Think your job is bad?
If you think your job stinks, things could probably be worse. According to the job-hunting site CareerCast.com, these 10 jobs are the worst in America. Factoring in aspects such as work environment (including emotional and physical components of the job), income, growth potential, job outlook, and stress factors such as deadlines, travel and job competitiveness, these positions are statistically high on requirements and low on monetary rewards, but could still be good fits for some people, says CareerCast.com publisher Tony Lee.“You could argue that our rankings don’t think much about job satisfaction, and it’s true. We’re looking analytically,’’ Lee says. “People basically say, ‘Yeah, the job sucks, but I still love it, and I still want to do it.’ That’s fine. That’s not what we measure.’’Even if you don’t love your job, there’s a way out. These jobs also offer skills that can be transferred to other professions. Here are CareerCast.com’s worst jobs of 2013.All text by Christina Couch, Bankrate.com contributor
Flying the friendly skies comes with some serious stress, a competitive job market, an erratic work schedule and a salary that pales in comparison to that of other positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports that the industry is projected to grow little (if at all) between now and 2020, and that the median salary for flight attendants is $37,240 per year. That’s for veterans and newbies alike. A 2011 study by the Association of Flight Attendants reveals that entry-level flight attendants earn just $16,597 annually.But it’s not all bad. For those for whom finances are less of a consideration, there are some significant perks. Most major airlines, including Southwest, Delta, United and American, offer seasoned flight attendants free or heavily discounted travel for themselves and oftentimes for their family members. Most full-time flight attendants also receive health care benefits along with a per diem while working away from their home base, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Stressful job? Sure. Physically demanding? Absolutely. One of the worst jobs of the year? No way, says Bill Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association. Although roofers do face a significant risk of injury on the job and are susceptible to fluctuations in the real estate market, they also receive pay of up to $30 an hour — the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary is $38,760 per year — and the ability to break into their profession without taking on massive student debt. The BLS reports that job growth for roofers is expected to keep pace with other professions between now and 2020, but Good says the role of roofers is shifting. “We, probably as an industry, are more responsible for energy conservation in building than any other industry,’’ he says. “We’re now doing things like putting solar panels on roofs. We’re putting gardens on roofs.’’ Roofing follows the construction markets, Good says, which means jobs are growing in places such as Texas that are affected by hurricanes and hail and in spots where solar markets are burgeoning. Those who exit the field can use their skills in a related construction or solar-energy field, he says.
The BLS estimates that mail-carrier positions will decrease 12 percent by 2020, but not everyone will be affected, says Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, a union for rural mail carriers. Rural delivery started because residents “had to have some means of getting their mail out, getting messages from one place to another, and that has not changed,’’ she says. “We’re still the cheapest means of doing that for most of America…. That’s where I believe the outlook for rural carriers is very good.’’ Despite sometimes monotonous routes, inclement weather and physical strains of the job, Dwyer says the human connections many mail carriers establish can make the job worthwhile. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction, particularly on the rural routes where you have elderly customers, veterans and people that you are their only link (to the outside world),’’ she says. Mail carriers across the U.S. rake in a median salary of $56,490 per year and don’t need a college degree to break into the field. But with recent downsizing of the Postal Service, new opportunities are few, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association’s press office confirms. According to the College Foundation of North Carolina’s career portal, mail carriers can use skills such as record keeping, administrative duties and driving abilities in other jobs.
Gas and utilities meter readers land on the worst-jobs list for one major reason — job outlook. Deemed by CareerCast.com as “one of the fastest declining professions,’’ meter readers rake in a low salary of just $36,400 per year and are expected to lose about 10 percent of all jobs in the field between now and 2020, partially because of new technologies that reduce the need for workers. There are some good jobs out there, but you have to head to the right place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for meter reading positions in locations such as Boston and Santa Clara, Calif., top $64,000 per year. The reverse is true, too. Head to the lowest-paying sectors of the country, such as the nonmetropolitan areas of Northwest Mississippi or Southern Texas, and average salaries drop to $24,200 or below. The College Foundation of North Carolina reports one way to break into the job is to position yourself to replace workers making their exit. Those on their way out can focus on their transferable skills, which include data collection, recording and organization.
“I can tell you that there is nothing more rewarding than the sense of pride and accomplishment that builds from caring for the animals and the land,’’ says Nate Janssen, director of product relations for Dairy Management Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting the dairy industry. Even so, Janssen is quick to admit that dairy farming “can be a challenging, volatile business,’’ as farmers face low milk prices and environmental hurdles. The challenges are especially hard for those who manage smaller farms that don’t have economies of scale working in their favor. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farms with at least 1,000 cows have costs that are 35 percent lower per hundredweight of milk produced than farms one-tenth the size. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that farming employment (including at dairy farms) will decline by 8 percent between now and 2020. CareerCast.com reports that the average salary for dairy farmers is $33,119 per year. Though farms are downsizing, job prospects in the dairy industry are positive, including work in dairy processing, distribution, retail and auxiliary farm services, Janssen says. Farmers who leave the field may wind up working with animals, in dairy industry communication or in a different position in the industry.
