What are the most stressful jobs in America? This is a question that many people ask me sometimes. My answer is simple. Every job around the world comes with its own fair share of stress. As such, there’re no jobs that one could call as totally stress free.
However, in USA some jobs do have a higher stress level than others. That’s because they require complete mental alertness and lesser relaxation at work. Some other jobs require professionals to deal with trauma and sorrow of others. And yet others involve risking own life or limbs.
Such categories of jobs are known as most stressful ones because one mistake can cause harm to the professional or even others that depend upon them. Unfortunately, not all of these most stressful jobs pay well.
In this article, I will be briefly discussing the top 25 most stressful & hardest jobs with the average salary. This list is made from various studies by psychologists and other professionals in the field and overall safety ratings of the work.
Before I proceed, let’s understand what does the term “most stressful job,” actually mean.
Definition of Most Stressful Job
The US government website, www.medlineplus.gov describes stress in the following terms. “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.”
This means, there’re three distinct human emotions that cause stress- anger, frustration and nervousness coming from an event or thought that affects thinking and body reaction.
Going by this understanding, a stressful job can rightly be defined as one where the professional or the worker has to mentally and physically respond to feelings of anger, frustration and nervousness or deal with them in high doses every day and sometimes, every minute or hour.
25 Most Stressful Jobs in America
This brings us back to the question: which are the 25 most stressful jobs in America. There’re lots of them actually. However, here I’m listing those which psychologists and other experts define as the most stressful.
Average Salary – $237,000
You might not imagine this, but physicians, especially a family physician, has one of the most stressful and complex jobs in America. There’re many reasons for this. Physicians have to attend to several patients daily, suffering from small to major illnesses. They’ve to comfort these patients while diagnosing their medical condition and prescribing the right medicine.
One mistake can cost dearly because they would face lawsuits in the court. Hence, they’re always alert and have a high level of emotional intelligence. This alertness and emotional intelligence help them go about their jobs.
2. IT Manager
Average Salary – $185,610
An IT manager is the only one who’s in complete charge of computer systems and networks in any organization. If any computer isn’t working, they’re usually the first to respond. They also have an additional responsibility of ensuring that their organization’s networks and systems are secure against any hacking attempts and cybercrime.
An IT manager leads a team of professionals. They can be on duty round the clock too, if problems arise. This profession requires a lot of skills that have to be updated regularly.
Average Salary – $208,000
An anesthesiologist is the one who administers anesthesia to patients before they undergo simple to complex surgeries. Their job is to ensure that the patient gets the right dose of anesthesia to ensure they’re unconscious during the surgery or, the part of the body being operated is desensitized fully.
Any mistake can cause the patient to suffer unimaginable pain and cause mistakes in the surgery. They also have to ensure that the right dose is given because too less means the patient would suffer pain. Too much anesthesia can even kill the patient. They’re always on their toes during a surgery.
4. Financial Manager
Average Salary – $181,980
What can be more complex and challenging than handling someone else’s money, especially that of an employer? What can be more challenging than ensuring that income and expenses are in balance and there’s sufficient money for an organization to pay wages and conduct business seamlessly? These are some of the tasks that a financial manager has to do every day.
One mistake can invite accusations of fraud. A single mistake can mean losses to the employer. Since it involves money, usually in very large amounts, every financial manager is usually under severe stress.
5. Marriage Counselor
Average Salary – $130,980
The problems between a wife and husband are nothing new in America. Disagreements arise due to various reasons such as sharing money to lack of time for the spouse. This can often lead to severe arguments, separation and divorce. Marriage counselors are those women and men that have the responsibility of repairing the fractured relationship between a couple and saving their marriage.
They have to patiently listen to problems of both the spouses and their children, if any. A marriage counselor then gives advise based on past experiences and studies. Always listening to marital problems of others and analyzing them can prove extremely stressful.
