Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 09, 2009

What Makes a Job "Best" or "Worst"

The Wall Street Journal published the results of an annual ranking of Best And Worst Jobs.

There are some interesting picks in there. The #1 best job is Mathematician and #12 is Philosopher, coming in right behind #11: Economist. Academic jobs overall did well (#4 Biologist, #7 Historian, #20 Astronomer) though other high skills office jobs ranked as well: #2 Actuary, #3 Statistician, #5 Software Engineer, #9 Industrial Designer, #10 Accountant.

One thing that struck me was that nearly every job in the top twenty involved sitting at a desk and thining a lot (with the biggest exception being #14 Parole Officer.) Of the bottom 20 we have: #181 Firefighter, #182 Child Care Worker, #187 Auto Mechanic, #196 EMT, #199 Dairy Farmer, and #200 Lumberjack.

Looking at the methodology from Career Cast, working outdoors, physical labor, and struss/urgency were all considered to be negative factors in rating careers. I can see why many people might have these preferences -- especially if they are college educated analysts sitting at desks over at Career Cast -- but that makes it a bit more of a "careers like mine" ranking more than a "best" ranking.

I wonder what would happen if you specifically rated based on the satisfaction of workers with their own jobs, how highly they rate their expectations continuing in that career, how much they would recommend their career to others, and how satisfied they are with their current income and future income potential.

20 comments:

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I wonder if housewife/homemaker even made the list. Probably not since officially there's no income attached to it. And it can be stressful at times.

But I aways found a lot of satisfaction in it and, when you add in the homeschooling component, there's also a good deal of intellectual stimulation.

TS said...

Yeah that's not exactly impartial methodology. Anecdotally I find it amazing how often on COPS the officer says how this is the greatest job in the world and every day is different and how they couldn't imagine having a desk job.

Personally I can't believe "Professonal Beer Taster" isn't numero uno.

Maggie said...

Do they list their criteria? Some people would be so unhappy sitting and thinking! Also- if a firefighter is such an undesirable job, the next time your house is burning would you say to the crew coming to save it, "Gee, bud, I'm sorry you have such a crappy job. Too bad you didn't earn a PhD like I did." I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Mathematician is #1? These people obviously haven't looked inside any current mathematical journals.

I'm really, really good at math, and thought for a while in college about becoming a mathematician, but I chose instead to become an engineer (working, not academic) and I have never regretted it. The field of mathematics today suffers, like many other fields in academia, from overgrazing. All the low-hanging fruit has either already been picked or gets picked within hours after someone notices it. The vast majority of mathematicians work on absurdly specialized problems and end up publishing theorems in which the list of conditions takes up half the paper, to prove something that no one will ever use, not even the writer.

True, if you work at a major university then your salary is probably very good, and mathematicians are among the very few technical specialists in academia who aren't pressured to raise money for research (mathematical research still being mostly pretty cheap). But still, the sheer triviality of most mathematical work nowadays has got to be a major strike against the field.

Joel

crankycon said...

Looking at the methodology from Career Cast, working outdoors, physical labor, and struss/urgency were all considered to be negative factors in rating careers.

Well, two of those three (working outdoors and a sense of urgency [who wants to be bored?]) are actually things I would/do enjoy at work. I think my ideal job was sitting outside with my laptop working on a book or paper that had an impending deadline. I guess I'm just weird like that.

Darwin said...

Joel,

Interesting on the state of the mathematics field.

One of the related articles on the ranking interviewed a mathematician who was in private practice working for a graphics software company. I wonder how many of the mathematicians they consulted were academic versus working for various companies.

Donald R. McClarey said...

Having fireman low on the totem pole is a laugh. The competitive exams for a place in fire departments around the US usually draw hordes of applicants, volunteer fire departments exist throughout the nation, and, as any google search will demonstrate, their are plenty of internet sites devoted to the lore of firefighting for people who are not professional firefighters, but who are intensely interested in it. In order words firefighting is viewed as a highly desirable profession by a not insignificant portion of the population.

The study seems to be biased towards the "yakking" professions and against out door professions that involve physical strength and endurance. I think this says much about how our society overvalues the glib and undervalues those who use their muscles for something more than to move their mouth or hit a keyboard.

Cliff said...

for your amusement may i refer y'all to a thread on the arboristsite...
http://arboristsite.com/showthread.php?t=85704&highlight=worst+jobs
We tree workers found ranking at #200 quite amusing. Warning - some strong language in that neighborhood.:)

CMinor said...

