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Most and Least Meaningful Jobs

Do you do it for love? Or money?

New data from compensation-research firm Payscale finds that 58% of U.S. employees believe their work makes the world a better place. Many of those people work at relatively low-paying jobs, such as teacher, park ranger, soldier or police officer. A few professionals — mostly doctors — achieve a career twofer by working at jobs they find meaningful while also earning pay well into the six figures.

Payscale recently ranked 100 professions based on those that workers defined as most and least meaningful. Some people, including lawyers, salespeople and financial traders, work at jobs they define as satisfying but not especially meaningful — perhaps because they make a lot of money doing something that doesn’t seem to contribute much to society. The most unenviable employees may be fast-food workers, gas station attendants, baristas and others who feel their low-paying — and often minimum-wage — jobs are no more rewarding emotionally than they are financially.

Others, by contrast, do work they find meaningful, even though they earn considerably less than median pay. Payscale determines the most meaningful jobs by asking thousands of survey respondents whether their job makes the world a better place and counting those who answer “very much so” or “yes.” In all but one of the following jobs, 100% of people surveyed gave one of those two answers.

Here are the 10 jobs that landed at the top and bottom of the Payscale list:

Most Meaningful Jobs

1. Dermatologist (median annual pay: $212,900). Most doctors feel their work is meaningful, with dermatologists beating out other specialists by a few percentage points. Dermatologists may have the edge because they tend to help prevent problems such as cancer, in addition to treating them.

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