The 5 Happiest Careers—And the Degrees You'll Need to Work in Them
March 10, 2021
Whoever said "do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life" didn't have college loans. Here's a slightly more realistic take.
What makes a person unhappy with their job? Anything that involves life-threatening, exploitative, or terrible-paying work qualifies, as does more subtle red flags like a feeling of dread come the end of the weekend or the sense that you're approaching your job like a human turned Microsoft Excel robot. It can also be situational, like a change in your workflow or an office setup that puts you next to the employee who's into full-body hugs. You know, the type to make you question whether you're not really coworkers at all, but long-lost relatives at the airport.
As it turns out, the truth behind career happiness often doesn't depend on feeling challenged by your work or even that your coworkers understand personal boundaries. It usually has more to do with whether your values match those of your career. Some of these values include variety, recognition, job security, and even paid vacation time, and are not only essential to feeling positive about your work, but your potential to advance your career.
If you're considering choosing a new job (or career path) that's in-line with what you find most important, it may be helpful to know that overall, a sense of alignment occurs more naturally in some professions than others.
Take it from job and recruitment site CareerBliss, which analyzed the key values impacting workplace happiness from thousands of company and employee-generated reviews to create its happiest jobs in America list. We looked deeper into the top five to figure out what makes them so happy—and how you can land a job in them.
Far from being the classroom extra, a teaching assistant is a teacher's secret weapon. They have a wide variety of duties, ranging from offering additional instruction when students need it, to preparing lessons, and acting as an extra set of eyes while supervising students throughout the school day.
According to the Journal of Professional Development in Education, teachers report that the support of teaching assistants helps reduce stress, workload, and the chance of disruptions in class. It's a position built on strong bonds with teachers and students and is the ideal career for anyone who wants to make a positive and tangible difference in schools.
Education requirement: The path to becoming a teacher's assistant varies by state. In some cases, candidates may only need a high school diploma and training. In others, employers may require teacher aide certification or an associate's degree in education, child development, or a related field.
While teamwork is an emphasis across all roles within software development, it is especially necessary during the testing phase, where QA analysts thrive. As the last stop before products go live, they tend to feel as though they play an integral part in not only a company's IT department, but it's business department too. It's also fair to say that QA analyst earnings are another pathway to happiness, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports is a median $88,740 per year.
Education requirement: The path to becoming a QA analyst can vary; however, a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field is common. Some employers prefer candidates seeking managerial or leadership positions to have an information systems MBA or a master's in computer science.
Many .NET developers love the challenge that comes with a career spent working, tweaking, and perfecting code—one that often comes with a relatively low-stress level and solid work-life balance. Add in the high demand for their skills across industries, and it's not unheard of for those in the field to earn higher pay than their years of experience might suggest.
PayScale indicates that the average salary for entry-level .NET developers is $60,049 per year. With as little as five years of work, it increases to an average of $77,007.
Education requirement: Because .NET developers are in such high demand, some employers may overlook typical educational requirements when a candidate has extensive experience in the field. The most common requirement is an associate's degree in web design or computer science. More specialized positions, like back-end developer or webmaster, may require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, programming, or a related field.
There's a lot to love about a career in marketing, a profession becoming more creative and technical at the same time. Marketing specialists can take the next big thing in strategy, shape it using the latest data, and share it with the world, all without leaving their desks. They make a living that helps drive business results, and counts on strong relationships with clients, their team, and other employees. They tend to thrive under deadlines and find purpose using their creative and analytical skills to communicate with consumers.
Education requirement: Math and strategic planning skills are vital to this job, which is why companies tend to look for candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in market research or a similar field, such as math or computer science. Rising through the ranks to management positions or more technical roles may require a postgraduate degree, such as a master of science in marketing or master of science in marketing analytics.
Senior software developer
Given their level of expertise, senior software developers are afforded a degree of space to pursue interesting work while wearing many hats. At this level, developers tend to a reputation in their organizations for getting things done. Their expertise doesn't just relate to one specific technical area, but can offer guidance on a variety of projects and problems.
Senior software developers are also trusted to support less-experienced developers who are navigating new terrain or in need of shepherding on a project, and show them how to improve their skills. Lastly, they're paid well, pulling in an average salary of 102,797 per year.
Education requirement: Senior software developers usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science and strong computer programming skills. Some may pursue postgraduate degrees like a master's in computer science or master's in information systems to further qualify for management and leadership positions in the industry.
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