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Jobs With the Highest Satisfaction in 2024

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When exploring career paths, knowing the jobs with the highest satisfaction can help you define and set your personal career goals. You can then tailor your career preparation toward the roles that are most likely to be fulfilling for you.

Fortunately, the jobs with the highest satisfaction span various industries and tax brackets, so you can find your perfect fit, no matter your background or degree. And it’s important to keep in mind that job satisfaction has multiple components. The factors that make a job satisfying vary from person to person, so finding your own set of “must-haves” is essential to set you on the path to a satisfying career. 

We reviewed research on some of the most common job satisfaction factors — stress, work-life balance, and meaningfulness — to compile our list of 21 of the highest satisfaction jobs in 2024.

Jobs With the Highest Satisfaction

More than half (51%) of workers are highly satisfied with their jobs overall, according to a survey Pew Research Center conducted in February 2023. However, younger workers are less likely to be satisfied with their jobs, with just 44% between the ages of 18 and 29 reporting that they are extremely or very satisfied. Workers with lower incomes are also less likely to be satisfied.

Ready to find a career path that’s meaningful to you? Check out some of the jobs with the highest satisfaction below.

Recreation and Fitness Workers

  • Median salary: $31,680
  • Education requirements: High school diploma or equivalent

Recreation and fitness workers have one of the jobs with the highest satisfaction. According to Payscale’s ranking of the most meaningful jobs, 85% of recreation workers said their job makes the world a better place, and 76% of respondents reported high satisfaction in this job.

The job also has some of the best scores for low stress and high work-life balance, according to U.S. News. On scales from 2-10, with 10 being the most favorable, recreation and fitness workers scored an eight for low stress and 10 for high work-life balance.

Recreation and fitness workers gave their jobs a dissatisfaction score of 1.44 on average on the 2020 National Longitudinal Survey (NLS), with one meaning “like it very much” and four meaning “dislike it very much.”

Clergy

  • Median salary: $55,550
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Clergy have the highest score for meaningfulness on Payscale’s list of jobs with the highest satisfaction — with 98% saying their job makes the world a better place and 90% saying they are highly satisfied with their job.

Clergy workers who responded to the NLS reported a job dissatisfaction score of 1.44 on average.

Dental Hygienists

  • Median salary: $81,400
  • Education requirements: Associate degree

Like recreation and fitness workers, dental hygienists scored a 10 for work-life balance in the U.S. News ranking, the highest score possible. Dental hygienists have a low stress score of 6.

Seventy-nine percent of dental hygienists in Payscale’s survey reported high job satisfaction, putting the profession in the top 10% of jobs with highest satisfaction. In addition, 78% of dental hygienists believe their work makes the world a better place. 

Dental hygienists also gave their jobs an average dissatisfaction score of 1.58 in the NLS.

>>MORE: Take our personality career quiz to figure out what career could be right for you.

Dietitians and Nutritionists

  • Median salary: $66,450 
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Dietitians and nutritionists are among the jobs with the highest satisfaction, according to 2020 NLS responses: the average dissatisfaction reported was only 1.13, the lowest among the jobs we’ve listed so far.

This job scored an eight for work-life balance and a six for low stress in U.S. News’s ranking. Meanwhile, 78% of respondents to Payscale’s survey said they think their work makes the world a better place, and 74% are highly satisfied with the job.

Data Scientists

  • Median salary: $103,500
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Data scientist is the highest-paying role so far on this list. In U.S. News ranking, the data scientist role scored six for low stress and eight for work-life balance.

Payscale doesn’t include data scientists in its ranking, but among statisticians, a similar job, 69% believe their work makes the world a better place, and 72% are highly satisfied in their roles.

>>MORE: Explore data job simulations on Forage.

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Landscapers and Groundskeepers

  • Median salary: $36,160
  • Education requirements: None

Landscaper and groundskeeper roles don’t require a formal education credential. These jobs ranked highly in terms of low stress and high work-life balance, scoring 10 and eight in those areas, respectively, in the U.S. News’s ranking.

Seventy-one percent surveyed said they are highly satisfied in this job according to Payscale, and the average dissatisfaction reported on the NLS was 1.4.

Optometrists

  • Median salary: $125,590
  • Education requirements: Doctoral or professional degree

Optometrists earn a high salary, but you’ll need to go to graduate school to become one. Notably, the percentage of optometrists who are highly satisfied in their job (81%) is a higher portion than 94% of jobs for which Payscale reported data.

