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The Best and Worst Jobs 2012


Last week, CareerCast.com released their ranking for 200 jobs form best to worst. Are you curious where your job stands? I know I am. As long time readers know, I am a bit disenchanted with my job and I’m working on an exit strategy. The jobs are ranked by these five categories: Physical Demands, Work Environment, Income, Stress and Hiring Outlook.

From the criteria, we can already tell that high paying white collar jobs will rank much better than the blue collar jobs. The Income and Hiring Outlook are related to market demand and a high paying job generally are more in demand. I’m sure a cushy office job will be at the top of the heap when they look at Physical Demands and Work Environment as well.

And the winner is ….. Software Engineer.  A software engineer sits on his butt all day in a nice safe cubicle, is well paid, and the job is in demand. The stress is high in this job, but all the other scores are good enough to push the software engineer to the top in 2012.

best and worst job

best job???

The worst job is your lumberjack. I can see that. The risk for injury is high and it requires a lot of physical assertion everyday. The job pays about $32,000 and the hiring outlook is not good. Do you know any lumberjack? Is it really the worst job ever?

Take a look at the top 10 best and worst jobs



1. Software Engineer ($88,142) 200. Lumberjack ($32,114)
2. Actuary ($88,202) 199. Dairy Farmer  ($33,119)
3. Human Resource Manager ($99,102) 198. Enlisted Military Soldier ($36,261)
4. Dental Hygienist ($68,109) 197. Oil Rig Worker ($32,132)
5. Financial Planner ($104,161) 196. Newspaper Reporter ($35,275)
6. Audiologist ($67,137) 195. Waiter/Waitress ($18,088)
7. Occupational Therapist ($72,110) 194. Meter Reader ($35,171)
8. Online Advertising Manager ($87,255) 193. Dishwasher ($18,044)
9. Computer Systems Analyst ($78,148) 192. Butcher ($29,156)
10. Mathematician ($99,191) 191. Broadcaster ($27,324)


What do you think of this list? I’m a bit bias, but I don’t think Software Engineer is the best job in the world. Sure, we work in a cushy chair, but there are long term consequences to sitting in front of a computer for 8-10 hours/day. (I’m not a software engineer, but close enough.) Financial Planner on the other hand looks like a good job to me. They are helping people with their finances and are compensated quite well. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it? Do you like any of the top 10 jobs?

What about the worst 10 jobs? I’m surprise Broadcaster is on the list. I guess radio is not a great field to go into anymore and the hiring outlook is not good. I didn’t know the pay is that low, but I suppose most broadcasters are working in small local markets.  Another surprising thing is that Waiter/Waitress ranks lower than Dishwasher. I thought the Dishwasher is the bottom of the totem pole in the restaurant business. Would you rather wash dishes than serve customers? I know I don’t.

You can drop by careercast and see where you job is on the list. They list 20 jobs on each page so you might have to browse around a bit.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Joel April 23, 2012, 4:52 am

    I think the grass must always be greener on the other side looking at the top list.

    One of my best friends is a Software Engineer and became so burned out after 4-5 years he is trying to do a startup company to get out of the corporate software engineering role.

    My sister-in-law is a Insurance Actuary and is working ridiculous hours and under constant stress.

    Granted these are only individual cases, but several of those “top 10” jobs are very high stress jobs. I would rather make less money and have less stress.

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 8:55 pm

      It depends on whether you like the job too. Some people I know are still enjoying the software engineer role even with the stress. Personally I’d rather have less stress like you.

  • Financial Samurai April 23, 2012, 6:57 am

    Where is six-figure BLOGGER on the list? Clearly the creator of the list knows nothing!

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 8:56 pm

      Maybe next year? 🙂

  • TB at BlueCollarWorkman April 23, 2012, 7:00 am

    Well I’m glad I’m not a lumberjack, but I am a blue collar worker. And becuase of that, I don’t really have the time to look up where my job is, because I’m working too much! Construction worker, welder, plumber, painter… I’m sure none of them rank well. But it is nice getting outside and seeing new people every day!

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 8:57 pm

      Electrician? They make very good money.

  • PK April 23, 2012, 8:53 am

    I think Software Engineer won last year too. As one myself? I don’t know what to compare it to, but I do enjoy my job, heh.

