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The Worst Jobs For 2014

Posted on April 22, 2014
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Lumberjacks work outside in bitter cold and blazing heat, running heavy, dangerous machinery. They deal with massive trees and logs that can slip and cause serious injury. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, logging is the most dangerous job in America.

For all that lumberjacks earn a median salary of just $24,000 and they face a dismal job growth projection by 2022 of 4%. The danger, stress and poor pay land lumberjacks at the top of career advice and job listing website CareerCast’s 2014 list of the 10 worst jobs in the U.S.

Since 1995, a small team of two doctoral students at the University of Wisconsin, headed by career book author Les Krantz, have been putting together a list of America’s best and worst jobs. They’ve come up with a formula that takes into account a range of considerations, from what they call emotional factors like the degree of competitiveness and the amount of public contact (both viewed as negatives), to physical demands including crawling, stooping and bending and work conditions like toxic fumes and noise.

In addition to income and growth potential in the field, they look at what they call stress factors, like the amount of travel the job requires, deadlines, and physical risks like whether the workers’ or their colleagues’ lives are put at risk on the job.

The list used to appear in two different publications owned by the Wall Street Journal. Then in 2009 Tony Lee, who had worked for those publications, including the now-defunct, started CareerCast as a subsidiary of Adicio, an online classified ad company, and started putting out the list under its auspices. Lee and CareerCast editor Kyle Kensing write up the report.

Forbes has been covering the best and worst lists for the past four years, and we’ve also written about lists CareerCast derives from the master list, like the least stressful jobs and the best jobs for introverts. I’ve gotten a lot of comments when I’ve published those lists. Readers get the most exercised about jobs CareerCast has classified as low stress, like university professor or audiologist. They seem to agree with the notion that some jobs are horribly challenging.

The second-worst job, according to CareerCast: Newspaper Reporter. The hiring outlook in the field between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is -13%, and if you do have a job, the chances you’ll get a raise are slim. The median salary is just $37,000 and many newspaper reporters work in dangerous places like war zones. 

That said, CareerCast says the third-worst job is enlisted Enlisted Military Personnel. With the wars winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the employment outlook for this job is flat, and while many members of the military aren’t stationed in areas with such intense combat, they still get deployed to hot spots, like ships in the Black Sea monitoring the Ukrainian conflict.

Taxi Driver is next on the list. Lee says that crimes against taxi drivers have risen in the last year and that as a lingering effect of the recession, the competition for taxi jobs is stiff.

A new entrant to the worst jobs list: Head Cook, with a median salary of $43,000 and job growth outlook of just 5% through 2012. Lee says this job is to be distinguished from Chef, which tends to mean the person in charge of a kitchen. Head Cook could be the boss at Denny’s who supervises the burger flippers. It’s a grueling job and the median salary is just $42,480.

At the bottom of the list: Corrections Officer, which needs no explanation.

Lee says the lists are most useful for middle and high school students who are starting to think about what kinds of careers they may want to pursue. I agree it’s worth it for young people to become informed about which jobs are tough, pay poorly, and have dim hiring outlooks.

But if a student thinks they have a passion for seeing the world as a flight attendant or even doing the grueling work of a lumberjack for several years, I wouldn’t want to deter them. My colleague, Leadership Editor Fred Allen, recalls years ago when he met a rugged freelance writer who said he’d been working a tough job he loved, cutting down trees in a remote forest.

Susan Adams,


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