Many workers thrive on high levels of stress on the job to keep them motivated and competitive within their industry. And of course, the nation's current high unemployment rate can make looking for a job much more stressful than just a few years ago.
Still, a stressful job isn't for everyone and thankfully many rewarding careers are pretty "chill." Several career fields have too few qualified applicants, making finding employment easier, while others simply place fewer demands on workers. From testing patients' hearing to cleaning their teeth to helping them with their diets, here's a look at the 10 least stressful jobs of 2011 (as compiled by CareerCast.com):
Average salary: $63,144
Poking around peoples' ears may not sound like the best of jobs. But ensuring patients can hear to the best of their ability has its own rewards. Further, being an audiologist isn't physically taxing or stressful, although it does require a keen attention to detail and concentration.
Average salary: $52,127
If you're a self-confessed foodie, this may just be the job for you. Dietitians assess patients' dietary needs, plan menus and provide guidance on cooking healthful meals. The job sometimes involves working in institutional settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes, and may include weekend work.
Average salary: $87,140
Software engineer. It even sounds placid, doesn't it? The job involves having education or expertise in developing and maintaining computer programs, but the nature of the profession means that workers in this field can work from virtually anywhere, thanks to telecommuting. Add to that flexibility the ability to earn high wages, and you've got a career that doesn't sound hard at all.
Average salary: $71,176
Another high-tech career, computer engineers -- like their software counterparts -- can work from just about anywhere in the world while earning a handsome wage. The downside, of course, is that jobs can be shipped overseas on whim.
Average salary: $67,107
Let's face it, cleaning patients' teeth isn't a glamorous profession. But it pays well, doesn't require a five-day work week and the field continues to expand, ensuring plenty of work for those who enjoy helping people have the brightest smile possible.
Average salary: $65,143
A high-paying profession that provides decibels of personal satisfaction, speech pathologists treat hearing, speech and language disabilities. That frequently involves working with children, which in itself can be its own reward. Further, as America's population continues to age, plenty of older people will require such treatment, meaning job opportunities in this field are expected to remain robust for years.
Average salary: $61,221
Dorothy's scarecrow would be proud. Who'd have thunk that merely thinking about things could lead to such a well paying and low-stress job? It's not all daydreaming, however. Philosophers are frequently college professors who must churn out research and teach. But the job does provide flexibility and once you've reached tenure, you're nearly guaranteed a job for life.
Average salary: $94,178
Sure it's just numbers, but Americans have long had a problem comprehending math, creating a dearth of mathematicians. The career usually involves working for academia or government, so jobs tend to be stable. Still, getting a key post can involve lots of competition.
Average salary: $70,193
Another people job, occupational therapists devise programs to help boost mental, physical and emotional ability in impaired people, helping to make them more self-reliant. As with other health professions, aging baby boomers nearly ensure demand in this field will remain strong.
Average salary: $68,358
"Oh, my aching back!" Who among us hasn't heard that uttered by a coworker or family member. The rise in hours spent in front of computers working or playing is partly to blame for all that pain and nearly assures that the chiropractic field will remain robust for years to come. The ability to set your own hours while earning a decent income also make this a low-stress job.
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