Study: Clergy Happiest, Most Satisfied American Workers

Pastors – perceived to be some of the most under-appreciated and on-demand workers in America – are actually the happiest and most satisfied in their jobs, a new study found.

A survey by the University of Chicago found clergy as the top job for satisfaction among American workers; 87 percent of clergy reported being very satisfied. Firefighters (80 percent) and physical therapists (78 percent) were also the most satisfied in their profession.

"The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others and creative pursuits," said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, in the report.

Other top jobs include education administrators, painters and sculptors, teachers, authors, psychologists, special education teachers, operating engineers, office supervisors and security and financial services salespersons, with more than 60 percent saying they are very satisfied.

On the other end of the satisfaction scale, only 25 percent of roofers said they found their job satisfying. Other low satisfaction jobs according to the study include those held by waiters and servers, laborers (except construction trades), bartenders, handpackers and packagers, freight, stock and material handlers, apparel clothing salespersons, cashiers, food preparers (excluding cooks and chefs), expeditors (customer service representatives), butchers and meat cutters, and furniture and home furnishing salespersons.

"The least satisfying dozen jobs are mostly low-skill, manual and service occupations, especially involving customer service and food/beverage preparation and serving," noted Smith.

In addition to being the most satisified, clergy also out-ranked other American workers as being the happiest (67 percent). Behind clergy were firefighters and transportation ticket and reservation agents, with 57 percent reporting being very happy.

Other jobs ranking high on the happiness scale were architects, special education teachers, actors and directors, science technicians, mechanics and repairers, industrial engineers, airline pilots and navigators, hardware and building supplies salespersons and personal housekeepers.

Another recent study – released by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love and conducted by such top universities as Harvard and the University of Chicago – had also found that people who give and help others on a regular basis feel the happiest.

Job satisfaction increases with prestige or social standings, Smith said, citing previous work. Many of the people reporting high satisfaction and happiness also had jobs respected by society, he added. Still, doctors and lawyers – jobs with a high degree of prestige – did not make the list of the top 12 most satisfied or happy.

Those jobs also involve great responsibility and large opportunities for stress, Smith said in the report.

The least happy American workers were garage and service station attendants (13 percent); roofers (14 percent) and molding and casting machine operators (11 percent). Other less happy workers were construction laborers, welfare service aides, amusement and recreation attendants, hotel maids, pressing machine operators, electronic repairers, kitchen workers, and machine operators.

The survey is the most comprehensive of its kind to explore satisfaction and happiness among American workers, surveying 27,587 people in 2006. A representative sample of Americans were asked questions about how satisfied they were with their jobs and their level of happiness in face-to-face interviews.