meaningful jobs

High-Meaning, Low-Paying Jobs

Workers in these jobs are confident that they are making the world a better place, but they aren’t getting rich doing it.

#10: Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

85% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $35,300

Helping patients overcome addiction and behavioral disorders is stressful and low-paying, but the work saves lives, making it one of the most meaningful jobs a person can take.

Substance Abuse Counselors

Photo Credit: DOD

#7 – tie: Middle School Teachers

86% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $42,900

Junior high is a tough time for tweens and teens, but even tougher for the teachers that work with them. Thankfully it’s work that these teachers rate as highly meaningful.

School Teachers

Photo Credit: Jose Kevo/Flickr

#7 – tie: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

86% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $41,200

Social Workers go through plenty of schooling (most have a Master’s degrees) and receive relatively low pay for the work they do, but their high job meaning numbers explain why so many people choose to go into this field.

Social Workers

Photo Credit: Nat'l Inst of Drug Abuse

#7 – tie: Massage Therapists

86% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $41,500

Massage therapy produces sore muscles for practitioners, but evidently the hands-on care they give to their clients is highly rewarding despite low pay.

Massage Therapists

Photo Credit: Nick Webb/Flickr

#6: Mental Health Counselors

87% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $40,300

Mental Health Counselors earn just over $40,000 a year, but 87% say they are confident that their jobs make the world a better place.

Mental Health Counselors

Photo Credit: Delta Mike/Flickr

#5: Medical Appliance Technicians

88% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $37,300

Creating the tools that doctors use to save and change lives doesn’t pay as well as those with an MD, but Medical Appliance Technicians do report very high job meaning numbers.

Medical Appliance Technicians

Photo Credit: Army Medicine/Flickr

#3 – tie: Kindergarten Teachers

89% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $35,500

Kindergarten teachers work hard for a median salary of $35,500, but they say that getting children ready for a lifetime of learning rewards them with a very high sense of job meaning.

Kindergarten Teachers

Photo Credit: US Dept of Education/Flickr

#3 – tie: Preschool/Child Care Administrators

89% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $32,400

Notice a trend? Working with young children seems to make the world a better place. Preschool and Child Care Administrators tie with Kindergarten Teachers for high job meaning despite low pay.

Education Admins

Photo Credit: cambodia4kidsorg/Flickr

#2: Firefighters

93% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $43,500

Firefighters save lives, sometimes in heroic ways. It shouldn’t be surprising that they report such high job meaning statistics – putting out fires and saving kitties from dangerous trees does make the world a better place.


Photo Credit: Alicia Kruger/Flickr

#1: Directors of Religious Activities and Education

97% Find Job Meaningful
Median Pay: $35,900

Working for spiritual institutions feeds your soul more than your bank account, but the individuals who do this work are certainly happy with their choice. They top this list with 97% of respondents reporting high job meaning.

Directors of Religious Activities

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum


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