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 8:59 pm

      It’s great that you like your job. How long have you been at it? 🙂

  • Modest Money April 23, 2012, 9:27 am

    Sounds like a pretty inaccurate list to me. They simply take too few factors into account. A software engineer may get paid well, but it is easy to get burnt out sitting in front of a computer all day. A lot of those jobs are straight out of Office Space. As for a lumberjack, I know people in this trade and they are very happy. This fails to mention that the salary they earn is from only working part of the year. Then there’s waiters and waitresses, I am quite positive that most are earning much more than that when tips are included. As long as you get paid enough to reach your goals and you’re happy, who cares where some vague list ranks your job.

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 9:01 pm

      I think the waiter/waitress job are pulled down by the large number of small establishments. I’m pretty sure the waiter at the places we go to make more money than that. Yeap, it’s all personal.

  • Invest It Wisely April 23, 2012, 9:40 am

    Yep, the grass is always greener. Besides, that software engineer pay is not that high everywhere. The average is more like $50k – $60k where I live, and less than that if you work for a startup or game company. In that case you’ll probably be down to $40k. On top of that, you have to accept long hours of work.

    Cushiest job should be in the public sector. 😉

    • Financial Samurai April 23, 2012, 11:02 am

      Come to Google. $200,000-$400,000 for a software engineer with 8 years experience 🙂

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2012, 9:02 pm

      Interesting. You should move to the Bay area like Sam suggested. 🙂

  • Jeremiah Brown April 23, 2012, 10:18 am

    That list makes me want to be a Financial Planner even more and I knew dishwasher had to be near the bottom.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple April 23, 2012, 11:53 am

    Woo hoo! #1!
    I’m not sure there’s a “best job in the world” since every job is going to have it’s drawbacks

  • Jim April 23, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Yes I agree the ‘grass is always greener’ thinking has an impact on how people view some jobs.

    The worst jobs have generally poor work environments : often higher injury/fatality rates, working out doors in the elements, and / or Poor job stability. Plus the worst jobs get paid about 20-50% of what of the best jobs get and probably usually have much lower benefits as well.

  • Frugal Portland April 23, 2012, 4:45 pm

    This is obviously very subjective but I wholeheartedly disagree. The missing factor here is “love” — if you don’t love what you’re doing, you will hate whatever job you end up in, and hating your job is the worst.

  • Thad P @ thadthoughts.com April 23, 2012, 5:32 pm

    I’m not surprised about the software engineer job being at the top of the list. Not at all.

  • FI Fighter April 23, 2012, 9:06 pm

    I found the results of this list kind of interesting. By title I am #71 Electrical Engineer, but my current job calls for me to be more #1 Software Engineer. Having seen both sides of the coin, I must agree resoundingly that YES, being a software engineer is much, much preferred (less stressful).

    Generally, when a hardware problem arises, it takes days and many stressful hours to debug. Many other people are usually brought in to brainstorm and troubleshoot. Lots of meetings are held. When I have a software problem, I usually fix it myself. It’s much easier to debug, re-code, and retest… than it is to re-wire / re-solder hardware components. And writing software can carry much added job security if no one else on the team knows how to write, debug your code 🙂

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Really? I thought those two jobs would be pretty similar these days.
      Actually I like working with hardware more. You get to do a few different things and don’t have to sit in front of the monitor all day.
      It does take more time to fix hardware problems and it could be a pain if you need to involve other people.
      Thanks for your input.

  • CultOfMoney April 23, 2012, 9:19 pm

    The average pay of the software engineer certainly helps it be a highly rated job. I used to be a software engineer, so I know the ups and downs of the job. There are certainly long hours and long term issues with eyes, back, and whatnot, but again, some pay helps with those problems.

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Really? How come you changed job?

  • Buck Inspire April 24, 2012, 12:36 am

    Cool list. I can see software engineer being on top with all the positives. Surprised about broadcaster and newspaper reporter. Waiter ranks lower than a dishwasher because dirty dishes don’t talk back and have attitudes!

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Haha, I guess your comment about dishes are valid.

  • Little House April 24, 2012, 6:49 am

    I’m surprised teacher isn’t listed under the “worst” ;). However, I’m surprised that a broadcaster has such a low salary. I should have gone the OT route or became a language pathologist. They get paid the big bucks (in comparison, that is).

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Being a teacher must have a lot of intangible benefits. I’m thankful for teachers everywhere.

  • 101 Centavos April 25, 2012, 8:09 pm

    Dairy farmer being a worst job? Must be because of all the cow poop.

    • retirebyforty April 26, 2012, 9:11 am

      Dairy farms seem to have a lot of financial trouble lately too.

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