Best Jobs List: Who Knew Working in HR Was So Good (and Well Paid)?

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I’m always a little skeptical of best and worst jobs lists because it always seems that the actual data behind these lists seems, well, a little bit squishy.

So, take this one for what it’s worth, but would you believe that Human Resources Manager was named one of the best job for 2012? Yes, HR manager came in at No. 3 on’s 2012 Jobs Rated Report, right behind Software Engineer (no surprise that is No. 1) and Actuary at No. 2.

Here’s the complete list of the best jobs of 2012, according to CareerCast:

  1. Software Engineer (also No. 1 in 2011) — midlevel income of $88,142
  2. Actuary — midlevel income of $88,202
  3. Human Resources Manager (new to the list in 2012) — — midlevel income of $99,102
  4. Dental Hygienist — midlevel income of $68,109
  5. Financial Planner — midlevel income of $104,161
  6. Audiologist — midlevel income of $67,137
  7. Occupational Therapist — midlevel income of $72,110
  8. Online Advertising Manager (new to the list in 2012) — midlevel income of $87,255
  9. Computer Systems Analyst — midlevel income of $78,148
  10. Mathematician — midlevel income of $99,191

Worst job of 2012? Lumberjack

At the other end of the spectrum, the worst jobs of 2012 include Lumberjack (No. 1 worst job this year), Dairy Farmer, and Enlisted Military Personnel (new to the list in 2012). Also up there in the Top 10 worst jobs: newspaper reporter, waiter/waitress, and broadcaster.

“Many jobs in the media are characterized by high stress, short deadlines, long hours and a poor hiring outlook,” explains Tony Lee, publisher of’s 2012 Jobs Rated Report, in a press release about the 2012 list. “Despite these poor working conditions, competition is steep for what jobs remain after massive consolidation and layoffs in the media industry.”

He adds: “The top-rated jobs have few physical demands, minimal stress, a good working environment and a strong hiring outlook. Conversely, Lumberjacks and Dairy Farmers, two of the worst jobs in the nation, work in physically demanding, precarious, low-paying professions with a weak hiring outlook.”

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5 factors behind these rankings

How does CareerCast come up with this best and worst job list? Well, the methodology isn’t easily described, so you should go here to take a good look at all the factors, but it essentially comes down to five “Core Criteria” that CareerCast believes “are inherent to every job:”

  • Environment;
  • Income;
  • Outlook;
  • Stress; and,
  • Physical Demands.

One big surprise on the best jobs side of this is that HR Manager ranked as high as it did. As The Wall Street Journal noted:

Human-resources manager took the No. 3 spot on the best jobs list, a surprising development in an era of layoffs, anxious employees and cutbacks that often reduce back-office functions like HR, says Tony Lee, publisher of

But with hiring on the rebound for the past few months and expected to heat up further, the outlook for human-resource professionals is bright.”

Healthy projected growth for HR jobs

I was surprised that the midlevel income for HR Managers, according to the CareerCast list, was $99,000 plus. That seemed a little high to me given all I hear, see, and know about HR and how it is valued in most organizations. But as the detail on the CareerCast list notes:

Employment growth for Human Resources Managers, for example, is projected to be a very healthy 21% thru 2020, which is on par with most medical professions, according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you mix their job outlook scores with their income levels (19th on our Jobs Rated list) and throw in the low physical demands, relatively safe work environment and low-to-moderate stress levels, HR Managers should rightly be listed as a Best Job.

“Every organization has a need for a Human Resources professional. Companies big and small need someone who is skilled in HR,” says Pat Kuhl, Vice President of Human Resources for a Maryland health care system. Today, professionals in Human Resources have more of a strategic role than ever before. “We are relied upon to make sure the needs of the employee are in sync with the company’s goals and in support of the organization’s mission,” says Kuhl, who adds, “It’s not always an easy job, but it is very rewarding.”

Yes, HR has never been an easy job, but it has certainly always been an interesting and fulfilling one — but you don’t need the latest CareerCast survey to tell you that, do you?

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


3 Comments on “Best Jobs List: Who Knew Working in HR Was So Good (and Well Paid)?

  1. Low stress? Way to mislead CareerCast-any HR pro that is getting the job done as it should be done is going to experience high stress. It is how you handle stress that counts.

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