Why are They Smiling? They Have the Happiest Jobs in America

Young adult students at a university lecture, back view
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Imagine someone asks you what would make you a happier employee. I’d wager that a fair amount of respondents would say, “More money.” While that is often true, research indicates there is far more than salary that dictates how happy you’ll be at your job.

For me, job happiness has always been about pursuing something I’m passionate about and using my talents to make a difference in the world. In my role as an editor at a consulting firm whose mission is to create better experiences for consumers — and in my role as a freelance writer — I feel like I’ve ticked both boxes.

In general, researchers have found a few common themes that lead to higher overall job satisfaction. Joan Lloyd of JobDig.com cites freedom at work, being listened to and feeling cared for as important factors of job satisfaction; she also hits on “mission-driven work,” which was at the top of my own list. A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management also lists aspects like job security, opportunities to flex one’s skills and the relationship with the boss as important drivers.

There are plenty of jobs that meet these and other happiness requirements, such as stress-free environments, good benefits and a rewarding field (creative and educational roles top the list). However, there are also jobs that just simply can’t satisfy large portions of the American workforce. If you are considering a new job, you will likely want to forge a path within a more satisfying career.

What are those satisfying jobs? For 2017, CareerBliss examined thousands of reviews and data points covering management style, workplace culture, environment and rewards to determine the happiest jobs and unhappiest jobs in America; each job received a “BlissScore” out of 5. Below are the top ten happiest ones.

10. Network Administration

It’s no secret that computers fuel business in the 21st century. Network administrators, who are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these computers, are thus in high demand across all industries and are highly regarded within their companies.

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: About $56,000
  • BlissScore: 3.484 out of 5

9. Senior Engineer

Senior engineer is a broad term and could refer to software, mechanical, systems, electrical or project, to name a few areas. Because these engineers are highly skilled and in high demand, they enjoy great respect within their companies and typically find fulfillment in their day-to-day. The salary below reflects that of a senior systems engineer.

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $101,000
  • BlissScore: 3.507 out of 5

8.  Technical Lead

Technical lead is also a broad term, sometimes called lead programmer or something similar. In general, these are coders who have taken on new responsibilities of project management, enabling them to leverage their coding skills while working with others to solve problems at a larger scale. The satisfaction here likely comes from the nature of the job; as Dan Abel writes for Engineering And Careering, “It’s still in a ‘doing’ role — remaining great at being able to get stuff done and helping others do the same.”

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $90,000
  • BlissScore: 3.539 out of 5

7. QA Analyst

QA analysts, who test software, websites and products in search of problems, scored well with CareerBliss, but they also scored extremely well (second from the top) in a Business Insider survey a few years back. What is it that makes this role so loveable? Business Insider believes it’s a mixture of good bosses and colleagues, as well as work freedom.

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $54,000
  • BlissScore: 3.545 out of 5

6. Directional Driller

Directional drillers use specialized equipment and skills to drill and extract oil. They love what they do so much so that the occupation currently boasts 4.5 stars out of 5 on Indeed.com. Common themes among the reviews include a challenging career field, opportunities for travel and advancement, honing of skills and, of course, good pay.

  • BlissScore: 3.592 out of 5

5. Director of Marketing

With the advent of digital and social communications, marketing is a hot career field right now, and the directors in that field are at the top seat. I spoke with Brad Highland, Director of Digital Marketing at Naked Lime Marketing, to see what he found so appealing about his job.

“I enjoy execution and the positive impact it can have on the client, the team and the employee. This doesn’t happen by chance. Planning, teamwork and creativity are just a few of the ingredients.”

Those ingredients, according to Brad, make the job rewarding for directors and for the teams they lead.

He added, “I enjoy seeing teams come together and achieve common goals. My role is to guide and serve and to challenge individuals and teams to push hard every day toward achieving those goals.”

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $83,000
  • BlissScore: 3.616 out of 5

4. .NET Developer

.NET developers are in highly technical job roles and are intimately familiar with .NET languages and .NET stacks. These developers are likely so happy because they excel in highly specialized roles that are suited to their passions, such as interacting with computers, solving problems and researching information.

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $68,000
  • BlissScore: 3.645 out of 5

3. Graduate Teaching Assistant

Teaching assistants nabbed the top spot on the 2014 Business Insider survey, a sign that these workers continue to be happy year after year. I caught up with Stacie Covington, a former teaching assistant at the University of Dayton, to talk about her experience in the role.

“As a graduate teaching assistant, I presented at academic conferences, co-taught courses with faculty, designed my own class, and taught the class I designed during my second year,” Stacie explained. “I loved having the opportunity to get firsthand teaching experience using my own course theme and establish myself as a professional in the discipline while still working on my graduate degree.”

But the most rewarding aspect? “The camaraderie among my TA cohorts: since we were all serving dual roles as teachers and students in the university, we were not just coworkers, but also classmates and friends.”

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $20,000
  • BlissScore: 3.675 out of 5

2. Recruiter

“I love helping people find the right role for them and watching them grow their career,” says Abigail Smith, who has been a talent acquisition specialist for Forrester Research for several years. According to Abigail, it’s the personal connections she gets to make with people — and her opportunities to help them be happy and successful — that make her happy and successful.

“We just opened a new office in Nashville, and recruiting the right people is crucial for the company and its culture,” Abigail told me. “We have established a unique culture with amazing people here in Nashville, and I gain a lot of happiness from that.”

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $48,000
  • BlissScore: 3.679 out of 5

1. Marketing Specialist

The number one happiest job in America right now is that of a marketing specialist, which is good news for college grads who studied business and marketing. Marketing specialists are often entry-level jobs, which means that fresh-faced workers can find plenty of opportunities to grow within a company and the industry. It also allows for a number of lateral moves, such as internal to customer-facing or traditional to digital.

Travis Sink, an SEO Marketing Specialist at GravityFree, told me why he loves his job so much: “The different types of companies and websites I work with everyday keep work exciting and challenging, while working 100% online gives me the freedom to work from home or on the road when I need to. This allows me to have an exceptional balance between work and home life that you just can’t find in most fields of work.”

Travis also told me that he enjoys the “work-hard, play-hard mentality” and “good friends” he has come across in the industry. As someone who worked with Travis years ago, I’m telling myself he means me.

  • PayScale.com’s reported median salary: about $50,000
  • BlissScore: 3.757 out of 5

Job happiness and satisfaction are not a science, and they are never a guarantee. I subscribe to the belief that you get out of something what you put into it. Still, these ten fields seem to spark some passion and happiness in a good portion of their workforces that can’t be denied. If you’re looking for a similar spark, one of these jobs might be a good place to start.

Timothy Moore works happily as a full-time editor and freelance writer based in Nashville. He thinks his jobs are pretty cool.