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Do You Have One of America’s Best Jobs?


We recently completed our annual project with CNN/Money Magazine that ranks the 100 Best Jobs in America. These jobs were determined by numerous factors, including pay, job growth, estimated employment levels, and various quality-of-life factors, such as job security.

The top jobs are a mix: some allow a lot of schedule flexibility ( Software Architect ), some require more training and education than that provided by a bachelor's degree ( Physician Assistant ), and some make the world a better place ( Environmental Engineer ).

In this post, I will discuss changes from last year’s report and some interesting insights from this year's data, including which jobs have the least stressed workers and which offer the most long-term job security, two issues near and dear to many current employees.

Do you have one of America's Best Jobs, and are wondering if you are earning top dollar? Find out with a free PayScale salary report.

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Best Jobs: Changes from Last Year

Similar to last year’s report, we determined top jobs by examining their typical pay, the long-term job growth, estimated employment levels and various quality of life factors, such as stress level and job satisfaction.

Two main changes were made from last year:

  1. Rather than just focusing on jobs with good long-term growth rates, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we specifically focused on jobs in high-growth industries (Consulting; Information Technology; Scientific Research and Development Services; Healthcare; Construction/Engineering/Architecture; and Business Services).
  2. We incorporated an “ease-of-entry” measure as determined by the typical degree held. Jobs that require degrees past a bachelor’s degree have a lower “ease-of-entry” score.

Due to these two changes, there are some differences in the Top 10 Best Jobs from last year to this year. For example, College Professor is no longer on the list for two reasons: Education is not a high-growth industry and the typical degree level for a College Professor is a Doctorate (PhD), which is at least 4 more years of education past a bachelor’s degree.

Even with the above changes, some of the Top 10 Jobs are the same last year to this year. There is just no escaping the fact that the following jobs are Top Jobs, regardless of our methodology:

  1. Physician Assistant (#2 last year and this year)
  2. Certified Public Accountant (#6 last year and #9 this year)
  3. Physical Therapist (#7 last year and #4 this year)
  4. Sales Director (#10 last year and #8 this year).

Best Jobs: Who’s the Least Stressed?

Low stress jobs are hard to come by. In fact, on an A-to-F Grade Scale, none of the 100 Best Jobs in America earn an “A” for stress level, and only 3 earn a grade of “B”: Biomedical Engineer, Transportation Engineer, and Statistician.

Even if you are able to obtain one of the 10 least stressful jobs, you are unlikely to have one of the top 10 jobs overall. Only two of the least stressful jobs are in the Top 10: Biomedical Engineer and Civil Engineer. Of the remaining eight, seven are in the bottom 50 of the overall rankings.

Unsurprisingly, the jobs where workers feel the most stress are often in Healthcare and Sales. All of the following jobs earn a grade of “D” for stress level: Physician Assistant, Sales Director, Nurse Anesthetist, Emergency Room Physician, Director of Nursing, Psychiatrist, Senior Sales Executive, Primary Care Physician, Hospital Administrator, Regional Sales Manager, Nursing Home Director, Intensive Care Unit Nurse, General Sales Manager, Nurse Practitioner, Anesthesiologist, and General Surgeon.

Best Jobs: Who Feels the Most Secure in the Long Run?

While we ranked the jobs based on BLS 10-year growth estimates, we also asked people doing the jobs what their perspectives of future growth for their job are. Half of these Top 10 Jobs with the Highest Future Growth are in the healthcare industry. This is unsurprising as an aging workforce and the imminent retirement of the baby boomers leads to a surge in available and needed healthcare positions.

Unlike stress, grades of “A” for perceived future job growth are easy to come by. All of the Top 10 Jobs with the Highest Future Growth have a grade of “A”. In fact, over half of the 100 Best Jobs have a grade of “A” and none of the jobs have a grade lower than “B”. People in these top jobs are optimistic, and they generally believe the worst of the recession is behind them.

Do you believe the worst of the recession is over, and are wondering what type of pay you can now expect with your job? When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position or job offer, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.


Katie Bardaro
Research Analyst, PayScale, Inc.

Katie Bardaro
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