Mind Matters: The best occupations

I have been occupying myself thinking about different occupations. Some occupations are more respected than others. What occupations do you consider most deserving of respect? Least deserving?

If you want respect, aim to become a physician. Or a lawyer or engineer. Too much study for you? How about head teacher, which came in fifth in a worldwide listing? Or police officer or nurse. University lecturers (like me!) made the top 10 of a most respected list in Australia.

The lowest-respect occupation in Australia is politician. I once attended a meeting that included, to my surprise, a well-known elected official. I said to him: "You're the politician." He became irate. He wanted to be known as a government leader or by some other grand term. Good luck to him. Other low-respect occupations include sales representatives who work on commission.

Some occupations pay more than others. Can you guess the highest and lowest paying jobs in Australia?

For the highest income, again look to medicine, according to the Australian Tax Office. Neurosurgery will put you in the chips, at least if you are a man. Women neurosurgeons make only half as much. Other medical specialties come next, followed by being a judge. Securities and finance dealer is also way up there. My son is heading in the direction of that occupation. That's good, in case I ever need a loan.

The lowest paying jobs in Australia are warehouse worker, receptionist, and retail assistant. What do you reckon are the safest and most dangerous occupations? Government statistics point to office jobs such as accountant and actuary as the safest. Their biggest risk is a paper cut.

The most dangerous occupations involve agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Construction and manufacturing also are up there. Did you read about the American farmer who got his leg caught in a grain auger? With no ability to contact anyone, he cut off the lower part of his leg with a pocket knife so he could escape. An actuary ensconced in an ergonomic chair might calculate the risk of an event like that.

So physicians take both the respect sweepstake and the income sweepstake. I reckon that they spend too much time near sick people to call their jobs safe. Also, physicians have a higher than average suicide rate. Is there no perfect job? Think of your job. If you like it, and it supports you, without killing you, be happy.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.