Top 10 most stressful jobs

April 26, 2011
By: Eric Lundin, a job search Web site, recently posted the results of a couple of surveys regarding stressful jobs. Two thoughts occurred to me immediately: The 91.2 percent of people who have jobs right now are just happy to have a steady paycheck, and the 8.8 percent who don’t are experiencing stress far worse than the most stressful job. But enough of my musings, and on to the survey.

At the top of the list of most stressful jobs is commercial pilot. Weather and other conditions beyond their control, hundreds of lives at stake, irregular hours, deadlines—can’t argue with that. Second is public relations officer. Duties include “giving presentations and making speeches, often in front of large crowds.” Well, public speaking is a big stressor, but it’s not like lives hang in the balance (and the salary is $90,000 per year, which would do a lot to calm my nerves). Third is senior corporate executive. They are responsible for “formulating the policies and strategies for their companies, while also directing the operations” and “make company-wide decisions that can have far-reaching effects for the employees.” Also, they “are expected to have in-depth knowledge in many different fields at once.” I agree (but here again the salary, $161,000, is a big help). Fourth is photojournalist. Haul a camera to Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya; work crazy hours; risk life and limb; and take home $40,000 per year? Yep—that’s stressful.

The next few are newscaster, advertising account executive, architect, and stock broker. Stressors include public speaking, intense competition, deadlines, dealing with situations beyond their control, and occasionally dealing with really angry people (I’d like to slap the architect who put the sump pump directly beneath the master bedroom in my house). However, these pale in comparison to the next one on the list, emergency medical technician (salary: $30,000).

I sure don’t agree with the order of this list. Airline pilot is OK at no. 1, but shooting photos in a war zone seems awfully dangerous, so I’d guess that really should be No. 2, and emergency medical technicians deal with extremely traumatic situations, so that should be in the third spot.

You’re probably wondering where press brake operator or machinist are on this list. So am I. It turns out that CareerCast created a second list, one that focuses on blue-collar jobs. Terrific. Apparently, CareerCast thinks that blue-collar careers have to be segregated from white-collar careers, which seems to be clear evidence that these jobs are considered to be less important than white-collar jobs.

OK, so where should your job appear on this list? If you’re a fabrication shop owner or supervisor, I’d say you’re in the same slot as “senior corporate executive.” The fab shop owners and supervisors I have met show “in-depth knowledge in many different fields” and use that knowledge to make decisions on-the-fly. On any given day a fabrication shop owner has to be a staffing manager (“Bob called in sick”), maintenance manager (“Press brake No. 3 is down again”), account manager (“Our biggest customer rejected his latest shipment”), shipping manager (“The driver just called in—he’s got a flat tire and he’ll be at least an hour late”), and on and on and on. Most small-business owners make more decisions before breakfast than other people do all day.  

The guys on the shop floor don’t have it much easier. They’re the ones filling in for the guy who called in sick, lending a hand to get the press brake up and running again, figuring out what went wrong with the last shipment to the biggest customer, and keeping parts flowing through the shop until the next truck of raw materials arrives. I’d rank equipment operators lower than EMT but higher than newscaster, advertising account executive, architect, and stock broker. Sure, those jobs are stressful, but if you’re a manufacturer dealing with a few setbacks and still trying to get parts out the door in a hurry, especially if some of those parts go into an ambulance, a fire truck, or an airplane, you’ve got a lot more riding on your job than someone who reads the news or puts together an advertising program.

Me? I get stressed when I read surveys that downplay the role of blue-collar workers and completely ignore fabrication shop owners and supervisors.

Eric Lundin

Eric Lundin

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8262