It's a dirty job: Soldiers near bottom of ‘best jobs’ list


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In an annual career survey, an online job bank ranked one of the nation’s toughest, proudest and most critical occupations as the third-worst job to have: soldier.

In fact, the survey didn’t appear to appear to distinguish between the services; the category was named “enlisted military soldier.”  Only lumberjack (first place) and dairy farmer (runner-up) edged out enlisted as the worst-of-the-worst. (To be sure, newspaper reporter was not far behind at fifth-worst.)

The survey, aimed at those considering different careers, arrived at these results by ranking each occupation across five categories, which seemed to be a mix of government statistics and subjective values. Behind the rating for enlisted troops was relatively low income (on average $36,000), high stress and physical demands, and lowered hiring prospects — likely referring to the coming drawdown, which centers on the Army and Marine Corps.

The list offers some curious comparisons. Attorney and vending machine repairman are ranked side by side as the 88th- and 89th-best jobs, respectively. Admiral (well, “Military General”) ranked 141st, besting garbage collector, but not bus driver (130th) or dental laboratory technician (135th). And plumber (75th) left all these in the dust.

“People looking for a safe, comfortable job in an air-conditioned office with a soft chair do not go into the military, where yes, the work environment varies, the physical demands are considerable and the stress can go all the way to extreme,” one reader commented below the enlisted ranking. “But did this study take into consideration any parameters like purpose, reward[s]other than financial, or concepts like duty and honor?”

So what do you think? Did they get it wrong?


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  1. Maj Matthew Provost on

    In the article “Top Jobs of 2012” on the website, the job of enlisted military solider was graded as one of the worst ten jobs in America ranking only behind a dairy farmer and lumber jack. I disagree with the ranking the enlisted military solider career received because I feel that the assessment didn’t account for income correctly and did not use pride and fulfillment in its assessment.

    When comparing the jobs, the assessment used Income as a metric to score jobs. Obviously, the lower the income a job has the less desirable it its, but according to the study, it only looked at income of each job and did not take into account the benefits service members receive such as free heath care, tax-free allowances, education benefits and various MWR programs available to only soldiers and their families. Health insurance alone would be worth at least $5,000 and maybe $10,000 a year in saved income and the benefits of the post 9-11 GI Bill could be worth up to $100,000 per soldier. If the study would have taken into account the non-income benefits, the job of enlisted soldier should have been graded much higher.

    Another reason the assessment is not accurate is the methodology used to compare jobs did not take into account how much fulfillment employees may get doing a job where they serve others and are admired for their sacrifice. Many public service jobs don’t pay as much as private sector jobs and are jobs that have a higher level of danger than many office jobs. In the assessment, police officer, firefighter, highway patrol men and general military all ranked in the lower 30%. This is because the jobs have a high level of stress and danger and modest pay. Since these jobs are more dangerous and pay less, the brave men and women that volunteer for these jobs are often looked at with great respect from the public. In the Gallup poll asking how much confidence you have in various institutions, “the military” has routinely scored near the top over the past 25 years and in June of 2011 was number one with a score of 78%. Second and third place belonged to small business and the police with scores of 64% and 56% respectively.

    Given the fact that the assessment doesn’t account for non-income when comparing jobs and doesn’t give points for jobs that offer the employees pride and satisfaction that can’t be measured with money, I believe that the profession of the military service member was unfairly ranked in the lower half. Although their assessment is their opinion, I feel that it unfairly gives the impression to current service members and potential members of the military that this profession is one of the worst to pursue, when in fact, for the right group of people, this profession in not monetarily rewarding but also very fulfilling.

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