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The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs [interactive chart]


Want a job that makes the world a better place? Sometimes, that means sacrificing practical rewards (read: cash) for a sense of helping others — but not always. As PayScale’s newest data package shows, many careers offer a salary that allows you to feed your body as well as your spirit. Some will even make you rich.

job meaning 

In The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs, PayScale examines how over 450 jobs from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), compare on variables like:

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  • Job Meaning
  • Median Pay
  • Job Satisfaction
  • High Job Stress
  • Typical Educational Level
  • Gender Breakdown
  • Job Level
  • Job Category

Just looking at the top 10 occupations, the results show high-meaning jobs in a variety of categories, in occupations as diverse as clergy, surgeon, and fire fighter, with median annual salaries ranging from around $35,000 to nearly $300,000.

In other words, no matter what your interests are, it’s possible to find a job that will pay a good salary and allow you to feel like you’re helping your fellow humans. Some occupations even require less than a four-year degree (e.g., fire fighters, who typically have an associate’s degree, but don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s, and have a 93 percent rating for high job meaning) or allow you to achieve high meaning and a good salary right from the start (e.g. speech-language pathologists, who need a master’s degree, but have a median annual salary of $66,200, and a 92 percent rating for high job meaning).

PayScale’s interactive chart allows you to look up any occupation to see if it could be the job of your dreams — and then tells you the level of education you’ll need to achieve it.

For more about PayScale’s methodology for The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs, look here.

Tell Us What You Think

Would you choose a job you loved over a job that paid big bucks? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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I love how principals think they are so great. Schools don’t need principals with lofty self-image, they need good solid teachers who have freedom to teach things in real, intelligent ways. Some bunch of haughty bureaucrats.


Work is honorable… no matter what the job. Someone who works to take care of themselves and their family is always to be commended.

I wish it were otherwise, but I’m not impressed with the majority of your posts.

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