29 Jobs That Make You Happy and Why They Do
By Luke Redd
| Last Updated July 23, 2020
Want to know how to be happy at work? You're definitely not alone. For many people, attaining happiness at work is among their top goals in life. Yet, the more they chase it, the more elusive it becomes—despite the fact that finding or creating happy jobs really is achievable. So you need to approach this challenge the right way.
Jobs that make you happy won't necessarily announce themselves in bright, neon colors. Rather, they are often only found by paying closer attention to the more subtle and indirect factors that contribute to a sense of joy or contentment. They are the result of matching your core strengths with vocational options that, by their very nature, provide the conditions known to play major roles in creating happiness.
Plus, what you think will make you feel joyful and fulfilled might be very different than what will actually make you feel that way. In fact, that's true for most people. Thankfully, however, plenty of research shines a light on some of the most common factors responsible for making people feel happy in their jobs.
Careers That Make People Happy
As you explore your career possibilities, it can help to know exactly which kinds of jobs tend to have a lot of happy workers. The following occupations are known for often providing multiple "happiness-generating" factors like those listed below. And most of them also pay well and don't necessarily require years of training at a trade school, college, or university.
Obviously, though, not every job is suitable for every person. The key is to think about your core personal traits and match those to the career options in which you'll be able to use them.
For example, if one of your strengths is kindness, then certain jobs in healthcare might be worth considering. Or if you're naturally creative, then give some consideration to design jobs. And if you're not sure what your strengths are, try asking a few of the people who know you best. That way, you might get the advantage of learning what they think could be happy jobs for you.
Salary data is based on May 2019 estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics program.
1. Software Developer
Be part of the incredible driving force of technology by helping to create the next generation of software solutions for computers, mobile devices, or sophisticated network systems. As a mobile app developer, especially, you could enjoy a low-stress career that's highly satisfying. CNN Money even ranked that occupation as the best job in America.
- Happiness factors: a sense of autonomy, immersive challenges, clear results, and captivating variety
- Annual pay for software developers: $111,620 (average) to more than $164,590
2. Computer Network Architect
Design reliable digital networks that allow data to be transmitted quickly and securely.
- Happiness factors: interesting challenges, clear outcomes, and a sense of control
- Annual pay: $115,110 (average) to more than $168,390
3. Construction Manager
Take on a leadership role that's essential to the success of all kinds of fun and important building projects.
- Happiness factors: a sense of control, frequent work outdoors, a clear purpose, engaging challenges, and variety
- Annual pay: $105,000 (average) to more than $164,790
4. Facility Manager
Become a professional in charge of overseeing the maintenance and support services of a large facility such as a school, hospital, or corporate building.
- Happiness factors: a sense of control, daily variety, a clear purpose, and engaging challenges
- Annual pay: $106,550 (average) to more than $166,330
5. Database Administrator
Help oversee the secure availability of an organization's important digital information to select users.
- Happiness factors: a clear purpose, interesting challenges, and a sense of autonomy
- Annual pay: $96,110 (average) to more than $148,060
6. Dental Hygienist
Discover what it's like to help people experience greater well-being through good oral health.
- Happiness factors: caring for others, personal connection, variety, no desk required, autonomy, clear results, and meaningful challenges
- Annual pay: $77,230 (average) to more than $103,340
7. Ultrasound Technician
Use sound wave technology to capture visual information that doctors can use to treat or diagnose their medical patients.
- Happiness factors: independence, a sense of connection, caring for others, a clear purpose, variety, interesting challenges, and no desk required
- Annual pay: $75,780 (average) to more than $102,060
8. Web Developer
Create dynamic and highly functional websites that help people and organizations achieve more of their goals.
- Happiness factors: highly immersive tasks, results you can see, a sense of control, and ongoing challenge and variety
- Annual pay: $82,370 (average) to more than $142,080
9. Animator or Special Effects Artist
Put your drawing and conceptual talents to good use in a career that lets you create stunning motion graphics, colorful characters, and eye-popping fictional environments for games, films, or unique multimedia projects.
