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The Secrets Behind the 10 Happiest Jobs

The Secrets Behind the 10 Happiest Jobs

Molly Mann | DivineCaroline

July 08, 2011

Now that I’ve graduated from college, non-specific degree in hand (what does one do with a BA in English?), the job hunt has begun. Looking around me, I see so many people who are unhappy with their jobs. Their days resemble a real-life version of Office Space, sans Jennifer Aniston; they sit in traffic, then they sit in a cubicle, then they sit in traffic again. If this is work, I want no part of it.

But there have to be some who really love their jobs, right? There must be those who don’t cringe when they hear the alarm go off on a Monday morning because they know they’re about to spend a week doing what fulfills them. I’ve heard of these people. I’ve never met any of them but, as with Santa Claus, I’m willing to believe they exist in order to preserve my optimism.

What Creates Job Happiness? Everyone has a slightly different idea of what “success” is. Some won’t rest until they have several million in the bank, others prioritize family time, and still others crave public recognition for the jobs they do. Though we may think these things—money, fame, working from home, the office next to the coffee machine—will bring us happiness, they very often don’t. Actually, the ten happiest jobs in the United States, according to a 2008 study from the University of Chicago, “Job Satisfaction in the United States,” are all relatively low paying, with long hours and plenty of stress. And yet more than half of the people in these careers reported that they were “very happy” with their work.

Whistle While You Work So what are the ten happiest jobs? The results of the study, according to, are listed in order below, along with the median salary for each.

1. Clergy, median salary of $44,102
2. Firefighters, median salary of $45,553
3. Travel agents, median hourly wage of $14.23
4. Mechanics and repairmen, median hourly wage of $15.26
5. Architects, median salary of $54,079
6. Special Education teachers, median salaries of $41,344 for preschool through elementary teachers; $43,060 for high school teachers
7. Actors and directors, salary varies greatly
8. Scientific researchers, median salary of $72,435
9. Industrial engineers, median salary of $61,729
10. Airline pilots and navigators, median hourly wage of $63

For the most part, these are service jobs rather than professional jobs. Though some of them pay well, the jobs with the highest salaries are at the low end of the list. So what’s making these people so happy?

It could be the opportunity to interact with others on a daily basis. (IMing coworkers from across the sea of cubicles doesn’t count.) Most of today’s jobs have come to rely so heavily on computers and the Internet for communication, leaving workers feeling isolated, lonely, and stressed. People like the clergy, firefighters, and teachers, however, get to interact regularly with the public they serve and see the direct results of their efforts, adding to their job satisfaction.

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