How do you quantify which jobs are best for an entire population?

There is so much wrapped up in the decision of which career you choose—your degree, your interests, salary, desired lifestyle, where you live, etc.—it seems a little arrogant for one national magazine to pretend that it can prescribe which careers are best for the rest of America, but that’s exactly what the U.S. News and World Report has done again this year with their 2013 list of “The 100 Best Jobs.”

But our questions is, did they get it right? Are the jobs they put in their top ten—based on factors like salary, employment figures, work-life balance, and job security—really the best jobs for everybody?

In this article, we look into each of the top ten and determine their fit for the list. We ask if the U.S. News’ definition of best jobs really reflects what our readers value, especially the educational requirements needed for each career:

1. Dentist

So it’s obvious that this career’s .7-percent unemployment rate and stunning $142,740 median salary caught the U.S. News’ attention. Even we have to admit that those figures are pretty impressive. But what of the educational requirements it takes to become a dentist. After earning a bachelor’s degree, dentists are required to undergo another three years of school and then a couple more years in the specialty of their choice.

This all costs a lot of time and money, enough that not everyone can or will take on such a challenge. Also, compared to other jobs, demand for dentists is limited (i.e. people will only get so much dental work done before they tap out).

2. Registered Nurse

Nursing_DepartmentIn terms of a career that almost anyone can get into, this job is definitely within reach. A relatively short two- or four-year program will get you in the door as a registered nurse. Higher degrees will guarantee higher salaries in the field. We should add, however, that the hours for this job aren’t all flowers and sunshine. Registered nurses are often subjected to brutal 12-hour shifts, sometimes graveyard shifts.

3. Pharmacist

Requiring three years beyond a bachelor’s degree to earn a professional degree, this job certainly deserves to be on this list. Educational requirements are far below those of dentists or MDs, but salaries are comparable. Also, pharmacists largely avoid the difficult work hours that MDs and nurses are often subjected to.

4. Computer Systems Analyst

Chalk this up as another sweet job that’s within reach. Computer systems analysts need have only a bachelor’s degree before they can enter the field. Except in cases of the occasional system outage, computer systems analysts usually have a pretty cushy work life, experiencing none of the long hours or tiring conditions that other careers on this list experience.

5. Physician

We would definitely question this job’s place on this list. Physicians may have as high salaries as you’re likely to see, but the education required is the longest out of any career in this list. Upon starting practice, physicians often spend their healthy salaries paying off their considerable student debt, licensing fees, and insurance. The truth is, between staying licensed, paying off their school loans, and paying to keep from getting sued for malpractice, few doctors actually feel rich until much later in their careers.

6. Database Administrator


We have to agree with this one. Few jobs are in as much demand as those in IT/ Technology fields. There are so many of these jobs that there aren’t enough qualified folks in the workforce to fill them. Compared to the salaries for physicians or dentists, median salaries for database administrators for a mere $75,190 per year. But the low education cost and chill work-life balance are hard to argue with.

7. Software Developer

As with database administrators and computer systems analysts, so it is with software developers. Salaries are comfortable, job security is strong, and unemployment doesn’t exist. The downside we can see, however, is the long hours that developers often must put in on rush projects. Also, sitting at a computer all day isn’t the best thing for the ol’ waistline. Developers and programmers often have to battle to keep in shape.

8. Physical Therapist

These chaps don’t make as much as their more prestigious physician colleagues, but their schedules and school debt are also less demanding.

9. Web Developer

Everything we wrote for software developers is true here: high demand, comfy salaries, growing waistlines. It is worth saying that this job isn’t for social butterflies, as web developers often prefer and thrive in quiet solitude, preferring the company of computers to that of human beings.

10. Dental Hygienist

The salaries in this career might be only half of what dentists and physicians make, but the schedules are flexible and you only need an associate’s degree to get in the door. Does this make it a best job? If you’re willing to work in one of the filthiest places in the world and experience bad breath like you never knew existed, then this job might be the best… for you.

Looking for the right job is like trying to find the right outfit: it’s not one-size-fits-all. You’ll want to take into consideration your strengths, preferences, lifestyle, past work experiences, weaknesses, and willingness to undergo higher levels of education. With a little research and soul-searching, you’ll find the one that fits you to a tee.

If your target career requires a degree, we can help. Click here to get started in finding the right degree for the career you want!


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