Occupations

How much does it pay? The most underrated (and overrated) jobs of 2013

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Looking for a new career? I bet some of these jobs never occurred to you. That’s because they’ve been ranked as the most underrated of 2013 by CareerCast.com.

What makes a job underrated? One would also assume competition and regard for these positions is low, which would be what makes them “underrated,” rather than merely “good.”

While they admit that the designation is “subjective,” Career Cast’s criteria includes environment, income, employment outlook, and stress levels. So, the pay is not bad and the growth is high.

Topping the recently-published list of 12 jobs is computer systems analyst, with a median salary of $79,680. Though, here in Canada the typical annual salary for a systems analyst is $60,069 and the high end is $70,327.

This is followed by veterinarian and biologist in 2nd and third place. Rounding out the top five are market research analyst and accountant.

It’s true that these job titles don’t sound very glamourous. Unlike, say, advertising account executive, which has that Mad Men cachet, and conjures images of cocktail lunches, world travel, and ginormous corner offices overlooking vast cityscapes. However, ad account executive tops Career Cast’s other recently published report – the 12 most overrated jobs of 2013.

The next most overrated job is surgeon, followed by stockbroker, public relations manager, and senior corporate executive. That last may have a high average salary, but low growth and high stress land it on the overrated list — a designation I’d take with a grain of salt, like both of these lists in their entirety. I’m guessing that a lot of senior execs are pretty pleased with their positions and couldn’t care less about the “low growth.” I’m not saying these lists are worthless, just not foolproof.

Let’s take a look at both lists, shall we? I’ve included the salaries both as listed by Career Cast, and adjusted for the Canadian market (calculated, where applicable, from the hourly rate).

The 12 most underrated jobs:

    12. Librarian
    Median Salary (U.S.): $55,370
    Canada: $50,571

    Career Cast says: “Competition for jobs can be stiff … but the field can be rewarding, evident in its ranking in both stress levels and workplace environment. Managerial qualities are important to overseeing a smoothly operating library.”

    11. Electrician
    Median Salary: $49,840
    Canada: $59,446

    Career Cast says: “Similar to plumbers, electricians are in increased demand despite the slow construction market.”

    10. Plumber
    Median Salary: $49,140
    Canada: $54,829

    Career Cast says: “Despite slowed growth in the construction sector, specialty trades have provided opportunities for those seeking good jobs. Few are as accommodating as plumbing, which has seen strong hiring growth in the last year and is projected to swell another 26% by 2020.”

    9. School Principal
    Median Salary: $87,760
    Canada (high school): $93,324

    Career Cast says: “Education can be a rewarding field, but low pay is a frequently cited argument against pursuing a career as a teacher. Principals, on the other hand, earn a median annual salary of over $87,000. Principals also take an active approach in formulating the direction of a school and the lives of their students.”

    8. Civil Engineer
    Median Salary: $79,340
    Canada: $67,643

    Career Cast says: “Projected increases in infrastructure-related construction resulted in a positive outlook for the civil engineering profession. Median salary is competitive, and a positive work environment rounds out an overall great prognosis for the field.”

    7. Legal Assistant
    Median Salary: $46,990
    Canada: $42,182

    Career Cast says: “While opportunities for attorneys dwindle, legal assistants are in increased demand. Legal assistants offer firms versatile professionals who can take on numerous essential tasks, yet tend to work 9-to-5 and avoid the typical stress factors of working in the field of law.”

    6. Emergency Medical Technician
    Median Salary: $31,020
    Canada: $55,266

    Career Cast says: “The field is fast-pace and can be stressful – it was the No. 21 most stressful career measured – but burgeoning opportunities to begin in this rewarding career make it a high potential field for those breaking into healthcare.”

    5. Accountant
    Median Salary: $63,550
    Canada: $43,436

    Career Cast says: “Experienced accountants are in increased demand amid economic turbulence. That spells a jump in employment for a field benefiting from a high quality work environment, low stress and low physical demand.”

    4. Market Research Analyst
    Median Salary: $63,550
    Canada: $47,692

    Career Cast says: “One of the fastest growing fields per the BLS, market research analyst makes a vital impact on the direction of business decisions by applying data of economic and technological trends.”

    3. Biologist
    Median Salary: $72,700
    Canada: $53,061

    Career Cast says: “Combining many elements of science, biologists have a unique work perspective. Most also enjoy favorable conditions: minimal physical demands, low stress levels and a pleasant work environment.”

