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Published 4/17/2006

According to CNN Money ( Software engineers have the best job in the USA.

That may be less of a surprise than one might think; a recent poll on the site ( suggested that many of us love this field. 58% of respondents were very enthusiastic about their decision to be an engineer.

CNN looked at salaries and job-growth prospects, stress, flexibility, creativity and a sense of how easy it is to enter and advance in each career to select the 50 best jobs in America.

Here's the top ten: Software engineers, College professors, Financial advisors, Human resources managers, Physician assistants, Market research analysts, Computer/IT analysts, Real estate appraisers, Pharmacists, and Psychologists.

I plotted the data and found that there's no correlation between "great jobs" (where #1 on the horizontal axis is software engineering) and salary. Numerous studies have shown this to be true in our industry, but I was interested to find it hold across a wide range of careers.


The average for the top 50 is $80k, which is exactly where software engineers fell. Lawyers were number 30 on the list despite their $154k income. Dentists do well financially ($123k) but are down at number 43. Doctors top the big bucks scale at $248k, yet score only 30 on the "best job" metric.

Prospects for 10 year job growth (using Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers) correlated highly to the top jobs. The black trend line shows this clearly on the following graph.


There's important advice for managers on the CNN site: "Workers who expressed satisfaction at work had substantially better conditions across the board, with easier unscheduled time off, schedule flexibility and better telecommuting options."

No doubt software developers engaged in IT projects or web development can do their work with toes dug deep in the sand at any beach sporting wi-fi, but a lot of embedded people need access to expensive target hardware one is unlikely to find at a Starbucks hotspot.

Perks count. Workers at New Belgium Brewing get a free case of beer a week. If it's distributed on Fridays, I wonder what time employees straggle in Monday?