Ten Most Popular Jobs and What They Pay


physical therapistDo you know someone who enjoys their job? Maybe they even look forward to going to work? Believe it or not, this reality does exist. Certain jobs are simply more "popular," meaning that the people who do them feel good about where they put their time and energy each working day.

To figure out which jobs are the "popular" ones, online salary and career database PayScale.com recently conducted a survey and asked workers about their job satisfaction. Below is a list of the 10 jobs that made the top of the list and what they pay each year, according to PayScale.com.

1. Operating Room Registered Nurse

Median annual salary: $61,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 81%

It's easy to imagine why this job would be satisfying. You're in the middle of an essential, potentially life-saving effort, playing a key role where you help control bleeding, hand over instruments and suture incisions -- all while working with a team of dedicated, smart, hard-working people. That sounds like a good way to spend your time. There are several routes to becoming an in-demand registered nurse -- through a bachelor's degree, associate's degree and through diploma programs.

2. Physical Therapist

Median annual salary: $69,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 80%

Once again, here's another caring profession with great job growth potential. Physical therapists help people recover basic movement after surgeries, injuries, illnesses and ailments of all kinds. Often referred to as PTs, physical therapists work in hospitals, out-patient clinics and private offices. The work can be physically demanding and also requires intelligence and people skills. PTs must complete both bachelor's and master's degree programs, fulfill their state's requirements for licensure and pass a national exam.

3. Environmental Engineer

Median annual salary: $63,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 80%

In this profession, you help the earth. People who are passionate about keeping our air clean and our waters swimmable get to work on those goals every day. This job can require on-site outdoor research where you collect samples, then go back to the office to do research, design solutions, write up proposals and negotiate project schedules and budgets. Environmental engineers must have a bachelor's degree at least, while further education can help job prospects. This is a career with high growth potential.

4. Athletic Trainer

Median annual salary: $39,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 79%

When you hear "athletic trainer" you may think of a meathead with a clipboard and a whistle. That's not even close. Athletic trainers are highly skilled health professionals recognized by the American Medical Association as allies in the effort to prevent and treat injuries for people of all ages. Plus, they get to work at football fields, gyms, swimming pools and ski resorts to help athletes meet their goals. Sound fun? You'll need a bachelor's degree at the least, but a master's degree to be competitive. You will also need to pass exams for licensure and continue to take regular exams to keep your certificate throughout your career.

5. Dietician

Median annual salary: $49,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 78%

Food -- it's fun and makes us happy, so who wouldn't want to talk about it all day? "I get to understand not only how food affects numerous aspects of health, but get to peek into the world of medications, anatomy and physiology," says Pam Dick, a registered dietician who works at Kittitas Valley Community Hospital and Yakima Valley Community College in Washington State. From diabetes prevention to weight maintenance, dieticians help all kinds of patients. To get this gig, you must complete a bachelor's degree, as well as gain licensure and a certification, depending on which state you plan to practice in. Master's degrees are common and improve job prospects.

6. Elementary School Teacher

Median annual salary: $41,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 78%

Guiding and inspiring our future astronauts, authors, acrobats and mathematicians sounds like a worthwhile effort. Elementary school teaching offers a combination of emotional and intellectual challenges, like getting a scared child to speak in front of their peers or designing a science class that really sparks students' curiosity. Elementary school teaching is certainly demanding and known for not being well paid for the amount of work required. But, for those who take the time to complete an undergraduate degree in teaching, pass their exams and get into this career, it's worth all the effort. Master's degrees improve earnings and job opportunities.

7. Intelligence Analyst

Median annual salary: $69,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 76%

Intelligence analysts work with police, armed forces and other clients to collect, verify, analyze and utilize confidential information, including maps, images, audio files and documents. They research and prepare reports that help organizations strategize and plan their next steps. It sounds exciting -- like the stuff movies are made of. And working with all of that top-secret information must mean you're working on something that feels important, which is satisfying. The job requires a degree in criminology or a related field, as well as on-the-job training. Greater expertise and specialization can improve job opportunities.

