A certain degree of subjectivity is inherent in determining which careers are the most rewarding. By rewarding, do we mean financially? How about in terms of emotional satisfaction? Maybe a combination of both? I’ll be the first to admit the necessity of making a living, but the most rewarding careers certainly are not those that have a reputation for inducing suicidal thoughts (the well compensated dentist, for example, although all the dentists I know couldn’t be happier). The list of rewarding careers I compiled, while not financially ignorant, does place a bit more emphasis on emotional satisfaction. You’ll be happy to find that some careers have a wonderful combination of both. If you’re feeling a little stagnant in your career choice, take a gander at these 10 career-boosting resolutions.
Quick note: this list is not a hierarchy. Selections are ordered at random.
If you’ve never heard of nurse practitioners, I’m about to blow your mind. Nurse practitioners are higher up the food chain than your average nurse, and yet not quite licensed to practice medicine. Even though practitioners function as members of a practice, they can work independently of physicians when treating patients, managing acute and chronic conditions, even to the extent of ordering tests and treatments and being considered some patients’ primary care provider. Nurse practitioners incur less stress and drastically smaller school loans than M.D.s, but they aren’t much further down the satisfaction line when it comes to saving people’s lives. And the cherry on top? Nurse practitioners can easily make $90,000-$150,000 annually.
Not to knock the other engineering fields, but civil engineers tend to feel that the balance between civil service and compensation is right on target. More so than other engineers, civil engineers get to actually see and use the things they create, from highways to railways to sewage systems. There’s a healthy dose of analysis and brainpower involved, too, so that never hurts an active mind. With a variety of specialties, ranging from structural to geological, and the ability to gross over $100,000 annually, civil engineering is a sweet deal. Find out for yourself if a career in engineering is right for you.
In terms of widespread reward, teaching is probably the only profession than rivals health care. You might not be saving lives from a physical perspective, but you’re doing more than your fair share to help people of all ages attain knowledge and happiness. High school teachers in particular seem to find their jobs the most rewarding, due in large part to the transformative age of their students. Counseling goes a long way in high school, and high school teachers get to play a part in preparing young adults for the most important years of their lives. Sure, you’ll never, ever be rich as a teacher, but you’re rewarded with ample vacation time, unbeatable benefits, and pride in your work.
If you thought being a doctor sounded rewarding, check this out: being an animal doctor. Seriously, should we just end the competition now? Veterinarians not only tend to the most beloved members of our families, they work to protect the health and relationship between people and animals, and I don’t mean pets. Vets often work off-the-radar inspecting food supplies, monitoring livestock, and figuring out how to fight diseases shared by both animals and humans. But let’s be real: playing with the occasional puppy doesn’t hurt, either. The best veterinarians make a great living, too, bringing in around $150,000 annually (median is closer to $85,000). Equine enthusiasts can get a taste for the lifestyle with this video-based EMM therapy.
We can’t neglect the tech industry, and while software engineers arguably have the most boring-sounding title on this list, there’s a very satisfying career behind it. For starters, software engineers get to feel the excitement of being on the forefront of human commerce and invention. From designing the most complex security programs to simple, addictive games, software engineers leverage a combination of acquired knowledge and brainpower, so the process itself is very rewarding. Then, of course, there is the product. Imagine if you had helped design Android’s operating system, or even made a silly app yourself. The results can be breathtaking (remember when the first iPhone iOS came out?) and you get the satisfaction of seeing others use your design for all sorts of practical and fun purposes. Tack on the benefits of being able to work from anywhere and earn a killer living (median salary: $90,000), and you’re got yourself one heck of a rewarding career.
Substance Abuse Counselor
There are people who fancy themselves humanitarians, and then there are the ones who don’t mess around and do something like, say, substance abuse counseling. If you want to turn someone’s life around, maybe save an entire family from an alcoholic parent, you won’t find satisfaction anywhere but here. Abuse counselors help people struggling with drug addictions and other behavioral problems. When it comes to the hand of god, Maradona doesn’t have anything on these people. Jobs in abuse counseling are growing at an alarming rate: over 30% over the next ten years. That’s three times the national average, and fifty percent faster than thriving fields such as software engineering. Considering the fact that counselors earn a median salary below $40,000, I vote we canonize these people while they’re still alive. All joking aside, victims of abuse should seek out one of these living saints, or at least take a step in the right direction by learning how to start healing from abuse.
Let’s end on a strong note with physical therapy. Yes, helping people recover from injuries and trauma is probably the most exciting (I use that term respectfully) part of the career, but business is booming as the elderly population skyrockets (for better or worse, people are living longer). But an unsustainable population isn’t the focus of this article, and it’s certainly not any one grandpa’s fault. Truth be told, therapists help a wide variety of people, from children to soldiers to athletes to victims of car accidents. Ever heard the saying, “Healthy body, healthy mind”? That’s part of the reason this career is so rewarding: therapists heal their patients in more ways than one (plus, they give the best massages, hands down).