Published 5:23 a.m. ET July 14, 2023
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While it’s true that higher pay comes with its own unique issues, like higher taxes and lifestyle creep, having a high-paying job doesn’t have to come at the cost of high stress. To prove this, we went to the U.S. Department of Labor database to determine five of the best-paying jobs with the lowest stress factors as defined by the labor department’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET).
To come up with our list of top five picks, we analyzed jobs with median annual wages of $100,000 or more along with low stress tolerance scores as defined by O*NET. O*NET ranks stress tolerance on a scale of 0 to 100.
To give you an idea of how this applies to a career, some of the best-paying jobs, such as urologists, anesthesiologists, judges and midwives, can easily clear six figures annually. However, these careers also rank among the highest-stress jobs out there. By contrast, while couriers, street vendors, furniture finishers and models rank among the lowest-stress occupations to make the list, the median wages for these occupations ranged from $31,000 to $43,000 in annual income for 2022.
Below are the top five occupations we found that fell right into a perfect so-called “Goldilocks zone:” high annual pay with low daily stress on the job.
5 low stress high paying jobs
1. Remote sensing scientists and technologists
These scientists are experts at collecting and analyzing data gathered from remote-sensing technologies such as satellites, aircraft, ground-based platforms and geographic information systems (GIS), and then using such data to solve problems in urban planning, homeland security or natural resource management.
Stress tolerance score: 52
Median wages (2022): $107,970
Education requirements: Most of these jobs require a minimum of graduate school (e.g. a master’s degree), with some requiring even more higher education (Ph.D. or J.D.)
2. Environmental economists
These economists research environmental topics and work to spread awareness of the environmental implications of various economic policies. If topics such as soil conservation, endangered species protection, alternative fuel use and pollution strike a chord with your career ambitions, working as an environmental economist could put more money in your pocket as you look out for mother nature on a professional level without the high cost of stress.
Stress tolerance score: 52
Median wages (2022): $113,940
Education requirements: Most of the occupations in this category require some form of graduate school at the very least, with some requiring a Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.
Ever heard someone say that they’ll never use calculus or algebra in their everyday lives? Well, the people who do are making six figures. Today’s mathematicians work to solve problems in a variety of different fields and industries, using mathematical methods to address practical problems in science, business, engineering and other fields.
Stress tolerance score: 56
Median wages (2022): $112,110
Education requirements: Most of today’s occupations in mathematics require grad school or higher
4. Water resource specialists
Water resource specialists (also known as water resource planners) spend their days implementing strategies to address various water resource issues as they relate to water supply and quality, as well as overseeing regulatory and compliance requirements. These specialists work to improve water conservation efforts, deploy clean water initiatives and conduct technical studies of water resources to help determine water treatment options based on their findings.
Stress tolerance score: 59
Median wages (2022): $144,440
Education requirements: Most of these occupations require a four-year degree or higher, making it one of the few low-stress, high-paying jobs that doesn’t require a graduate degree or higher
5. Solar energy systems engineer
If working with clients to meet their various residential, commercial and industrial solar needs sounds like a wonderful day in the sun for you, then a job in the ever-growing field of solar energy systems may be the right career choice for you. These engineers are alternative energy experts who create solar energy development plans for various real-world applications, from single-story homes to commercial office buildings.
Stress tolerance score: 61
Median wages (2022): $104,600
Education requirements: Almost three out of four respondents (73%) to O*NET stated that only a four-year degree was required, making this another great career choice for workers seeking great pay, low stress and a lower barrier of entry than occupations requiring graduate school or doctorate degrees
Top industries for low stress high paying jobs
Many careers in science, technology and mathematics all warrant higher pay and lower stress levels compared to other high-paying occupations such as those in healthcare and legal services. However, many of these low-stress occupations require graduate degrees or higher. For job seekers looking for the perfect balance between pay and stress levels, green career fields such as water resource specialists and solar energy systems engineers are excellent options.
Tips for finding a low-stress job that pays well
You can start by searching the extensive list of occupations based on work styles and stress tolerance provided by O*NET to see if a particular career field matches the higher pay you’re looking for. You can also take your search a step further by browsing popular job boards such as Indeed or Glassdoor and looking through company reviews to see what current and former employees have to say about stress levels and pay in your job field of interest.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How can I find low-stress high-paying jobs in my industry?Online job boards such as Indeed and Glassdoor provide ample data covering specific industries, including salary ranges, employee feedback, reviews and more. Consider seeing what current and past employees have said about their stress levels and income. In addition, if you have other contacts in your specific industry that you can connect with, don’t hesitate to reach out and see if they can point you in the right direction. Tapping into your list of connections on LinkedIn, or even posting an open request for suggestions regarding high-pay, low-stress job recommendations may also lead you to calmer, greener pastures in your particular career field.