Special Report

The Most (and Least) Meaningful Jobs

5. Education administrators, elementary and secondary school
> Pct. job meaning:
95%
> Employment: 235,110
> Annual median wage: $90,410
> Job satisfaction: 88%

Teaching is often rated as a highly meaningful job, but teachers are not the only workers employed in education who find their job fulfilling. Education administrators for K-12 schools include the principals, school board, superintendents, and others who make sure schools run smoothly and that the needs of students are met. Unlike many jobs in K-12 education, school administrators are paid quite well, with a typical worker earning $90,410 annually compared to a national median wage of $36,200.

4. Directors, religious activities and education
> Pct. job meaning:
96%
> Employment: 20,280
> Annual median wage: $38,780
> Job satisfaction: 84%

Religious directors manage retreats, camps, and other programs related to a particular faith. Unlike many other director positions, these individuals are do not receive unusually high compensation. In fact, the typical religious director earns $38,780 annually, just slightly higher than the $36,200 annual median wage across all occupations. Still, of those surveyed by PayScale, 84% said they enjoyed their work, one of the highest proportions of any occupation. This high level of satisfaction may be due to the fact that more than 19 out of every 20 directors feel like they are making a difference in the world.

3. English language and literature teachers, postsecondary
> Pct. job meaning:
96%
> Employment: 75,730
> Annual median wage: $61,990
> Job satisfaction: 74%

College and postgraduate level English language and literature teachers report some of the highest levels of fulfillment of any profession in the country. Roughly 19 out of 20 of those surveyed said they felt that their work makes the world a better place. English professors often teach comparative literature while conducting academic research in their specific field. Employment growth in the field through 2024 is projected to outpace the 7% employment growth across all occupations.

2. Surgeons
> Pct. job meaning:
96%
> Employment: 41,600
> Annual median wage: N/A
> Job satisfaction: 83%

Becoming a surgeon requires at least a decade of education that is extremely expensive and emotionally and physically demanding. Still, those who are able to withstand the process are rewarded with high pay, job satisfaction, and a sense of fulfillment. The average surgeon earns just under $250,000 a year. Of surgeons surveyed by PayScale, 83% said they enjoyed their work, one of the highest proportions among the hundreds of occupations considered.

1. Clergy
> Pct. job meaning:
98%
> Employment: 48,250
> Annual median wage: $44,250
> Job satisfaction: 90%

Members of the clergy include ministers, pastors, priests and rabbis among many others. No matter the faith or denomination, the feeling that their work is making a difference is nearly universal among clergymen and clergywomen. Duties of the clergy often include leading spiritual functions, conducting worship sessions, and providing spiritual counsel. Because a firm belief in their respective spiritual teaching is a necessity in the field, it is perhaps no surprise that 98% of clergy say their job makes a difference in the world.