Special Report

The Best (and Worst) Jobs in America

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The U.S. economy is constantly evolving. So, too, is the U.S. job market. Some occupations that were once high paying and relatively stable are now fading from the economic landscape, while others jobs that are now in high demand practically did not exist 50 years ago.

Identifying the best and worst jobs for an individual is inherently subjective as people can have a wide range of interests and abilities. However, by accounting for certain objective factors, such as pay and job security, certain jobs stand out as better than others.

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Job database website CareerCast provided 24/7 Wall St. with its 2017 list of the 10 worst and 10 best jobs in the country.

Click here to see the best jobs in America.

Click here to see the worst jobs in America.

According to the report released today, a statistician — a relatively high-paying occupation with rapid employment growth — is the best job in the country. Meanwhile, a newspaper reporter — a relatively low-paying occupation with declining employment — is the worst job in the country.

Many of the worst jobs in the country are low paying. Of the 10 worst jobs, seven have a lower median income than the $37,040 annual median income for all occupations. Many of the worst jobs are also disappearing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment across all professions is projected to increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024. Of the worst jobs, taxi driver is the only profession with greater than average projected employment growth, while the BLS projects total employment to contract in five.

Some of the worst jobs are also dangerous. Military service members are expected to work in life-threatening situations; pest control workers often work with poisonous chemicals; and loggers, the third worst job in the country, also have the highest fatality rate of any profession.

On the other side of the equation, the best jobs tend to be both high paying and in demand. All of them have higher than average projected growth and high median annual income.

Of the 10 best jobs, four require advanced math skills and three are in medical care. Growth in these areas in the coming years will be driven by industries becoming more computer-based and data-driven, and an aging baby boomer population.

To determine the best and worst jobs in the country, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data from CareerCast’s “The Best Jobs of 2017” and “The Worst Jobs of 2017” reports. CareerCast provided the top and bottom 10 jobs, as well as the annual median salary and projected growth outlook from 2014 to 2024 for these professions. CareerCast’s rankings are based on four criteria: environment, income, outlook, and stress. A complete breakdown of CareerCast’s methodology may be found at this link.

Employment figures for all occupations other than enlisted military personnel came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are as of May 2016. The total number of enlisted military personnel came from the Defense Manpower Data Center of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and includes Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard and is for February 2017.

10. Speech pathologist
> Annual median wage: $73,410
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 21%
> Total employment: 135,980

Speech pathologists, or speech therapists, work primarily in schools and hospitals. They primarily treat communication disorders in children and help adults with speech problems — many of which are the consequence of disease, injury, or surgery complications. The job is one of three on this list in the health care field.

As is the case with many of the best jobs identified by CareerCast, speech pathologist positions are not especially easy to get as they often require a master’s degree.

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9. Occupational therapist
> Annual median wage: $80,150
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 27%
> Total employment: 118,070

Occupational therapists work with patients that have a range of disabilities and afflictions. They help the patients to accomplish everyday tasks and expand their capabilities. Employment opportunities for occupational therapists are projected to increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024 — more than triple the projected 7% employment growth rate across all occupations. Not only are occupational therapists in demand, but they are also well compensated. The median salary in the field of $80,150 a year is more than double the $37,040 median salary across all occupations.

8. Software engineer
> Annual median wage: $100,690
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 17%
> Total employment: 1,604,570

Software engineers have been among the best jobs in the country for years, and the occupation will likely remain in high demand in the future. The number of software engineers in the United States is estimated to increase 17% in the decade ending 2024, much faster than the 7% average for all U.S. occupations.

Software engineers concentrating specifically on applications development are likely to be in even higher demand as the number of products that use such software — mobile phones and appliances, for example — continues to increase.

7. Mathematician
> Annual median wage: $111,100
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 21%
> Total employment: 2,730

As the increasing digitization of commerce, social interaction, and other aspects of everyday life generates increasing amounts of data, companies will require mathematical models and people capable of analyzing the large amounts of information.

The BLS projects the number of mathematicians will increase 21% in the 10 years ending in 2024, three times the 7% projected growth rate for all U.S. occupations. Most mathematician positions require a graduate degree and a strong quantitative background — and they pay relatively well. The typical mathematician earns $111,100 annually, far more than the $37,040 median for all workers.

