The Surprising Best And Worst Jobs Of 2015

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There's more to life than money and prestige. That's the basic lesson of this year's annual best and worst jobs report from CareerCast out of a list of 200 occupations they rank. Take into account such factors as average salary, an occupation's future, danger, stress, and autonomy, and personal satisfaction, and you might be surprised at where some jobs land.Here are the top ten, starting at the best:
  • Actuary, $94,209
  • Audiologist, $71,133
  • Mathematician, $102,182
  • Statistician, $79,191
  • Biomedical Engineer, $89,165
  • Data Scientist, $124,149
  • Dental Hygienist, $71,102
  • Software Engineer, $93,113
  • Occupational Therapist, $77,114
  • Computer Systems Analyst, $81,150
"At the highest level, STEM jobs have fared the best in recent years," publisher Tony Lee told AOL Jobs. A shortage of qualified people to hire gives potential workers far more leverage in negotiations, and pushes companies to sweeten the pot by raising salary levels, allowing remote work, and in some cases reducing hours. "They'll do what they need to do to attract the best and brightest in the field," he said.

In addition to STEM jobs are those in healthcare. For example, while actuaries, who calculate the likelihood that insurance companies will have to pay out on policies, are at the top of the heap, audiologists, who test hearing, are in second place. "The projections are a third of all audiologists will be retiring in the next few years," Lee said. But there will be plenty of work, as baby boomers increasingly age and many experience hearing problems. "You're working in a private practice. You're setting your own schedule," he said of the occupation. And there's a high satisfaction level of helping people every day.

Notice that dental hygienists are in the top ten but dentists are not. "Their salary is actually pretty reasonable for the job," Lee said. "They work a set schedule and walk out the door. They don't have to think about anything else." Dentists, on the other hand, must market their businesses, deal with insurance and billing, and often are on call. "It's a much higher stress job," he added. "The dental hygienist comes, cleans, leaves."

Then there is the other end of the spectrum with the worst jobs, with the absolutely bottom of the list at the end.
  • Mail Carrier, $41,068
  • Firefighter, $45,264
  • Taxi Driver, $23,118
  • Corrections Officer, $39,163
  • Photojournalist, $29,267
  • Broadcaster, $55,380
  • Cook, $42,208
  • Enlisted Military Personnel, $28,840
  • Lumberjack, $34,110
  • Newspaper Reporter, $36,267
Newspaper reporter is the worst job in the nation at the moment for a number of reasons. "It's not just the fact that the career is shrinking," Lee said. "It's not just that the salary has fallen every year. It's also that newspaper reporters are expected to be much more than they ever used to be. You're required to be on social media, do video, and with the resources being cut back at most newspapers, you're required to work more hours." In short, it's a demanding job that you're less likely to be able to keep and you'll make less doing than in many other occupations. "It's very high stress, very high pressure, very little autonomy."

Similarly, photojournalist is an occupation with a murky future and potential danger. Broadcasters, related to photojournalism and reporting, have seen big cutbacks. "Streaming makes it far more difficult to enter," Lee said. "So many people do it for nothing [and stream online]."

Some of the other jobs are at the bottom because of danger. Lumberjacks are the most likely to die on the job of any occupation and they're out in all weather. According to Lee, taxi driver is the career most likely to be the victim of a crime.

Enlisted military has dropped down not just for danger. "In the past you could have a career," Lee said. "Even that is threatened." As the military reduces in size, if your specialty doesn't remain in high demand, you might not be able to reenlist.
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