Average Salary – $122,960
Defending a client in court isn’t easy by any means. A lawyer or attorney has to deal with the prosecution and the judge. Even in civil cases, they will face stiff opposition from their counterpart representing the other side. Therefore, a lawyer has to study the case fully, speak with the client, find the appropriate laws and use them in the court.
This can be fairly difficult because laws are always complex. There’re no shortcuts that a lawyer can take. They have to present the case properly before the judge and jury to get favorable outcomes for their clients. This makes the job of a lawyer extremely stressful. They usually spend long hours studying a case and the proper laws to make a presentation.
Average Salary – $110,460
Finding breaking news and news scoops, getting all the facts straight and presenting them on a newspaper, radio or TV isn’t the most relaxing job in the world, by any yardstick.
Journalists are on the call almost round the clock. They have to rush to disaster zones and places where news is happening and ensure they beat competitors by publishing it fast or getting it on air before any others.
In fact, journalism is a very risky profession too because hundreds get killed in the line of duty every year, around the world. Journalists are prone to lawsuits and other legal charges too. For the effort and stress, they don’t get paid very highly either.
Average Salary – $207,720
As you would know, a surgeon is a qualified person who performs surgeries on patients. This job comes with a very high level of stress.
A surgeon has to go through all the medical records of the patient and ensure they’re not suffering from any disease because it can prove dangerous. They have to use surgical instruments very carefully because a slight mistake can seriously injure the patient or even cause permanent damage to their bodies, bones and internal organs.
Other than some diagnostic reports, a surgeon has to depend on own skills to perform the surgery. Usually, surgeons can’t smoke and some don’t even drink since it can lead to tremors of the hand, which is dangerous for surgeries.
Average Salary – $121,430
There’s nothing more pleasurable than traveling the world in an aircraft and get paid for it too. And that’s what airline pilots always do. Traveling around the world is just one part of the job.
The other part of the job is flying the airliner, through all sorts of weather, navigating it through the skies, carefully avoiding mid-air collisions, ensuring there’re no glitches that may result in air crashes and ensuring that all passengers reach their destinations safely.
Pilots have to always be communicating with Air Traffic Controllers on their positions, near by aircraft, weather conditions and lots of other stuff. This job is very stressful due to the high amount of work it involves when flying an aircraft.
10. Cabin Crew
Average Salary – $104,000
Similar to pilots, flight attendants in an aircraft also face severe stress. They are the first line of action in case any passenger needs assistance during the flight. They have to serve meals and drinks to passengers.
They have to ensure that every need of the passenger for food and drinks is met, even when the service is closed. Cabin crew have to ensure that all passengers follow the safety norms of flight. They also have to make sure that onboard washrooms are clean.
In case of emergencies, it’s always the cabin crew that has to help passengers to deplane and ensure their safety. They barely get rest during the flight. Additionally, they also have to keep themselves attractive, as per the airline norms. Thus, it is a stressful job.
Average Salary – $149,440
Being a psychiatric can be very challenging to own mental health. That’s because psychiatrists have to treat all kinds of patients suffering from various kinds of mental disorders, ranging from mild depression to severe schizophrenia or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, to name a few. They have to patiently listen to victims of psychiatric illnesses as well as their families.
This is usually very stressful mentally and can affect the mental health of the professional too. Additionally, psychiatrists have to assess whether a person is a risk to themselves or to the society and find the best treatment available. This isn’t a easy job in any way.
12. Clinical Social Worker
Average Salary – $71,000
Clinical social work is a specialty practice area of social work which focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, emotional, and other behavioral disturbances.
Individual, group and family therapy are common treatment modalities, according to the definition on website socialworkers.com. This very definition proves that their work is pretty complex. There’re no simple ways to perform these tasks.
Hence, clinical social workers require special educational qualifications as well as personality traits to hold this vital job. This job can be very stressful depending on where the clinical social worker is located, since some areas have a high incidence of mental illness.
13. Rehab Counselor
Average Salary – $48,110
Not many people are aware about rehab centers in America. These are places where women and men suffering from various kinds of addictions such as drug addiction or alcohol addiction, seek treatment.