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6. University professor (tenured)
> Annual median wage: $72,470
> Projected job growth (includes untenured), 2014-2024: 13%
> Total employment: 1,530,010

University professors, specifically those who are tenured, have one of the best jobs in the country. Tenured professors benefit from nearly unparalleled job security as — unlike adjunct and associate professors — their positions are effectively permanent. One of the most difficult jobs to get, university professors typically have a Ph.D. Tenure is typically only granted after at least seven years teaching in a post-secondary institution and a peer review of the candidate’s research and teaching.

5. Data scientist
> Annual median wage: $111,267
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 16%
> Total employment: 26,580

As the amount of data businesses collect continues to grow, individuals capable of mining the information for insights and actionable knowledge will be in high demand. The BLS projects that the number of data scientists will increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024, more than twice the 7% projected growth rate for all U.S. occupations. Most data scientists have doctoral degrees or professional degrees and are compensated well for their expertise. The typical data scientist earns $111,267 per year, far more than the $37,040 median for all jobs.

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4. Information security analyst
> Annual median wage: $90,120
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 18%
> Total employment: 96,870

As individuals, businesses, and governments increasingly rely on computers and digital information storage, the risks associated with cyber attacks will continue to grow. Partially as a result, information security analysts will become increasingly important. Both highly paid and in demand, the typical information security analyst earns $90,120 a year. Employment in the field is projected to increase at a much faster than average pace of 18% over the next few years.

3. Operations research analyst
> Annual median wage: $78,630
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 30%
> Total employment: 109,150

One of several jobs that require strong math skills on this list, operations research analysts use data and statistics to solve problems in a range of areas, including business, logistics, and health care. As more and more companies and government agencies explore the benefits of data analysis, employment in the field is projected to increase by 30% in the coming years, more than four times the employment growth rate across all occupations. The $78,630 median income for operations research analysts is more than double the $37,040 median income across all occupations.

2. Medical services manager
> Annual median wage: $94,500
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 17%
> Total employment: 332,150

Also referred to as health care executives or health care administrators, medical services managers oversee the operations of a medical facility or specific clinical department, ensure compliance with the latest health care laws and regulations, as well as incorporate new technology. More than a third of medical services managers work in hospitals, 10% in physicians’ offices, and 10% in nursing and residential care facilities. As the aging baby boom generation continues to require increasing medical care, all health professionals will be in high demand.

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1. Statistician
> Annual median wage: $80,110
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 34%
> Total employment: 33,440

As the increasing digitization of commerce, social interaction, and other aspects of everyday life generates increasing amounts of data, companies will require more people capable of analyzing the large amounts of collected information. The number of statisticians in the United States is projected to grow by 34% in the decade ending in 2024, partially due to the profession’s versatile applications. Such workers will likely be needed across a variety of fields such as academia, banking, health care, marketing, government, and sports. Most statisticians have a master’s degree and a strong quantitative background — and they are well compensated. The typical statistician earns $80,110 annually, more than twice the $37,040 median for all occupations.

10. Taxi driver
> Annual median wage: $23,510
> Projected job growth (including chauffeurs), 2014-2024: 13%
> Total employment: 188,860

Like many jobs on this list, taxi driver ranks among the worst occupations due in large part to low pay. The typical taxi driver earns only $23,510 a year, well below the $37,040 median salary across all occupations. Taxi drivers are also facing increased competition in recent years, with the introduction of new ridesharing companies including Uber and Lyft. The emergence of these companies may also offer taxi drivers new job opportunities as chauffeurs. Like many of the nation’s worst jobs, the taxi driver profession may also be vulnerable to technological developments. Self-driving cars, while a long way off, may reduce employment opportunities for taxi drivers.

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9. Retail salesperson
> Annual median wage: $22,040
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 7%
> Total employment: 4.5 million

While the proliferation of online shopping has created high demand for quantitative professions such as statistician and data scientist, it has hurt brick-and-mortar retail. The number of retail salespeople is projected to grow 7% over the decade ending 2024, in line with the average for all U.S. occupations. Regardless, pay for retail sales workers has traditionally been among the lowest in the United States. The typical retail salesperson earns just $22,040 per year, far less than the $37,040 average wage for all jobs, and the lowest wage of the jobs on this list.

