For most people, jobs are about working to live rather than living to work. Any honest career that pays enough to live a comfortable lifestyle is a good enough job. We're almost conditioned to believe that work is inherently tedious, annoying or frustrating on some level. But it doesn't have to be that way, as these 10 careers prove. (Half of Americans lose their nest eggs when they switch careers. Learn why you should avoid this trap in Transfer Retirement Savings When You Change Jobs.)
- Teacher: No list would be fitting without this profession near the top. From preschool to high school, teachers help to mold young minds by educating them about math, science, history, health, language and the arts. Studies show that over two-thirds of teachers are satisfied with their jobs. And honestly, who among us - of any age - can't still rattle off the name of their favorite teacher growing up? It's a powerful post as both educator and role model that teachers assume, and most of us wish they were paid more substantially because of that. Teachers typically need a college degree in education or the subject in which they wish to teach, and must also be tested and licensed.
- Nurse: These professionals take care of our sick, and are invaluable to the healthcare industry, as any doctor or former patient will tell you. The educational requirements for nurses are rigorous, but there are specific post-secondary institutions that train future professionals.
Those who wish to reach higher income potential and responsibility can get master's degrees and choose to specialize in clinical work, research, administration or teaching. Nursing is a career in high demand, as the Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that the current 7-8% shortage will approach 20% by the year 2015.
- Fitness Instructor: Helping people get healthier, happier and more fulfilled – what could be better? This career obviously implies that one be a fit person with an active & healthy lifestyle going in. The path to this career depends on what level of instruction you're aiming to provide, as there are dozens of potential jobs from sports medicine and weight training to yoga instruction and certified personal training.
- College Administrator/School Principal: As with teachers, over two-thirds of school administrators are satisfied with their jobs. These are the professionals that set the curriculum for schools, manage teachers and staff, and otherwise "steer the ship" at schools and colleges. Many administrators began their careers as teachers, then obtained a Master's Degree or Ph.D. The pay for administrators will rise at higher education institutions, but is competitive as most prep schools as well.
- Financial Planner/Money Manager: This is a career path that requires many years of education and training, but it is certainly satisfying to directly help people manage their financial lives and reach major life goals. Financial planners tend to take a holistic view of the financial health of individuals, families, companies and non-profit groups, working with them on issues related to taxes, investments and estate planning.
Money managers are more likely of the pure-blooded capitalist variety, running mutual funds and managing investments directly. They aim to earn money while managing risk for their clients and, like financial planners, can earn quite a nice living doing so.
- Chef: The ability to prepare and cook food that people really love requires deep levels of training, but top chefs will tell you it's truly a labor of love. The ability to bring friends and family together over great food to share stories and life is an honor to many.
There are culinary schools all over the country that take comers of all ages. Completion of a culinary degree would be followed by assistant/apprentice work in restaurants under the tutelage of a top chef.
- Clergy: Leading others in worship is not a career for everyone. To enter it requires a deep and abiding faith – more than almost any other career, this is one where you must lead by example. Clergy members provide moral and ethical guidance to their members, help people to grow happier and more spiritual in their own lives, and work in the community to make it a better place to live.
Each faith will have its own educational requirements, but expect a long career path in most. For those who have the patience and the calling, however, the length of the journey shouldn't be an issue.
- Physical Therapist: Helping people recover from debilitating injuries, both physical and mental, can be an extremely rewarding way to earn a paycheck. Physical therapists tend to rank very high on most satisfying job surveys, as a good living can be earned by working one on one with people of all ages who literally need a helping hand to raise their quality of life and ease pain.
- Firefighter: As with the previous job, this one requires some physical standards that can't be avoided. This job also comes with high risk; it definitely takes a certain type of person to run into a burning building to prevent fire damage and save lives. But a full 80% of firefighters feel satisfied with their job.
- Author/Artist: I've blended these two broad careers together as they share a similar vein, which is the ability to make a living by expressing the creative side and sharing personal views with others. While many artists and authors work on "technical" projects from time to time, there is always an expression going on when writing, painting, sculpting or designing. There are likely no two identical paths to these careers, so the best advice is simple – if you want to start, just start! If people respond to what you do there will be more opportunities in the future.
The biggest recession in generations brings with it a natural instinct to take a step back and evaluate our lives and career paths. There are so many opportunities to have a satisfying job that nobody should feel that it's too late, too hard or too foolish to try. We spend more than a quarter of our adult lives at work; why not pursue happiness as we spend that time? (We look at the biggest economic declines in the U.S. since the Great Depression, in A Review Of Past Recessions.)