Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

May 6, 2013

The best and worst jobs in the current economy

With rapid changes in the economy, some jobs are valued more than others, meaning if you can land one, there's usually higher pay and more perks.

Meanwhile, other jobs that have traditionally been considered desirable have slipped toward the bottom of the heap.

With growing concern that the U.S. labor force is deficient in workers with science and technology skills, education now emphasizes what is known as STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Students are encouraged to choose a STEM field of study and the job market is currently rewarding those who do.

A recent Wall Street Journal report found that petroleum engineers can earn $93,500 a year as a starting salary. Computer engineers can start at $71,700. For chemical engineers, the starting pay can be as high as $67,600.

Compare that to new hires in educational services. In that industry starting employees earn an average of just under $40,000 a year.

The best to the worst

CareerCast.com recently released its list of the best and worst jobs in America, taking into account not only pay and benefits but working conditions as well. Topping the list is actuary, a numbers cruncher who measures the financial impact of risk and uncertainty – two things very prevalent in today's economy.

Want to be an actuary? The Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society has an informative website that tells you not only what actuaries do but provides quite a bit of useful information for those seeking to enter this rather esoteric line of work.

The list also includes biomedical engineer, software engineer, audiologist, financial planner, dental hygienist, occupational therapist, optometrist, and computer systems analyst.

The worst job in America? According to the list, it's newspaper reporter, a profession once glamorized by movies, books and the Watergate scandal.

The job of newspaper reporter has been on the decline in the CareerCast list for a number of years, because of relatively low pay, tight deadlines and poor working conditions. With shrinking newsrooms, reporters now have to worry about losing this least-valued job.

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