What kind of employment should you look for this year? A new study has some surprising answers.
What do you do as an actuary? You calculate the probability and financial impact of illness and property loss. That's hardly glamorous, but the pay is good and you get to enjoy low stress, almost no physical demands beyond tapping away at a computer or calculator, and robust hiring prospects in these uncertain times. Those are some of the reasons actuary sits at the very top of CareerCast.com's list of the best and worst jobs in America in 2010.
CareerCast, a jobs Web site, evaluated 200 professions using five core criteria: pay, hiring outlook, the work environment, stress and physical demands, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and trade association studies.
Each of those criteria was broken down into elements that were combined to arrive at a point ranking. For instance, in the stress category the study measures pressures from deadlines, competitiveness, confinement, exposure to the public, speed required and 18 other factors.
What's the worst job in America, according to the study? Oil rig or gas pipeline worker--what you would call a roustabout or a roughneck. The job had its five minutes of fame in last season's American Idol, when Michael Sarver, a beefy 27-year-old oil rig worker from Jasper, Texas, made the top 10 in the TV singing competition. Roustabouts routinely work 12-hour shifts in blistering desert heat or frigid ocean storms, sleep in crowded dormitories and risk severe injury or death. (Sarver reportedly landed a recording contract deal in December, so he could be leaving his roustabout days behind.)
One of the 10 best jobs may surprise you: historian. According to the study, employment prospects in the field have improved lately, thanks to hiring by both the federal government and corporations.
CareerCast, based in Carlsbad, Calif., grew out of a 15-year-old jobs study by led Les Krantz, a publisher in Wisconsin who worked with a professor and some graduate students at University of Wisconsin. A year ago Krantz launched CareerCast together with Tony Lee, a former reporter who had covered the Wisconsin study for The Wall Street Journal. This is the second annual CareerCast best-and-worst jobs list.
Lee concedes that ultimately, best and worst are in the eye of the beholder. "If you don't mind having a job that doesn't pay well and where you work outside in 110-degree heat in extremely dangerous conditions," he says, "then you may be happy as a roustabout."