - everybody wants a perfect computer system for no cost and they want it yesterday.

I quit law school six years

I quit law school six years ago to become a paralegal, and it was a very smart move. The lawyers in my firm work crazy hours, usually through the weekend, while I walk out at 5pm every day and have a life outside of work I truly enjoy. It's true they make more than me, but I have much better job stability - we've have two layoffs of lawyers over the past three years. In the end, I think I'll earn as much as they do since I'll always have a steady job.

Really? You think you will

Really? You think you will ALWAYS have a steady job? Seriously, I hope you do find that to be the case, but I really wouldn't count on it in this day and age. I used to think like you, as did many others I know.

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