Special Report

The Most (and Least) Meaningful Jobs

The Most Meaningful Jobs

20. Mental health counselors
> Pct. job meaning:
89%
> Employment: 128,200
> Annual median wage: $41,880
> Job satisfaction: 70%

Mental health counselors help patients and clients cope with emotional and mental struggles. They are also more likely to gain fulfillment from their job than the vast majority of workers across all fields. Nearly 90% of the 128,200 mental health counselors in the United States say that their work makes the world a better place. As is the case in the majority of especially fulfilling jobs, mental health counselors earn a living by helping to improve the lives of others.

19. Physical therapists
> Pct. job meaning:
90%
> Employment: 209,690
> Annual median wage: $84,020
> Job satisfaction: 79%

Physical therapists are far more likely than most professionals to feel that their job makes a meaningful difference. Similar to most other fulfilling jobs, physical therapists earn a living by helping others. They typically work in hospitals and clinics to help the injured or ill to manage pain and improve mobility. Physical therapists are relatively well compensated. The typical annual pay in the field of $84,020 is considerably higher than the $36,200 median pay across all occupations considered.

18. Family and general practitioners
> Pct. job meaning:
90%
> Employment: 127,430
> Annual median wage: $184,390
> Job satisfaction: 78%

Family and general practitioners are medical doctors who treat and monitor patients’ health and refer them to specialists if the need arises. Such physicians often care for patients — and entire families — for years, even decades. They spend much of their day helping people, with whom they often have strong relationships. Of the 127,430 family and general practitioners in the country, 90% report feeling that their job makes the world a better place. As is the case with many of the most meaningful jobs, becoming a family or general practitioner is not easy. Most jobs in the field require eight years of postsecondary education followed by three to seven years of in an internship or residency program.

17. Speech-language pathologists
> Pct. job meaning:
90%
> Employment: 131,450
> Annual median wage: $73,410
> Job satisfaction: 79%

Like many of the most meaningful jobs, speech-language pathologists earn their living by helping others. Professional speech-language pathologists work with people who have difficulty communicating verbally, often as a consequence of hearing loss or a stroke. As the baby boom generation ages, the demand for speech-language pathologists will likely increase. Over the next decade, employment in the field is projected to grow by 21%, far outpacing the projected 7% employment growth across all occupations. Jobs in the field typically require a master’s degree and often a state issued license to practice. Relatively well compensated, the typical speech-pathologist earns $73,410 annually.

16. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
> Pct. job meaning:
90%
> Employment: 100,370
> Annual median wage: $82,090
> Job satisfaction: 85%

While health care workers and teachers dominate the list of highly meaningful jobs, police work can also be fulfilling. Most first-line police supervisors and detectives often feel they are making a difference by keeping the streets safe. The majority of the most meaningful jobs tend to require at least a college education. These higher-ranking police and detectives typically need only a high school diploma.