Most stressful jobs: Is yours among them?

DeKalb County firefighter Shaun Kennedy. (John Spink,

Steam rises from the head of DeKalb County firefighter Shaun Kennedy. (John Spink,

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What do GIs, firefighters, airline pilots and, yes, public relations execs have in common? They are on the front line when it comes to stress on the job, according to a new workplace survey.

Military personnel, whose lives are always at risk whether in Afghanistan or on a base back home, and those responsible for them have the No. 1 and No. 2 most stressful jobs out there, according to In addition to risk, the group’s “jobs rated score” also takes into account travel, working in the public eye, physical demand and danger.

Which brings us to the third-most-stressful job, which is being a firefighter. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 81 on-duty fatalities in 2011 and 77 in 2012. Another study showed a high incidence of heart attacks among firefighter fatalities. Some would say the risk for both military personnel and firefighters seems high compared with the reward: a median salary of $41,998 (E-7, 8-plus years of experience) for military personnel and $45,250 for firefighters.

The job of a commercial airline pilot, who zips across the sky at 565 mph with the weight of hundreds of passengers and tons of metal on his or her shoulders, is also stressful. The pilots’ median salary of $92,060 may do a better job of reflecting the risk involved, some might say.

PR execs appear in the No. 5 spot because they have the stress that comes with damage control. Just think of the hairs they’ve pulled out working for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. The median pay in PR is $57,550, according to CareerCast.

Rounding out the top 10 stressful jobs are senior corporate executive (median salary $101,250); photojournalist ($29,130); newspaper reporter ($36,000); taxi driver ($22,440); and police officer ($55,010). According to the Officer Down Memorial Page website, 126 officers died in the line of duty across the country last year, some by gunfire, others in accidents.

Should your job be in the Top 10? Is the above list on target or a little out of whack? Here are the areas considered: travel, income growth potential, deadlines, working in the public eye, competitiveness, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards encountered, own life at risk, life of another at risk, and meeting the public.

58 comments Add your comment


January 8th, 2013
1:25 pm

I don’t think any government job should be on the most stressful list…except military jobs.


January 8th, 2013
2:07 pm

I disagree Carl,,I work for the Dept of Treasury and its very stressfull dealing with millions of Americans. Dont believe the myth, that all govt workers sit around doing nothing!


January 8th, 2013
2:19 pm

How about teaching? Work magic with little to no budget, deal with various behavioral/discipline problems with little support from administration, keep parents/administrators/kids happy, deal with the fact that your COLA increase (if you get one) doesn’t keep up with your rising medical costs, constantly prove why you should be allowed to keep your job, and of course, the energy-drain of being ‘onstage’ day in and day out. (For those of you who think it’s easy, try to imagine how you would feel after giving a presentation in six back-to-back meetings every day for weeks on end).

It’s a noble profession that used to be respected.


January 8th, 2013
2:24 pm

“giving a presentation..” I think that I see what is wrong in the classroom.


January 8th, 2013
2:28 pm

Presentations are the small part. It’s making sure the students learn by doing, which has become almost impossible due to the lack of support from members of the public such as @Insider. You questions and criticize yet do nothing to support. If you think I should give up any of my salary for supplies, you are completely mistaken.


January 8th, 2013
2:32 pm

Insider, I used ‘presentation’ in an attempt to equate it to something one might be likely to do in a corporate meeting setting. Thanks mad_russian for the backup.


January 8th, 2013
2:33 pm

Carl, are you aware that police and firemen are government employees, along with many paramedics


January 8th, 2013
2:37 pm

Federal prison guard is very stressful. Never mind you have the worse of the worst at your finger tips 8 hours a day. But you must keep in mind these are murderers, rapists and gangsta wannabes. You have to stay on your toes and have eyes in the back of your head. Let’s not mention the love fests you have to break up on a nightly basis. That alone is enough to jack up one’s psyche. ;-/

Vic Versace

January 8th, 2013
2:41 pm

Try working at a Comcast call center. You have no idead what stress is until you’re in it living on min wages being talked to repeatedly by people who have a legitimate right to be upset & supervisors who avoid taking escalations from these same customers. Making for a very long day everyday 365/24-7 no holidays off.


January 8th, 2013
2:41 pm

I can see taxi driver as being stressful, considering amount of pay for danger involved. Also police very stressful job, although paid a little better. A friend of mine who used to be a cop said, “Job is hours of boredom, interrupted by a few moments of sheer excitement and high stress!”


January 8th, 2013
2:42 pm

@Carl So if I have to ever cut you out of your wrecked auto in the middle of a thunderstorm I shouldn’t be stressed…thanks for your insight.


January 8th, 2013
2:59 pm

Every job has its stressful situations like a call center job, taxi driver, prison guard . One always feels that others job is easy and they are getting free money.We should be happy for the fact that we have a job, there are so many without jobs
I think teaching is stressful too.

Judge Smails

January 8th, 2013
3:02 pm

Try commisioned sales. You don’t sell…you don’t eat!


January 8th, 2013
3:33 pm

Try working for doctors or lawyers and their egos.


