Think life as an entertainer is easy? Have a friend or family member who’s a teacher, and you don’t understand why they feel that they need a pay raise? There are tons of jobs out there that we tend to think of as easy or soft, but in reality, present much bigger challenges to those working them than anyone on the outside realizes. It may be because the job is incredibly stressful — or maybe it’s just long hours and low pay. There are a number of things that can drive job difficulty up; it can just be hard to see them from our perspective.
These jobs — the deceptively difficult jobs — are all around us. Perhaps you work one, and can’t quite find a way to communicate the difficulties you face every day to your friends and family? It’s not easy, and it’s because most of the hard grunt work is done away from prying eyes. Teachers, for example, often have hours of work to do grading papers and planning lessons once they leave campus. Truckers may stop trucking for the night, but it doesn’t mean that they get to go home; they have to sleep at a rest stop.
Everybody’s job has some element of difficulty to it, but it’s the jobs that people don’t assume are difficult that we’re going to discuss here. Again, “difficult,” in this sense, can mean a number of things. It has to do with the number of hours and effort people are putting in, and what they get in return. And you have to factor in things like stress and psychological damage — working on a bomb squad may pay you well, but you’re probably going to have shot nerves for the rest of your life.
Taking these factors into account, here are seven of the nation’s most difficult jobs — all of which are much harder than most people realize.
1. Public school teacher
Teachers tend to be an easy target for many people who like to bellyache. “Teachers get summers off!”, they’ll say, oblivious to the fact that many teachers spend the remaining nine months of the year working an average of 53 hours per week, and earning between $41,000 and $47,000 per year, typically. And many teachers actually spend their summers refreshing their credentials, and planning for the next year, so it’s hardly a vacation. Plus, if you can remember how awful high school and middle school were, imagine going back.
Some teachers have it good, but it’s not the cushy job most of us think it is.
Next: A fairly dangerous job with very long hours
2. Long-haul trucker
There are a lot of openings for truckers, and there’s a reason for that. The hours are very, very long, and the danger is fairly high. You’re away from home and your family for long stretches of time and under some pretty intense pressure to hit deadlines. It actually pays OK, but you have to keep in mind that the amount of time you’re spending on the job can easily outweigh what you’re earning. Trucking may seem like a relatively easy gig, but all things considered, it’s tougher than you’d imagine.
Oh, and the job is probably not going to be around much longer thanks to advancements in automation. So, there’s that to grapple with as well.
Next: A job where you’re responsible for hundreds of lives as you go about your day
Can you imagine anything more stressful than having hundreds of lives in your hands as you steer a gigantic metallic bird through the air? Being a pilot may sound like fun, but when you consider just how much stress and pressure these men and women are under while performing the job, it may not sound like such a fun gig. Sure, there’s autopilot; but when it’s just you behind the console, it’s hard to imagine a more white-knuckle career path.
Next: Don’t let the camera fool you.
4. Actors and actresses
Acting has to be an easy gig, right? You show up, say your lines, and then go back to the trailer.
Well, yes. That’s partially true. But depending on your role, it may require much more than that. Just look at what some actors have to do to prepare. Leonardo DiCaprio, for example, did some ghastly things to prepare for The Revenant. Michael B. Jordan and Jake Gyllenhaal spent months, if not years, preparing for boxing roles.
Yes, you can land a reality TV job that doesn’t require all that much effort and talent. But some performers have much tougher jobs ahead of them.
Next: A stressful job with lasting effects
5. Law enforcement
Law enforcement may attract hot-heads and former schoolyard bullies, but that doesn’t make the job any easier. In fact, most cops are likely doing everything they can to avoid having their mistakes make it on to CNN. The job is insanely stressful, and can have lasting psychological effects. You see the worst of society and have to get your hands literally, and figuratively, dirty. It’s not just munching on donuts and pulling over speeders.
Next: A dying industry
6. Newspaper reporter
Journalism has hit hard times, and because of that, budgets have shrunk for local news departments across the country. That means reporters are required to do more with less, and do it all for less pay. Reporters, on average, only earn around $34,000 per year, and work 10 hours per day. If there was ever a recipe for burnout, this is it. Plus, you’re on call around the clock, and get your head handed to you if you make a mistake.
Next: Another dying industry where you deal with consumers every day
We all deal with retail employees every day. They work in our grocery stores, 7-11s, shopping malls, and Best Buys. They’re everywhere. And while they may not always be the proverbial cream of the crop, they’re all facing a pretty tough job every time they punch in. Retail is notoriously hellish, as you’re on your feet for long stretches, and taking some pretty intense heat from customers and management. Low pay, often no benefits, and revolving schedules make it worse.
It’s part of the reason customer service isn’t what it used to be.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger