The 10 Worst Jobs of 2011

The 10 Worst Jobs of 2011

By: Andrew Strieber

This is our 2011 Worst Jobs report.
See the 10 Best and Worst Jobs of 2012

From bad to worse: thanks to upheaval in the oil industry, Roustabout ranks as the Worst Job of 2011 – its second straight year in last place.

Twelve-hour shifts, exposure to the elements in hostile environments, low pay, high risk of injury and isolation from loved ones for weeks at a time are just some of the factors that combine to make Roustabout the worst job of 2011.

As the key providers of maintenance for oil rigs and pipelines, Roustabouts routinely perform backbreaking labor at all hours of the day and night in conditions that can range from arctic winters to desert summers to ocean storms. They even face the threat of attack in unstable parts of the world. Braving these inhospitable surroundings, Roustabouts work on the front lines, getting hands-on with dangerous drilling equipment and risking serious injury or worse – as last year’s explosion at the Deepwater Horizon facility in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates.

Why does Roustabout rank as the worst job of 2011, as opposed to other worst jobs such as Lumberjack or Construction Worker? Surveying 200 different jobs, the Jobs Rated report ranks professions according to five core criteria: Work Environment, Physical Demands, Outlook, Income and Stress. Last year Roustabout finished in the bottom 20 for nearly every category, and now thanks to a seven year suspension of offshore drilling in America’s eastern Gulf and Atlantic coastlines, the hiring prospects for oil rig workers have gotten even worse. This decline in employment opportunities has dropped Roustabout’s Outlook ranking seven spots in 2011, to 195th overall. Despite being part of the still-booming oil business, the Outlook for Roustabouts in 2011 is similar to jobs like Photographic Process Worker, Shoemaker and Bookbinder – all professions that are part of fading industries.

That said, Roustabout isn’t the only career on the 10 worst jobs list that is facing an employment crisis. Jobs such as Lumberjack, Roofer and Construction Worker rank poorly in part because of the recent housing bubble and economic recession, which have significantly slowed the pace of new construction. On the other hand, jobs like EMT have considerably better hiring prospects, but rank among the 10 worst jobs of 2011 due to harsh working conditions, high stress and inexcusably low pay given the extremely important nature of the work.

The annual Jobs Rated rankings seek to determine which professions provide a positive experience for a majority of workers, not just a select few. While there will always be exceptions – Roustabouts with fulfilling careers or unhappy Software Engineers (2011’s Best Job), for example – these rankings use comprehensive data to project the typical pluses and minuses that an average worker will experience day-to-day on the job.

Want to know how your job stacks up against the competition? To see comprehensive research on the best jobs and worst jobs from Agriculture to Zoology, continue to our Complete Rankings of 200 Jobs for 2011.

While working as a Roustabout may require little more than physical strength, not all of the professions that rank among the 10 worst jobs of 2011 are simple unskilled labor. Becoming a Welder or Ironworker, for example, requires extensive training and apprenticeship, and experienced workers can earn a very good salary. However, each of these professions does suffer from at least one "fatal flaw" that makes it rank lower than the rest, whether that be high stress, low pay, unpleasant working conditions, increased risk of injury, or a combination of the above:


1. Roustabout

Overall Rating:
Projected Growth:
Median Salary:

Performs routine physical labor and maintenance on oil rigs and pipelines, both on and off shore.

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