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Best, worst jobs revealed

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 11:44 am

As Lodi’s high school seniors prepare for their graduation day, career choice takes front and center stage in their future education or training decisions.

With 20 million Americans unemployed or under-employed, the best job might be described as anyone you can get. But has done young job seekers a favor by compiling its 25th annual 200 best and worst jobs listed in order and based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The rankings are calculated on anticipated income, stress, physical demands or lack thereof and the hiring outlook over the near term.

Studies like this should be taken with a grain of salt because some of the most desirable positions are beyond the average American’s academic ability. University professor, for example, is considered the least stressful because tenure provides job security, high pay and little health risk. At the nation’s most prestigious universities like Columbia, even instructors can earn over $100,000. A full professor’s salary at Stanford, Princeton and the University of Chicago reach $200,000.

But not many among this year’s graduating classes have the intellectual capacity to acquire the requisite Ph.D. degrees that college professors hold.

The best job, actuary, may also pose academic challenges for many. In fact, it might be an interesting exercise to survey high school seniors to see how many can define an actuary’s function. Summed up, an actuary analyzes the financial consequences of risk. Insurance companies, large corporations with significant employee benefit plans and banks are always looking for skilled actuaries. Entry level salary ranges around $50,000. However, to qualify, actuaries must graduate at the top of their class, 3.2 GPA or better, and then pass a series of rigorous exams.

Several jobs don’t require more than a high school diploma. Unfortunately, many of them are included in the “worst” category. Years ago, flight attendant was considered a desirable career. The television drama "Pan Am" highlighted the job’s glamorous aspects---international travel, famous passengers, haute cuisine and a work week limited to about three days. Pan Am, both the airline and the television show, are long gone and with them went any semblance of comfortable air travel. Now ranked 10th and only slightly ahead of restaurant workers, flight attendants have become victims of mergers. On many flights their numbers have been cut from 4 to 3 attendants, thus making the hiring market even tighter.

However, one flight attendant friend told me that after 13 years with her carrier, she’s making about $100,000, has 10 days off a month and chooses which trips she’ll take and who her flying partners will be. On some trips with layovers, she’s got 20 hours to hang out---maybe on the beach or shopping at world class stores. During her two week vacation, she flies dirt cheap and gets hotel discounts.

Whatever decision a young graduate makes, I’ll offer some important advice. Consider my flight attendant friend’s defense of her profession. No one starts at the top. The path to success includes sticking it out through the early days when the pay is low and the assignments difficult.

Use that period to establish yourself as reliable, hard-working and honest. Believe me, your superiors will notice. As you build seniority based on your well established work ethic, your upward arc may quickly accelerate to assistant manager, manager and eventually with a little luck, persistence and diligence a senior management position.

The rewards of stick-to-ittiveness pay off not only in money but also in the satisfaction of having done a job well.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District after a 25-year career. Contact him at

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