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Best (and Worst) Jobs for The Money

Vivia Chen

January 3, 2012

The_Paper_Chase-Image_Courtesy-IMDB_mptvimages.comBest jobs. Wanna know the best reason to bust your buns in law school, kiss up to those arrogant professors, and write an esoteric law review article that 12 people might read? Well, darling, it's not so you can get a job at some fancy-schmancy sweatshop like Cravath, Swaine & Moore. You can do better than that.

Think big. Think truly cushy lifestyle. Think groupies (of a certain sort) waiting by your office every day. The best job for law graduates: being a law professor, of course.

AOL has a list of best-paying /good lifestyle jobs (based on Bureau of Labor statistics)—and, yes, law professors are near the top of list (airline pilots hold the top spot). But a law degree alone might not cut it these days, cautions AOL, as increasing numbers of law faculty now sport a Master of Laws or even a Ph.D. Still, AOL says, "the time spent seems well worth it. Besides the generous salary, they enjoy unique benefits including access to campus facilities, tuition waivers for dependents, housing and travel allowances, and paid leave for sabbaticals." The bottom line: "Between these sabbaticals and the summer vacation, most professors work nearly 400 hours less than the average U.S. employee."

Also on this coveted list of great paying jobs is being a judge or magistrate—another tantalizing career for law grads.

Worst jobs. And on the opposite end: What are the hardest-working, lowest-paying jobs? (Sorry, big-firm associates, you are not on the list.)

According to AOL, the seven dreaded jobs are set designers, truck drivers, farm equipment mechanics, motor vehicle electronic equipment installers/repairers, supervisors/managers of retail sales workers, parts salespersons, and emergency medical technicians. "These jobs compensate poorly because they generally require only a high school education," says AOL. 

But here's what the study left out: jobs that require you to be well-educated (often employing people with professional degrees or Ph.D.s) while also paying abysmally. Hmm—what could that be? Journalist/blogger? Just asking.

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Photo: John Houseman in The Paper Chase.


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I'm just amused that an AOL "poll" is now the authoritative, scientifically validated source for journalists who really want to ferret out the truth.

So, as to "jobs that require you to be well-educated ... while also paying abysmally. Hmm—what could that be? Journalist/blogger? Just asking" -- I'd ask: what's so terrible about the job of quoting AOL's homepage and throwing in boilerplate snark at 300 words per week?

(But of course I freely admit that I read Vivia Chen every week. And I like it. Possibly, I've learned a teeny bit from her example - except that somehow I haven't been paid a cent yet for commenting here.)

"Between these sabbaticals and the summer vacation, most professors work nearly 400 hours less than the average U.S. employee."

So people on sabbaticals (I've never had one so I'm basing my reaction on what I know my colleagues have done) are on vacation? Hardly. Faculty on sabbaticals are expected to return with a completed project equivalent to what would have taken multiple semesters had the person been teaching. As for summer, it is filled with writing, class preparation, and for some, even more teaching.

This comment is not unlike the ones aimed at K-12 faculty, who are seen as working a "cushy" 8 to 3 with summers free, but who put in all sorts of additional hours, usually at home, preparing lesson plans, writing outcomes reports, and doing administrative tasks (I speak here based on what I observe of family and friends who teach in K-12 positions).

Perhaps the hard work by the 10 people watching one highway worker dig out a pothole should be mentioned? Again, seeing only part of the picture distorts the reality, because over the course of the day, those 11 highway workers are burning far more calories than the people dreaming up these fantasy perceptions of other people's lives.

Architects. But they have better props than lawyers.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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