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Build Your Career Get the Job

The Most (and Least) Meaningful Jobs of 2015

The Most (and Least) Meaningful Jobs of 2015
Credit: Gustavo Frazao/Shutterstock

More and more, employees want to work in jobs that make the world a better place.

Employees feel no jobs do that more than working as a clergy, as a post-secondary English teacher, as a director of religious activities, and as a surgeon, according to new research from PayScale, a provider of on-demand compensation data and software.

In an effort to discover which jobs workers think are most likely to make a positive or negative difference, PayScale talked to employees in more than 450 occupations. The rankings were based on the percentage of more than 2.7 million workers.

"This data is coming straight from people working in these jobs who are either finding great meaning in their day-to-day work or who, alternatively, believe that their job has a negative impact on the world," Lydia Frank, senior editorial director for PayScale, said in a statement.

Overall, 55 percent of those surveyed say their job is highly meaningful. This year's most meaningful jobs, and their median pay, are:

  • Clergy: 98 percent find job meaningful/$46,000.
  • Post-secondary English language and literature teachers: 96 percent find job meaningful/ $43,600.
  • Directors of religious activities and education: 96 percent find job meaningful/$37,600.
  • Surgeons: 96 percent find job meaningful/$304,000.
  • Elementary and secondary school education administrators: 95 percent find job meaningful/$76,700.
  • Radiation therapists: 95 percent find job meaningful/$70,200.
  • Chiropractors: 92 percent find job meaningful/$60,100.
  • Psychiatrists: 92 percent find job meaningful/$197,000.
  • Anesthesiologists: 91 percent find job meaningful/$273,000.
  • Rehabilitation counselors: 91 percent find job meaningful/$39,100.
  • Occupational therapists: 91 percent find job meaningful/$64,400.
  • Kindergarten teachers: 91 percent find job meaningful/$39,000.
  • Epidemiologists: 91 percent find job meaningful/$69,000.

Despite the majority of workers believing their job is making a positive difference, many employees don't see their jobs are being particularly meaningful at all. This year's least meaningful jobs are:

  • Parking lot attendants: 5 percent find job meaningful/$19,700.
  • Pre-press technician: 25 percent find job meaningful/$38,300.
  • Title examiners, abstractors and searchers: 25 percent find job meaningful/$32,700.
  • Fabric and apparel pattern makers: 25 percent find job meaningful/$52,900.
  • Welding, soldering and brazing machine operators: 26 percent find job meaningful/$33,200.
  • Car counter and rental clerks: 26 percent find job meaningful/$26,500.
  • Crushing, grinding and polishing machine operators: 26 percent find job meaningful/$36,000.
  • Farm products purchasing agents and buyers: 26 percent find job meaningful/$40,600.
  • Fashion designers: 26 percent find job meaningful/$50,700.

Employers should be taking a close look at these lists, especially the jobs where workers feel they aren't making a difference, said Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics for PayScale. [20 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance ]

"If workers aren't finding meaning and purpose in their work, they're more likely to feel disengaged, which can lead to high turnover and low productivity, both of which can impact the bottom line," Bardaro said.

Rather than finding any meaning in their jobs, some workers feel as if society would be better off if their position didn't exist at all. No one feels that way more than fast- food workers, of whom 25 percent said their job makes the world a worse place.

Others jobs employees feel make the world a worse place include warehouse pickers, table games floor supervisors, merchandise planning managers, search- engine marketing strategists, valets and paralegals.

To see how your job rates, you can check out PayScale's complete rankings of more than 450 jobs.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.