Jobs Rated 2009: Frequently Asked Questions

Jobs Rated 2009: Frequently Asked Questions

Les Krantz
  • Why are most blue-collar jobs rated lower than most white-collar jobs?

A: The Jobs Rated research makes assumptions that you may or may not agree with. Among them are that higher-paying jobs are more desirable than lower-paying ones; that dangerous jobs are less desirable than safer ones; that jobs that require heavy lifting or long hours of hard labor are not as desirable as ones that don't; and that low stress levels are better than a high stress environment.

It's simply a fact that most white-color jobs pay better than blue-color jobs, are generally less dangerous, have fewer physical demands and generate less stress. In addition, though many individuals prefer blue-collar work, there has been a clear, decades-long trend of high-school graduates attending college rather than trade schools. So researchers operated with the assumption that the elements of white-collar jobs are preferred by the American work force, and there is definitely a bias in the study – just as there is a bias in society – that favors white-collar jobs for the reasons outlined above.

  • How can a job like lumberjack, performed in the "great outdoors" and providing a healthy exercise component, be the lowest rated job?

The outdoors is not so great when the temperature is 102 or 5 below zero. Lumberjacks work on the very hottest and coldest days, whether they like it or not. Their physically demanding job also requires that they work when their backs ache or their hands are sore and raw. Also, many are injured in this highly dangerous occupation. To make matters worse, the job pays around $32,000 annually, not stellar by a long shot. It has a long history of high unemployment, particularly in a recession when demand for lumber is low. The U.S. Department of labor also reports that growth in lumberjack jobs is declining. So while lumberjacks can get a good workout, the rest of the attributes of their job aren't very appealing to most people.

  • Most job hunters would agree that being in the movies or television or being an athlete is the best job, so why don't they rate at the top?

A: Actors and entertainers who are in the movies are at the top of their profession, but most who are in these job fields don't work more than an occasional gig at a local community theater. It's the reason so many of prospective actors wait tables to stay alive. Similarly, most athletes don't play "in the big leagues." They make their livings coaching at high schools or colleges, or have low-paying jobs as sports instructors. In sum, the famous stars and sports heroes we see in the media spotlight are the exceptions, just like famous businessmen like Bill Gates or Jack Welch are one in a million. Jobs Rated deals with the overall picture of occupations, not those at the pinnacle of their profession, which are always a very small minority of those employed in the field.

  • If Jobs Rated accurately determined the best jobs, why do so many people in those occupations hate working at them, and why do so many people in the so-called worst jobs love what they do?

A: No matter how highly a job rates in our study, there are always some people who are unhappy. It's no coincidence that many people who commented on the site about their jobs, such as mathematicians and actuaries (the number one and two rated jobs of the 200 jobs ranked), expressed how much they enjoy their work. Those who don't like working at the top jobs are an anomaly. Likewise, there are many people who love collecting garbage, working as a lumberjack or driving a taxi. But having completed eight Jobs Rated studies over the past 20 years, in general those jobs at the top have the fewest complainers while those at the bottom have the most.

  • Society depends on and reveres so many professionals, such as firefighter, soldier, policeman, nurse and emergency medical technician. Yet these jobs don't rate very high in your study. How can this be if they are heroic lines of work and needed to make our world a better place?

A: Indeed, people working in these jobs absolutely make the world a better place. But that doesn't mean these jobs fare well when analyzed objectively using our research methodology. For instance, while everyone looks up to and admires firefighters, actually fighting a fire is not pleasant work. It's stressful, dirty and dangerous. So is police work, and at times nursing and the EMT field. Good jobs and good people don't always have it easy or get paid top dollar, though the ones mentioned above earn relatively well and they should. There is a component in the American workforce that rewards people for some of the unpleasantness that goes with their jobs, and thank goodness many people also reward these workers with admiration and esteem. And, of course, many firefighters, soldiers, police and healthcare professions feel good about what they do, which is a reward worth more than money to many people.

  • What qualifies the people behind the Jobs Rated Study to tell us what the best and worst jobs are?

The researchers and managers involved in the Jobs Rated study have been ranking and reporting on jobs for the past two decades and have achieved recognition and attention from media around the world for their expertise and knowledge. But frankly, their qualifications are not what's important. The study is "data driven;" that is, it uses primarily numerical data compiled from recognized organizations such as the U.S Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and noted trade associations. The data provided is inputted into a statistical database, so that the jobs can be compared objectively. To be sure, those who read the rankings often view the results subjectively, which is how all of us evaluate the relevance of information.