I have a kid who's a volunteer firefighter and another studying philosophy, so I guess we have both ends of the scale covered. We joke about philosophy being where the money is.

I don't see most of the top jobs appealing to somebody who is an adrenalin junkie or hates sitting still. Besides, police, firefighters, and paramedics see what they do as a sort of elite fraternity, not just a job. It is, too. Try being first at a road accident sometime.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"their are plenty of internet sites" in my post above should have been "there are plenty of internet sites"

Jennifer said...

In sociology, we talk about the difference between class and status. Oddly enough, many jobs that give the worker upper-class standing (think lawyer, stockbroker) have very low social status. The people society *values* (firefighters, teachers, homemakers, and regionally-specific police and/or clergy) are generally, pay-wise, at the lower end of the economic scale.
What does that say about how we treat the people we value?

Joe Schriner said...

A migrant worker picks a tomato and a guy on Wall Street pushes paper. In God's eyes (not ours), what's more important. Yet we keep getting it wrong... Incidentally, if you want a Campaign 2012 (already declared) presidential candidate with, not only a distributist philosophy, but a whole platform based on Catholic Social teaching, look no further: www.voteforjoe.com I have run in four successive election cycles and the time to get behind the campaign is: now. So it looks viable in the year 2012.

Anonymous said...

Most people I know who sit at desks get fatter rather than thining.

Is that a tree from Disney's Black Cauldron adaptation in the article illustration?

Literacy-chic said...

I would almost certainly shoot myself in the foot before taking many of the top 20 jobs. Does that reflect on me or the survey?

Literacy-chic said...

Donald,

I think this says much about how our society overvalues the glib and undervalues those who use their muscles for something more than to move their mouth or hit a keyboard.

Is this really true? I guess it could be in some sectors, depending on how we analyze what society values. But bodies are certainly still valued over minds, which I guess is something different. Just look at your university salaries--athletics coaches vs. professors.

Myron said...

Jennifer (and others who are talking about not paying people what they're worth):


[paraphrase: Low social status, high pay, high social status, low pay]
...
What does that say about how we treat the people we value?


What it says is that people will only pay people as much as they have to. Money is only one thing people value, one type of postive incentive people have for doing a job. I would personally take a lower paying job I would enjoy or where I feel I'm making a contribution (teacher comes to mind) over a higher-paying one where it's mindless drudgery that makes no difference to anyone. So, on average, people in low status jobs have to be paid more than people in high status jobs (assuming the skill levels are about equal - lawyer and janitor are not equal in terms of the effort required before entering the field, so additional money has to be paid to the lawyer both for his additional education and lower social status, plus lawyers tend to be good negotiators so that gives them an edge as well). Given a low status job and a high status job, both of which pay the same, people will choose the high status job. The increased number of people willing to work at that job will cause the price of labour to go down in that field until just enough people to meet the required number of positions are willing to do the work at that reduced price.

Homemakers are a slightly different case, as the household economy is almost a system unto itself - if your spouse isn't willing to cook for you, you can't (generally) purchase the services of another spouse on the free market, like you can if a teacher decides to leave your school.

Darwin said...

Homemakers are a slightly different case, as the household economy is almost a system unto itself - if your spouse isn't willing to cook for you, you can't (generally) purchase the services of another spouse on the free market, like you can if a teacher decides to leave your school.

Shucks.

Any chance of baking that pie today, MrsDarwin? Pleeeeeeeease?

Literacy-chic said...

I would only question Myron's assessment by pointing out that while at one point lawyers were lower on the social scale, that is not really the case now, particularly with certain types of law. A law degree, while an advanced degree, is also not equal to an academic degree in terms of time required to completion or intellectual energy expended as your average Ph.D. or even M.A. with a thesis, and yet a law degree can (though it does not always) yield a rather disproportionate salary, especially considering the relative value of the service provided. Lawyers, however, are valued by people who equate a monetary payment with justice, or who have money to safeguard through legal action. Which means that money professions are more highly valued.

Speaking of incentives--I saw a piece recently that asserted that the rationale for paying different professors across disciplines on different pay scales is that they need to be paid according to what they would earn in a non-academic job. So much for equivalent work, equivalent status and equivalent pay!!

Donald R. McClarey said...

"Just look at your university salaries--athletics coaches vs. professors."

Because college athletics, at least those whose coaches receive big bucks, are in the entertainment business. Our society prizes entertainment above all. In most cultures throughout history entertainers have been pretty low on the social totem pole, not so in our society.

Anonymous said...

Has statistics seceded from mathematics?