Have Fun With Those ‘Best Jobs’ Rankings

Earlier this week CareerCast, a global job search site, released its 2014 rankings of 200 jobs from best to worst (methodology here) and found mathematicians and tenured professors in the top 1 and 2 slots respectively, while newspaper reporters and lumberjacks hit the bottom of the list at 199 and 200.

At Vox, Billfold pal Danielle Kurtzleben says that ranking jobs is a silly thing to do:

The problem with ordinal rankings — and the more variables, the more problems here — is that it implies meaningful differences between one job and the next one that is one ranking below it. You can definitively say that one job pays more than another, but is it true that clinical social worker is better than nail technician is better than middle school teacher, as US News’ rankings imply? And even if somehow that were empirically provable, what’s the practical application of this knowledge? Should the middle school teacher go be a social worker? Or just take it as a given that the man who does her nails has a better job?

If you’ve read our site for a while and looked at the pieces and posts about people who work in academia, you know that it’s kind of baffling to have tenured professors at the top of a list when those positions are so limited in the job market and require many years of education and dedication.

The rankings also don’t seem that useful as a tool—how many people look at a list like that and decide to become mathematicians?

But there’s one thing Kurtzleben says the rankings does right, which is not automatically putting jobs with high incomes at the top of the list: “There is much more to a good job than a high salary. That’s why we’re not all striving to be surgeons. But when you mash too much of that jobs data together, a lot can get lost in the shuffle.”

Also, here is my favorite comment from the report:

Photo: UC Davis College of Engineering

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