Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

i-c8a4cc0cc5d2b92335d925ba69e5b2f3-tps.bmp Ok, no nobody really *likes* to work. Even if you like your job, there are some days that you’d rather just sleep in or not have to jump through hoops or deal with your boss’ same old TPS-report complaints. A recent survey (2006 General Social Survey) of 27,000 random Americans noted that less than 1/2 of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, with the trend being greatest for the under-25 crowd and weakest for the 55+ group. Seems about right, as most of the jobs you have when you’re young are awful, and at 55 years old you’ve got retirement on the horizon.

Twenty years ago, the first time the survey was conducted, 61 percent of all Americans said they were satisfied with their jobs, according to the representative survey of 5,000 U.S. households, said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center.

“Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one’s job is to be expected, the breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated and productive on the job,” Franco said.

Money rarely buys happiness but it can buy job satisfaction–people making under $15,000 per year reported the lowest satisfaction while those making more than $50,000 per year said they were the most satisfied.

There also seemed to be a geographic/regional effect: people in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania reported higher dissatisfaction rates. Residents in less populous states reported higher satisfaction.

Here are the ‘most satisfying jobs,’ as reported:

Here are the Top 10 most gratifying jobs and the percentage of subjects who said they were very satisfied with the job: (% satisfied)

Clergy–87 percent percent
Firefighters–80 percent percent
Physical therapists–78 percent percent
Authors–74 percent
Special education teachers–70 percent
Teachers–69 percent
Education administrators–68 percent
Painters and sculptors–67 percent
Psychologists–67 percent
Security and financial services salespersons–65 percent
Operating engineers–64 percent
Office supervisors–61 percent


  1. #1 bernarda
    April 19, 2007

    Clergy do work? Now that is news. Aren’t they just parasites living off of the labor of real people?

    What has the clergy ever contributed to the GNP?

  2. #2 Suzanne
    April 19, 2007

    Very interesting stats! They do beg some correlation vs causation questions.

    Are some jobs more satisfying, or are some personalities both more easily satisfied and inclined to choose certain careers? Are jobs getting less satisfying, or are people’s expectations increasing?

    Low-paid jobs also tend to be mindless, dirty and dangerous, so does high salary cause satisfaction or do both satisfaction and high wages come from interesting work?

    But what really astonishes me is that authors were up there. I’ve always thought of writing as a lonely, compulsive manic-depressive Purgatory… guess I must be doing it wrong!

  3. #3 Shelley
    April 19, 2007

    bernarda: Apparently they don’t contribute much to the GABA candy industry

  4. #4 James
    April 19, 2007

    > Clergy do work? Now that is news. Aren’t they just parasites living off of the labor of real people?

    No. Like beggars, they’re parasites living off the labor of people who choose to donate to them. You’re thinking of politicians.

  5. #5 kemibe
    April 19, 2007

    “Clergy–87 percent percent”

    Okay, if 87 percent is 0.87, is “87 percent percent” (0.87)*(0.87) = 0.757 = 75.7 percent? Or is it really (1/100)*(0.87) = 87/100ths of a percent?

    Either way, I’d expect any career where on-the-job sex is commonly a perk to rank high in this kind of survey.

  6. #6 Charlie (Colorado)
    April 19, 2007

    Low-paid jobs also tend to be mindless, dirty and dangerous, so does high salary cause satisfaction or do both satisfaction and high wages come from interesting work?

    I don’t know about that — in many ways my favorite job was when I was a meatpacker. Dangerous, dirty, and cold — but I had my thoughts to myself, I got lots of exercise (I was moving 8 tons of bologna a day) and no one ever asked me to take an extra 100 lbs home to pack over the weekend.

    But seriously — do you really hate your job? My brother who is a tax accountant, yeah, I can understand — although the seven digit bonuses seem like they might have some compensatory value. But, like, if I were to retire, I’d spend all my time on the internet, writing, and doing things with computers. Just like work.

    If you didn’t have to work, would you stop messing with peoples heads, er, ears?

  7. #7 Shelley
    April 20, 2007

    Hmm, yeah, there are a bit too many ‘percents’ up there. But I’m leaving it as-is, and thus open to all types of interpretation.

    And Charlie, I love my job! I would stay in school forever and be an eternal student if I could. But, i don’t think of it as a job per se, or this blog…..Maybe thats part of the problem: since I enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work.

    Oh well, I’m not questioning!

  8. #8 Science Avenger
    April 20, 2007

    I wonder if satisfaction = compensation or if it was understood to refer to enjoyment. I’d also question the standards people have for liking their job, because they usually mean “don’t hate” or “can tolerate” when they say they “like” their job. As one who had a job for a while that I really did like, I explained it to them this way:

    Imagine you are at your job, and it is 3:00, and you normally get off at 5:00, and you have a series of things you expect to be doing for the next two hours. Now imagine your boss coming to you and saying “never mind, forget it, go home, you don’t need to do all that.” Now imagine being disappointed and a little upset that he did that, rather than pleasantly surprised. THAT is liking your job.

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