The Worst Jobs for 2012

The Worst Jobs in America
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The job market is making a clunky recovery and there are some bright spots, as was evident in the Best Jobs of 2012 list from But with the good comes the bad, hence the 10 Worst Jobs for 2012. CareerCast evaluates 200 professions to come up with the best and worst lists, adding and subtracting a few jobs from the 200 list each year in keeping with the times. So what makes a job one of the worst? High stress, high physical demands and a tough or dangerous work environment, according to CareerCast
Source: CareerCast|| Photo: PM Images | Stone | Getty Images

The job market is making a clunky recovery and there are some bright spots, as was evident in the Best Jobs of 2012list from CareerCast.

But with the good comes the bad, hence the 10 Worst Jobs for 2012. CareerCast evaluates 200 professions to come up with the best and worst lists, adding and subtracting a few jobs from the list of 200 each year.

So what makes a job one of the worst?

High stress, high physical demands, and a tough or dangerous work environment, according to CareerCast. Several of the worst jobs in America involve working “in physically demanding, precarious, low-paying professions with a weak hiring outlook,” said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast’s 2012 Jobs Rated Report.While many college graduates remain unemployed, causing many to question the value of a college degree, the value is reflected in the lists: Nearly all of the “best” jobs require a college degree and many of the “worst” don’t even require a high-school diploma.

The food-service industry always ranks pretty low, given the tough working conditions and low pay, but the industry was even harder hit by the recession, when many people cut back on going out to eat.

“While it’s true that some people are happy washing dishes, waiting tables or slicing meat as a career, job seekers who want to compete for the nation’s best jobs need to gain a competitive edge by expanding their knowledge and skill set with a college education,” Lee said.

The one new job that made the worst list this year was Enlisted Military Personnel for obvious reasons — a high-stress job in often dangerous conditions.

Click ahead to find out what the 10 Worst Jobs for 2012 are.

By Cindy Perman
Posted: 10 April 2012

Note: Pay levels are “midlevel income”

10. Broadcaster
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2012 pay: $27,324 New to the list for 2012 The news business has always been high stress for comparatively low pay, which makes it a shoe-in for the “worst” list. Add to that the changing digital times and you’ve got your No. 10 worst job – broadcaster, which refers specifically to on-air talent for radio and TV, not the production team. (Though I think we can all agree, the production team doesn’t exactly have it easy either!) The broadcast industry has gone through a lot of shrinkage as much o
Photo: Grafissimo | Vetta | Getty Images

2012 pay: $27,324
New to the list for 2012

The news business has always been high stress for comparatively low pay, which makes it a shoe-in for the “worst” list. Add to that the changing digital times and you’ve got your No. 10 worst job — broadcaster, which refers specifically to on-air talent for radio and TV, not the production team. (Though I think we can all agree, the production team doesn’t exactly have it easy, either!)

The broadcast industry has gone through a lot of shrinkage as much of the news is moving to digital formats including online or mobile, which has shrunk demand for broadcasters as well as salaries and compensation. Many radio and TV stations are relying heavily on young talent and interns (i.e., lower pay) as opposed to experienced broadcasters.

“You get new college graduates that will do anything to work in the industry,” said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast’s 2012 Jobs Rated Report. “We get a lot of anecdotal information that there are year-round interns who never leave,” he said. “They’re essentially working for minimum wage, replacing experienced broadcasters.”

9. Butcher
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2012 pay: $29,156 2011 pay: $29,150 Change in pay: flat Independent butchers are a dying breed. What’s happening in the industry is that all of the butchering for big supermarket chains is being centralized, Lee said. That has automatically reduced the need for the number of butchers. It’s also made meat cheaper at the grocery store than at independent butcher shops, which, during the recession, was a killer for independent butchers. “If people can buy beef at the supermarket for less, there was
Photo: Dag Sundberg | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

2012 pay: $29,156
2011 pay: $29,150
Change in pay: flat

Independent butchers are a dying breed. What’s happening in the industry is that all of the butchering for big supermarket chains is being centralized, Lee said. That has automatically reduced the need for the number of butchers.

It’s also made meat cheaper at the grocery store than at independent butcher shops, which, during the recession, was a killer for independent butchers.

“If people can buy beef at the supermarket for less, there was no need to go visit a butcher,” Lee said. “It’s not a strong profession.”

