What makes one career path ultimately “happier” than the next is certainly subjective. According to writer and explorer Dan Buettner, it’s not a huge salary, but rather plenty of social interaction that makes for a satisfied worker. “The happiest people in America socialize about seven hours a day,” Buettner explains. Some might claim that other factors, such as flexibility, security, and prestige have more of an impact on overall satisfaction.
Research published in 2007 by NORC at the University of Chicago measured survey participants’ job satisfaction and overall happiness separately. The most satisfying jobs were those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others, as well as creative pursuits. The top five positions for job satisfaction were, in ascending order, clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, educational administrators, and artists. In the general happiness list, many satisfying occupations carried over, such as clergy at No. 1 and firefighters at No. 2.
For its list of the 10 happiest jobs in America for 2015, online jobs site CareerBliss compiled data sourced from more than 25,000 reviews by the website’s users, collected over the last two years. Respondents were asked to rate their job satisfaction on a scale of one to five in seven categories: person one works for, people one works with, support one receives, rewards one receives, growth opportunities available, company culture, and the way one works and handles daily tasks.
CareerBliss weighed each category equally to determine a job’s overall rank. Powerful positions such as CEO and high-gratification jobs such as famous musician or champion athlete were not considered. CareerBliss CEO Heidi Golledge says the jobs evaluated could be called “middle-market” positions. CareerBliss also only rated jobs for which it received at least 20 reviews, evaluating a total of 480 titles, so uncommon or highly specialized jobs won’t be found on this list. Here are the 10 happiest jobs in America based on findings from CareerBliss.
10. Systems developer
Systems developers produce, install, and implement necessary computer systems, networks, and operating software. While you may not expect IT and technology jobs to be among the most satisfying, careers from this sector show up multiple times on the list.
9. Senior software engineer
Software engineers design, develop, and evaluate computer software, whether for a private company, a financial institution, or a public service organization. In CareerBliss’s 2014 report, software engineers ranked eighth with an average salary of $75,800.
8. Business development executive
Business positions certainly come with pressure and stress, but seeking growth opportunities is a gratifying responsibility for these professionals. Strategic thinkers can find happiness even in the many daily challenges of business development.
7. Website developer
Website developers often enjoy the balance between creative and technical skill in their position. Creating dynamic experiences for the user is one of the happy tasks that make this job one of the most satisfying.
6. Oracle database administrator
Database administrators (DBAs) use software to store and organize data, such as financial information or customer records, ensuring information is secure and available only to authorized users. An Oracle DBA administers the Oracle database server.
5. Research assistant
While this job is often done on a temporary contract basis for an educational or research institution, it ranks high on the happiness scale. Research/teaching assistant was the No. 1 happiest job on CareerBliss’s 2014 list, despite having the lowest average salary of all of the top 20 positions.
4. Automation engineer
Automation engineers design, program, simulate, and test automated machinery and processes to complete specific tasks. Typically these highly skilled workers are needed in large-scale industries such as car manufacturing or food processing. An individual with excellent problem-solving and communication skills is sure to be content in this position.
3. Loan officer
Although they often work long hours, loan officers often have the pleasure of helping people realize their dreams. Whether it’s starting a business or owning a home, the loan officer performs a critical role and spends a lot of time working in-person with clients. Loan officer ranked as the fourth happiest job last year, with an average salary of $54,200.
2. Executive chef
As the individual in charge of the kitchen, the executive chef carries a lot of responsibility. It is also a highly competitive field, but successful head chefs have the pleasure of cooperating with a team to design and orchestrate meals using their own recipes.
1. School principal
Between stringent government standards, demanding parents, disciplinary issues, and teachers with varying levels of experience, being an educational administrator is no walk in the park. But that doesn’t mean that school principals don’t find their work extremely rewarding. When a principal can begin to see improvement, it makes juggling these responsibilities worth every minute. Educational administrators also ranked fourth in the University of Chicago’s top occupations for job satisfaction with 68.4% reporting “very satisfied.”