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The 5 Worst Jobs in America

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Few decisions will have as lasting an impact on your life as your choice of profession. You can pour your life into a career, only to see it taken away as technology and business attitudes render your specialty obsolete. On the other hand, if you discover that you happen to be great at a job that looks to be in high demand for decades to come, you can practically write your own meal ticket., a targeted career site, recently put together its list of the best and worst jobs in America, which it ranks using a proprietary formula based on the general categories inherent to every job: environment, income, outlook, and stress level. The worst jobs in America combine an unpleasant physical and mental environment with high stress, low (or negative) growth, and weak earning potential to create a job that leaves you overworked, underpaid, and just plain burned out. The five jobs you're about to see offer the worst overall combinations of these four general factors, which makes them the worst jobs in America (ranked from fifth-worst to the very worst), according to CareerCast.

5: Oil rig worker

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Median pay: $37,640 per year 
  • Entry-level education: Less than high school
  • Number of jobs: 134,800
  • Expected new jobs by 2020: 11,200 (8% growth)

Forget about what you hear of the Bakken boom or the huge paydays offered to men (nearly all of the oil industry's front-line work is done by men) willing to leave family and friends behind to work on the oily frontier. This is hard, tiring, dangerous work. Despite the perception of high pay, many rig employees don't actually make all that much. The risk of death, though remote, is very real -- just think back to the 11 dead men who went down with the Deepwater Horizon. While the payoff can be great in the near term, there isn't often a lot of long-term job security working on rigs. If you don't get burned out from the grinding schedule and the job's physicality, you might find yourself unemployed when the well's production drops to a trickle.

4: Actor 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Median pay: $17.44 per hour (regular schedules are nearly impossible to find)
  • Entry-level education: Some college, no degree
  • Number of jobs: 66,500
  • Expected new jobs by 2020: 2,600 (4% growth)

If you can make it to the top of the acting profession, you can command fantastic paydays and gain worldwide renown. However, very few actors will ever make it that far, and competition is absolutely brutal in this entertainment profession that has long drawn starry-eyed dreamers from around the world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics may not count the number of people who work as actors on a part-time basis, as the Screen Actors Guild has more than 160,000 members. A number of actors wind up working other low-paying, stressful jobs to supplement their income. The intense competition, low pay, and persistent uncertainty over the next job can create a great deal of stress. Try waiting patiently for a callback from that audition where you poured out your soul. It's not easy!

3: Enlisted military personnel 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Median pay: $42,000 per year (classification E-7 with eight-plus years of experience)
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma
  • Number of jobs: 1,211,575
  • Expected new jobs by 2020: Varies by branch and occupation

The United States' armed forces enjoy wide public acclaim but are treated rather poorly at work. Most enlisted personnel don't stay for more than four years, which makes a $42,000 annual payday (which comes with bonuses like housing and food allowances as well as medical care) a pipe dream for many. Enlisted life is the most stressful of any job in the country, and few enlisted specialties offer the scheduling stability of a traditional 9-to-5. Barring some huge new war -- which can never be ruled out -- the size of the military is expected to decline over the coming years as long-standing war-on-terror operations draw down, leading to fewer opportunities for advancement.

2: Lumberjack 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Median pay: $32,870 per year
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma
  • Number of jobs: 53,200
  • Expected new jobs by 2020: 2,300 (4% growth)

"I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK," goes the old Monty Python song -- but that might not be such an accurate assessment. Many of those 53,000 lumberjacks are not OK with their dangerous and low-paying career choices, which leave them little free time to skip and jump and press wildflowers. In fact, only fishermen have a more dangerous profession -- lumberjacks and other logging workers suffer approximately 54 deaths per year . There aren't a lot of opportunities for professional growth, either. Have you ever heard of an ex-lumberjack CEO or executive vice president? I'm sure such individuals exist, but they must be extremely rare.

1: Newspaper reporter 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Median pay: $36,000 per year 
  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Number of jobs: 58,500
  • Expected new jobs by 2020: -3,200 (6% decline)

CareerCast focuses on print news, but there isn't a lot of good news for any sort of reporter in the United States. Long hours, constant deadline pressure, intense competition, and low pay add up to a lot of stress in a career that allows very few to ever make it big. Online newsrooms are quick to aggregate the content slaved over by print journalists, and the shift to the Internet has devastated print media. Over the past decade, print ad revenues have collapsed from $45 billion to $19 billion, and newsroom employment is at its lowest level since 1978. The print business is dying, and the reporters on the vanguard are among those most hurt in the carnage.

