Top Jobs

by Kieran Healy on January 7, 2010

Via Brian Leiter, a list of the 200 Best Occupations ranks Actuary at #1, Historian at #5, and then, a little further down, this:

I guess if the Life of the Mind is good, it follows that the the Life of the Head must be even better.



Michael Mouse 01.07.10 at 2:15 pm

The unexamind tooth is not worth filling.


Jacob Christensen 01.07.10 at 2:20 pm

A curious list. School principal is at #57. Seymour Skinner might beg to disagree with this high ranking. Lunberjack is at #199. Michael Palin will surely disagree.


Barry 01.07.10 at 2:24 pm

I have to disagree on the Philosopher and Historian ratings – those assume that the person is a tenured professor. That’s like rating ‘Actor’ on the assumption that the person is a sucessful, experienced actor, who has a decent track record and the ability to pull down good roles on an ongoing basis (i.e., the top 1% of the field).

Somebody pulling down whatever day job they can scrounge, and frequently losing their day job due to frequent auditions, might not have such a good time.


kid bitzer 01.07.10 at 2:31 pm

dental hygienist: gets to the root of things, finds the nerve of issues, explores unexamined crevices and cavities where unsound matter lurks.

no wonder the socratic method is like pulling teeth.


harry b 01.07.10 at 2:45 pm

Whom did they ask? I suspect that the “stress” factor has not been reported very accurately… (from a quick look they treat low-status jobs as low stress, and high status jobs as high stress, which may well reflect the subjective opinions of the people holding those jobs but does not match reality very well).


Delicious Pundit 01.07.10 at 2:52 pm

Well, the reading material in both their waiting rooms seems like it’s from centuries ago.


Moby Hick 01.07.10 at 3:48 pm

Occasionally, I’ve been glad to see a dental hygienist.


mpowell 01.07.10 at 4:15 pm

That’s funny, but these lists are pretty stupid. They have 3 different job descriptions for software guys in the top 25. What is the difference between those and how do you police the boundaries? And certain jobs might be great, but are impossible to get. What people need is a guide to best career paths, but that’s a lot harder than just having people fill out a bunch of surveys.


Reckless but Beautiful 01.07.10 at 4:26 pm

How is biologist number 4 and zoologist 80? Its like the same thing.


Fred 01.07.10 at 4:28 pm

Income range from $17K to $300K? This is the kind of report they give to high school guidance counselors. Just about useless. I know a couple of great new PHD Historians. Their job prospects in 2010 are about the same as those for auto assembly plant workers.


Barry 01.07.10 at 4:34 pm

Fred, it’s like I said about acting, except that the pay range is greater: a few hundred $ (one single-day gig per year) to tens of millions of $ (earned by say, less than 100 people in the world?).


Steve LaBonne 01.07.10 at 4:53 pm

I take it somebody actually pays them for this “information”. How do I get in on a great scam like that?


Matt Heath 01.07.10 at 5:20 pm

I remember a previous version of this had mathematician as the top job. It’s very, very badly done. The criteria they use seem to have been compiled by someone that hasn’t met a human. Physical effort, interacting with people and being in the public are counted as automatic negatives; presumably this is why nobody wants to be a professional footballer.

It’s a measure of how much a job is like floating in a endless void


Moby Hick 01.07.10 at 5:31 pm

It’s a measure of how much a job is like floating in a endless void

Sewer maintenance was the top job?


Davis 01.07.10 at 5:40 pm

Wow, had I known that mathematicians make on the order of $95k and have a moderate hiring outlook, maybe I would have stayed in that difficult-to-obtain low-paying adjunct position rather than leaving the field altogether.


Erik 01.07.10 at 5:59 pm

Sociologist is ranked as 20th, economist 26th. Take that Larry Summers!


nona mouse 01.07.10 at 7:04 pm

@Barry: The best part is the little button ‘Get This Job!’


Stuart 01.07.10 at 8:15 pm

They have 3 different job descriptions for software guys in the top 25.

Not really – a “software guy” would only be there once that I can see, as a software engineer. A computer systems analyst usually would not work on software directly and would be more customer liason/project management, and a web developer while developing some software/scripts is more often a design role in essence. To take an analogy with houses, to group them would be the equivalent of grouping Builders, Architects and Interior Designers.