    2. Veterinarian
    Median Salary: $84,460
    Canada: $73,352

    Career Cast says: “People love their pets, and as a result the demand for veterinarians is expected to increase 36% over the next seven years per Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. Combine that with low stress, and veterinarian is a promising career option.”

    1. Computer Systems Analyst
    Median Salary: $79,680
    Canada: $60,069

    Career Cast says: “Strong compensation and a positive job growth outlook make computer systems analyst one of the best fields in today’s workforce.”

The 12 most overrated jobs:

    12. Psychologist
    Median Salary: $67,650
    Canada: $69,742

    Career Cast says: “Psychologists tend to work with difficult clients, and the field’s median pay scale and hiring outlook are slightly below comparable positions in the health care industry. Aspiring psychologists also face a crowded market, as the National Science Foundation finds psychology is one of the top current college majors by enrollment.”

    11. Economist
    Median Salary: $91,860
    Canada: $62,247

    Economist is great work – if you can get it. While the median salary is among the top 25 of all careers measured by the 2013 Jobs Rated report, the hiring outlook is low.

    10. Computer Programmer
    Median Salary: $74,280
    Canada: $63,233

    Career Cast says: “Careers in technology are typically winners, but the outlook for computer programmers lags behind other paths in the industry.”

    9. Attorney
    Median Salary: $113,530
    Canada: $69,592

    Career Cast says: “Job prospects for breaking into the field grow increasingly dimmer. The Wall Street Journal reports hiring of recent law school graduates dwindled all the way down to 62% in 2012, a drop-off from 85% a year ago.”

    8. Commercial Airline Pilot
    Median Salary: $114,200
    Canada (“Commercial Pilot, Jet”): $84,082

    Career Cast says: “The rigors of being a commercial airline pilot make it one of the three most stressful jobs … Add a stagnant job market, and the job’s inclusion on the list is undeniable.”

    7. Architect
    Median Salary: $73,090
    Canada: $98,696

    Career Cast says: “The burst of the housing bubble and stagnant growth across most sectors of construction have limited the opportunities for architects in recent years … [T]hose who pursue this career must be ready for high levels of stress and a work environment that ranks poorly, according to our methodology.”

    6. Event Coordinator
    Median Salary: $45,810
    Canada: $39,170

    Career Cast says: “Event coordinators have many critics to win over with each project, namely the attendees. This lends itself to a difficult work environment – No. 6 among the most stressful jobs of 2012, in fact. The reward is not necessarily commensurate with the stress, either.”

    5. Senior Corporate Executive
    Median Salary: $168,140
    Canada (“Chief Executive Officer”): $130,971

    Career Cast says: “Senior corporate executives are tasked with shaping policy that impacts almost every facet of a business. So many make-or-break choices results in a lot of scrutiny, and even more stress on those bearing this responsibility.”

    4. Public Relations Manager

    Median Salary: $95,450
    Canada: $62,195

    Career Cast says: “Stress levels on public relations managers are among the highest of all careers because of demanding media, audience and clients. The pursuit of jobs is also competitive. Public relations also is among the most common majors for recent college graduates, adding more competition into the candidate pool.”

    3. Stockbroker
    Median Salary: $72,060
    Canada: $90,000

    Career Cast says: “Despite recent strength, up-and-down markets both domestically and internationally have upped the stress on stockbrokers, and market volatility makes failure in the eyes of their clients a more likely possibility for those in the industry.”

    2. Surgeon
    Median Salary: $166,400
    Canada (“Physician / Doctor, Plastic Surgeon”): $213,236

    Career Cast says: “The high stress surgeons face on a daily basis surpasses that of most any other profession. Becoming a surgeon requires exhaustive training, first at the postgraduate level, followed by a residency.”

    1. Advertising Account Executive
    Median Salary: $66,913
    Canada: $39,950

    Career Cast says, “Turnover resulting from the pressure of high expectations and the competitive nature of the industry makes advertising agency executive one of the most stressful jobs available. Hiring outlook for the field is also low.”


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  • London Grey

    How about construction project managers? Responsible for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars for what percentage? Does 3-4 decades experience in the field and proven integrity count? Check out the averages responsibility vs. reward ratio!

  • Jobs.ca

    If I had my time back, I’d become a veterinarian!

  • thenomad

    I’m curious about psychologist. While the subject is often one of the most popular at universities, few students intend to actually BE psychologists, especially when they find out they need to get a doctorate of some kind to be licensed.