meaningful jobs

The Most and Least Meaningful Jobs

This interactive chart shows how 454 jobs in 22 job categories compare on median salary and job meaning. PayScale rates job meaning by the percentage of respondents who say that their job makes the world a better place.

As the chart illustrates, there are relatively few jobs with both very high pay and very high job meaning, and most of these are in the medical field, both highly-paid practitioners (doctors, surgeons, etc.) and lower-paid healthcare support (nurses, aides, technicians, etc.). Surgeons rank highest on median salary ($299,600) and high job meaning (94%).

Community Service/Social Workers and Educators also rate their jobs as extremely meaningful despite lower pay. (It should also be noted that these fields are dominated by women. Women are more likely to work in low-paying but high-meaning jobs, which contribute to overall differences in pay between genders.)

The 2 least meaningful job categories are Food Preparation and Service and Legal. Fast Food Cooks are at the bottom of both the salary ($17,300) and job meaning (17%) measures. Legal professions do poorly in job meaning despite high pay – the median salary for the job type is $49,000 annually, and only 41% say their job makes the world a better place. Lawyers specifically are one of the highest-earning professions with low job meaning. Only 40% say they have job meaning despite a median salary of $89,900.

Job satisfaction, indicated by the size of the circles for each job, is not necessarily tied to job meaning. 80% of Gaming Supervisors report high job satisfaction even though only 22% say their job is meaningful. Conversely, only 56% of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that their job is satisfying, even though they earn a median salary of over $200,000 per year and 80% say that their job makes the world a better place.


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Salary and career advice to put you a step ahead.
newsletter icon