Given the economic volatility over the last few years makes, nothing seems certain--especially the job market. From slashed wages to lack of opportunities, it’s been a rough jobs landscape. However, through it all, some industries have fared well. Data compiled by job search portal CareerCast.com reflects what some of the best and worst jobs will be for 2012 in the U.S. The results, which factor in working conditions, salary and hiring outlook, might surprise you.
No. 4 Best Job: Dental Hygienist
“A lot of dental hygienists work a 25 hour work week, and they have a lot of control over their day,” says Lee. “Additionally, they don’t take their work home with them, and it’s typically a pleasant work environment. The demand is high, and the pay is good, and overall it’s a less demanding job than that of a traditional nurse.”
Midlevel income: $68,109
No. 3 Best Job: Human Resources Manager
For the first time since CareerCast.com began compiling its jobs data 15 years ago, the position of HR manager made the list of best jobs. The reason? More companies are hiring today and after the Great Recession, more of them recognize the importance of a strong HR department, according to Lee. “Also, with baby boomers hitting retirement age, there’s a great need for people who can help them manage their retirement accounts as they make the transition.”
Midlevel Income: $99,102
No. 2 Best Job: Actuary
“Actuaries are essentially people who figure out how long things are going to last,” says Lee. “If they work for an insurance company, they figure out how long you are going to last!” Actuaries are typically former math or actuarial sciences majors, and they can also be involved with budgeting or cost estimations for the cost of building infrastructures like bridges and tunnels. “It’s very analytical,” says Lee.
Midlevel Income: $88,202
No. 1 Best Job: Software Engineer
The employment of computer software engineers is expected to rise by 30% over the next eight years, according to Lee, and it has been the best job in America for the second year in a row. “Every company wants to have a website or a blog that looks amazing,” he says. “Companies are constantly looking for someone to help them write code or help with e-commerce design.” An additional perk for software engineers is that they can typically keep flexible hours.
Midlevel Income: $88,142
No. 5 Worst Job: Newspaper Reporter
“It’s no secret that print is suffering dramatically,” says Lee. “Newspaper reporters who have managed to hang onto their jobs are doing more than they used tp for less money with very little job security. The typical newspaper reporter is writing for print and online and doing video and tweeting and podcasting and working weekends. It’s the classic high stress, long hours and low pay job.”
Midlevel Income: $35,275
No. 4 Worst Job: Oil Rig Worker
Between climbing to the tops of oil rigs and dangerous drilling operations, oil rig workers do some of the hardest work in America, says Lee. “They’re getting filthy on offshore platforms and lifting and building heavy things all day long. There’s a high possibility for injury.”
Midlevel Income: $32,132
No. 3 Worst Job: Enlisted Military Personnel
“Your life is at risk most of the time, pay is not great, it’s stressful, this is one of the worst jobs for really obvious reasons,” says Lee. With budget cuts in the military, it’s also more difficult to make a career out of military service, says Lee.
Midlevel Income: $36,261
No. 2 Worst Job: Dairy Farmer
Large animals like cows tend to cause a lot of accidents and injuries like broken feet, says Lee. With the increase in large factory farming, corporate farmers have pushed down the prospects for independent dairy farmers to make a living. “The prospects today for an independent dairy farmer are not good,” says Lee.
Midlevel Income: $33,119
No. 1 Worst Job: Lumberjack
“You’d be surprised how many people work in the industry,” says Lee. “And how often they work. Whether it’s 10 degrees below zero or 110 outside, they’re working.” The lumberjack industry is tops on the list in terms of workplace injuries, says Lee, and the outlook for future work opportunities is not good. “They’ve automated a lot of it. Today, machines chop trees down, and that’s only going to continue.”
Midlevel Income: $32,114
Good jobs, bad jobs--if you've been on the job hunt this year, chances are you've seen it all. We've got the top five best and worst jobs for 2012.