8. Dishwasher
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2012 pay: $18,044 2011 pay: $18,053 Change in pay: flat Not only were people looking for meat on the cheap during the recession but they were going out to eat a lot less, which was a killer for restaurants and anyone working in them from the dishwashers in the back to the greeters, servers and busboys in the front. Dishwasher was always a contender for the worst list, with low pay and tough working conditions. Add to that the fact a lot of dishwashing has become automated and the job outlook for
Photo: Granger Wootz | Blend Images | Getty Images

2012 pay: $18,044
2011 pay: $18,053
Change in pay: flat

Not only were people looking for meat on the cheap during the recession but they were going out to eat a lot less, which was a killer for restaurants and anyone working in them, from the dishwashers in the back to the greeters, servers and busboys in the front.

Dishwasher was always a contender for the worst list, with low pay and tough working conditions. Add to that the fact a lot of dishwashing has become automated and the job outlook for dishwashers is bleak, as well.

7. Meter Reader
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2012 pay: $35,171 2011 pay: $34,171 Change in pay: +3% This refers to the men and women who read the meters for utility companies including gas and electric, another dying profession as more companies move to automate meter reading. So even though the average pay for meter readers rose 3 percent in the past year, the job outlook landed it solidly on the 2012 “worst jobs” list. “This is one of those jobs that quite possibly in five to 10 years won’t be around anymore,” Lee said. “The need for met
Photo: PNC | Brand X Pictures | Getty Images

2012 pay: $35,171
2011 pay: $34,171
Change in pay: +3%

This refers to the men and women who read the meters for utility companies including gas and electric, another dying profession as more companies move to automate meter reading. So even though the average pay for meter readers rose 3 percent in the past year, the job outlook landed it solidly on the 2012 “worst jobs” list.

“This is one of those jobs that quite possibly in five to 10 years won’t be around anymore,” Lee said. “The need for meter readers is evaporating.”

Some energy companies, for example, have automated their meter-reading process and let everyone who worked in that department go, Lee explained.

6. Waiter/Waitress
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2012 pay: $18,088 2011 pay: $18,100 Change in pay: flat The pay and job security have always been bad for waiters and waitresses. Once you reach a certain pay level, restaurants don’t necessarily want to keep giving you raises. They’re rather hire someone new for a lower hourly wage. Add to that the direct hit the food-service industry took during the recession when many people cut back on going out to eat, and waitstaff lands firmly on the “worst” list. “The competition is terrible. The physica
Photo: Glow Cuisine | Getty Images

2012 pay: $18,088
2011 pay: $18,100
Change in pay: flat

The pay and job security have always been bad for waiters and waitresses. Once you reach a certain pay level, restaurants don’t necessarily want to keep giving you raises. They’re rather hire someone new for a lower hourly wage.

Add to that the direct hit the food-service industry took during the recession when many people cut back on going out to eat, and waitstaff lands firmly on the “worst” list.

“The competition is terrible. The physical demands are terrible. The pay is terrible,” Lee said. Plus, the outlook is terrible. “It’s difficult for waiters and waitresses to maintain jobs for a long time,” he said.

5. Newspaper Reporter
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2012 pay: $35,275 2011 pay: $34,275 Change in pay: +3% Newspaper reporter has always been a high-stress, low-pay job but add to that the explosion of online and mobile news and newspaper reporters make a hard landing on the “worst” list.“The newspaper industry is going through a full retrenchment. There are mergers, bankruptcies and layoffs everywhere,” Lee said. “Point to a newspaper that hasn’t had layoffs – not in this country!” he said. With the move to digital, the pressures have mounted on
Photo: Spencer Grant | Photo Researchers | Getty Images

2012 pay: $35,275
2011 pay: $34,275
Change in pay: +3%

Newspaper reporter has always been a high-stress, low-pay job, but add to that the explosion of online and mobile news and newspaper reporters make a hard landing on the “worst” list.

“The newspaper industry is going through a full retrenchment. There are mergers, bankruptcies and layoffs everywhere,” Lee said. “Point to a newspaper that hasn’t had layoffs – not in this country!” he said.