These victims of addictions have to spend a few weeks staying at the rehab center where counselors train them how to kick the drug or alcohol habit. Usually, such addicts come in with a lot of personal problems.
They’re unable to cope with reality. Therefore, a rehab counselor is at severe stress. They have to train these addicts on how to live life without their addiction and become fruitful members of the society once again. It can be very taxing to deal with addicts of all kinds.
Average Salary – $97,315
A firefighter’s job might seem glamorous to some. Indeed, it is one of the noblest professions in the world because it involves saving lives and property from damage caused by various reasons such as accidents, arson and of late, terrorism too.
Unfortunately, as many as 343 firefighters fell martyr on 9/11 when terror attacks were committed against America. As a matter of act, hundreds of firefighters around the world perish in their line of duty, due to the severe hazards and dangers they face.
Firefighters have to enter dangerous areas such as burning buildings or collapsing houses, flooded places and rescue humans and animals. They also try and save their properties. There’re no guarantees they’ll return safely.
Average Salary – $59,454
Making money on stocks of companies can be very profitable as a business or even as a pastime. However, making money on stocks isn’t usually easy in America.
It needs years of studies and astute judgment on which stocks to buy and which shares to sell, at any point of time. Therefore, stockbrokers who work for their clients are under immense pressure to ensure that everyone makes a decent profit.
They spend hours reading newspapers, company brochures, financial analysis and such stuff to make sure that the company they invest in, doesn’t collapse and its shares fetch a high profit margin. They are alert during the trading hours of the stock market to look for any upswings and downturns. And they have to respond very promptly.
16. Sales Manager
Average Salary – $126,640
Any organization that is providing products or services will have a sales manager. This is one of the key positions in an organization that depends upon external customers to buy its goods and services.
A sales manager therefore, has to lead a team of sales executives at their location and sometimes, remote places too. They have to keep tabs on the market, predict sales and profits for their employer, motivate sales staff and find ways and means to get more customers for their company’s products and services.
A sales manager also has to monitor the market, keep an eye on competitors, design promotions to popularize a product, respond to complaints from buyers and solve all sorts of problems within and outside the organization. Lesser sales or no sales is usually blamed on a sales manager.
17. Financial Analyst
Average Salary – $109,330
How does one keep a check on the financial position of a company? This is a very large responsibility since it involves millions and sometimes billions of Dollars. That’s why companies hire a financial analyst.
The job of a financial analyst is to review the financial situation of the organization regularly and find if there’re any frauds, losses, excessive expenses and other such things that’re draining money. They also look at the income of an organization to find ways and means to increase it, if possible.
They have to create a lot of charts and graphics to present to the company owners and inform them of its financial health. Other than an analytical mind, which has to be always alert, they also need superb math skills.
Average Salary – $46,090
All those women and men on board an ambulance who rush to help victims of illnesses, accidents and disasters are paramedics. Then, there’re also paramedics that work at hospitals.
All around the world, a paramedic’s profession is said to be one of the noblest. But it comes with intense stress too. A paramedic is usually the first responder to any situation. That means, they rush with an ambulance to the place where people need medical attention immediately. They are responsible to give first aid and other use other medical techniques to save the person’s life.
Though they’re not doctors and surgeons, often they have to perform tasks that only these highly qualified professionals can. And they have to see a lot of pain and grief of patients and victims, which affects the paramedic too.
19. Structural Iron and Steel Worker
Average Salary – $40,660
Imagine working at very high altitudes on tall buildings to fit iron and steel booms and other structures. Sometimes, these iron and steel booms, rods, pipes and other such construction stuff is hot, coming fresh from a welder.
Yet, a structural iron and steel worker goes about their job with full dedication. In this job, they can fall from tall heights. They can get seriously wounded. They can suffer burns and other injuries anytime and also lose their lives in some cases.