The average dissatisfaction with a job as an optometrist is 1.67, the low stress score from U.S. News is six, and the work-life balance score is eight.

Musicians and Singers

  • Median salary: $39.14 per hour
  • Education requirements: None

The average dissatisfaction score for musicians and singers on the NLS was 1.16, just slightly higher than the score for dietitians and nutritionists. Also, 83% of musicians and singers believe their work makes the world a better place, and 75% said they’re highly satisfied with the job.

Musicians and singers did not appear in U.S. News’s ranking.

Occupational Therapists

  • Median salary: $93,180 
  • Education requirements: Master’s degree

Ninety-one percent of the occupational therapists Payscale surveyed reported that they believe their work makes the world a better place, and 77% are highly satisfied in their roles. 

The job scored six for both low stress and high work-life balance on U.S. News’s ranking of jobs with the highest satisfaction. Only one person who answered the job satisfaction question in the NLS was an occupational therapist, who reported that they like the job very much, giving it a dissatisfaction score of one.

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Epidemiologists

  • Median salary: $78,520
  • Education requirements: Master’s degree

Epidemiologists are exactly tied with occupational therapists in Payscale’s scoring, with 91% of epidemiologists believing their work makes the world a better place and 77% reporting that they’re highly satisfied in their jobs.

U.S. News also gave epidemiologists the same stress and work-life balance scores as occupational therapists: six for both.

>>MORE: Check out our list of the most in-demand jobs.

Personal Financial Advisors

  • Median salary: $95,390
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Personal financial advisors have the same satisfaction score as epidemiologists in Payscale’s ranking: 77%. In the NLS, the average dissatisfaction score among personal financial advisors was 1.19. U.S. News assigned scores of six for work-life balance and four for stress.

However, only 58% of personal financial advisors surveyed by Payscale said that they think their work makes the world a better place.

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Environmental Engineers

  • Median salary: $96,530
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

In the U.S. News ranking, environmental engineers scored six for stress and work-life balance. In Payscale’s survey, 72% of environmental engineers said they are fairly or extremely satisfied with their jobs, and 70% said their work makes the world a better place. Environmental engineers have a higher satisfaction rate than 65% of other jobs in Payscale’s survey.

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Actuaries

  • Median salary: $113,990 per year
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Actuaries also have scores of six for both stress and work-life balance, according to U.S. News. Among actuaries surveyed by Payscale, 80% said they are satisfied with their jobs – a higher percentage than 92% of other professions in Payscale’s list. At the same time, 36% of actuaries said they think their job makes the world a better place.

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Jobs With High Satisfaction but High Stress or Low Work-Life Balance

The most meaningful jobs aren’t necessarily the easiest. For a more balanced view of the jobs with the highest satisfaction, these are jobs that score highly in terms of satisfaction but tend to be more stressful or have worse work-life balance than the roles above.

Anesthesiologists

  • Median salary: $229,300 (for all physicians and surgeons)
  • Education requirements: Doctoral or professional degree

Roles in health care are some of the most rewarding but also the most stressful. 

Anesthesiologists are in the 96th percentile for satisfaction according to Payscale’s data, which means the score is higher than 96% of the other jobs in the ranking.

In addition, 91% of anesthesiologists said they believe their work makes the world better.

However, U.S. News gave anesthesiologists the lowest possible score both in terms of stress and work-life balance. 

Surgeons

  • Median salary: $229,300 (for all physicians and surgeons)
  • Education requirements: Doctoral or professional degree

Similarly to anesthesiologists, almost all surgeons surveyed said they find the work meaningful (96%) and are satisfied in their job (83%). Though “surgeon” didn’t appear in the U.S. News ranking, oral and maxillofacial surgeons scored four for both stress and work-life balance.

The average dissatisfaction score for surgeons on the NLS was 1.68.

Cardiovascular Technologists

  • Median salary: $78,210
  • Education requirements: Associate degree

Cardiovascular technologists find their work somewhat less satisfying and meaningful than anesthesiologists and surgeons, according to survey data — 79% think their work makes the world a better place, and 71% report high job satisfaction. 

U.S. News gave cardiovascular technologists a two for low stress and a four for work-life balance. Diagnostic-related technologists and technicians reported an average dissatisfaction score of 1.88.

