10 Surprising Jobs With the Biggest Egos — and 10 With the Smallest

Big ego
SilviaJansen / Getty Images

Have you noticed people in certain jobs always seem a little more confident than the rest of us?

Some people just seem certain they’re doing their best work, even better than everyone else.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are constantly seeking validation and worrying someone will eventually realize they made a serious mistake hiring us.

You might be surprised who actually falls into each category.

PayScale surveyed more than 300,000 workers to examine the job titles with the biggest egos, as well as the differences between generations, genders, education level, company size and income.

The study asked employees to rank how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement, “I am a top performer at my company for jobs similar to mine,” on a scale from one to five.

Those who replied “Strongly Agree” were classified as big ego employees, meaning they have either a “high level of professional confidence, an inflated sense of self, or both.”

Some findings are what we expected:

  • Baby boomers are more confident than millennials — probably because they’ve been working longer.
  • As companies get bigger, employee confidence drops.
  • People with MBAs have bigger egos than any other education level.
  • As pay level rises, so does confidence.

Some findings surprised us, though! Check out these 10 most and least confident jobs:

10 Jobs With the Biggest Ego

People in these jobs showed the most confidence in their skills

1. Private Household Cooks

2. Chief executives

3 (Tie). Farm, ranch and other agricultural managers

3 (Tie). Art directors

5. Airfield operations specialists

6. Floral designers

7. Plant and system operators

8. Chefs and head cooks

9. Bartenders

10 (Tie). Farmes and ranchers

10 (Tie). First-line supervisors/managers of personal service workers

10 (Tie). Sound engineering technicians

10 (Tie). Job printers

10 (Tie). Archivists

The survey showed almost no difference in ego between genders: 44% of men and 43% of women report being top performers. However, men traditionally are more likely to hold many of the positions with the biggest egos.

Did you notice food industry workers in the top 10 three times?

To be fair, private household cooks could be the only person in their position in the company, if they work for themselves. That could explain why a whopping 74% of them report being the best.

Why do 61% of restaurant chefs and 60% of bartenders report being the best in their company?

Well, most of us have met these folks, or at least watched something starring Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsay. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

10 Jobs With the Least Ego

People in these jobs showed the least confidence in their skills:

471. Pharmacists

475 (Tie). Taxi drivers and chauffeurs

475 (Tie). Electronic home entertainment equipment installers/repairers

475 (Tie). Firefighters

475 (Tie). Millwrights (factory machinery installer/repairer)

475 (Tie). Internists (doctor of internal medicine)

480. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

481. Telecommunications line installers and repairers

482. Occupational therapist assistants

483. Graduate teaching assistants

Penny Hoarder staffers who have held the position are unsurprised to see graduate teaching assistants in last place here, with just 15% confident in their superiority.

One writer even told me she hated the forlorn looks of students so badly that she started to bring in fresh-baked cookies to soften the blow of graded tests. Do you think your CEO relies on cookies to break the ice?

Here are a few more — mostly unscientific — observations we had reviewing this report.

Mo’ Money = Mo’ Confidence

There’s a clear correlation between pay and ego. As salary goes up, so does ego at every level.

  • $25K-$50K: 43%
  • $50K-$75K: 44%
  • $75K-$100K: 45%
  • $100K-$200K: 48%
  • >$200K: 56%

This doesn’t surprise us much, considering our culture generally equates pay with worth in the workplace.

If you’re paid more than your co-workers, you’ll probably assume you’re better at your job.

Conversely, a bigger ego could make an employee stronger in salary negotiations. If you’re more confident, you may ask for more money or leave jobs that don’t pay you what you’re worth.

Creatives Have Big Egos

Maybe it’s because we’re a team of writers, photographers and designers, but we were intrigued to see a lot of creative jobs near the top of the list.

In our experience, these are not people comfortable in their own skin.

Maybe they’re reporting higher confidence because they’re actually making a living doing what they love? I can personally attest to a spike in confidence when I sell books, work with a good client or land a new job.

Superiority in creative fields might also be more subjective than in quantitative fields.

Maybe we skew our skills more positively, while someone whose performance is measured with empirical data may see their mistakes more easily.

Here’s one more theory, because I’m awfully invested in convincing you that creative people aren’t all egomaniacs.

Creative professionals often rely on their own judgment and practice to qualify for a job, rather than on a clear hierarchy of professional credentials. It certainly requires confidence.

Quants Aren’t as Cocky As You’d Think

We were surprised to see a lot of highly-skilled trades fall to the bottom of the list.

Scientists and medical specialists, pharmacists, nuclear engineers and emergency management specialists are actually among the least confident professionals, while physical laborers are often among the most confident.

In fact, confidence almost directly goes down as the level of education goes up.

Those holding solely a GED or high school diploma tie with those holding an MBA for how often they report being the best at their job, while MDs report it the least:

  • MBA: 45%
  • GED or high school diploma: 45%
  • Associate degree: 44%
  • Some college: 44%
  • Ph.D.: 43%
  • Juris doctor degree (doctor of law): 42%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 42%
  • Master’s degree (non-MBA): 40%
  • M.D.: 39%

If you’d asked me to guess, I would’ve put medical doctors much higher on the big ego list.

But maybe a certain humility and drive for self-improvement are necessary in these highly-skilled jobs. When you think about it, you probably don’t want your doctor believing they have nothing new to learn.

To see where your job title falls on the list, read the full report here.

Your Turn: Which of these job titles surprises you the most?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).