We all want to get paid more, but this is usually balanced out by concerns over working longer hours and the overall stress of a job. That's why many of us can envy a surgeon making hundreds of thousands a year, but still balk at the thought of having someone bleeding out on a table or all the years of schooling needed to make it to that point. In this article, we'll look at some of those jobs that we'd gladly take for the pay, but run away screaming from the stress. All of the salary information was taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Stock Broker: $70,190
We'll start with a controversial one – the stock broker. Stock brokers are well paid, there is no arguing that. That said, they also have to be constantly on the ball in one of the most chaotic work environments in the world. If you have ever had stress over investing your own money, imagine how it would feel investing other people's money and being accountable to them when the market decides to take a huge dive. Not only that, your job security is correlated with the market and your personal record. If the market goes down and takes your client's money with it, you may be looking for a new job. (To learn more about what it takes to be a stock broker, check out: Evaluating Your Stock Broker.)
Somewhere in the dawn of time, our ancestors learned that fire burned and big fire burns more, so we've gained a healthy instinct for running away from fire. Unfortunately, though, we also want to help get people out of burning buildings, so we train up people to go against instinct and run into them. The stress factor of being a firefighter is difficult to peg because there may not be a major fire every day, but there is always the threat of one. Not only that, firefighters have other roles that lead to stress, such as reporting to accidents and attempting to revive people after a medical emergency.
Detective or Criminal Investigator: $68,820
Perhaps only the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, but police officers – particularly detectives and criminal investigators – have to see it every day. Perhaps the biggest challenge for detectives is not to carry work home with them in that they deal with the worst of the worst day in and day out. Although these situations make for riveting viewing as a TV drama, spending your waking hours seeing, analyzing and being in crime scenes is beyond what most people can handle.
Soldier: $26,000 (base), $53,960 (includes allowances, benefits)
Soldiers do not get paid much at all when you consider that they go into active combat situations where there is the possibility of being shot or blown up. Aside from the physical price paid, there is the psychological price in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder. A soldier works in high-stress and highly dangerous situations and then is faced with additional problems when trying to adjust to normal life when the tour is done.
Surgeon: $225,390 (Mean)
The money is huge in surgery, making it a very competitive field to get into. However, the years of education alone are stressful enough to cause breakdowns, and the job at the end is several levels above that. When you are a surgeon, you don't deal with colds, scrape or bumps. You are dealing with injuries, diseases or deformities that require surgery. The hours are all over the place and the chances are good that, if the phone rings in the night, you'll be responsible for keeping a patient alive. Being a surgeon is one of those jobs where screwing up means a lot more than getting chewed out by a supervisor.
The Bottom Line
This is just a sampling of jobs that may seem high-paying until you look at the price to be paid in stress. There are, of course, many others like nursing, selling homes, teaching and so on that can make equal claims to being a lot of stress for the money. With jobs like these, most people get into them for reasons other than money, so it is wrong to begrudge them the pay check. When you factor in the stress, they've earned it.