Mental Health Counselors

  • Median salary: $49,710
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Though the work-life balance score for mental health counselors is six, the stress score is two. Despite this, 70% of mental health counselors are satisfied with their job, and 89% believe their job makes the world a better place. The average dissatisfaction score for counselors on the NLS was 1.2.

Firefighters

  • Median salary: $51,680
  • Education requirements: Postsecondary non-degree certification

A high percentage, 83%, of firefighters are highly satisfied with their job. Eighty-eight percent of firefighters believe their job makes the world a better place.

U.S. News assigned firefighters a stress score of two and a work-life balance score of four.

Teachers

  • Median salary:
    • High school teacher: $62,360
    • Middle school teacher: $61,810
    • Elementary school teacher: $61,690
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Eighty-four percent of the high school and middle school teachers Payscale surveyed said they believe their job makes the world a better place. Seventy-six percent of high school teachers and 72% of middle school teachers are very satisfied with their jobs.

In addition, high school teachers had an average dissatisfaction score of 1.55 based on NLS survey responses. Elementary and middle school teachers had an average dissatisfaction score of 1.59.

U.S. News assigned the profession a score of six for work-life balance. The stress score is six for high school and middle school teachers and four for elementary school teachers.

>>MORE: Check out our list of the best entry-level jobs for college graduates.

Financial Managers

  • Median salary: $139,790
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree 

While 77% of financial managers Payscale surveyed said they’re satisfied with their jobs, the role earned scores of two and four for stress and work-life balance, respectively, from U.S. News. In terms of meaningfulness, 47% of financial managers said they believe their job makes the world a better place. The average dissatisfaction score for financial managers on the NLS was 1.7.

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Sales Managers

  • Median salary: $130,600
  • Education requirements: Bachelor’s degree

Sales managers also received scores of two and four for stress and work-life balance from U.S. News, and 75% of sales managers are satisfied with their jobs, according to Payscale. The average dissatisfaction score for sales managers from the NLS was 1.65, and 46% of sales managers believe their work makes the world a better place.

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Methodology Notes

To compile this list, we considered the stress and work-life balance scores from the U.S. News ranking of the best jobs. We also considered the meaning and satisfaction scores from Payscale’s ranking of the most meaningful jobs. Finally, we referenced general job satisfaction responses from the National Longitudinal Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The National Longitudinal Survey reports the level of dissatisfaction people in different occupations feel about their jobs on a scale of one to four, with one being “like it very much” and four being “dislike it very much.”

To get a score for each occupation, we grouped individual responses to this question from 2020 by occupation and calculated an average score.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also the source for the median salaries and educational requirements.

Characteristics of Jobs With the Highest Satisfaction 

Holistic career coach Nikki Innocent notes that some of the characteristics of jobs with the highest satisfaction are: 

  • Competitive compensation
  • Feeling valued in your role
  • Feeling connected to coworkers
  • Having a clear sense of what the trajectory for growth in the role looks like

In a survey from MyPerfectResume, when asked which job satisfaction factors were important to them, respondents most frequently said doing meaningful work (74%), job security (72%), and learning and career development (72%).

According to a survey from The Conference Board, the factors with the largest gap in satisfaction level between workers who intend to stay at a job and workers who intend to leave are:

  • Wages
  • Organizational culture
  • Quality of leadership
  • Work-life balance

For example, 26% of workers who intend to leave their jobs are satisfied with their wages, compared to 83% of workers who intend to stay, according to the survey.

Reviewing data on the roles where people report feeling the most satisfied is a starting point, but you’ll ultimately need to decide for yourself which aspects are the most important contributors to your personal version of job satisfaction.

“Satisfaction isn’t a one-size-fits-all game, so the role itself may not hold the key,” Innocent says.

“Especially with the Millennial and Gen Z generations, there is a priority in understanding your role outside of the titles and salary, and there is a great deal of job satisfaction around knowing you are making a difference and in being in alignment with the values of the organization and its mission,” she says.

Looking for more guidance on how to choose a career? Learn how to stop saying “I don’t know what job I want” with our guide.

Jenna Bellassai is the Lead Data Reporter at Forage. She previously was a Senior Data Scientist at Guru, where she transformed and analyzed data to improve search ranking algorithms.

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