8. Firefighter
> Annual median wage: $46,870
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: 5%
> Total employment: 315,910

Some of the most important occupations in the United States happen to be some of most stressful and dangerous jobs available. Firefighters face some of the most dangerous work conditions of any occupation, and often work 24-hour shifts.

Thanks to improvements in building codes and materials there has been a decline in building fires and fire damage, and as a result demand for firefighters has not kept up with overall job growth. On the other hand drought conditions and the elevated risk of wildfire may increase demand in some parts of the country. The number of firefighters is projected to grow by 5% in the decade ending in 2024, slower than the 7% average for all U.S. occupations.

7. Advertising sales person
> Annual median wage: $48,490
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -3%
> Total employment: 141,100

Advertising sales is one of several occupations to rank among the worst jobs due in part to the decline in traditional media forms such as newspapers and television. Employment in advertising sales is expected to decline by 3% over the decade through 2024. This decline will track closely with trends across the newspaper publishing industry. However, because advertising will still be sold on digital formats, the decline in ad sales workers will not be as severe as in other areas of print media.

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6. Disc jockey
> Annual median wage: $30,080
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -11%
> Total employment: 37,230

The disc jockey profession, like several other jobs, have a poor hiring outlook as a result of the proliferation of technology. Radio station consolidation and online music streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora have decreased the demand for disc jockeys. The number of disc jockeys is projected to decline by 11% in the decade ending in 2024, while the total number of U.S. occupations is projected to increase by 7%. While disc jockeys require outgoing personalities and some technical skills, the job has few formal educational requirements and pays relatively little. The typical disc jockey earns $30,080 a year, less than the $37,040 average for all jobs.

5. Pest control worker
> Annual median wage: $32,162
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -1%
> Total employment: 72,830

Several factors contribute to pest control ranking as one of the worst jobs in the country. For one, workers may have to contain dangerous animals such as alligators and snakes, and work with poisonous materials. Further, their work spaces are often confined or otherwise unpleasant. Like many jobs on this list, pest control workers typically earn less than most workers, and demand for their services is projected to decline in the near future.

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4. Enlisted military personnel
> Annual median wage: $27,936
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: N/A
> Total employment: 1.3 million

Enlisted military personnel, who ensure the security of the United States, often face high stress and difficult work environments. Despite the job’s difficulty, military personnel are paid relatively little and are among CareerCast’s worst jobs. The typical salary for an enlisted member of the military with three years of experience is $27,936 a year, roughly $9,000 less than the $37,040 average for all U.S. occupations. Military service can, however, provide personnel with experience and training that can lead to job opportunities outside of the armed forces.

3. Logger
> Annual median wage: $36,210
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -4%
> Total employment: 38,650

Due to increased automation and competition from foreign logging companies, total employment in the industry is projected to decline 4% between 2014 and 2024. In addition, the typical logger makes only $36,210 a year, about $1,000 less than the typical worker across all occupations. Loggers earn relatively low pay despite having the highest fatality rate of any profession. Most positions in the occupation are also very physically demanding, requiring repeated lifting, hauling, and climbing during the workday.

2. Broadcaster
> Annual median wage: $37,720
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -13%
> Total employment: 37,230

The declining popularity of traditional media forms is contributing to decreased revenue for news networks — leading to job cuts and restructuring efforts across the entire industry. The 13% projected employment decline among broadcasters is the worst employment outlook of any occupation on this list.

Broadcasters — particularly those covering politics — are perhaps now more than ever facing greater levels of stress. According to CareerCast, as political discourse in the U.S. has become more polarized, news organizations and broadcasters are under perhaps greater scrutiny than ever before. Compounded by tight deadlines, the job of a broadcaster is also relatively stressful.

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1. Newspaper reporter
> Annual median wage: $36,360
> Projected job growth, 2014-2024: -9%
> Total employment: 22,880

While the increasing digitization of commerce, social interaction, and other aspects of everyday life has increased demand for occupations such as data scientist and statistician, few industries have been hurt more by the information age than newspaper publishing. According to the BLS, employment in the industry fell from 456,700 workers in March 1990 to 183,200 in 2016. Declining revenues will continue to lower demand for workers in the industry, and the number of newspaper reporters is projected to shrink by 9% in the 10 years ending in 2024. The typical newspaper reporter earns $36,360 a year, slightly below the $37,040 median for all U.S. occupations.

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