Stress at work happens to everyone—it comes and goes, no matter how much you love what you do. Its causes can range from something fleeting, like an unusually heavy workload one week, to something more serious, like a toxic managerial environment.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 40% of American workers say their job is very or extremely stressful. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines occupational stress by days missed from work caused by a reaction to stress (as opposed to illness or injury), and finds it is often highest in white collar industries and service industries. So, working on an Alaskan oil rig can be physically dangerous and cause one kind of stress, while teaching first graders causes quite another.
The most stressful jobs of 2019 are defined by their high stakes (life and death), public accountability, financial cost or the need for quick decision-making.
The most stressful jobs you can have right now
As nerve-wracking it is for someone to go under the knife, it takes a steady and well-trained hand to perform the work. With a median pay of around $250,000 per year, surgeons are well compensated for their high-stakes job—and must be highly prepared to deal with its pressures.
The actual act of surgery often must be performed under intense scrutiny, can have life-altering effects for the patient, and can lead to potential litigation if something goes wrong. Surgeons’ actions can be the difference between life and death, and with that responsibility comes a high stress load.
If you’re in the political business in 2019 at the federal or state level, the spotlight can be hectic, and the choices you make can have severe consequences for the public. Political division between parties, as
Whether it’s a newscaster who has to be on point for the camera or a writer facing a deadline, the fast pace, need for utmost accuracy, and highly public nature of the job makes this job anything but boring. From research, scooping the competition, to the continual need to create content amid the 24-hour news cycles, reporters can deal with a lot of stress, heavy workloads, and lots of traveling and long hours. On top of all that, this is a job of passion—not huge paychecks. While newspaper reporters’ median salary is around $43,000, the broadcast news analyst’s median salary is closer to around $62,000.
The physical demands and life-threatening situations faced by soldiers are some of the highest stressors faced by workers the world over, with long-lasting repercussions from PTSD to physical injuries. In addition, no matter what department you are in, a military career has the potential to affect entire regions—a level of responsibility that is a burden to deal with on a daily basis. Other factors can also make the job stressful: constant travel, time away from family and a support network, and having to uproot family to move depending on assignments.
Wildfires in California have recently created public health and ecological disasters—and firefighters are the ones at the scene, controlling the action and dealing with its after effects. Firefighters can work at different levels. They can be employed to help evacuate buildings on fire locally, but also entire regions under threat. They’re the ones running into danger whose main goal is to keep others safe, which requires a level-head and bravery in emergency situations, and can no doubt lead to stress.
Did someone mention putting out fires? The PR executive is often considered someone who handles public relations disasters—when an oil company spills billions of gallons into the ocean, for example. Fixing an organization’s public image can take many stressful months (sometimes years). Cultivating media relations, monitoring PR campaigns, coordinating interviews, and being a spokesperson for a particular brand, may not seem as high-stakes as fixing an environmental disaster, but these tasks still come with a heavy workload. Mistakes in this job are often highly public, and thus consequential.
Police officers assess danger and threat, and often deal with the public in emergency situations. The fact that almost everyone now carries a small video camera around with them in their phone means the level of scrutiny and criticism the average police officer may face has also heightened over the past few years. This job responsible for public safety has high stakes and high importance—and high stress.
Senior corporate executive
Financial and insurance industries contain some of the most stressed people in the world, and the top spot at any corporation will come with heightened responsibility for decision-making with heavy financial consequences. The corporate executive is beholden to workers, shareholders, and the public and clients they serve. The larger the organization, the heavier the weight of this responsibility. With a median salary for chief executives at around $183,00, this position is well compensated for the stress.
Most people hate public speaking. Try doing it multiple times throughout the day for an audience that may include disinterested and unruly students who need to be disciplined in addition to being educated.
Teaching comes with lots of hidden stressors. Teachers can make a lifelong impact on their students, which is a huge responsibility. Lesson planning and grading can have teachers working late nights. Teachers in low-income communities in particular, who have less support in technology or school supplies in the classroom, have an added stress in helping students reach learning goals. This is a rewarding job, but comes with a lot of stress for the median salary of between $56,000-$59,000 at the elementary level to high school levels.
While it’s not life or death, the catered event often involves a lot of money, a lot of people, and a lot of coordination and timing for events to run smoothly. How else can 200 dinners come out of the kitchen at the exact same time? Catering companies can take on several large-scale events in a single day, too, which requires a lot of planning of staff and resources.
The catering manager, who is one of the key players responsible for making an event run smoothly, guides staff, works with chefs to serve dishes in a tight timeframe, interfaces with the public, and faces direct consequences both financially and through immediate customer feedback when things go awry.