How many times have you come home from a rough day at work and thought to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough to do this stuff!” On the other hand, how many times have you had a really great day at work and thought, “I get paid for this? Seriously?”
Okay, maybe not as often as you’d like. But the fact is, there are some relatively cushy jobs that rake in the big bucks, while some difficult, dangerous jobs still seem to draw relatively low salaries.
In this article, I’ll discuss eight overpaid and underpaid jobs. My methodology? None. I realize some jobs require a certain level of training and education, while others are merely the victims of supply and demand. While I feel that all the jobs on this list have merit, they simply represent — in my humble opinion — jobs that are paid more or less than they are worth given day-to-day responsibilities and duties. However, the jobs listed are not necessarily a direct comparison to one another.
Overpaid job: Research Veterinarian
Median salary: $95,521
Becoming a veterinarian takes years of education and training, and ensuring the health of man’s best friend is a noble profession. Believe me, no one was more willing than I to fork over $450 when my dog, Sunny, ate 3 lbs of coffee grounds and had to be hospitalized. Yet veterinarians, for the most part, work in clean, well-lit environments with domesticated animals. While they may be on call for emergencies, their hours are relatively predictable and the pay is above average as well. Click here for more info about this job.
Underpaid job: Pest Controller
Median salary: $27,959
Pest controllers also work with animals. Wild ones. They are often forced to squeeze themselves into small, dark spaces to extricate mice, rats, raccoons, bees, bugs, and other creepy-crawlies. They often work with dangerous chemicals or traps, and run the risk of being bitten or stung. If you’ve ever called a pest controller in the wee hours of the morning to take care of a bat infestation in your bedroom (guilty), you know their hours are far from predictable.
Want to learn more? Check out similar jobs in the industry.
7. Hotel Manager vs. Police Officer
Overpaid job: Hotel Manager
Median salary: $95,698
No doubt, the typical hotel manager has a lot on his/her plate. From overseeing the appearance of the hotel property to ensuring there’s enough staffing to meet organizational goals, the hotel manager wears lots of hats. In the end, the main job of the hotel manager is to ensure customers are satisfied and happy. While cantankerous clients are par for the course — who hasn’t been incensed by sluggish room service — hotel visitors may be demanding, but they aren’t usually dangerous.
There are several jobs in this industry worth looking into.
Underpaid job: Police Patrol Officer
Median salary: $50,193
Unlike hotel managers, police officers wear only one hat. Like hotel managers, the job of the police officer is to keep “customers” happy. These “customers” comprise the citizens of the city, town, or village the police officer patrols, and keeping them “happy” means keeping them safe. Police officers routinely deal with unpredictable people — criminals, drug dealers, thieves, and liars — in unpredictable situations.
The cost of poor performance can be quite high, making police work not only one of the most dangerous occupations, but also one of the most stressful and underappreciated. Here are some similar jobs in law enforcement.
6. Corporate Financial Associate vs. Security Guard
Overpaid job: Financial Associate (Corporate) II
Median salary: $108,732
The best corporate financial associates not only have excellent training and knowledge, they also seem to have a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps their investments growing and their organizations in the black. An organization with a superior financial associate may tell you it’s simply not possible to put a price on the best of them. Still, financial associates who aren’t stellar at their jobs seem to fare pretty well too. See if you’ve got what it takes to be a successful financial associate.
Underpaid job: Security Guard
Median salary: $28,696
Security officers also play a large role in protecting an organization’s well being, whether they are guarding buildings, equipment, or information. These behind-the-scenes workers often work long, irregular hours, quite frequently alone without co-workers, in dark, silent buildings. The equipment, technology, or information security guards are protecting are often as integral to the organization’s success as good financial decisions. Nevertheless, the importance of security guards is hardly reflected in their pay.
There are various security-related fields in which you can work.
5. Meteorologist vs. Lineman
Overpaid job: Meteorologist
Median salary: $90,715
Weatherman/woman might be the greatest gig around. Using a combination of science and technology, meteorologists report on the weather. Yes, you need to have charm and charisma in abundance. But do you need to be accurate? Not so much. Americans are obsessed with the weather, but we also understand that it’s near impossible for you to give us a good forecast more than three days out. This may be the one job where you can be 100% wrong, and no one is mad at you.
Underpaid job: Lineman
Median salary: $58,024
When storms and other problems wreak havoc with our electrical lines, linemen are up there making sure we still have access to this week’s episode of Dance Moms, and that the kids’ iPods always have a full charge. Part trouble-shooting, part heavy lifting, the job of lineman requires building new power line poles and towers, working with transformers, and dealing with live power lines. Linemen work in extreme weather conditions, often climbing poles as tall as 100 feet carrying 40 or 50 pounds. While they are well schooled in safety, linemen are constantly dealing with high voltage and are always at risk of electric shock and death.
