Jobs in the military once again top the CareerCast.com Jobs Rated rankings of the most stressful jobs for 2013.
In a tenuous global landscape, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces provide services that ensure the safety of not only Americans, but people around the globe. Yet that service comes at a steep cost. This year, the total number of American casualties in Afghanistan and “related operations” exceeded 2,000, the Department of Defense (DOD) estimates.
Soldiers’ lives are always at risk, but military officers are also responsible for the well-being of their troops. No task could score higher on the stress scale’s metric than being responsible for the life of another person.
Several other metrics that apply to the Jobs Rated stress score – travel, working in the public eye, physical demand and danger -- also are high for military personnel. Servicemen and women comprise a transient population. Soldiers must move as called upon, both on domestic bases and at stations around the world. And they can be separated from family and friends for months, even years at a time.
Physical demands on soldiers also are heavy. Boot camp and basic training challenge recruits’ physical limitations, better preparing them for the rigors of duty in the field and aiding in domestic matters like natural disasters.
Another growing challenge for America’s enlisted personnel is finding work beyond their service time.
“What returning men and women need is a job,” says Maggie Roffee of the U.S. Business Leadership Network. The problem of military personnel struggling in the job market was a tremendous societal burden after combat in Vietnam ended in 1975, and joblessness and homelessness have been epidemic issues among returning veterans every year since.
“After every war – unfortunately it takes a war [to raise public awareness] – advances have been made in technology to enable veterans to return to society,” Roffee says, but there's more to be done.
Organizations like HireaHero.org were founded to ensure that the post-war problem of unemployment would be addressed. Still, integration into the job market only exacerbates the most stressful job. Unemployment for post-9/11 veterans was at 10% in October 2012, the Department of Veteran Affairs reports, which was more than 2% higher than the national average.
Among civilian careers, firefighter is ranked the most highly on the Jobs Rated most stressful jobs scale. The job’s danger is apparent: running into burning buildings and dropping into forest fires calls for nerves and bravery few other careers require.
The personal danger a firefighter sees in the line of duty is high. Likewise, they are charged with the well-being of communities’ residents and property. The job’s challenges are myriad, and the stress can have a profound impact. The U.S. Fire Administration and International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) collaborated on a study over the course of six years, examining the dangers firefighters face.
“Year after year, there are notable advancements in the fire service industry. These advancements range from building code improvement to sprinkled buildings, from better protective gear to technologically advanced apparatus,” the report says. “But despite the advances made in safety and health areas, firefighters are still being killed, injured and diseased at an alarming rate.”
Heart attack is commonly associated with stress, and one decade-long study by the National Fire Protection Association finds that 44% of firefighter deaths were the result of heart attack. The stress from battling blazes is apparent, but less so is the dramatic shift in a firefighters’ workday and how it contributes to stress. Firefighters often work stretches of 48-to-72 hours on-call, with action arising quickly following periods of monotony spent separated from family.
Police officer rounds out the most stressful job rankings. More than 110 officers were lost in the line of duty last year, according to the non-profit organization Officer Down. The personal safety risks police officers face are apparent. As for overseeing the safety of others -- one of the factors in the most stressful jobs score – it’s outlined right in the officer’s motto: To Protect and Serve.
Two careers in the media industry score highly on the stress scale: photojournalist and newspaper reporter. Professionals from each field can be thrown into the epicenter of dangerous situations, such as war, natural disasters and police chases. Both careers also have declining job opportunities as the 21st century media landscape evolves. Newspaper reporters in particular face a shrinking job market; the BLS estimates a 6% job decline in the industry by 2020.
The growth of online media has transformed the newspaper reporter’s job immensely. The immediacy internet outlets provide can be a useful tool, but it can also be a huge trap. Striving for the fastest reports can lead to inaccuracy and heightened stress. Watchful public eyes are trained on reporters at all times, so an incorrect report can compromise a reporter’s reputation as quickly as they can send a tweet.
Continue on to the complete most stressful jobs of 2013 report:
1. Enlisted Military Personnel
The dangers of serving as enlisted military personnel are well known at times of conflict, especially while on active duty deployment. But even in times of peace, military members take on many rigorous tasks, such as aiding in natural disaster relief. Another challenge military personnel face is transitioning into the civilian job force. Organizations around the nation work to help military personnel land jobs after their service, but it can often be an uphill climb.