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About the U.S. News Best Jobs Rankings Methodology

There is no ideal way to label "The Best Job," since picking an occupation is personal. Still, the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings offer potential and actual job seekers an intuitive method to compare professions based on components that matter most: the number of openings, the chance to advance and be professionally fulfilled, and the ability to meet financial obligations. The result of our efforts is a list of jobs ranked according to their ability to meet those employment concerns.

The Best Jobs methodology is divided into two components: The first is how U.S. News selects jobs to profile. The second is how those jobs are ranked against each other.

Selecting Jobs to Rank

To identify professions that should be included in the 2013 rankings, we started with data on jobs with the greatest hiring demand, as categorized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In other words, we based our list on the BLS's data on jobs with the highest projected number of openings through 2020. The 100 jobs at the top of our sorted list were then selected for the 2013 Best Jobs analysis and rankings.

Ranking the Best Jobs

U.S. News ranks jobs in an overall "Best Jobs" list and in certain category-specific lists, such as "Best Healthcare Jobs" and "Best Construction Jobs." For each list, occupations are ranked based on our calculated Overall Score. The Overall Score combines several components into a single weighted average score of between 0 and 10.

The Overall Score is calculated from seven component measures: 10-Year Growth Volume, 10-Year Growth Percentage, Median Salary, Employment Rate, Future Job Prospects, Stress Level, and Work-Life Balance. For each measure, jobs receive a score between 0 and 10. (See "About the Component Measures" below for an explanation of how the component scores are calculated.)

Components measures and their weightings in computing the Overall Score:

10-Year Growth Volume (10%)

10-Year Growth Percentage (10%)

Median Salary (30%)

Job Prospects (20%)

Employment Rate (20%)

Stress Level (5%)

Work-Life Balance (5%)

About the Component Measures

1. 10-Year Growth Volume

What is it?

This is the total number of new jobs the BLS expects will be created for an occupation over 10 years. For example, BLS projects the United States will add 143,800 new software developer jobs during the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020.

Why is it important?

An occupation with significant job growth is likely to have many new job opportunities created in the future.

How is this score calculated?

We translate job growth volumes from a number to a score of up to 10 points. Those occupations expected to grow by 500,000 openings or more received the highest score: 10. Occupations with job growth numbers between 200,000 and 499,999 earned 8 points; between 100,000 and 199,999 earned 6 points; lower than 100,000 openings earned 4 points, and any occupations in which numbers were expected to decrease received 2 points.

2. 10-Year Growth Percentage

What is it?

This is the percentage growth for an occupation over the course of 10 years. For example, the BLS estimate of 143,800 new software developer jobs between 2010 and 2020 equates to 27.6 percent job growth during that period.

Why is it important?

The 10-year growth percentage measures how rapidly an occupation is expanding. A high growth rate indicates strengthening demand for this type of worker.

How is this score calculated?

We translate job growth percentages from a number to a score of up to 10 points. Occupations for which the projected growth rate increased by 30 percent or more earned the total possible 10 points; those for which growth increased between 20 and 29 percent earned 8 points; where growth increased between 10 and 19 percent, the job earned 6 points, and where growth increased by 9 percent or less, the job earned 4 points. Any occupations that saw growth decrease received 2 points.

3. Median Salary

What is it?

This is the median salary earned by someone employed in a given occupation, according to BLS.

Why is it important?

Most people prefer higher salaries to lower salaries.

How is this score calculated?

We translate median salary from a dollar amount to a numerical score using the following formula: Salary Score = SQRT(Median Salary) 40. We set a maximum Salary Score of 10 points.

4. Employment Rate

What is it?

The percentage of people in this occupation who are currently employed.

Why is it important?

It's more challenging to get a job in an occupation with high unemployment.

How is this score calculated?

We calculate the employment score by translating unemployment rates, recorded for each profession, to a 10-point scale. For example, if a job's unemployment rate is 4 percent or less, it earned the full possible 10 points; a job with unemployment between 4.1 percent and 6 percent earned 8 points; between 6.1 and 8 percent earned 6 points; between 8.1 and 10 percent earned 4 points, and those jobs with unemployment higher than 10 percent earned 2 points.

5. Future Job Prospects

What is it?

The Job Prospect rating indicates the ease of landing a job in the future, based on the number of openings vs. the number of job seekers. For example, the BLS projects that there will be more database administrator job openings than candidates available to fill those jobs. Correspondingly, "database administrator" has an excellent job prospect rating. By contrast, the BLS projects there will be more lawyers seeking jobs than there will be openings. The occupation of "lawyer" has a low (competitive) job prospect rating.

Why is it important?

If you want to pursue a career in which the BLS projects it will be easier to find employment over the next 10 years, aim for a job with a higher job prospect rating.

How is this score calculated?

We translate the BLS descriptive rating to a score of up to 10 points, so a job that received an "excellent" prospect rating earned 10 points, a job that has a "balanced" rating earned 6.7 points, and a "competitive" rating earned a job a score of 3.3 in that category. Those jobs for which prospects weren't identified on that scale were considered not applicable for a prospect score.

6. Stress Level

What is it?

This rating indicates the amount of day-to-day stress someone might experience while working in an occupation.

Why is it important?

The level of stress an individual feels on their job can lower their quality of life, negatively affect their health, and alter their opinion of the work they do.

How is this score calculated?

Based on interviews and extensive research, our editors assign qualitative stress-level ratings to each occupation. These ratings are intended to represent the average stress level for the occupation, and it's important to note that actual stress varies significantly among individuals and their specific job circumstances.

These qualitative stress level ratings are translated on a 10-point scale. A stress level rating of "High" translates to 2 points (the lowest score), a rating of "Above Average" translates to 4 points, a rating of "Average" translates to 6 points, "Below Average" to 8 points, and "Low" translates to 10 points (the highest score).

7. Work-Life Balance

What is it?

The Work-Life Balance rating captures how much any profession will affect lifestyle.

Why is it important?

Finding the appropriate balance between career, ambition, health, family, and leisure activities can improve our performance on the job.

How is this score calculated?

Based on interviews and an assessment of literature, U.S. News editors assign qualitative work-life balance ratings for each occupation. Similar to stress level, it's important to note that work-life balance may vary significantly among individuals and with specific job circumstances.

Our qualitative work-life balance ratings are translated to scores on a 10-point scale. A rating of "High" translates to 10 points (the highest score), a rating of "Above Average" translates to 8 points, a rating of "Average" translates to 6 points, a rating of "Below Average" translates to 4 points, and a rating of "Low" translates to 2 points (the lowest score).

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