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34 of the Most Satisfying Jobs You Can Get in the U.S.

By Publisher
| Last Updated January 10, 2024

What are the most satisfying jobs you can think of? You might be amazed at the diverse range of careers that people find the most fulfilling. Many of them are in sectors like healthcare, education, and human services. But they also include jobs in law enforcement, business, engineering, the creative arts, and a host of other areas.

Of course, there are many ways to define job satisfaction (which you can read more about below). How much money you make is one consideration, but it might surprise you to learn that it's not the most important one. In fact, research has found that higher levels of pay do not automatically translate into higher levels of career satisfaction. A Gallup study found that having meaningful work is often a more compelling factor. And a report by the Society for Human Resource Management found that being well-treated in the workplace is another important contributor to job satisfaction.

To find out which careers are the most satisfying, we combed through data collected by salary information company PayScale. It surveyed 2.7 million workers across America and asked how satisfied they were in their jobs. Each of the 30-plus careers featured in this article had a satisfaction rating of 80 percent or more, which means that at least 80 percent of people in these jobs were either fairly satisfied or extremely satisfied with their work.

Keep reading to uncover some interesting possibilities for your future!

Median salaries are based on May 2019 data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program unless indicated as being from (1) PayScale. All earnings figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.

34 of the Most Satisfying Jobs

Most Satisfying JobsFulfilling work keeps you engaged and motivated. It gives you a sense of purpose and achievement. And, as the list below demonstrates, it can be found in virtually any career sector. Here are 34 of the most satisfying jobs as noted by the workers themselves:

1. Cartographer or photogrammetrist: $65K

People who gather geographic data to create maps were the most likely to say that their work was satisfying. Cartographers and photogrammetrists use information collected from satellite images and land surveys to produce detailed maps and charts that aid in navigation, urban planning, and environmental management. In some states, you'll need to be licensed.

  • Satisfaction rating: 97 percent

2. Rotary drill operator: $55K

Are you mechanically inclined? Do you like the idea of hands-on work and a non-traditional schedule? If you're physically fit and have good dexterity and coordination, you may find it satisfying to have a career that involves operating the drills that help bring up underground reserves of oil and gas.

  • Satisfaction rating: 93 percent

3. Clergyperson: $50K

Guiding the spiritual well-being of fellow believers can be a deeply fulfilling job. Members of the clergy support their congregations by leading worship services and offering counseling to those who are experiencing personal or moral struggles. Depending on the religion you identify with, Christian studies programs may help you pursue your calling.

  • Satisfaction rating: 90 percent

4. Arbitrator or mediator: $64K

Arbitrators and mediators can make a real difference by helping people resolve disputes without going to court. They evaluate the issues and concerns of each side and work toward finding a settlement that both sides find acceptable. Many professionals in this field have law degrees or MBAs.

  • Satisfaction rating: 90 percent

5. Pediatrician: $175K

Few things are more satisfying than seeing a sick infant thrive under your care. Pediatricians are medical doctors who specialize in the unique needs of children and adolescents. It takes at least 10 years of postsecondary training to become fully qualified, but having the chance to help kids get and stay healthy can make all the effort worthwhile.

  • Satisfaction rating: 89 percent

6. Elementary or secondary school principal: $96K

Directing the academic and administrative affairs of a school can be challenging and satisfying work. Principals hire and train teachers, evaluate and approve course content, and organize educational activities throughout their schools. Most principals start out as teachers and work their way up.

  • Satisfaction rating: 88 percent

7. Chief executive: $184K

Are you a big-picture person who enjoys developing strategies and setting goals? Chief executives are in charge of the overall management of a company. They formulate policies, approve contracts, and provide direction for senior managers. Training in business administration or management will serve you well in this career.

  • Satisfaction rating: 88 percent

8. Radiation therapist: $86K

Helping to shrink cancerous tumors is one of the most satisfying ways you can make a living. Radiation therapists use specialized machines to administer concentrated, targeted doses of radiation. They explain treatment procedures and answer patients' questions. In most states, they must be certified or licensed.

  • Satisfaction rating: 86 percent

9. Emergency management specialist: $75K

The main job of an emergency management specialist is to make sure plans are in place to minimize the impact of potential disasters. When catastrophic events do occur, these specialists assess the damage, lead the response, and coordinate resources and services so that people get the help they need. Many come to this career after years of experience in firefighting, law enforcement, or military service.

  • Satisfaction rating: 86 percent

10. Psychiatrist: $206K1

Helping people deal with mental and behavioral challenges such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts can be profoundly satisfying work. Psychiatrists are medical professionals who use various forms of counseling and talk therapy to help their patients work through difficulties. They also prescribe medication when necessary.

  • Satisfaction rating: 85 percent

11. Police supervisor: $91K

Do you feel called to protect and serve your community? Supervisors direct the work of a police department and provide guidance to help officers do their jobs effectively. They train new hires, assign cases, and ensure that all officers follow department policies and procedures. Formal training in law enforcement is a good place to start; you'll also need several years of work experience.

