Jobs Rated 2011: Frequently Asked Questions

Jobs Rated 2011: Frequently Asked Questions

Les Krantz
  • Q: I know people who work (or worked) at some of the top rated jobs in your study, yet they tell me of the high unemployment and the many difficulties in the field. How can these jobs possibly be rated so high?

A: No matter how "healthy" a profession may be, there will always be workers having difficulties, especially with unemployment during these tough economic times. But unlike anecdotal evidence, the Jobs Rated study is based on extensive polling, mainly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which surveys 100s and often 1,000s of workers at each job. Our Jobs Rated study is very well documented with reliable, up-to-date data from the nation at large.

Additionally, things like unemployment rates are often regional phenomena. Actuaries, one of the highest rated jobs, who live in Connecticut where so many insurance companies are located – and are suffering from the economic crisis – might be unemployed. Yet in the upper Midwest, which has the lowest unemployment in U.S., actuaries may be doing very well.

  • Q: 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.

  • Q: How can a job like lumberjack, performed in the "great outdoors" and providing a healthy exercise component, be one of the 10 lowest rated jobs?

The outdoors is not so great when the temperature hits 102 degrees, or -5. Lumberjacks work on the hottest and coldest days, whether they like it or not. The physically demanding job also requires working when your back aches, and many workers are injured in this highly dangerous occupation. To make matters worse, the job pays around $32,000 annually, 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, many other attributes of the job aren't very appealing.

  • Q: Many job hunters would agree that being in the movies or an athlete is the best job. When don't these professions rate at the top?

A: The entertainers you see in the movies are at the top of their profession, but the truth is that most people in this field don't work more than an occasional gig at a local community theater. It's the reason so many of struggling 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. The famous stars and sports heroes are the exceptions, just as famous businessmen like Steve Jobs 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.

  • Q: 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 will always be people in that profession who are unhappy. However, those who don't like working at the top jobs are an anomaly. Likewise, while there may be people who love collecting garbage or driving a taxi, they are a minority of the population. Based on the findings of eight Jobs Rated studies over the past 23 years, in general those jobs at the top have the fewest complainers, while those at the bottom have the most.

  • Q: Society depends on and reveres professions such as Firefighter, Soldier, Policeman, Nurse and EMT. Yet these jobs don't rate very highly. How can this be if they are heroic careers that help make our world a better place?

A: Indeed, people working in these jobs absolutely make the world a better place (and we are lucky that they do). But that doesn't mean that the jobs themselves fare well when analyzed objectively using our research methodology. For instance, while everyone looks up to and admires Firefighters, actually fighting a fire is hazardous work. It's stressful, dirty and dangerous. So is police work, as well as (at times) Nursing and the EMT field. Good jobs and good people don't always have it easy, or get paid top dollar. 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.

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

A: The researchers and managers involved in the Jobs Rated study have been ranking and reporting on jobs for the past two decades (since 1988) and have achieved recognition and attention from media around the world for their expertise and knowledge. But frankly, their qualifications are not what are 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.

  • Q: I know many people who work at a particular occupation and make significantly more than Jobs Rated listed as that job’s income. How can the Income report claim accuracy?

A: The annual incomes in our Jobs Rated study are national averages, so it is not uncommon that workers in, for example, the Northeast will earn more than the national average and those in the South will earn less. While incomes vary enormously from region to region, they also vary from industry to industry. A welder, for example, in the construction industry that is working on a high-rise office building will earn far more than a welder in an auto repair shop. Also, many who earn hourly wages will have greater annual incomes in markets or industries where there is a greater demand. In the American Rust belt, for example, an hourly worker might work fewer hours than one working at the same job in the Northwest, where there might be more hourly work available. In sum, national averages are not indicative of everyone’s income.

  • Q: Some jobs ranked near each other are very different. Receptionist is ranked 103 while Architect is 108; Janitor is 141 and Fashion Designer is 143. Why does this happen?

A: Many people make the assumption that a high ranked job in Jobs Rated means it pays well or that a lower ranked jobs pays poorly. The Jobs Rated study takes income into account along with four other core criteria: environment, outlook, stress, and physical demands. A telephone installer, for example, ranks 95th in the overall ranking (which takes all 5 core criteria into account), and is ahead of Surgeon at 100. Telephone Installers generally work in the outdoors and have great physical demands, but only moderate stress. Surgeons work in high stress environments, in hot, bloody, uncomfortable operating rooms and they deal with the stress of having the life and death of their patients at risk. Taking all these criteria into account means that sometimes a high income is offset by poor working conditions, thus bringing down the overall ranking.

  • Q: Some jobs that rank very high, for example Historian, don’t seem to be occupations in high demand. Why do they rank so far above many that are?

A: Jobs for Historians are often teaching positions at colleges universities. Working in academia has many virtues: not only are the incomes and physical surroundings excellent, but academic jobs are typically in low stress environments and benefit from tenure policies that provide for a lifetime of job security. In addition to jobs in the educational field, there are positions open to sociologists in large corporations, healthcare and government, including within the military, where they develop and implement corrective procedures to alleviate group dysfunctions. Historians also have opportunities as corporate historians, positions at museums and libraries and in book publishing where history is a widely published subject.