The best of the rest
CareerCast has a deep list of jobs, ranked from 1 (the best) all the way to 200 (the worst). You can see the bottom 20 here, and you can continue browsing to see where your job ranks. Are you unlucky enough to be part of these unpleasant professions? Do you disagree with CareerCast's analysis? Let the world know how you feel about these rankings by leaving a comment below.

Making the right financial decisions today makes a world of difference in your golden years, but with most people chronically under-saving for retirement, it's clear not enough is being done. It doesn't matter whether you've got the best job in America or the worst -- there are some vital steps you can take at any income level to assure that you'll be secure after you leave the job market behind. Learn about The Shocking Can't-Miss Truth About Your Retirement by clicking that link now. It won't cost you a thing, but don't wait, because your free report won't be available forever.

Read/Post Comments (34) | Recommend This Article (25)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 11:45 AM, Paulson545 wrote:

    Americans are lucky there's still a lot of men and women willing to serve in the military for such low pay.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:02 PM, rascus2010 wrote:

    I totally disagree with your article. My husband and my nephew work in the oil field. You can work your way up and make over $100,000 a year. It is hard work and not for everyone. You have to be on your toes and able to think, you must be strong and don't mind getting dirty. In other words you can't be a paper pusher type man.

    Also I was enlisted in the service and it was the greatest job I ever had. You obviously were never in the military. I cannot speak of the other jobs since I have no knowledge of them.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:13 PM, fuzzynormal wrote:

    One of the reasons being a NEWSPAPER reporter is so hard for the woman in the photograph above is that she's doing it wrong.

    The next time she's on assignment she might want to consider not wasting her time standing in front of a broadcast camera a recording a 'stand-up' that no one will ever read in print ever.

    If you want to be a newspaper reporter, you write. You don't travel with a ENG professional video camera.

    Gah, this site is awful.

    Are editorial standards really that hard to manage?

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:20 PM, rokar1 wrote:

    This website name is perfect. whoever reads this or works for this website IS A FOOL. Military personnel? Come on... give them respect... screw this website.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:20 PM, mrdawn12 wrote:

    "Oh I'm a lumberjack and thats ok,I sleep all night and I work all day"

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:22 PM, Riggerwo wrote:

    The military is NOT a is a calling..a life style..a way of life.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:25 PM, mrdawn12 wrote:

    The military ,for enlisted personnel , really does suck. Been there done that. Enlisted are treated like dirt and are at the beck and call of some real idiot Officers. Enlisted are 2nd class citizens as far as the military go,,,you are and always will be a NUMBER,a troop, a casualty,nothing more.

    I applaud what they do whole heartedly but the truth is the truth...when they say jump,,,geronimo...

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 12:26 PM, fisher19734 wrote:

    I cant believe corrections did not make it

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 2:25 PM, webworkings wrote:

    I am sorry to say, but there are a lot of jobs out there that make a lot less money than those listed here, and are a lot more stressful.

    Ever tried customer service? Any position in customer service. Very high stress for very little pay.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 2:53 PM, rangerchuck wrote:

    Fuzzy math. A private, entry level into the military earns if single $33,067 pay and allowances as a single soldier. If he is married it is $37.063 pay and allowance. To boot the allowances are not taxed. The author fails to mention the allowances. Also the retirement is non contributory and is paid at the rate of 50% from day one of retirement. 18 years old enters the military and he can retire at 38 year old with 1/2 of his pay and all of his medical benefits for he and his family to 26 years for the children. Bad job I think not.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 2:58 PM, st1122 wrote:

    Life in the Military does stink. I did four years in the Air Force and all they did was yell at you. I never understood the reason for all the demeaning yelling. They say it's to make a man out of you, but if that were true, why does everyone complain when a school teacher yells at a student that might be as old as 18, the same age he will be that Summer when he enlists? Doesn't make sense.