- Happiness factors: creative expression, deeply captivating tasks, clear results, a sense of control, fun variety, and interesting challenges
- Annual pay: $84,780 (average) to more than $139,940
10. Property Manager
Look after the property investments of other people by managing tenant relationships, cash flow, maintenance contracts, and more.
- Happiness factors: clear expectations, challenge, ongoing variety, and a sense of control
- Annual pay: $71,720 (average) to more than $129,160
11. Sound Engineering Technician
Engage your enthusiasm for music and sound by capturing or mixing audio in recording studios or live entertainment venues.
- Happiness factors: immersive tasks, a sense of control and connection, working outside of a typical office, direct outcomes, variety, and fun challenges
- Annual pay: $67,090 (average) to more than $121,320
12. Aircraft Mechanic
Turn your interest in aviation into an important and active vocation in which you fix and maintain airplanes or helicopters.
- Happiness factors: immersive job tasks, no desk required, a clear purpose, fascinating variety, a sense of independence, distinctive challenges
- Annual pay: $67,110 (average) to more than $101,070
13. Radiologic Technologist
Use X-ray or other advanced imaging technologies to capture visual diagnostic information that can show medical problems and help physicians care for their patients.
- Happiness factors: caring for others, a clear purpose, lots of time away from a desk, interpersonal variety, and a sense of independence
- Annual pay: $63,120 (average) to more than $89,760
14. Real Estate Agent
Help individuals or organizations take advantage of great opportunities in the buying or selling of residential or commercial properties.
- Happiness factors: ongoing variety, making other people happy, engaging challenges, autonomy, lots of non-office work, clear outcomes
- Annual pay: $62,060 (average) to more than $111,800
15. Early Childhood Education Teacher
Help give children the best start possible by contributing to their development and the growth of their potential.
- Happiness factors: meaningful connection, caring for others, a sense of purpose, enjoyable challenges, variety, a sense of autonomy, and working outside of a typical office
- Annual pay for preschool teachers: $34,650 (average) to more than $55,050
- Annual pay for special education preschool teachers: $67,060 (average) to more than $115,260
16. Interior Designer
Boost the appeal and functionality of indoor spaces by transforming them with your special artistry and sense of style.
- Happiness factors: creative expression, making others happy, a sense of flow, enticing variety, outcomes you can see, and fun challenges
- Annual pay: $60,990 (average) to more than $96,470
17. Physical Therapist Assistant
Help people with injuries or disabilities improve their mobility and physical range of motion so that they can contribute more of their own talents.
- Happiness factors: personal connection, caring for other people, no desk required, recognizable results, and meaningful variety
- Annual pay: $58,520 (average) to more than $80,840
Take on a physically and mentally engaging skilled trade that modern society simply can't do without.
- Happiness factors: autonomy, fixing other people's problems, variety, no desk required, hands-on challenges, and direct results
- Annual pay: $59,800 (average) to more than $97,170
19. Graphic Designer
Add your artistic flair to fun visual communications projects like the creation of logos, brochures, product packaging, websites, and lots more.
- Happiness factors: being "in the zone," creative expression, enticing variety, captivating challenges, and outcomes you can see
- Annual pay: $56,510 (average) to more than $89,210
20. Event Planner
Help design and organize vibrant and memorable celebrations, shows, conferences, or other special happenings.
- Happiness factors: multifaceted challenges, fun variety, making others happy, a sense of connection, and outcomes you can experience
- Annual pay: $54,880 (average) to more than $86,390
21. Heavy Equipment Operator
Handle the controls of big construction machines like excavators, cranes, or land graders.
- Happiness factors: a sense of independence, outdoor work, immersive tasks, direct outcomes, and challenging variety
- Annual pay: $54,210 (average) to more than $85,640
Enjoy a career that provides the satisfaction of building large structures like homes, businesses, or public facilities.
