Fashion designers at work

The most and least meaningful jobs (and what they pay)

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Does your job having meaning? Do you go home at the end of a long day and let out a sigh of satisfaction, content in the knowledge that your contribution made the world a better place? Or is it a sigh of melancholy, because you know you’ve spent your working hours making the world not a better place but a worse one?

Payscale recently released a handy-dandy list of the most and least meaningful jobs, along with salary information. They also created an “interactive chart,” which shows how 454 jobs in 22 categories compare on salary and meaning.

The meaningfulness of the occupations was rated by respondents of a survey, based on the percentage who say their job makes the world a better place.

Most of the jobs on the chart fall into both the relatively low pay and low meaning categories, and include jobs like bookkeepers, bill collectors, and billing and posting clerks & machine operators. The salaries for the jobs in this thickest cluster seem to mostly fall in the mid $30K-$50K range, while the meaning rankings hover around 40-something per cent.

The most meaningful are the lower-but-not-lowest-paying professions of clergy, and directors of religious activity and education (both with a meaning rank of 97%). But you don’t have to be poor to have meaning. All of the highest paying jobs on the list also rank among the most meaningful, and include all medical professions, such as surgeons, who report a meaning rank of 94% and earn an average of $299,600. Also up there are anesthesiologists, and OBGYNs.

The job with the least meaning was also the lowest paid – fast food cooks, who report a meaning rank of just 22% and earn an average salary of just $17,300.

Interestingly, second to fast food cooks in lowest meaning are fashion designers. One might not think they would be so down on themselves if one hadn’t seen a previous study in 2012 that showed very similar results.

The moral of the story? If you want meaning, save people’s souls. If you want meaning and money, save their bodies.

The top five most meaningful jobs:

    Clergy – meaning: 97%, salary: $45,400
    Directors, Religious Activities & Education – meaning: 97%, salary: $35,900
    Surgeons – meaning: 94%, salary: $299,600
    Education Administrators, Elementary/Secondary – meaning: 93%, salary: $75,900
    Chiropractors – meaning: 93%, salary: $58,700

The bottom five least meaningful jobs:

    Cooks, Fast Food – meaning: 22%, salary: $17,300
    Fashion Designers – meaning: 22%, salary: $51,200
    Gaming Supervisors – meaning: 22%, salary: $45,000
    Model Makers, Metal & Plastic – meaning: 27%, salary: $51,900
    Hosts & Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, Coffee Shop – meaning: 27%, salary: $19,100


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