This kind of a job requires extra nerves and isn’t a task for the faint hearted and weak. Structural iron and steel workers are always stressed due to the high risks their jobs involve. They don’t get paid much but still have to take these risks to earn money for self and family.
20. Explosive Handler
Average Salary – $60,627
Anyone that has used fireworks during a festival would surely know that these are highly flammable and a single mistake can set them off. Fireworks are generally safe anyways, because they contain only a small amount of explosive stuff.
But what if you have to deal with really highly explosive things such as dynamite, bombs and other such things? That would be risking your life. And that’s exactly what explosive handlers do. They are trained professionals who are in charge of handling, maintaining and storing highly explosive stuff.
A single mistake can cause these explosives to blow up and kill the handler as well as others around. Explosive handlers are therefore always alert mentally and have to deal with everything carefully.
21. Air Traffic Controller
Average Salary – $92,577
Keeping all those aircraft flying safely in the air, clearing airliners to take off from airports, giving regular updates to pilots on weather and air traffic nearby, guiding airliners in distress to land safely doesn’t qualify as an easy task. Yet, all Air Traffic Controllers or ATCs usually do every day.
They sit poring over radar screens and weather charts. They have to give all the necessary information to pilots who are already in the air or those who will take off shortly. They monitor the radio frequencies for finding various details such as low flying planes or those steering off the course. And they have only one objective in mind- to ensure that every aircraft and all its crew and passengers, land safely at an airport.
22. Content Writer
Average Salary – $49,300
As a content writer myself, I hadn’t believed that this was one of the hardest jobs in the world. However, research on some psychology websites indeed reveals that the work of a content writer is quite stressful.
Of course, there’re strong reasons for this. The first is that content writers have to churn out quality content daily, to meet their livelihood. Thus, they have to be very careful with the language in which they write the content, since it has to appeal to thousands of people around the world.
They have to research a lot to get information about something, from various sources. A content writer also has to ensure that their information is correct and verifiable by a reader. And then they have this added task of presenting in a language that readers can understand.
Average Salary – $41,490
Do you know who is a phlebotomist? They’re people who take samples of blood and other body fluids from you for testing in a lab to find if you’re infected with any disease-causing germ or if you have proper hormonal balance, aren’t suffering from diabetes and other diseases.
They have to be very careful while collecting such samples. That’s because they have to detect the blood vessel of the patient and ensure that samples are collected without causing pain or infections. Then, they have the added responsibility of transferring these samples for proper storage and later, to testing centers. Phlebotomists also are at risk of infectious diseases and are at high stress;
24. Forensic Expert
Average Salary – $60,562
Every police department, law enforcement authority and court in the world depends on the findings of a forensic expert. That’s because a forensic expert can find out a lot of things, ranging from speech analysis of a crime suspect to DNA samples, weapons used, time of death or injury and other critical elements that police personnel can’t find.
Forensic experts work at special labs with all kinds of equipment to find details that can help cops to clinch a case. One mistake by a forensic expert can cause an innocent person to face stiff punishment for a crime they haven’t committed.
Therefore, all forensic experts have to know their field well and practice it with total commitment. This is usually very stressful since they have to go through countless pieces of evidences to arrive at a proper conclusion.
Average Salary – $54,192
Undoubtedly, one of the highest paying jobs in the world, working as a proofreader can prove extremely stressful to most people. Reading small documents and making minor corrections is one thing. And reading manuscripts of large books, documents and legal papers and correcting them for grammatical errors, typos, spelling mistakes and punctuation is another.
It takes a very high level of concentration on the job to detect these errors and correct them. Once a mistake creeps in, the meaning of an entire document can change or thousands of copies of a book will get printed with the error. Therefore, proofreaders are always face a high level of stress in their work.
Usually, all high stress jobs are taken by people who have that innate ability to work hard, concentrate on their work and take care to ensure the safety of themselves and others. These aren’t jobs that just anyone can take. And sadly, not every high-stress job pays well too, but people work on them.