Oil rig worker
It’s not surprising that oil rig workers have a spot on the worst-jobs list. These employees often endure 12-hour, physically strenuous shifts in harsh environmental conditions and may be stationed in locales far away from their families for months at a time, says Paul Caplan, president of Rigzone, an online community for the oil and gas industry. But there is a bright side: If you can hack the downsides, you’ll be compensated handsomely. According to Rigzone’s latest salary survey, offshore and rig workers earn total compensation packages averaging $69,000 per year. Those who make it to managerial positions bring home about $140,000 annually in salary and benefits. “Over the last four years, we’ve had a tremendous amount of growth of job opportunities in the industry,’’ says Caplan, particularly if you’re willing to go global. Oil rig workers are seeing significant job expansion in the U.S. as well as in areas such as Southeast Asia and parts of the Middle East. Regardless of where you work, new technologies that decrease reliance on crude oil or increase drilling productivity could impact future job prospects, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re heading out of the job, think about boning up on your welding or engineering skills. Caplan says those skills are at a premium for hiring managers right now.
Magazines are plastered with actors who bring home millions per film, but those are few and far between. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only about 66,500 people across the nation find full-time work in acting. Those who do must weather a cutthroat job market, inconsistent work and low median pay of about $40,500 per year ($20.26 per hour) and may work in less-than-desirable locales. “One advantage of this career is that some people do get in without formal training. However, it really is helpful to have formal training,’’ says Laurence Shatkin, co-author of “50 Best Jobs for Your Personality.’’ “You need to physically locate to a place where there’s a lot of acting work,’’ he says. “Some small town in the prairie — it’s not going to happen for you.’’ For those who can beat the competition, there is plenty of work in live theater, film and voice-overs, Shatkin says. To increase your chances of making it, he says you’ll need to “audition constantly,’’ learn by watching other people audition, get a great headshot and nab an agent who can work on your behalf. Those leaving the field can transfer their showmanship and onstage experience to working behind the scenes throughout the entertainment fields.
Enlisted military personnel
No matter how stressful your job is, few positions include the pressures of fighting on the front lines in the job description. CareerCast.com cites extreme job stress, a tough work environment and an average annual income of just more than $36,000 as the primary reasons enlisted military keeps landing on their worst-jobs list. While the harsh work environment, job stresses and strict requirements that come with the military lifestyle are undeniable, the low salary might be misleading, since enlisted personnel usually don’t have to pay for living expenses such as housing, meals and certain amenities during enlistment, says Shatkin. There are significant benefits to working for Uncle Sam. Military work is a steady job with “excellent’’ opportunities in all branches, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Enlisted personnel also get some serious educational benefits and the ability to move up to higher-paying positions, and it’s one of the few jobs that comes with a pension after 20 years of service. It’s also one of the few gigs that provides career re-training and job-search help after enlisted personnel leave. Because military life is a sharp change, Shatkin recommends that those eyeing the armed forces bring someone who has served to the intake interview. “That person often is aware of questions to ask that might not have occurred to you,’’ he says.
“Monty Python’’ crooned that lumberjacks enjoy all sorts of skipping, jumping, pressing of wildflowers and tea time in between leveling forests, but it’s actually the freedom to work outside, the ability to break into the profession without a college degree and the satisfaction at the end of the day that draw many lumberjacks and logging workers to the profession. But it’s hard to ignore the obstacles logging workers face. In addition to risking severe and sometimes fatal injuries on the job, lumberjacks and logging workers endure harsh weather, steep climbs and the physical stress of operating heavy machinery. They also risk watching their industry decline as stateside timber companies face competition from abroad and builders seek out new materials for projects. And then there’s the pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that logging workers earn a median salary of less than $33,000 per year and that the industry, unsurprisingly, is growing at a much slower pace than the average occupation.
“You have to cope with stress efficiently or basically just surrender to it,’’ says Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a trade organization based in Indianapolis. “You’ve got pressures from your supervisors to produce copy, sometimes on really tight deadlines, and then you’ve got the stress of actually having to go out and talk to people, interview them for the topic … and then there’s the stress of making sure that you’re accurate and not misquoting people or getting facts wrong or libeling anyone.’’ There’s also stiff job competition, stagnant salaries, unpredictable work schedules and increasing pressure to take on additional responsibilities as newspapers cut staff positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median salary for reporters is $35,870, and jobs are expected to decrease by 8 percent from 2010 to 2020. Despite the job’s position as the “worst’’ in America, many journalists love their career, and the outlook is bright for those with a reporter’s skill set, Albarado says. Reporters could apply their research and writing skills to communication gigs for online news venues, nonprofit organizations, or other media outlets. “Despite the doom and gloom, being a journalist is still one of the best damn jobs on the planet,’’ Albarado says.
Boston's tech headlines, free from the Globe.
Get the Globe's free newsletter, BetaBoston Daily, delivered to your inbox.