- Happiness factors: outdoor work, direct results, a sense of flow, independence, and variety
- Annual pay: $52,850 (average) to more than $84,690
23. Surgical Technologist
Play a crucial role in healthcare as someone who helps ensure that medical operations happen efficiently in a safe and sterile environment.
- Happiness factors: no desk required, caring for others, a clear purpose, and interesting variety
- Annual pay: $50,110 (average) to more than $71,400
24. Executive Chef or Head Cook
Have fun satisfying the taste buds of eager diners by transforming your passion for food into a lively and immersive career.
- Happiness factors: autonomy, being "in the flow," making others happy, creative expression, being away from a desk, clear outcomes, variety, and challenge
- Annual pay: $56,310 (average) to more than $86,990
25. Auto Mechanic
Use your hands as well as your mind to repair or maintain what you love—sophisticated cars and trucks.
- Happiness factors: fixing things for other people, a sense of control, immersive and interesting tasks, no desk required, challenge, variety, and direct results
- Annual pay: $44,890 (average) to more than $68,880
Give your artistic sensibilities new life as you capture stirring images that resonate in the minds of those who see them.
- Happiness factors: autonomy, being "in the zone," creative connection and expression, visible results, endless variety, unique challenges, and being away from a desk
- Annual pay: $45,440 (average) to more than $79,440
Specialize in professional skin care so that you can help people stay beautiful and confident.
- Happiness factors: clear outcomes, variety, making others happy, no desk required, and a sense of freedom
- Annual pay: $38,970 (average) to more than $62,540
28. Veterinary Tech
Help provide medical care to people's pets or other animals by assisting veterinarians.
- Happiness factors: caring for others, a sense of connection, working away from a desk, enjoyable variety, a clear purpose
- Annual pay: $36,670 (average) to more than $51,230
Tap into your creativity while helping people look their very best.
- Happiness factors: personal connection, freedom, making others happy, a sense of flow, direct results, no desk required, challenge, and lots of variety
- Annual pay: $31,530 (average) to more than $51,870
Factors Involved in How to be Happy at Work
Time and time again, researchers have discovered that money and prestige play only small roles in generating sustained happiness. Many of the most fulfilled workers simply do not have what would be considered high-paying or highly distinguished jobs. Instead, they tend to enjoy positive and rewarding careers full of multiple other built-in benefits.
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't be happy in your work while still enjoying a high salary or a fancy job title. You absolutely can. But it does mean that, in your search for a fulfilling occupation, you may want to seriously focus on a number of other factors first.
For example, the following factors have all been cited in different surveys and psychological research studies as being significant contributors to job happiness:
- Autonomy/freedom/independence, or a sense of control
- Work that is immersive, consistently interesting, or results in being "in the zone"
- Work that has a clear purpose and easily recognized results
- A focus on making other people happy, caring for them, or fixing their problems
- Creative expression or a sense of personal connection to others or something larger
- Work that's outdoors or away from a conventional office desk
- Variety—in terms of projects or people
- Work that's challenging without being disheartening
Opportunities to utilize your core individual strengths, which, among several others, might include a few traits such as:
- A love of learning
- Good judgment
This list is by no means complete. For instance, a happy work environment is often made that way by a good boss who focuses on the growth and development of his or her team members while paying special attention to factors like the above. And the world's extensive diversity of people means that each of us has a unique combination of traits, and we all respond a little differently to various work factors.
Nevertheless, learning how to find a job that makes you happy starts with understanding this: Where you place your focus can make all the difference between experiencing joy or disappointment.
Instead of trying to directly pursue happiness itself, try to go after the factors that make up its foundation. This indirect approach can help you find a greater sense of fulfillment than you ever expected.
Find a training program that can help you prepare for the types of happy jobs you're looking for! Start your fun journey right now by searching for schools near you using your zip code.