Special Report

The Most (and Least) Meaningful Jobs

10. Fashion designers
> Pct. job meaning:
26%
> Employment: 19,040
> Annual median wage: $63,670
> Job satisfaction: 58%

Fashion designers work to create original styles of clothing and accessories by sketching, selecting fabrics, and creating sample garments. While the job may be creatively fulfilling for some, there is a pervasive sense that the job does not make a meaningful difference in the world. The relatively high salaries may help offset the designers’ lack of perceived meaning. The median pay in the field of $63,670 a year is far higher than most of the least fulfilling jobs and roughly $33,000 more than the median compensation across all occupations.

9. Crushing, grinding, and polishing machine workers
> Pct. job meaning:
26%
> Employment: 31,140
> Annual median wage: $33,810
> Job satisfaction: 41%

Crusher, grinder, and polishing machine operators are more likely to believe that their job does not make a difference in the world than workers in the vast majority of other occupations. As their titles suggest, those in the field use machinery to crush, grind, or polish certain materials such as stone, glass, or coal. As is the case in many jobs where a relatively small share of workers feel like they are making a difference, there are little to no educational requirements for grinding and crushing machine operators and tenders. The majority of workers in the occupation have a high school diploma or less.

8. Welding, soldering, and brazing Machine workers
> Pct. job meaning:
26%
> Employment: 53,080
> Annual median wage: $36,150
> Job satisfaction: 63%

Welders and solderers are far more likely to perceive their job as meaningless than most people in the workforce. Most jobs entail operating welding machines to assemble metal components as outlined in blueprints or work orders. In addition to a lack of fulfillment, roughly 75% of workers in the field in report being exposed to contaminants and uncomfortable noise levels on a daily basis. Pay among welders and solderers is not exceptional. The typical worker in the field earns $36,150 annually, about as much as the median income across all occupations.

7. Counter and rental clerks
> Pct. job meaning:
26%
> Employment: 447,050
> Annual median wage: $24,440
> Job satisfaction: 43%

Counter and rental clerks are customer facing employees such as cashiers, rental agents, and customer service associates. A relatively small share of such clerks think their work makes the world a better place. Counter and rental clerks are also among the lowest paid workers in the country, earning only $24,440 a year — far less than the $36,200 median salary across all occupations. Low pay is likely partially due to a low educational requirements. The majority of those employed in the field do not have a high school diploma.

6. Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products
> Pct. job meaning:
26%
> Employment: 12,160
> Annual median wage: $56,270
> Job satisfaction: 52%

Buyers and purchasing agents of farm products negotiate contracts with farms to buy their products — such as grains or milk — for the purpose of processing or reselling. Jobs in the field can be stressful and often require attention to detail. Though relatively few buyers of farm products find meaning in their job, they are often well compensated. The typical farm product purchasing agent earns $56,270 annually, considerably more than the $36,200 median salary across all occupations.