    If you want a job that gives you a feeling of respect,

    don't join the military. You won't get any respect while in there.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 3:31 PM, 3barrels wrote:

    Try working any position other than management for City government where you are expected to perform the work of several people, havent seen a pay raise in years, in fact a pay cut and the taxpayers forget you are a tax payer also trying to feed your family. For some reason the attitude is that we are "volunteer workers" unless you are the Mayor or his appointees ! Once you reach a milestone, they know you arent going to bail.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 3:32 PM, jesse1954 wrote:

    As to the military; I would say it has many variables. I was in for 4 years, and they were quite easy with pretty decent pay. I was stationed at a large medical center, lived off-base and had a very 'civilian' like experience. Since about 30 percent of personnel were civilian, it had a relaxed atmosphere. I worked 8-4 Monday thru Friday. The hardest part was trying to find something in which to keep busy as I worked in a research lab, and often there wasn't much going on.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 4:26 PM, jtb6480 wrote:

    i don't know what oil rig company they are talking about that only pays 38k a year but i've worked on drilling rigs for around eight years now and its one of the best paying jobs out there. Even starting out at entry level as a worm hand i was making close to 70k

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 5:51 PM, awaome2 wrote:

    There are lots of hard underpaid/thankless jobs out there. I work as a c.n.a. and I work very hard physically and mentally. I am on my feet 100% of the time. I get paid approximately $15,000 a year. I pay $100 monthly for insurance that covers a 3rd of my medical charges.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:02 PM, herky46q wrote:

    Enlisted military personnel is not so much a job as a category of jobs. Some are much better than others.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:06 PM, miccino4 wrote:

    Your article forgot to add Security Guard to the list. These unarmed "square badge/rent-a-cops" start at minimum wage and MAYBE earn a high of $31,000 a year (gross).

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:12 PM, RogueLoner wrote:

    Yet laid off Americans will whine about Mexicans taking these "undesirable" jobs.

    No wonder the terrorists love to play here.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:35 PM, slavador wrote:

    My son is a typical derrick hand in canada @ $30/hr + doubletime after 8 hours with 12 hrs being a typical day. He grosses over 120K and lives in camp for free. I cannot think of a lower expence higher payed position except his promotion path (driller@40/hr, push@60/hr, consultant@124/hr). Motley fool must be getting their numbers from the third world or southern states)

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 6:39 PM, Beth4444 wrote:

    I clicked on this thinking my job, newspaper journalist, would be in the top five. I was, sadly, correct. I have watched the industry hemorrhage jobs in the past seven years - people with decades of experience have left to pursue other, more lucrative careers in marketing and PR. What's left are those who love the field despite the high stress levels and switch to an almost all online media push. I do love my job, however, and have embraced the digital and social media part of it, which is maybe why I'm still around. I just wish I had a back-up plan in case things take an even sharper turn for the worse.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 7:17 PM, Ducknutz wrote:

    My Uncle Goober works on a derrick in gnome, and sells crack on the side.

    Makes a ton...

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 7:59 PM, kybob wrote:

    You hear all the time education education. But what if there was no body to do these jobs because everyone got an education? Then when something happens and these people are out of work and on unemployment they are called lazy. This country needs these "lazy" workers and a lot more. What we don't need is more pictures of rich peoples toys.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 9:39 PM, IronJaw5 wrote:

    The best thing I ever did was a 3 year enlistment in the Marine Corps. And we made a heck of a lot less in the days I was in. But, even though I did spend time in combat, I also traveled throughout the country and the world. And when my tour ended, I was a much better person, well-prepared for college (I have an M.A). I also had the G.I. Bill which helped greatly with college costs and made it very easy to purchase a home (I bought 3 homes under the Bill over the years). The Corps made me grow up - take responsibility...become a man.

    Also remember - the enlisted man, who is single, can live in the barracks and eat in the chow halls - for free. The money you make is yours.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 10:03 PM, OldTreeClimber wrote:

    I make 75k topping trees down mostly in the city and suburbs of Pittsburgh.I do the ones that most other people don't want like usually very large and most always dead and near collapse.It's not without risks as the place is a High voltage nightmare seems like in every back yard.I wouldn't trade for any other job.

