The Most Stressful Jobs of 2012

A Stressful Paycheck

If the goal of life is indeed the pursuit of happiness, then we should all strive to avoid the causes of anxiety in our daily lives. While stress can and does come at us from a number of angles, most people probably point to their jobs as the primary source of stress, since both the struggle to be financially comfortable and the day-to-day reality of some jobs mean that we spend the majority of our days on edge. Want to hear what workers of one of the worst jobs to make our list said about their career? Watch our video! Some people (psychologists?) may be drawn to life’s dirty drama, but for the rest of us who prefer to avoid stress, job website CareerCast crunched the numbers on 11 metrics to determine which jobs came with the most inherent anxiety for the average employee. Using CareerCast’s stress scores (see the methodology here),  we took a look at the top 10 and what makes them so stressful. Photo Credit: Getty Images


10. Taxi Driver

Stress Score: 46.25 Average Income: $22,440 Anyone behind the wheel of a car in a traffic jam knows that driving can be stressful. So driving for a living must be extraordinarily stressful – passengers in a rush will blame the driver for traffic, and just a little bit of reckless driving can cause severe bodily harm to anyone inside the vehicle. Drivers must be alert, so a 12-hour driving shift must be quite taxing mentally. Add that to the taxi driver’s low average income (a hair more than the $22,113 poverty line for a family of four in the U.S.) and it’s no surprise that the job ranks as the 10th most stressful. Photo Credit: Getty Images


9. Photojournalist

Stress Score: 47.09 Average Income: $40,000 Photojournalists catalog history from the front lines, a reality that frequently puts them squarely in harm’s way. Their work is invaluable though – Tim Hetherington, a British photojournalist who was killed covering the war in Libya last year, produced an Oscar-nominated documentary, Restrepo, about a group of soldiers at war in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo Credit: Getty Images


8. Corporate Executive

Stress Score: 47.41 Average Income: $165,830 Most people probably won’t shed too many tears over the stressful life of a corporate executive, a job that comes with significant financial rewards despite the anxiety it causes. It’s said that money can’t buy happiness though, and that seems to be true of the corporate executive, who must balance the needs of investors with the needs of the customer, while keeping costs as low as possible throughout. Photo Credit: Getty Images


7. Public Relations Executive

Stress Score: 47.56 Average Income: $91,810 Public relations executives have a very clear mission at work, which is to make their clients look good, but the media scrutiny that seems to intensify every year means that many are on permanent damage control. And that is stressful. Just imagine being the PR representative of any presidential candidate during primary season or any financial firm during the ongoing Occupy movement and think how you would put a good face on the latest round of corporate bonuses. Photo Credit: Getty Images


6. Event Coordinator

Stress Score: 49.85 Average Income: $45,260 Event coordinators may not have the most glorious of titles, but the job is without a doubt one of the most stressful there is. Responsible for juggling a thousand tasks, budgets, plans and backup plans, the event coordinator typically works on highly visible occasions with absolutely immovable deadlines. The cruel irony of it all is that the best event coordinators are completely invisible – when done right, an event just flows along smoothly without any major hiccups. Photo Credit: Getty Images


5. Police Officer

Stress Score: 53.63 Average Income: $53,540 Police work is stressful under any conditions, since the tense balance between keeping the peace and serving the public is sometimes not entirely clear. Recent public protests in cities throughout the U.S. have thrust officers of the law into an uncomfortable spotlight, as instances of perceived brutality make any lapse in judgment a very public and problematic affair. Photo Credit: Getty Images


4. Military General

Stress Score: 55.17 Average Income: $196,300 The highest income of any position on this list does not take the stress away from military generals. In addition to making decisions that could result in fellow Americans losing their lives, they must fight a PR battle as well to make sure their soldiers are acting in the country’s best interests. The recent scandal over a leaked video of Marines desecrating the bodies of Afghan victims is just one example of the taxing situations that may cross the top brass’s desk. Photo Credit: Getty Images


3. Airline Pilot

Stress Score: 59.58 Average Income: $103,210 Physical stress is an undeniable side effect of the high-flying lifestyle of a commercial pilot. Jet lag, stale air and all manner of strange dangers and diseases in foreign cities (and some foreign foods) mean that pilots must have a hard time finding some rest. It’s no wonder, then, that pilots’ complaints played a role in American Airlines’ (Stock Quote: AMR) recent bankruptcy filing. Photo Credit: Getty Images


2. Firefighter

Stress Score: 60.26 Average Income: $45,250 With tightened public budgets leading to cuts in services like fire and police departments, firefighters throughout the country are being asked to do more with less. That means the stakes have only gotten higher for a job that already faces life-threatening situations multiple times a day, for relatively little pay. Photo Credit: Getty Images


1. Enlisted Soldier

Stress Score: 84.61 Average Income: $35,580 Perhaps no job meets the “high stress, low pay” reality of the modern enlisted soldier, the most stressful job in the country this year. True, scores of troops are coming home from the Middle East this year, but the many that remain will face a shrinking budget and an empowered enemy. With a stress score that beats the second-place position by more than 20 points, the enlisted soldier is certainly in for a stressful year. Photo Credit: Getty Images


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