January 8th, 2013
3:47 pm

These are the dumbest comments I’ve ever read.


January 8th, 2013
3:52 pm

Teaching is one of most stressful jobs ever…and some want to put guns in our hands, with kids talking about our deceased parents, telling us to f— ourselves, politicians and parents blaming us for what’s wrong in the shools, children who’d rather look @ cell phones than learn, etc…please don’t put a gun in my hand…


January 8th, 2013
3:54 pm

Teaching as atln8tiv says is defnitely one. You are always “on” and yes presentation is the correct word because you “present” information. And yes it is very had to “present” six-seven times a day with avtivities when there is hardly any interest in learning and society considers you a babsitter. You do not go to the restroom when you need or would like because you must adhere to some of the same restrictions as the students. Lunch for elementary teachers is almost non-existent and the other levels receive less than 20 or fifteen minutes for lunch.

Relationship Expert

January 8th, 2013
3:58 pm

I believe that anyone trying to raise the ethical standards of Politicians has a thankless job.


January 8th, 2013
4:11 pm

Although I totally agree teaching is very stressful, I am married to an 8th grade math teacher there is a BIG plus too. They get almost 2 months off, Christmas and Spring Break and other holidays in January and February being paid in full!! Not too shabby! A lot of people don’t get those perks. Working is stressful on everyone it seems, we all work so hard trying to make ends meet.

Jbird firefighter

January 8th, 2013
4:26 pm

Hey Carl, how many times have you done CPR on a child????


January 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

Carl, stop making wide discriminatory comments based on what your lazy cousin told you about his government job.

I sometimes miss the Navy

January 8th, 2013
4:41 pm

I thought my husband had a stressful job at sea when he was in the Navy, but I think the job he has now as a truck driver is worse. He’s rarely home, has a laundry list of regulations to abide by, a demanding schedule that interferes with proper sleep and nutrition, a severe shortage of safe havens (rest areas, truck stops), rude shippers/recievers, poorly maintained roads, and clueless drivers.

1811, etc.

January 8th, 2013
5:04 pm

Carl @ 1:25

Ever hear of the U.S. Secret Service ?

Try standing on an airport tarmac in a foreign country and being personally responsible for advance preparations and the physical protection of the President when Air Force One touches down.

Johnny Photo

January 8th, 2013
5:08 pm

How is photojournalist stressful? The salary? Newpaper reporter? Is it because anyone can fire up a better blog in 15 minutes than more reports can do in hours and hours of “work”?

It doesn’t seem even on the same level as jobs such as firefighters, police and the military especially those in line units who are being deployed and shot at on a regular basis.

Everyone can claim their job is stressful for any number of reasons. All appear to have very valid points. It’s the different perspectives that make the discussion interesting.

Teachers – parents of kids are miserable these days. Administration is under the gun to improve scores with many kids who have no chance of meeting minimal scores. The pay is low compared to other professions.

A Help Desk technician – makes about the same as a “youngish” teacher, gets yelled at by angry people most of the day (which are rarely only 8 hours), many times is on call over holiday periods and weekends. Might view the recent holiday break (teachers 2 – 4 weeks off based on district, HD tech – maybe Xmas, NYE and NY) differently.

I would encourage all of you who feel stress to remember that you were not drafted by law into your profession. If its too stressful then find something else.

(Climbing off my pedestal……)

Fuel Jockey

January 8th, 2013
5:11 pm

Try driving a tanker loaded with 10k gallons of gasoline around Atlanta trying to get it delivered to fueling stations on time (before they run dry that is) with people who never should have been born, much less licensed to drive a motor vehicle cutting in front of you, short stopping, turning and changing lanes without signaling, and trying to squeeze through where there isn’t room while you are flowing fuel. One hour is all it takes to make you a nervous (and sometimes angry) wreck, but my routes take 6-8 hours to run. THAT my friends is stress! Oh, and did I mention walking by SMOKING while you are flowing fuel?? Idiots.


January 8th, 2013
5:31 pm

One of the most dangerous, stressful jobs is building highways & bridges under traffic conditions. The death rate ranks up there near firefighters and coal miners.


January 8th, 2013
5:37 pm

The economy is such you have to be glad you have a job because if you decide to jump ship a 1000 others will jump on to take your place. That also makes the ordinary job more stressful. The freedom to leave is not as free. Doesn’t matter if you’re government or private industry.


January 8th, 2013
5:45 pm

Another stupid poll article…

Being a cop is the most stressful job on the planet, period. Way way way more stressful than fire fighting.


January 8th, 2013
5:52 pm

1/137, have you ever tried running into a burning building when everyone else is running out? Especially skyscrapers like the World Trade towers?

1811, etc.

January 8th, 2013
5:59 pm


My son is a police officer. I believe you are correct as they face that kind of stress day after day after day ! Firemen have stress also but not near as consistent.

Electric power lineman should also be up there …….. especially those who work on the lines “hot”.

1811, etc.

January 8th, 2013
6:02 pm


Police were running into those towers also.