With the move to digital, the pressures have mounted on newspaper reporters. “They are now required to tweet and do video as well as write articles,” Lee said. “They’re asked to do much more for less — and the pay is not good. “

4. Oil Rig Worker
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2012 pay: $32,132 2011 pay: $32,143 Change in pay: flat You might be surprised to find any job in the booming oil industry on a “worst” list but these guys are the entry-level spot on the oil totem pole. Their jobs are dangerous: working on oil rigs, often far away from home or offshore, in bad weather and dangerous working conditions. And they don’t share in the wealth of the industry because they are typically paid very low.“It’s clearly the most dangerous job in the industry,” Lee said. “The
Photo: Tim Matsui | Getty Images

2012 pay: $32,132
2011 pay: $32,143
Change in pay: flat

You might be surprised to find any job in the booming oil industry on a “worst” list but these guys are the entry-level spot on the oil totem pole. Their jobs are dangerous: working on oil rigs, often far away from home or offshore, in bad weather and dangerous working conditions. And they don’t share in the wealth of the industry because they are typically paid very low.

“It’s clearly the most dangerous job in the industry,” Lee said. “The fatality rate is very high.”

One bright spot is this category climbed up three notches on the list, after being the absolute worst job in America for two years running.

“With the surge in the energy industry, the hiring outlook improved enough to nudge them higher,” Lee explained.

3. Enlisted Military Personnel
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2012 pay: $36,261 New to the list for 2012 Enlisted military personnel is new to the list but not because it suddenly became a tough job. It was hard to get solid data on the profession, according to CareerCast. “It’s incredibly dangerous. You’re on the front lines and you’re responsible for others. The stress level is extremely high,” Lee said. Plus, the hiring outlook is now weaker than it was at the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s dangerous and doesn’t pay well but many people
Photo: Mario Tama | AFP | Getty Images

2012 pay: $36,261
New to the list for 2012

Enlisted military personnel is new to the list but not because it suddenly became a tough job. It was hard to get solid data on the profession, according to CareerCast.

“It’s incredibly dangerous. You’re on the front lines and you’re responsible for others. The stress level is extremely high,” Lee said.

Plus, the hiring outlook is now weaker than it was at the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s dangerous and doesn’t pay well but many people thought, ‘Well, at least it’s a career where I can retire young,’” Lee said. “Now, you can’t even guarantee that you’ll maintain your job, nevermind retire from it,” Lee said.

2. Dairy Farmer
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2012 pay: $33,119 2011 pay: $32,114 Change in pay: flat Dairy farmers weren’t in the 10 worst last year so they not only shot into the bottom 10 but they debuted at No. 2. First, it’s a low-paying job. Second, it’s very dangerous working with large animals such as cows. “Moving the animals, they could their feet crushed,” Lee explained. “And there are more fatalities in dairy farming than ever before.” Plus, the working conditions are tough – not only the obvious manure issue (though talk to a d
Photo: Getty Images

2012 pay: $33,119
2011 pay: $32,114
Change in pay: +3.1%

Dairy farmers weren’t in the 10 worst last year so they not only shot into the bottom 10 but they debuted at No. 2.

First, it’s a low-paying job. Second, it’s very dangerous working with large animals such as cows. “Moving the animals, [farmers] could get their feet crushed,” Lee explained. “And there are more fatalities in dairy farming than ever before.”

Plus, the working conditions are tough — not only the obvious manure issue (though talk to a dairy farmer and he’ll tell you he doesn’t even smell it anymore) but also the fact that you have to get out there whether it’s 10 degrees or 100 degrees.

And the job outlook is tough: Dairy farming is increasingly becoming a corporate business, which is squeezing the little guys, Lee said.

1. Lumberjack
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2012 pay: $32,144 2011 pay: $32,109 Change in pay: flat Lumberjack has always been one of the worst jobs – like dairy farmers, you’re working outside whatever the weather, in dangerous conditions, with low pay in an industry that took a huge hit during the recession (hello housing bust) and is increasingly being automated. That being said, you’ll find a lot of lumberjacks who say they do it for their love of the outdoors and that they take great pride in their work. “I talked to one lumberjack w
Photo: AP

2012 pay: $32,144
2011 pay: $32,109
Change in pay: flat

Lumberjack has always been one of the worst jobs — like dairy farmers, you’re working outside whatever the weather, in dangerous conditions, with low pay in an industry that took a huge hit during the recession (hello housing bust) and is increasingly being automated.

That being said, you’ll find a lot of lumberjacks who say they do it for their love of the outdoors and that they take great pride in their work.

“I talked to one lumberjack who said, ‘I love my job! I’m outdoors,’” Lee explained. “I said, ‘But isn’t it dangerous?’ He replied: ‘Oh sure, I’ve broken my leg twice, my collar bone and lost my pinky finger. But it’s no big deal. Just part of the job,’” Lee said.

“How many of us would give up our pinky finger for our job?” Lee quipped.