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2013, at 10:05 PM, unloved615 wrote:

    How about customer service rep?...Tremendously low pay with a ton of pressure and stress. Being chained to a phone for 8+ hours a day in a cubicle the size of a baby's playpen with your superiors listening to every call, scoring you, timing every call and looking over your shoulder every second of the day. Not to mention being blamed by the customers for mistakes constantly made by other CSRs and departments within the company all for damn near minimum wage. And it's always do more, more, more...It's really sad because there are alot of well educated and intelligent people working in these call centers at this highly demanding yet trival and demeaning job because they cannot find employment elsewhere. Not to mention the extensive training they put you through. I would take anyone of those jobs above if I could. Let's face it, most places you work now a days treat their employees like crap anyway.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 12:16 AM, 3ni278aosdj8hebj wrote:

    Having someone order you around will always suck - regardless of the pay and benefits. The only true road to happiness is to call your own shots and be your own boss.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 12:40 AM, NuttinSpecial wrote:

    I don't know where they got the information on Oil Rig Worker, but it is 100% inaccurate. Starting pay for a worm (beginner) is about $60K with a cheap company, and that's for working 7 days on/7days off (half the year). Yes, it is real work and not for panzies, but anyone with a brain (not many of those left) can easily move up the latter in a short period of time and make just under or above $100K. I know 27 year old tool pushers that are racking back $200K a year in salary and bonuses, for working HALF the year. Their is a big difference a "rig" and a "platform". Drilling rigs are unaffected by whether or not a well runs dry.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 12:48 AM, dadicesare wrote:

    Night cargo pilot: highly overlooked. Well paid. One pays the price for being up all night for weeks at a time. NOT WORTH IT.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 2:39 AM, JimV53 wrote:

    The bias and missing facts on the part of the compiler of this list is incredible. In today's economy a bachelor's degree makes a great placemat and during the housing bubble there were masonry contractors with 4 guys and a truck making $250k. Same things with other tradesman. But these cloistered office workers wouldn't know the satisfaction of working with their hands and proving your usefulness (and I say that with a masters degree with 'real work' sabbaticals that I've loved).. Like Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

    When the MBAs showed up as a corrective for the 40 layers of management; an unintended consequence of the Post-WWII GI Bill when we had 46% of World GDP, we altered our economy permanently. Our higher education is filled with 4-year summer camp attendees in many instances who dream of becoming a loyal consumer.

    Tough jobs: Convenience store clerk on the night shift; low pay and you might get shot, Flagman on a highway crew on a summer day with your feet slowly stewing, your neck burning, call center anything, a numbing low-paying job, hot tar roofing, try it sometime, and of course you've reserved farm laborer as something we Americans pass off and would never think of. As I baled hay for a summer job, I saw Mexican farmworkers who stooped all day in a beanfield, bent over all the time. Get out and about before you write this mush.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 6:32 AM, Martel197042 wrote:

    Oilfield Worker????? In the industry for 23 years started at more than 37k in 1989 today making over 250k per year. Work a month off a month. (That is 6 months vacation a year) Behind a computer but highly stressed. Great benifits and stock options. Have traveled and seen the world. Austrailia, Singapore, Brazil, India, Dubai, Etc Etc. All with a high school education. Have friends all around the world. The growth of the oilfield may be down in the US but industry wide more than 25% growth over the next few years. Don't belive me go to the rigzone dot com and look at the rig being built. over 200 million each. over 100 men to crew each one. We can not train people fast enough! Just goes to show you can't believe every thing on the internet!! The oilfield has been good to me and many others. I work on a rig in Thailand right now and have over 24 US/Europe/Austrailia expats working with me that all make over 150k per year some with as little as 6 yrs exp. So don't belive everything you read!!

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 8:20 AM, businessgypsy wrote:

    @slavador- Third world or southern states? Amazing how unfamiliarity with a region doesn't prevent people from holding forth with absolute authority. Lafayette, LA (for instance) is a vibrant spot in the oil economy. I experience this same myopia when working in Europe, media-mislead associates are surprised that, as a conservative Republican, I can feed myself and participate in charitable work. The old saw about assumptions remains true.

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 8:27 AM, normmacdon wrote:

    This list is wrong.

    Number 2 worst job- crack whore

    Number 1 worst job- assistant to a crack whore

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 9:06 AM, Grandpastu wrote:

    On the other side of the coin, the best, highest paid jobs in the country, where you can be paid outrageous amounts of money for doing nothing, taking weekly vacations every month and by solely creating hate and discontent, would be that of a federal Congressman

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 12:16 PM, cityperson wrote:

    The worst job is one that you do not have. The worst job is still one that has to be done, not all the young people that are being brainwashed about jobs. The worst or dirty jobs is one that some person has to do to. Just think if you did not have builders and other dirty jobs. Most can not imagine, doing this dirty work, especially the young people today in America Then others blame the illegals for taking these jobs they (Americans) will not do.

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