January 8th, 2013
6:42 pm

OMG! How could any stressful job leave out Barista. Do you have any idea what it is like to be on your feet at 7am every day serving caffeine addicted customers. If I mix up a machiotto for an Americano all heck breaks loose. I may not be tipped by that customer ever again. Repeatedly having to clean the sugar and cream station, not to mention picking up soiled napkins from the ground. Look people, we may not die doing our job, but that doesnt mean that we dont cry ourselves to sleep at night.


January 8th, 2013
6:47 pm

I am a firefighter in a large city and I even admit that being a police officer, in my opinion, is much worse. This is not to take anything away from firefighting, but police officers encounter something that is always un-predictable and that is people. And by the way Carl, how many times a night do you get up in your profession. I am at a busy station and we typically get up 3,4,5, or 6 times a night to run calls. Then many times get off of work at 7am after this and go work other jobs just to make ends meet for our families. So I guess you are right Carl, we are just a bunch of lazy government workers.


January 8th, 2013
6:49 pm

With all due respect to military members I doubt that most have very stressful jobs, with the obvious exception of the ones in actual combat who have bullets flying overhead.

The most stressful jobs imho are the ones in which employees who deal with people lack the ability (”empowerment” in newspeak) to take the necessary actions to actually assist the customer; that includes most “customer service” employees.

Gator Actual

January 8th, 2013
7:11 pm

Try being a 911 dispatcher!


January 8th, 2013
7:12 pm

I will also tip my hat to social workers. Tough, tough thankless job.


January 8th, 2013
7:26 pm

@Lindsey; Teachers are not paid “Fully” for the breaks they recieve during the year and summer. Teacher’s pay is prorated over twelve months so they recieve a paycheck each month. The total salary is still based on a state scale that accounts for 190 workdays. The other ignored fact about teachers is the point that many work endlessly during their summers and off time without compensation to participate in professional learning, planning, etc.

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Mike Lum

January 8th, 2013
8:13 pm

VP of Sales in a small company. Every sales call is the Superbowl, scrutinized by everyone. Your worth to the company is directly tied to the amount of revenue you produce. You deal with travel and delays, being away from home, usually traveling to not so garden spots. It may sound fun, but entertaining people that don’t really give a flip about you and only want a free dinner isn’t fun. Oh, and by the way, what did you sell today?


January 8th, 2013
8:54 pm

Ramesh well if it were not for the fact that no one in America can understand you and wonders why you have taken a job away from an american. Then you read from a script and repeat what the customer says like a parrot with out giving any help at all.. Want to know stress.. its the other end of YOUR phone call


January 8th, 2013
9:33 pm

This report is totally in error. My father and grandfather were firemen. They never had a scatch. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the fatality rate for firemen to not even make the top fifty most dangerous jobs. What few die are from heart attacks and vehicle crahes. Not from burning while fighting fires. The heart attacks are because most of themare overweight and out of shape; as there are no annual strengtt or physical requirements to maintain your job. What is high are phony injury reports to support early disability retirements.

Tell it like it is.

January 8th, 2013
9:53 pm

I just want to say thanks to all you guys who are in professions to mcdonalds to politics. You never know someones plight until you are actually in that persons shoes. I read a poster years ago that stating that people are worst than anybody. In understanding this saying we all are lol. I just think that we should all respect each others occupation. Someone has to do every job on the planet. Simply put life is tough enough as it is, lets not make it tougher on each other!

Joe Sheppard

January 8th, 2013
10:06 pm

A big “Thank You!” to those of you working vital, stressful, often thankless jobs. You know who you are. I am a little surpised that doctors and nurses (esp. surgeons and emergency room types) weren’t more toward the top, as they deal with life and death frequently as our police and firemen do.


January 8th, 2013
10:12 pm

The 2 most stressful jobs I had were in my early 20’s; bank teller – for one you never know if you are going to be held up at gunpoint; there are numerous bank robberies and attempts all the time; 2 all the cash is very stressful; dealing with people’s money is stressfule. 2nd pension admin; you deal again with people’s money; and often widowers and elderly folks.

Mr. Obvious

January 8th, 2013
10:18 pm

The most stressful job is being a NICE Guy in this crappy society…. so some might say it’s more of a lifestyle and not a job, but somebody has to be a good Samaritan among so many azzholes!!!!!


January 8th, 2013
10:48 pm

Being a blogger is really tough. Especially when you plug your blog on twitter and only have 140 characters to do it. That’ll make you lose sleep, let me tell you.


January 8th, 2013
11:05 pm

What happened to Air Traffic Controller?


January 8th, 2013
11:10 pm

Nothing technical on the list? I was a submarine sailor for nearly 10 years and a FF/EMT for 6 and found a more stressful job with the phone company. I think the chosen criteria and categories render this survey completely invalid.

D in ATL

January 8th, 2013
11:51 pm

What about persons working with the mentally ill? Dealing with multiple crisis among people under the constant threat of attempted suicides, horrific tales of abuse, and a myriad of personality disorders (sometimes with the threat of harm or violence) for relatively low pay has to qualify for a stressful job somewhere in the top 10.

gresham brown

January 9th, 2013
12:01 am

But what about being black?