8. Computer Networking/IT Systems Engineer

Median annual salary: $70,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 75%

If you love computers and problem solving, but also don't mind talking to people, you could be happy as a network engineer. There must be great satisfaction in designing, setting up, testing, modeling and improving the computer network of a company or school, or even the voicemail system for a worldwide organization. A bachelor's degree is needed to be an engineer, but added years of experience and a master's degree are common among the most sought-after systems engineers.

9. Dental Hygienist

Median annual salary: $68,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 74%

It makes sense that making people's smiles brighter has you feeling pretty good at the end of the day. Dental hygienists have a great deal of expertise and spend a lot of time teaching their patients how to care for their teeth. Hygienists also assist with more complicated dental procedures, like administering anesthesia or removing sutures. A high school diploma and test scores are needed to get into dental hygiene school, though some schools require a year of college as well. Then, a state licensing exam gets you working.

10. Technical Writer

Median annual salary: $56,000
People in this job who are satisfied: 71%

Technical writing is also a helping profession. Technical writers have the expertise and ability to take a very complicated subject and make it more understandable for their reading audience. Whether they have to explain the steps to building a back deck or summarize a complicated study of animal behavior, technical writers' skills get put to the test. Most technical writers have bachelor's degrees, but a degree in a technical field can also be useful. You need to have high attention to detail and, hopefully, some curiosity and expertise about your topic.

Source: All salary and satisfaction data is from PayScale.com. The salaries listed are median, annual salaries for full-time workers in the United States with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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so difficult to say. Im studying to be an env. engineer. (working on my masters degree) but so are 50-60 other people in my class. While I study my butt off my friend who installs alternators/body shop work for MTA has already put 8 years in can retire at 20 years and makes more than working entry level engineers. I study and have a roommate and he drinks beer after 5 pm and has a decent apt.

January 29 2011 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with Sami Scot. How about some suggestions for those of us over 50 whose line of work has all but disappeared due to downsizing/automation/outsourcing and corporate GREED? Having been out of work for over two years and seem to only be able to find temporary jobs that go nowhere, I do not have the $$$$ to go back to school. I would consider going back if I could be sure there would be a JOB when I am finished with school. The only thing keeping me from being homeless right now is my savings and some help from my family. I would really like to know what 'in demand' jobs there are for someone past 50. The job wouldn't even have to pay alot, just something I can do with a bad back and unable to be on my feet for any length of time.

I believe a lot of people would gladly 'retrain' but are afraid of graduating, not finding a job (there is a lot of age discrimination no matter what anyone says!), and then having to pay back a student loan. There have been so many discouraging articles lately saying that some people my age will never have a regular, full-time job again. What is a person to do? I am too young to retire but too old for anyone to be willing to give me a chance in a newer line of work?

January 27 2011 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MACynic1003's comment

I have to agree with everyone on this board. I got downsized over a year ago. Got hired making 1/3 of my salary and got downsized again. There nothing for those of us who are 55 or older. I know I'll never have my 67,700 salary again, but I can't get hired anywhere. I'm over qualified, or I get the same old thing.... "when the economy picks up again, you will leave for a higher paying job." I guess it's hard to explain to people that I have a mortgage to pay, and bills like everyone else. All I want is a full time job. I could care less at this point what it is. I'm not proud. I just want to work.

January 27 2011 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i make 52,000 no college, just depends on how lazy you are i work 40 hrs. a week . the least i have made in the last 15 years 28,000 in a year . i was laid off that year for a bit and had to start from the bottom again. no big deal . i actually like working .

January 27 2011 at 8:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sami Scot

How about listing some careers for over 55?

I think I've aged out of the one I'm in....
A new degree at this point is cost prohibitive...don't think I would get hired and would not have enough work time to pay the loan back.

January 27 2011 at 7:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Everyone of the jobs mentioned above is for someone with a college education there are a lot of people who just can't afford that.

January 27 2011 at 1:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your right. You can have education, but if your 60+ you are not going to get hired

January 27 2011 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MIKE's comment

Taking an English class might help. Then you'll know the difference between "your" and "you're," and when to use a period. Appearing literate at any age can't hurt.

January 27 2011 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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