10 Most Popular Jobs and What They Pay

Do you know someone who enjoys their job? Maybe they even look forward, a bit, to going to work? Believe it or not, this reality does exist. Certain jobs are simply more “popular,” meaning that the people who do them feel good about where they put their time and energy each working day.

To figure out which jobs are the “popular” ones, online salary and career database PayScale.com recently conducted a survey and asked workers about their job satisfaction. Below is a list of the 10 jobs that made the top of the list and what they pay each year, according to PayScale.com.

1. Operating Room Registered Nurse
Median annual salary: $61,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 81%

It’s easy to imagine why this job would be satisfying. You’re in the middle of an essential, possibly life-saving effort, playing the key role of controlling bleeding, handing over instruments and suturing incisions, all while working with a team of dedicated, smart, hard-working people. That sounds like a good way to spend your time. There are several routes to becoming a registered nurse – through a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree and through diploma programs – and this job is in high demand.

2. Physical Therapist
Median annual salary: $69,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 80%

Once again, here’s another caring profession with great job growth potential. Physical therapists help people recover basic movement after surgeries, injuries, illnesses and ailments of all kinds. Often referred to as PTs, physical therapists work in hospitals, out-patient clinics and private offices. The work can be physically demanding and also requires smarts and people skills. PTs must complete both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, fulfill their state’s requirements for licensure and pass a national exam.

3. Environmental Engineer
Median annual salary: $63,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 80%

In this helping professional, you help the earth. People who are passionate about keeping our air clean and our waters swimmable get to work on those goals every day. This job can require on-site research of outdoor areas and collecting samples, then going back to the office to do research, design solutions, write up proposals and negotiate project schedules and budgets. Environmental engineers must have a bachelor’s degree at least, while further education can help job prospects. This is a career with high growth potential.

4. Athletic Trainer
Median annual salary: $39,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 79%

When you hear “athletic trainer” you may think of a meathead with a clipboard and a whistle. That’s not even close. Athletic trainers are highly skilled health professionals recognized by the American Medical Association as allies in the effort to prevent and treat injuries for people of all ages. Plus, they get to work at football fields, gyms, swimming pools and ski resorts to help athletes meet their goals. Sound fun? You’ll need a bachelor’s degree at the least, but a master’s degree to be competitive. You will also need to pass exams for licensure and continue to take regular exams to keep your certificate throughout your career.

5. Dietitian
Median annual salary: $49,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 78%

Food. It’s fun and makes us happy so who wouldn’t want to talk about it all day? “I get to understand not only how food affects numerous aspects of health, but get to peek into the world of medications, anatomy and physiology,” says Pam Dick, a registered dietician who works at Kittitas Valley Community Hospital and Yakima Valley Community College in Washington State. From diabetes prevention to weight maintenance, dieticians help all kinds of patients. To get this gig, you must complete a bachelor’s degree, as well as gain licensure and a certification, depending on which state you plan to practice in. Master’s degrees are common and improve job prospects.

6. Elementary School Teacher
Median annual salary: $41,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 78%

Guiding and inspiring our future astronauts, authors, acrobats and mathematicians sounds like a worthwhile effort. Elementary school teaching offers a combination of emotional and intellectual challenges, like getting a scared child to speak in front of their peers or designing a science class that really sparks students’ curiosity. Elementary school teaching is certainly demanding and known for not being well paid for the amount of work required. But, for those who take the time to complete an undergraduate degree in teaching, pass their exams and get into this career, it’s worth all the effort. Master’s degrees improve earnings and job opportunities.

7. Intelligence Analyst
Median annual salary: $69,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 76%

Intelligence analysts work with police, armed forces and other clients to collect, verify, analyze and utilize confidential information, including maps, images, audio files and documents. They research and prepare reports that help organizations’ strategize and plan their next steps. This job sounds like the stuff that movies are made of. And, working with all of that top-secret information must mean you’re working on something that feels important, and that can be very satisfying. The job requires a degree in criminology or a related field, as well as on-the-job training. Greater expertise and specialization can improve job opportunities.

8. Computer Networking / IT Systems Engineer
Median annual salary: $70,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 75%

If you love computers and problem solving, but also don’t mind talking to people, you could be happy as a network engineer. There must be great satisfaction in designing, setting up, testing, modeling and improving the computer network of a company or school, or even the voicemail system for a worldwide organization. A bachelor’s degree is needed to be an engineer, but added years of experience and a master’s degree are common among the most sought-after systems engineers.

9. Dental Hygienist
Median annual salary: $68,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 74%

It makes sense that making people’s smiles brighter has you feeling pretty good at the end of the day. Dental hygienists have a great deal of expertise and spend a lot of time teaching their patients how to care for their teeth. Hygienists also assist with more complicated dental procedures, like administering anesthesia or removing sutures. A high school diploma and test scores are needed to get into dental hygiene school, though some schools require a year of college, as well. Then, a state licensing exam gets you working.

10. Technical Writer
Median annual salary: $56,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 71%

Technical writing is also a helping profession. Technical writers have the expertise and ability to take a very complicated subject and make it more understandable for their reading audience. Whether they have to explain the steps to building a back deck or summarize a complicated study of animal behavior, technical writers’ skills get put to the test. Most technical writers have bachelor’s degrees, but a degree in a technical field can also be useful. You need to have high attention to detail and, hopefully, some curiosity and expertise about your topic.

Source: All salary and satisfaction data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers in the United States with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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