Which careers provide the most job satisfaction?

According to the American General Social Surveys* (GSS) carried out between 1998 and 2006, the top 10 careers which provide the most job satisfaction are as follows:

The question asked was ‘On the whole, how satisfied are you with the work you do – would you say you are very satisfied, moderately satisfied, a little dissatisfied, or very satisfied?’

The mean score ranges from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 4 (very satisfied).

The same surveys also asked about general happiness:

The question asked was ‘Taken all together, how would you say things are these days -would you say you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?’

The mean score ranges from 1 (not too happy) to 3 (very happy).

This reveals that the most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others as well as the creative pursuits. Since people’s feelings about their work usually have a significant impact on their general happiness, it’s not surprising that some of the same professions appear in the Top 10 for general happiness too.

It’s interesting that the clergy appear top of both tables, suggesting that finding meaning in your work is a crucial part of both job satisfaction and happiness. Psychologists Judge, Thoresen, Bono and Patton (2001) have shown that job satisfaction and performance are correlated. According to Wrzesniewski (2003), if jobs which give people meaning (for example because they make a contribution to the wider world) are linked to high job satisfaction, and job satisfaction is linked to work performance, people who find meaning in their work are more likely to perform better than those who don’t. So it’s in the interests of all organisations to help employees create meaning in their work.

Incidentally, the bottom occupation for job satisfaction in this survey was roofing, which unfortunately was 2nd bottom for general happiness too- only 25% of roofers said they were very satisfied with their jobs and only 14% were very happy…

*The General Social Survey which has been conducted since 1972, collects basic information from across the United States in order to monitor social trends. The GSS is based on interviews of randomly selected people who represent a scientifically accurate cross section of Americans. A total of 27,587 people were interviewed for the job satisfaction and happiness section of the survey.

My thanks to Rochelle Melander for this information.

4 Responses

  1. Karl Staib - Your Happiness Matters Says:

    Great post! Job and general happiness have a lot in common. When people are engaged in both it has a unique ability to bring joy into anyone’s life. I’ve been working on my happiness for the past six years and the biggest help has been my blog. Writing about how to be happy has made me focus on making it happen.

  2. Yang-May Says:

    This is really interesting. I wonder which professions fall in the bottom ten for satisfaction and happiness…? (yeah, that’s a glass-half-full / glass-completely-empty kinda question, I know…)

  3. Bridget Says:

    Hi Karl
    Thanks for your comment. Can you send me the link to your blog please? I’d like to take a look.

  4. Bridget Says:

    Hi Yang May!
    That is an interesting question, and I should be able to provide a few answers – I’ll do a separate posting about that.

    Of course, well-being levels vary within occupations too; one well-known study of British Civil Servants found that the higher grades had higher well-being levels, and lower grades higher depression, for the mostpart explained by work characteristics like how much control you had (or not) over what you did every day – interesting, don’t you think?

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