The Most (and Least) Satisfied Professions

Michael B. Sauter, Alexander, Samuel

14. Transportation
> Job types: Bus drivers, flight attendants, air traffic controllers
> Well-being index score: 63.3
> Obesity: 62.9%
> Pct. with health insurance: 77.0%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 84.8%

Just over 80% of transportation employees believe that they use their strengths at work, lower than any other occupation except for clerical workers. Many transportation jobs, such as bus drivers and cab drivers, pay low wages, possibly contributing to a lower sense of well-being. Other positions in the industry pay quite well. For instance, air traffic controllers had a median pay of $108,040 in 2010, a pretty good haul considering that the position only needs an associate’s degree. However, the position involves a high amount of stress due to the intense concentration necessary and the nights and weekends involved.

13. Manufacturing or Production
> Job types: Assembly line workers, bakers, machine workers
> Well-being index score: 64.3
> Obesity: 70.4%
> Pct. with health insurance: 78.8%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 83.4%

Manufacturing and production employees — such as factory workers, food preparation workers, garment or furniture manufacturers — had lower ratings of their work environments than nearly all other occupations. They were less likely to feel satisfied in their job and among the least likely to be satisfied with how their supervisor treated them. Many of these jobs are low wages jobs. The median annual salaries of bakers and food processors were $23,450 and $23,950, respectively in 2010. The median 2010 salaries of assemblers, metal and plastic machine workers, and printing workers were all below the national median for all occupations. Manufacturing and production employees also ranked as the nation’s worst for healthy behavior due to high rates of smoking and low rates of exercise.

Also Read: America’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

12. Installation or Repair
> Job types: Mechanic, linesman, maintenance worker
> Well-being index score: 64.8
> Obesity: 70.7%
> Pct. with health insurance: 75.9%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 87.2%

Installation and repair workers, such as linesmen, mechanics, as well as maintenance and repair workers, were less likely to practice healthy behaviors. They were among the least likely employees to regularly eat fruits and vegetables, and among the most likely to smoke. Additionally, these workers also provided lower self-evaluations of their current lives than all occupations except for transportation workers. Many of these positions require no more than a high school diploma alongside moderate or long-term on-the-job training and do not pay considerably more than the median pay of $33,840 for all occupations.

11. Service Worker
> Job types: Police officer, barber, waiter
> Well-being index score: 65.3
> Obesity: 74.4%
> Pct. with health insurance: 73.0%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 83.6%

Service workers include a wide range of occupations, from fast-food servers to firefighters to barbers. Some service jobs can be dangerous. Police officers, landscapers and janitorial workers all had injury rates well above the national average. The job category ranked last on Gallup’s physical health index, with workers among the most likely to be sick or have health problems that prevent them from participating in normal activities. The sector was also the worst performer for emotional health. Service workers were among the least likely to say they felt treated well within the past day and the most likely of all professionals to say the felt sadness much of the day. In addition, they were also among the most likely to say they were dissatisfied with their job, and among the least likely to feel they used their strengths daily.

10. Construction or Mining
> Job types: Carpenter, plumber, miner
> Well-being index score: 66.1
> Obesity: 76.1%
> Pct. with health insurance: 61.2%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 86.2%

Construction and mining workers received high scores in physical health, falling third behind professional workers and physicians. This was despite the fact many such workers — including carpenters, oil and gas workers, and roofers — all had above average injury rates. Just 9.5% of those surveyed said that health problems prevented them from age appropriate activities, the lowest of any kind of worker. They were also the least likely to report having high cholesterol, diabetes or cancer. However, of all professions, construction and mining workers had the lowest score for access to basic necessities, ranking among the most likely to report lacking enough money to afford food, shelter or medical care. The median pay of construction trades and extractions jobs was higher than the median for all occupations.

9. Sales
> Job types: Sales agent, manufacturer’s representative, clerk
> Well-being index score: 68.0
> Obesity: 77.6%
> Pct. with health insurance: 83.8%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 83.7%

Sales workers include sales associates, store clerks and manufacturers’ representatives. The qualifications for sales positions vary dramatically. A typical retail sales worker earned just over $10 an hour in 2010 and had less than a high school diploma. By comparison, individuals who sell financial or complex scientific products earned more than double the median for all occupations. Sales workers polled poorly in emotional well-being in 2012, finishing fourth-worst among all professions. However, they frequently had to make a strong impression on clients; 86.3% of sales professionals claimed they had smiled or laughed a lot in the past day — the second highest rate.

Also Read: The States with the Strongest and Weakest Unions

8. Clerical or Office
> Job types: Secretaries, bank tellers, postal clerks
> Well-being index score: 68.1
> Obesity: 73.8%
> Pct. with health insurance: 89.9%
> Pct. satisfied with job: 87.5%

Clerical and office workers were the only occupation where less than four in five workers said that they use their strengths at work to do what they do best. They also tend to have a less active lifestyle. This was the only occupation on our list in which less than half of the respondents indicated that they worked out at least 30 minutes a day at least three days in the past week. Perhaps as a result, these workers as a whole tend to have more health problems than other workers. For instance, nearly 12% have been told they had asthma, the highest percentage of all 14 occupations. More than 7% have been told they has diabetes, a higher percentage than all but two professions.