  • Satisfaction rating: 85 percent

12. Forester: $62K

The goal of all foresters is to manage forest resources in a sustainable way. Typical tasks include surveying woodland areas, preparing sites for new trees, and monitoring the progress of regrowth. These professionals might also be involved in habitat preservation, pest management, or wildfire suppression. A bachelor's degree in forestry or environmental science is typically required.

  • Satisfaction rating: 85 percent

13. Director of religious activities and education: $44K

Are you eager for a career with plenty of purpose? Directors of religious activities and education develop programs to help people expand their understanding of the values and principles of a religious faith (such as through Christian studies). They prepare educational materials, organize special events, and lead study courses. Many focus on programming for children and youth.

  • Satisfaction rating: 84 percent

14. Surgeon: $278K1

Many surgeons take pride in performing operations to help ease suffering and improve the quality of patients' lives. You could become a general surgeon or specialize in one of more than a dozen areas, such as thoracic surgery (focusing on organs within the chest), orthopedic surgery (focusing on the musculoskeletal system), or neurological surgery (focusing on the nervous system).

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

15. Anesthesiologist: $295K1

Keeping patients free of pain during surgical procedures is critically important work. Anesthesiologists monitor patients' pulse, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels throughout their operations and adjust the amount of anesthesia as necessary in order to make sure that patients are both comfortable and safe. They also provide pain management to laboring mothers during childbirth.

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

16. Firefighter: $51K

Being a firefighter means being part of a team that is dedicated to saving lives and property. Rescuing people from house fires and traffic accidents, talking to school children about fire safety, and conducting fire-prevention inspections in businesses can provide a real sense of achievement. Becoming certified as an emergency medical technician can be beneficial.

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

17. Postsecondary teacher: $69K

There are many rewards of teaching at the college level: You get to mentor students, support their intellectual development, and watch them learn to think critically and apply their knowledge. You also get to spend your day surrounded by people who share an interest in the subject you teach. Most positions call for at least a master's degree.

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

18. Mental health and substance abuse social worker: $47K

Many social workers find great satisfaction in helping people cope with challenges related to mental illness or drug addiction. They assess their clients' mental state, plan a course of treatment, and provide counseling. They also help clients find jobs, apply for benefits, and connect with support groups. You'll need to be licensed by your state.

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

19. Airfield operations specialist: $53K

Making sure that runways, taxiways, and all other areas of an airfield are ready for takeoffs and landings is essential to the safety of pilots, passengers, and aircraft. Airfield operations specialists do everything from repairing asphalt and controlling wildlife to removing debris and cleaning up hazardous spills. Many people with this occupation also respond to firefighting and medical emergencies.

  • Satisfaction rating: 83 percent

20. Physical therapist assistant (PTA): $59K

As key members of the physical therapy team, PTAs work directly with people who are recovering from injury or illness in order to help them strengthen their muscles and improve their range of motion. They help patients perform a variety of therapeutic exercises as laid out in their treatment plans. They also explain what exercises or activities people should do on their own at home in order to continue their rehabilitation.

  • Satisfaction rating: 82 percent

21. Dentist: $156K

Taking care of patients' teeth and gums can have a big impact on their overall health. That's a major reason why dentists find their work so satisfying. They can help ease pain and give patients a beautiful smile. Plus, many dentists run their own practices, which gives them more control over their schedules. All states require dentists to be licensed; you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree and four years of dental school first.

  • Satisfaction rating: 82 percent

22. Firefighter supervisor: $78K

Someone has to coordinate the efforts of firefighting crews and make sure all personnel know how to safely carry out their roles. That someone is a firefighter supervisor. These professionals oversee the training of crew members, assign them duties, and evaluate their performance. At fire scenes, supervisors assess the size and nature of the blaze and direct rescue efforts.

  • Satisfaction rating: 82 percent

23. Mechanical door repairer: $42K

Do you want to solve problems and give people a sense of safety and security? Mechanical door repairers install and maintain automatic doors in garages, factories, hangars, hotels, offices, retail stores, and other settings. This is hands-on work that draws on mechanical, welding, and electrical skills. Training is often done on the job.

  • Satisfaction rating: 82 percent

24. Kindergarten teacher: $57K

Kindergarten teachers can be a major influence in children's lives. They introduce young students to the formal school environment and support both their mental and social development. That involves teaching social skills and appropriate classroom behavior as well as the basics of reading and math. All public school teachers must be licensed.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

25. Medical and health services manager: $101K

Keeping hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes functioning as productively and efficiently as possible is the role of medical and health services managers. They recruit staff, supervise training, create budgets, and set work schedules. They are responsible for developing policies and processes that meet business needs and improve the patient experience.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

26. Occupational therapy assistant: $62K

For people who struggle with routine tasks of living and working due to injury or disability, occupational therapy assistants can be an immense help. Under the direction of an occupational therapist, these assistants guide patients through therapeutic activities and exercises, demonstrate how to use adaptive equipment such as special eating devices, and monitor and record patients' progress.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

27. Optometrist: $115K

Caring for people's visual health can be extremely rewarding. Optometrists test people's eyes, diagnose vision problems like nearsightedness and astigmatism, and prescribe glasses and other aids. They also offer advice to patients on how to keep their eyes healthy. You'll need a Doctor of Optometry degree as well as a license from your state.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

