Unfortunately, the ranking is biased. Find out why.
CareerCast.com, a new job search portal, has compiled a list of the 10 best and 10 worst jobs based on their stress levels, physical demands, salaries, hiring outlook and work environments. Software engineer and computer systems analyst ranked as the fifth and sixth best jobs on CareerCast.com’s list. No IT jobs landed on CareerCast.com’s list of the 10 worst jobs; most of those were manual professions, such as lumberjack, dairy farmer, roofer, garbage collector and iron worker.
While I’m glad that two IT professions made someone’s list of the best jobs, I have a couple of big problems with these rankings.
First of all, CareerCast.com’s evaluation of the 10 best and worst jobs seems biased in favor of white collar jobs. The list sends the message that high-paying jobs that require advanced degrees or specialized knowledge not gleaned in a vocational school, that aren’t physically taxing are good, while lower-paying jobs that require manual labor and little to no education (e.g. blue collar jobs) are bad.
That assumption is just crazy and unfair to all the people earning an honest living in the trades, on farms and in the service industry. I’d venture to bet that most, if not all, Vermont dairy farmers would be offended that their vocation made the list of the 10 worst jobs. (I live in Vermont.) These farmers aren’t dumb. They know their work is hard, and they don’t idealize it, but just because they earn a hard living that involves manure doesn’t make their work bad. What’s more, a roofer was a very lucrative job to have during the housing boom, and I’ve no doubt that it will be a lucrative job once again. Hopefully soon.
I come from a working/middle-class family so I take issue with any list that belittles any honest day’s work as a bad job. When I was little, my mom did telemarketing and later got jobs as an administrative assistant. My dad was a salesman, has driven taxis, worked at flea markets, sold washing machines at Sears, and now he’s a parking garage attendant—and not because he’s retired (he’s not.)
I know from my dad that driving a taxi (#3 on CareerCast.com’s list of the 10 worst jobs) sucks. He worked the graveyard shift, and many a Friday or Saturday night he had to clean some drunkard’s puke out of the back seat of his cab. Many taxi drivers have to pay for gas and repairs to their cars out of their own pockets. My dad didn’t drive a taxi because he wanted to. He didn’t drive a taxi because he wanted to be like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver or like Winona Ryder in Night on Earth. He drove a taxi Friday and Saturday nights because he had to. He doesn’t need CareerCast.com telling him the job was bad. He already felt bad enough about it.
The second problem I have with the list is its assumption that sedentary, office jobs are safer than jobs in the trades or other jobs that require manual labor. I know that software development is much less physically taxing than hefting 40-pound bags of shingles on rickety ladders, but working at a computer all day has its own health hazards. Software developers and computer systems analysts are at high risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome and/or back problems from sitting at their desks for 50 or more hours a week. And lack of exercise coupled with a diet of Red Bull and Twizzlers can lead to weight gain and high blood pressure. Then there’s the stress and IT workers’ feelings of exploitation at having to work so much overtime without being compensated for it. At least in the trades workers get paid overtime. That is, if they’re working for reputable business owners.
Finally, the big problem these lists highlight is how screwed you are if you can’t afford a college education. You can’t get one of these 10 best jobs without a bachelor’s degree. Some require Master’s degrees or PhDs. With college tuition rising across the country at exponential rates while student aid dries up, these great jobs are going to be open to fewer and fewer Americans.