Happiest and Unhappiest Careers
It’s no surprise that your job affects your happiness—especially when Americans work longer hours than ever. What’s less obvious is how particular career choices may affect your happiness. What are the happiest and unhappiest careers? To some extent, it depends on who you ask.
The General Social Survey, conducted by the University of Chicago, did a study of the happiest jobs over the past several decades, but that doesn’t help if you’re choosing a career right now. Jobs website CareerBliss has been surveying the happiest and unhappiest jobs for a few years now, but the rankings are very unstable. For example, associate attorneys were the most miserable workers of 2013, but they’ve haven’t made the ten unhappiest jobs before or since.
We looked at what kinds of careers—not just particular jobs—were consistently rated as happy or unhappy over several years of CareerBliss surveys, and made a list of the happiest and unhappiest.
Software Quality Assurance Engineer
Software quality assurance engineers make sure that software and websites are well-designed and don’t have bugs. It’s a job that requires great attention to detail to catch mistakes. It’s also a highly skilled and creative job, because engineers need to be able to think like the consumers who will use the end product—which may be why this job is consistently at or near the top of CareerBliss’s happiest job rankings.
Construction Manager / Construction Superintendent
Often among the ten happiest careers, construction managers run construction projects—plan them, supervise them, and make sure they’re proceeding on time and on budget. Construction superintendents work on building sites and ensure that the day-to-day construction goes according to plan. They’re demanding jobs, but they offer a lot of independence and the chance to see real results.
Real Estate / Property Manager
Real estate agents, also known as real estate brokers, help people market properties they wish to sell and try to get the best possible price (sometimes they also help buyers). Property managers help landlords rent out properties, get the best possible rent for them, and deal with issues such as repairs and inspections. What they have in common: the chance to get out of the office and interact with people.
Network Administrator / System Administrator
The administrator is not the person you complain to when your email doesn’t work. They work behind the scenes, which may be why they’re happy with their work. A network administrator usually focuses on a company’s internal networking infrastructure such as switches and routers, doing maintenance and fixing issues. A systems administrator usually does the same with the company’s servers and backups. The two roles can sometimes overlap.
Administrative assistants can do all kinds of work, but they generally provide support for other members of an office, ensuing individual projects and the office itself run smoothly. They may deal with mail, taking notes, and setting up meetings, among other tasks. The satisfaction of helping an office run smoothly may be what makes this a consistently happy job.
A security officer protects people and property by guard duty, patrols, keeping an eye on surveillance equipment such as security cameras, and intervening in situations of concern.The hours can be tough—a lot of night shifts—and the work can occasionally be dangerous, which may be why security officers have been the unhappiest workers in two of the past three years.
Marketing Manager / Marketing Coordinator / Marketing Director
A marketing coordinator or manager creates and implements marketing plans to promote a business’s brand or product. Marketing requires analytical skill—understanding data and keeping on top of trends—as well as strong organization and the ability to supervise creative advertising work. Marketing directors supervise marketing managers. It’s not clear why marketers are often unhappy—lack of career development is sometimes cited, as is the pressure to produce results in the internet age, when everything is measurable.
Technical support is the person you contact when your email doesn’t work. The first point of contact for computer- and product-related issues, technical support works with users to find solutions to their problems. If you think about how you felt last time something didn’t work as it should, and imagine dealing with people feeling like that all day, you’ll see why technical support people report unhappiness with their careers.
Sales Manager / Sales Director
A sales manager runs a sales team for a company with a product or service to sell. They set targets for the sales team in selling new products and finding new clients, and supervise and train salespeople. Sales directors supervise sales managers. As with marketing managers, it’s not clear why sales managers are so unhappy, but it may be for similar reasons—perceived lack of career development and pressure to produce results.
Nurses are a vital part of the healthcare system, providing care to patients in a variety of settings. They do everything from administering medication to medical exams to giving health education. They often work in tough environments such as hospitals, and face a lot of pressure and stress—often literally in life or death situations—which may be why so many nurses are unhappy.
Remember, though, that there are very happy nurses and security guards (and very unhappy quality assurance engineers and administrative assistants). A lot depends on the work environment, and whether a job is the right fit for you. For more information about jobs, check out our careers database. And levels of workplace happiness change all the time, so be sure to check back in on career happiness in 2015!