28. Librarian: $60K

The primary task of librarians is connecting people with information. They select and purchase library materials, develop databases, organize collections, and help people find the resources they need. Some librarians work in public or school libraries; others find opportunities in law firms, government agencies, and museums.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

29. Power plant operator: $82K

Without power plant operators, the world would lack one of its most important resources: electricity. These workers control the machines that generate and distribute power. They keep watch over turbines, boilers, and generators, and they adjust control panels as necessary to keep things running smoothly. Be prepared to undergo drug screening and a background check.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

30. Home entertainment equipment installer and repairer: $40K

You can brighten someone's day by setting up or fixing their television, audio receiver, stereo system, or other electronic entertainment device. This involves interpreting circuit diagrams, adjusting and testing equipment, and replacing defective components. Good communication skills are important, since you'll likely be explaining repairs to customers and teaching them how to use the equipment properly.

  • Satisfaction rating: 81 percent

31. Actuary: $108K

Do you have a knack for numerical analysis? Do you want to have an impact on the way insurance companies operate? Actuaries assess the probability that a negative event like death or a natural disaster will occur and calculate the financial costs that would result if it did. Their work helps insurance companies design policies and set premium rates.

  • Satisfaction rating: 80 percent

32. Music director or composer: $52K

Creating music that conveys an emotion or stirs the soul can be immensely satisfying. Composers write music and lyrics for bands and orchestras to perform, while music directors lead those bands and orchestras during a performance. Either way, you get to be part of a creative process that can bring great personal rewards.

  • Satisfaction rating: 80 percent

33. Petroleum engineer: $138K

How would you like to get paid to travel all over the world and uncover buried treasure? Petroleum engineers locate underground deposits of oil and gas and design new and more efficient ways of bringing those deposits to the surface. A bachelor's degree in petroleum, chemical, civil, or mechanical engineering can get you started.

  • Satisfaction rating: 80 percent

34. Theatrical makeup artist: $76K

In the entertainment industry, makeup artists use cosmetics to transform actors into the characters they're portraying. Artists consult with directors about the look of each role and develop a plan to bring that vision to life. That could mean making a young person look old, making a human look like an alien, or making a healthy individual look mortally wounded. Training is available at many vocational schools.

  • Satisfaction rating: 80 percent

What Leads to Job Satisfaction?

Many factors determine whether we find fulfillment in our work. For instance, satisfaction can come from being involved in work that you find interesting and challenging. It can also come from having some measure of control over the things you do and how you do them. In addition, having the chance to use your talents and grow your abilities can be important.

Many people value work that positively impacts others. (For example, if you're fighting fires, performing surgery, or teaching children, you can see that what you do makes a difference.) In fact, according to some research, performing work that benefits other people is a key predictor of job satisfaction. At the end of the day, you want to know that you've done something that actually matters to someone else.

In the study by the Society for Human Resource Management, respondents rated the following factors as being the most important contributors to job satisfaction:

  • Being treated respectfully
  • Being paid appropriately
  • Having trust among staff and management
  • Having job security
  • Having the chance to apply their abilities and skills
  • Feeling safe in the workplace

How to Make Any Job More Satisfying

Make Any Job More SatisfyingMost of us crave a sense of fulfillment from our jobs, but we don't always know how to go about getting it. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to change careers in order to boost your satisfaction level. Here are three things you can do to make any job more satisfying:

1. Set a new goal.

It can be easy to become complacent and bored at work, so create a new challenge for yourself. For example, maybe that means volunteering for projects that will allow you to grow in your role or incorporate more of what you like to do. Or try seeking out training opportunities that will push you to stretch your skills and learn something new. You might uncover interests or talents that could take you in a new direction.

2. Focus on benefiting another person.

You don't have to be vaccinating orphans in Africa to find satisfaction in your work. For instance, solving a caller's computer problem makes a difference. So does changing the oil in a car to keep a family safe on the road or designing a new mobility aid to give a senior more independence and freedom. Think about how the work you do makes someone else's life better.

You can even add meaning to your work by improving the lives of your colleagues. Offer to help out with a difficult task or just chat nicely with them about their day. Mentoring a new hire can also be a great way to feel good about what you do.

3. Tweak your approach to your job.

Research on job crafting has shown that people can increase their career satisfaction by changing the way they think about their tasks. For example, an insurance agent looked beyond the mundane aspect of processing claims and focused on the fact that she was helping people work through the aftermath of car accidents. In another case, a hospital janitor found great satisfaction in his job by viewing it not as simply mopping and washing, but as contributing to the welfare of patients. You can find meaning and purpose in virtually any job, which will make it more satisfying.

Get Skills for Success

What would you consider to be the most satisfying jobs? Do you have the skills and expertise you need to go after them? It's worthwhile to explore the many benefits of vocational colleges and trade schools. They offer skills-focused training that can help you build a fulfilling future in a huge variety of areas. Get a list of convenient programs in your area by typing your zip code into the search tool below!