JoB 01.07.10 at 8:17 pm

18- that’s the best insult to web developers ever!


Barry 01.07.10 at 8:23 pm

Reckless but Beautiful 01.07.10 at 4:26 pm

“How is biologist number 4 and zoologist 80? Its like the same thing.”

No, because biologists just dissect dead animals; zoologists have to shovel the sh*t :)

Davis 01.07.10 at 5:40 pm

“Wow, had I known that mathematicians make on the order of $95k and have a moderate hiring outlook, maybe I would have stayed in that difficult-to-obtain low-paying adjunct position rather than leaving the field altogether.”

I think that ‘on the order of’ means ‘within an order of magnitude of’.

‘Moderate hiring outlook’ = ‘50% chance over the next year of securing at least one slot teaching one class at a community college within commuting range’. I’ll leave their definition of ‘commuting range’ up to the audience.


Andrew Clark 01.07.10 at 9:21 pm

I have no doubt that it is better to be a “63. Judge (Federal)” than an “80. Attorney” but I’m skeptical that “67. Forklift Operator” and “78. Cosmetologist” fall in between that first pair.

And 200 it seriously “Roustabout”


John Quiggin 01.08.10 at 12:50 am

The #1 actuary rating has been around at least since I was in my teens (a long time ago) and the lousy job market for mathematicians almost as long. I actually planned to become an actuary until I realised that the high pay could be explained by the fact that the job required a combination of high mathematical ability and a capacity to tolerate decades of the kind of boredom that can only be achieved by distilling all the boringness of an insurance company into a single job.

Then I planned to be a mathematician, but ran into the realities described by Barry. So, I decided to become an economist which has worked out pretty well for me (not sure all my fellow economists would agree but there you go).


vivian 01.08.10 at 1:53 am

Erik: “Sociologist is ranked as 20th, economist 26th. Take that Larry Summers!” If it weren’t for Larry Summers, economics would rank higher


Ted 01.08.10 at 2:33 am

Most mathematicians do not work in universities. I would say that working in universities would drag down the attractiveness of any job.


Aulus Gellius 01.08.10 at 3:24 am

My favorite part was “131. Maid” followed quickly by “133. Corporate Executive (Senior)”.


Martin James 01.08.10 at 6:22 am

As an actuary, the only part that of the ranking that rings true is that the job is the least worst.

To John Quiggin’s assessment I plead guilty as charged. My 300K a year actuary job is so boring I have to come here for excitement.


bad Jim 01.08.10 at 9:30 am

I have a degree in math but what I used to do for a living could be described as software engineering with a little circuit design thrown in. It’s nice to be paid well for work you enjoy doing, and wonderful to be acclaimed a hero merely for finding and fixing your own mistakes. Because it was a small company I had to set up our first network, maintain databases and even wire the phones, tasks outside my main competence but comfortably within my skill set. Perhaps I’m just easily pleased; I used to enjoy running a forklift, too.


ogmb 01.08.10 at 11:41 am

So I’m assuming that this ranking only covers corporate philosophers, right?


Magnus Ramage 01.08.10 at 4:04 pm

In Scotland, it used to be that the entire insurance industry and many of the banks were run by qualified actuaries (it’s more than 15 years since I worked in the Scottish financial sector). They were conservative, prudent and sensible; they ran excellent institutions. Given what’s happened to the Scottish insurance companies and banks in recent years, either the actuaries got ousted or they’re not what they used to be.

And actually I rather enjoyed my time working in an actuarial department. The hours were certainly better and the sense of day-to-day achievement more tangible than work as an academic.


rea 01.08.10 at 9:22 pm

How is biologist number 4 and zoologist 80? Its like the same thing.

Zoologists get bitten more.


Ted 01.09.10 at 12:12 am

I know only a couple of actuaries. One – mild-mannered and with integrity – worked as a portfolio manager for an IB. One morning 12 months ago, a couple of security goons arrived at her desk, told her that her her services were no longer required before calmly escorting her from building. She had worked there for five years, and is still quite shaken by the appalling treatment.


Jane Lee 01.11.10 at 1:02 am

Everyone is questioning why some jobs are ranked better than others, but if you look at the methodology, it’s very clear:

I’m happy I have a job that’s indoors, pays well, with not much stress and reasonable hours – paralegal – and it evens looks like hiring is getting better. Good news all around.

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