PayScale, in a recent study, assessed the jobs with the most and least meaning to employees.
A recent study found community and social service workers report the highest average meaning from their jobs. PayScale’s “Most & Least Meaningful Jobs” survey includes data on the meaning people report getting from their jobs as well as the median pay, job satisfaction rate and stress levels employees report for more than 450 jobs.
If users answered “very much so” or “yes” to the survey question “Does your work make the world a better place?” they were counted as reporting high job meaning, says PayScale Editorial Director Lydia Frank.
“The idea of meaningful work is obviously very subjective and will vary a lot even across a single profession,” Frank says. “Many people would say lawyers don’t make the world a better place (and only 40 percent report high job meaning), but what about those that work to put violent criminals behind bars or fight for social justice? It’s not all or nothing.”
Clergy reported feeling the most meaning in their work with 97 percent of responding clergy members saying their work had high meaning. “In my profession, I receive a great deal of meaning and satisfaction when I am able to engage individuals with their faith and the practical ways in which it can be lived out,” says Rev. Marty Guise, a pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Church in St. Louis.
“As I serve my local church and churches across the country, I believe in challenging people to reach out and connect with others — no matter the social, economic, or geographic boundaries,” Guise explains. “When I see or hear about this happening, it fills my heart with an inexpressible joy and a sense of accomplishment that is complete!”
The most common educational level reported for people in the clergy was a master’s degree, and the median salary was $45,400. Religious activities and education directors also reported high levels of meaning in their work (97 percent) as well as high satisfaction (88 percent).
Among elementary and secondary education administrators, 93 percent reported high meaning from their work. “I got extraordinary meaning and fulfillment from my work in educational administration,” says Karen Wrolson, now a life coach at Excite Ed. “There is nothing like being with young people who previously hated school and were at risk of dropping out and who then became eager to go to school.”
One semester, Wrolson says she asked teens who said they hated school what it would take for them to stick with it. They created their own rules and student government, which she says increased attendance, GPAs, grad rates and alumni connections. Although they’re now in their 40’s, she says she’s still in touch with some.
According to PayScale, the most common educational level for these types of positions is a master’s degree, and the median salary is $75,900 a year.
Surgeons and Chiropractors
Although they do very different work with the human body, both surgeons and chiropractors reported finding high levels of meaning in their work. Out of surgeons who responded, 94 percent reported high meaning in their work. They also reported one of the highest median salaries at $299,600 a year.
Ninety-three percent of chiropractors reported that their work had high meaning. “I believe that I have the most meaningful career in the world,” says Jason Cleveland, a chiropractor in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Every day I get to help people realize their own wellness goals, without the use of drugs or surgery, and witness miracles.”
Dr. Allen Bonilla agrees. “After working with the human body for so long it completely alters the way you see the world and your understanding of how bodies work. I am always visualizing how people move, walk, breath, sit, and stand, and diagnosing them in my head. In the office I actually get to fix these things which is just as rewarding to me as it is to my clients.”
Chiropractors often have doctoral-level educations and have a median salary of $58,700 a year.
Firefighters also reported high levels of meaning from their work: 93 percent. “Being a firefighter gave me a sense of satisfaction and pride knowing that you are helping someone in their time of need,” says David Barckhoff, a 25-year veteran. “It gives you a feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have saved a life or many lives.
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