See if a skilled labor position is right for you.
4. Actor vs. Public School Teacher
Overpaid job: Actor
Median salary: $50,733
We’ve all heard the stories of actors who have had to endure hours in hair and makeup, and those who have risked life and limb doing stunts. We feel sorry for stars whose every move has become tabloid fodder. Still, as the Gershwin tune says, it’s “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” While acting most certainly takes skill and talent, contributes to society, and there are more actors/waitresses than A-list celebrity thespians, the salaries of highly-paid Hollywood actors (which are averaged in with the non-existent salaries of aspiring actors to get the above median) seem a bit out of whack compared to other jobs in the arts & entertainment industry.
Underpaid job: Public School Teacher
Median salary: $50,606
Simply put, teachers hold the key to our future. We leave it up to them to give children the tools and knowledge they need to make the world a better place — often while battling budget cuts, bureaucracy, and overcrowding. We revere teachers enough to make movies that celebrate them. When New York City teacher Erin Gruwell changed the lives of more than 100 inner-city teens through writing, Paramount Pictures brought her story to the big screen with Freedom Writers. Yet Hilary Swank, the actress who merely pretended to be a teacher, earned significantly more than Ms. Gruwell herself. Hmmmmm.
Click here to find out more about careers in education.
3. Set Designer vs. Army Private
Overpaid job: Set Designer
Median salary: $45,824
It certainly takes a creative eye and lots of skill to design the realistic sets we see on the stage, on television, and in the theaters, but when all is said and done set designers get paid more than many to create fantasy worlds. Grumpy directors aside, and with a nod to the fact that work is always, well, work — this doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend the day.
Underpaid job: Army Private (E2)
Median salary: $17,848
Privates in the Army, on the other hand work solely in reality, and it’s often a dangerous reality at that. Whether these hard workers are hoofing it through basic training, taking part in combat, or engaging in special forces, they needn’t be reminded that this is real life, and not a set in Saving Private Ryan.
Check out some other military jobs.
2. CEO vs. Staff Nurse (RN)
Overpaid job: CEO
Median salary: $729,379
A good CEO helps an organization meet its goals, improves profits, makes shareholders happy, and is worth his or her weight in gold. Unfortunately, bad CEOs seem to be worth their weight in gold too. And the really, really bad ones are paid astronomical amounts for the inconvenience of being fired. With this sky-high median salary, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect pay-for-performance. Find out more about other executive and management jobs.
Underpaid job: Staff Nurse
Median salary: $66,095
Like CEOs, nurses are also immune to pay-for-performance. But that’s where the similarity ends. While CEOs spend their days in corner offices, nurses spend their days in hospital rooms where they draw blood, change bedpans, clean up body fluids, change bandages, and deal with lots of grumpy people — both sick patients and stressed-out docs. It’s an important job and, fortunately, one that most don’t do for the money.
1. Pilot vs. EMT
Overpaid job: Pilot (Commerical jetliner)
Median salary: $117,407
Despite recent cuts, pilots are still some of the most highly compensated employees in the transportation industry. While pilots must be highly skilled and trained to deal with both everyday events and emergencies (think Capt. Sully on the Hudson), many of their tasks are automated, they don’t deal with the public on a regular basis, and they get to travel. It may be a bit boring, and the travel may even get old, but it’s not a bad gig for the money.
See what other aviation jobs are available.
Underpaid job: Emergency Medical Technician
Median salary: $30,287
EMTs, on the other hand, have jobs that are anything but boring. Charged with responding to and transporting ill and injured people, often in life-and-death situations, most EMTs unfortunately have just as many devastating stories about loss as they do about saving someone’s life. The job is not only incredibly stressful, it’s also physically demanding. Add in long, irregular working hours, and this is more of a calling, less of a job.
Add Your Own Overpaid/Underpaid Jobs to the List
It’s true that many dirty, demanding jobs seem to draw lower salaries. But as long as the supply and demand balance remains the same for these jobs — as long as there are plenty of people willing to do them — don’t expect salaries to skyrocket. Some people choose their careers based solely on money, never realizing that when you focus on doing what you love, contributing to society, and being proud of what you do, you are rich regardless.
We know we didn’t cover all cushy/underappreciated jobs in this short sample, so tell us what other jobs should be added to the list as other most overpaid or underpaid.
If You’re Underpaid, We Can Help
So are you overpaid or underpaid? Whether you’re interviewing for a new job or you’ve been in your position for years, if you don’t know the answer then you need to do some research. And we can help.
Use our free Salary Wizard to search for your job title, and find out if you’ve been underpaid and need to negotiate a raise. When you find the job you’re looking for, be sure to include your location, education level and years of experience to get a more accurate salary range. Now when you come to the table to get out of the underpaid category, you’ll be armed with the information you need to successfully get a raise.
How much are you worth?