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What Does ‘Job Meaning’ Mean, Anyway?


PayScale’s latest report, The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs, looks at which occupations are described by workers as making the world a better place. The jobs that make the list probably won’t come as a surprise – surgeon is on there, as is English teacher and clergy member – but that doesn’t mean that every high-meaning job looks exactly the same.


(Photo Credit: Gardner Chiropractic/Flickr)

Here’s what the most-meaningful jobs do have in common, in a general sense:

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  • Helps others. Whether it’s by teaching or performing surgery or shepherding a spiritual flock, these jobs give back to the community, often in concrete ways.
  • Involves risk. None of these jobs are easy: have a bad day as a psychiatrist or an anesthesiologist and you could do irreparable harm to a patient. Still, the rewards are great – how many people can say they saved a life at work?
  • Requires post-secondary education. All of the jobs on the list require at least some education beyond high school, and often professional licensure to boot.

How do the jobs on the high-meaning list differ? In a variety of ways, ranging from pay (surgeons can pull down over $300,000 a year, while directors of religious activities make around $37,000 annually) to education required (everything from a bachelor’s to an MD, depending). But, perhaps the most important difference between these occupations is one of focus: although healthcare, education, and religion are heavily represented in the top 10, there’s a meaningful job for most interests as you look toward the top of the full list.

In other words, don’t fret if you don’t feel moved to become either a chiropractor or an English teacher. Meaningful work can be yours, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself about your interests, skills, and priorities.

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What does job meaning mean to you? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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