You may think you have the worst job in America, but unless you routinely work outdoors on the hottest and coldest days at constant risk of severe injury or death for very little pay, you shouldn't complain.
The career guidance website CareerCast.com has evaluated 200 professions across a wide variety of industries, skill levels and salary ranges to determine the best and worst jobs of 2012. To measure each job CareerCast.com used five core criteria: pay, outlook, work environment, stress and physical demands. It gathered data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, trade association studies and other sources.
CareerCast.com broke each category into elements and gave each element points. In the final result, a higher point total means a less desirable job, and a lower score reflects a more desirable one. [More from Forbes: The best and worst cities for jobs this spring]
Despite the risks, low pay and adverse conditions of the worst jobs in America, desperate job-seekers are applying for any open position in these tough economic times. But they might want to think twice before trying to get some of these jobs, which can be not only physically draining but life-threatening.
Lumberjack ranks as the worst job of 2012, thanks to "hazardous working conditions, a likelihood of breaking or losing a limb on the job, and poor hiring prospects because of low demand for lumber due to less construction," says Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast.com and its sister site, JobsRated.com.
Also known as loggers, lumberjacks typically harvest, cut and transport timber to be processed into lumber, paper and other wood products. Lumberjacks perform strenuous labor in hostile environments, and the work is often intermittent and low-paying. The profession, like others on the list, has a history of high unemployment. Midlevel pay for lumberjacks totals $32,114. [More from Forbes: Ten surprisingly low-paying jobs]
Dairy Farmer is the second worst job of 2012, followed by enlisted military personnel.
"Dairy farmers work outdoors in all weather conditions and all hours, with very large animals that step on their feet and break limbs," Lee says. "Plus, they compete with corporate dairy producers so earnings are down."
Military personnel rank third because "their lives are on the line, daily," Lee says. "They are away from home for long stretches of time and with the draw-down, many are being pushed out of the military even though they want to make it a career."
Oil rig worker, which was the worst job of 2011, is now in the No. 4 spot. They put in long, brutal hours, often isolated from family and friends for weeks at a time. [More from Forbes: The happiest and unhappiest industries to work in]
Three of the worst-rated jobs this year are in the food industry. Waiters/waitresses (No. 6), dishwashers (No. 8) and butchers (No. 9) all make under $30,000 a year, on average.
"While it's true that some people are happy washing dishes, waiting tables or slicing meat as a career, job seekers who want to compete for the nation's best jobs need to gain a competitive edge by expanding their knowledge and skill set with a college education," Lee says.
These and many others on the worst jobs list do not even require a high school diploma, whereas a college degree or advanced training is necessary for nearly all of the top-rated jobs.
Many of the best jobs for 2012 also require proficiency in science, math or technology, and they aren't dangerous, physically demanding or highly stressful. [More from Forbes: The 15 best jobs for young people]
Thanks partly to our infatuation with cell phone apps and cloud computing, technical positions have jumped to the top of the lists this year. The No. 1 job, software engineer, requires computer knowledge, skill with numbers and an ability to design and create software. "We are in a technological revolution right now, and there is heated demand for software engineers," Lee says. The profession is considered a low stress one with good pay and a positive hiring outlook.
You might be surprised to learn that Human Resources manager is the third best job for 2012.
"HR managers have risen in rank since many companies are seeing shortages for many specific types of jobs," Lee says. "Those shortages will get worse as more baby boomers retire, which means companies increasingly need HR managers to help them stay competitive." [More from Forbes: 20 careers headed for the dustbin]
Actuary, audiologist and mathematician reappear high in the rankings by providing enjoyable work environments and substantial salaries, but the biggest jumps this year were for financial planners and occupational therapists. Both soared 10 spots from 2011. "This has to do with baby boomers aging," Lee says. "Baby boomers need financial help as they near retirement, and they need therapy to return to their jobs if they're injured."