Recently Susan Adams, a Forbes columnist, reported on an annual survey done by careercast.com. According to Adams, “to gauge which jobs are the least stressful, CareerCast considered the 200 professions in its database and focused on 11 different job demands that are deemed likely to provoke stress; including travel, growth potential, competitiveness, physical demands, hazards, environmental conditions and risk to one’s own life or to others”.1,2
The list may surprise us! Topping the list as the least stressful job was being a University Professor. This was followed by being a seamstress/tailor and a medical records technician. The full lists of the top 10 least stressful jobs and the top 10 most stressful jobs are seen in the box below.
Adams reports that Tony Lee, CareerCast’s publisher suggests a common feature for the least stressful professions is the issue being able “to answer to oneself”. A second feature quoted for the low stress is the ability to work “9 to 5”.
As you can imagine, the article published in the high profile Forbes has stirred up controversy. Adams herself reports that she has received a multitude of negative comments, especially from university professors themselves. Another Forbes columnist, David Kroll, retorted with an article entitled “Top 10 Reasons Being a University Professor is a Stressful Job”.4 These include issues such as the peer-reviewed nature of performance assessment, the need (in the U.S.) for professors to capture some of their salary through soft money, the diminishing chances of being successfully competitive in capturing federal funding for research, and the underestimation of the effort to mount an excellent teaching program.
In commenting on Adams’ article, Washington Monthly columnist Daniel Luzer explains that the Forbes article fails to discriminate between the stress levels of tenured versus non-tenured professors.5 He stresses “the vast majority—some 73 percent—of college professors are employed on a part-time basis. No health care. No benefits.”
In fact, there has been a barrage of reaction to the Forbes article; mostly suggesting the methodology used by the CareerCast survey is flawed. Check out this video, for example. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/14/professors-least-stressful-job_n_2473943.html. In it professors argue that what is missing in the Forbes analysis is an understanding of complexity of the intellectual work that professors do. Also check out the Twitter feed #RealForbesProfessors.
University professors: overworked and overstressed, or a member of the least stressful profession of 2013? Cast your vote by commenting on the blog, or better yet, please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.