The 14 Most Stressful Jobs in America

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FILE -This April 18, 2011 file photo shows an air traffic controller working in a terminal radar approach control room at the Atlanta TRACON in Peachtree City, Ga. Air traffic controller furloughs scheduled to kick in on Sunday could result in flight delays of more than three hours in Atlanta, as well as significant delays in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York-area airports, federal officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File-Pool)
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FILE -This April 18, 2011 file photo shows an air traffic controller working in a terminal radar approach control room at the Atlanta TRACON in Peachtree City, Ga. Air traffic controller furloughs scheduled to kick in on Sunday could result in flight delays of more than three hours in Atlanta, as well as significant delays in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York-area airports, federal officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File-Pool)

We all think our jobs are stressful, but having a job on the extreme end of the spectrum can mean strict deadlines, brutal criticism, and even regularly having other people's lives in your hands.

To find out what the most stressful jobs in America are, we reached out to career information expert Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., who compared the stress levels of the 747 occupations identified by the U.S. Department of Labor.

This list is ranked by the stress tolerance for each job, which measures how often employees face high-stress situations. It also includes the consequences of employee errors, which measures how serious it would be if mistakes were made, and the job's time pressure, which measures the strictness of deadlines. All factors are based on a scale from zero to 100 for prevalence in each job, where a higher rating signals high stress levels.

The stress factors are from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

1. First Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

Stress tolerance: 94
Consequence of error: 71.5
Time pressure: 76.3
Average annual salary: $78,270

What they do: Directly supervise and coordinate activities of members of the police force.

2. Mental Health Counselors

Stress tolerance: 94.2
Consequence of error: 57.2
Time pressure: 70.5
Average annual salary: $115,080

What they do: Work with individuals and groups to promote mental and emotional health.

3. Education Administrators

Stress tolerance: 94.2
Consequence of error: 54
Time pressure: 53.8
Average annual salary: $43,950

What they do: Plan, direct, or coordinate research, student administration and services, and other educational activities.

4. Broadcast News Analysts

Stress tolerance: 94.7
Consequence of error: 47.8
Time pressure: 96.7
Average annual salary: $55,380

What they do: Analyze, interpret, and broadcast news received from various sources.

5. Nurse Anesthetists

Stress tolerance: 94.7
Consequence of error: 78.8
Time pressure: 67
Average annual salary: $148,160

What they do: Administer anesthesia, monitor patients' vital signs, and oversee patient recovery from anesthesia.

6. Phlebotomy Technicians

Stress tolerance: 95
Consequence of error: 85.7
Time pressure: 79.8
Average annual salary: $29,730

What they do: Draw blood for tests, transfusions, donations, or research.

7. Pilots, Co-Pilots, and Flight Engineers

Stress tolerance: 95.2
Consequence of error: 76.5
Time pressure: 89.8
Average annual salary: $114,200

What they do: Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo.

8. Air Traffic Controllers

Stress tolerance: 96.2
Consequence of error: 82
Time pressure: 76.8
Average annual salary: $122,530

What they do: Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that planes are safe distances apart.

9. Surgeons

Stress tolerance: 96.2
Consequence of error: 91.3
Time pressure: 82.5
Average annual salary: More than $187,200

What they do: Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, diseases, and deformities.

10. Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Stress tolerance: 96.5
Consequence of error: 89.3
Time pressure: 73.8
Average annual salary: More than $187,200

What they do: Physician specialists with an expertise in pregnancy, childbirth, and disorders of the reproductive system.

11. Dancers

Stress tolerance: 97
Consequence of error: 29.3
Time pressure: 58.7
Average annual salary: n/a

What they do: Dancers use movements to express ideas and stories in performances.

12. Psychiatric Technicians

Stress tolerance: 98.5
Consequence of error: 64.5
Time pressure: 56.5
Average annual salary: $30,050

What they do: Psychiatric technicians provide therapeutic care for patients with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

13. Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers

Stress tolerance: 98.5
Consequence of error: 86
Time pressure: 68.3
Average annual salary: $36,300

What they do: These employees, also called 9-1-1 operators, answer emergency and non-emergency calls. They take information from the caller and send the appropriate type and number of response units.

14. Psychiatric Aides

Stress tolerance: 99.5
Consequence of error: 57.5
Time pressure: 46
Average annual salary: $26,680

What they do: Psychiatric aides help patients who have mental illness and developmental disabilities with their daily activities.


Stress factors are measured by O*NET, with higher scores indicating more stress on the job. Salary and education requirements are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.


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