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"If you account for my access to academic journal subscriptions, my salary is really like half a million dollars."
January 5, 2013 12:32 PM   Subscribe

This past Thursday, Forbes Magazine published a pair of articles: The Most Stressful Jobs of 2013 and The Least Stressful Jobs of 2013, the latter of which began with the sentence: "University professors have a lot less stress than most of us." 300+ outraged comments (and thousands of sarcastic #RealForbesProfessor tweets,) later they've added a retraction, and linked to a blog post that takes A Real Look at Being a Professor in the US.

Gawker has more.
posted by zarq (68 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
More:
Daniel Drezner's blog at Foreign Policy: Some realkeeping on academia and stress.
The Boreal Beetle: Stress-free?
posted by zarq at 12:34 PM on January 5, 2013


I look forward to the flood of retractions after the seamstresses, medical records technicians, jewelers, lab techs, audiologists, dieticians, hairstylists, librarians and drill press operators start writing in.
posted by box at 12:39 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I learned a long time ago that everyone considers his or her job to be stressful.
posted by yclipse at 12:39 PM on January 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Hah, I saw this, and laughed bitterly inside. I'm glad the commenters took her up on this.
posted by carter at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most ridiculous part of the whole debacle is that the author (at least initially) was refusing to take responsibility for the article's stupidity, basically blaming CareerCast for publishing inaccurate information and completely overlooking the fact that she didn't bother to check additional sources before writing her article.
posted by asnider at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


He was a seamstress by day, drill press operator by night. On weekends, he moonlighted as a university professor. He was always very relaxed.
posted by philip-random at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2013 [22 favorites]


The Forbes Method:

1) Form Opinion
2) Write Article
3) Receive Enraged Feedback
4) Research
posted by tommasz at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2013 [35 favorites]


The Forbes Method

So, basically peer-review, then?
posted by R. Schlock at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2013 [22 favorites]


To gauge which jobs are the least stressful, CareerCast considered the 200 professions in its database and focused on 11 different job demands that it deemed likely to provoke stress, including travel, growth potential, competitiveness, physical demands, hazards, environmental conditions and risk to one’s own life or to others’.

Kind of weird methodology since the scores can be subjective depending on the person. "Meeting the public" is scored from 0-8. I'd assign that a totally different score than would an extrovert. Maybe I can't find it, but I don't see where the area scores are for the ranked jobs. Professors have to interact with a lot of people - is that considered more or less stressful than PR executives' interaction with others?

I'd like to compare the most/least stressful job lists with self-reported surveys, if they exist. Still wildly subjective, but more interesting IMHO.
posted by desjardins at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, Forbes (HuffPo, Buzzfeed, etc) and their well-researched lists...
posted by growabrain at 12:44 PM on January 5, 2013


The Forbes Method

So, basically peer-review, then?


Eventually.
posted by tommasz at 12:46 PM on January 5, 2013


The Forbes Method:

1) Form Opinion
2) Write Article
3) Receive Enraged Feedback
4) Research


1) Employ hacks
2) Create 'content'
3) Generate page views
4) Sell ads
5) Go to 1)
posted by carter at 12:53 PM on January 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Lab tech is wonderfully unstressful until you start dealing with people who don't understand the vast difference between finding the true answer and finding the answer they want.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Seems like Forbes Journalist should now take the coveted least stressful spot, considering they clearly dont have to actually work.
posted by spicynuts at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


One key thing to notice about the phrase "peer review" is the faint implication of an idea that before something can be peer reviewed it has to be actually viewed by someone first. As such, I propose we think of the Forbes method as a form of peer view rather than peer review.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2013


The FP article in the first comment here is behind a login, but 'realkeeping'? Really? That's one ugly made up word.
posted by biffa at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This piece was really obvious silliness and fluff, that should have gone completely ignored, except that it plays directly into the most infuriating and common stereotype that professors have to battle, the problem of most of their work being invisible (and somewhat incomprehensible) to outsiders. Everybody's been in school, so they all know what it means that professors teach a few hours a week, and everything else is kind of hazy. In fact classroom time for many is the smallest slice of their schedule.

If I thought it was intentional, I'd call this a masterful piece of trolling.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:00 PM on January 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


The FP article in the first comment here is behind a login

You can thatkill by offturning your browser's javascript for a minute. I seeforonecan't why you'd realkeepingobject. I guess some people fakekeepingprefer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:04 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


it plays directly into the most infuriating and common stereotype that professors have to battle ...

Also, somewhat ironically, it embodies another stereotype that stressed out academics are often primed to respond to: students who uncritically incorporate crappy online sources into their research papers.
posted by carter at 1:07 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


CareerCast didn’t measure things like hours worked

This seems like a fundamental flaw.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:09 PM on January 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


If I thought it was intentional, I'd call this a masterful piece of trolling.

I sincerely thought it was satire on the first read through. It could with no modification whatever have been an Onion article.
posted by brennen at 1:10 PM on January 5, 2013


(And, don't get me wrong, I know full well that the academic life is often a sweet gig. My friends who stuck it out through masters and PhD are well paid, generally respected, and living interesting lives full of social opportunities. But even in the most cherry position, "low stress" is not exactly what comes to mind.)
posted by brennen at 1:13 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that creating an accurate list of most stressful/ least stressful jobs would be impossible, because it's so difficult to quantify stress, and it's different for everyone. Is it working long hours? Is it having people yell at you? Is it that any mistakes you make have severe consequences? I have been working in my field for nearly a decade, at several different jobs but with similar job descriptions. Whether a job has been stressful for me has always had much more to do with the particular office, bosses, and coworkers rather than the field in general. Of course, this is from my bias as a 'creative professional'-- there are some jobs that I imagine are almost always stressful (EMS, firefighter, I am sure there are a couple dozen jobs I could name here) no matter how good your boss and coworkers are.
posted by matcha action at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


My heart goes out to those poor, put-upon corporate executives, pulling down high six figure or seven figure salaries, able to retire after putting in long hours for five years. It's a stressful job, putting pressure on your minions to do more with less, cutting costs by laying off entire departments, taking a large bonus because of the amount of "capital expense" you've saved over the course of the year, and yelling at people.

The boat, vacation home, luxury cars, month-long vacations... they don't come close to making up for that hard work.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Academic work is unique in that it's hard on both introverts and extroverts. It features both public speaking in front of an audience of 20-100 people several times a week and many hours spent alone in the library or the lab. Certainly not the most stressful job in the world, but guaranteed not to be stress free for anyone.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Teaching, at least at the primary level, can be very low-stress or very high-stress depending on a huge number of factors, including class size, class composition, testing schedule, co-worker relationships, principal relationship, parent relationships, and to a large extent the amount of pressure the teacher puts on him- or herself.

I've always considered it the most low-stress job I've ever had (I do worry about how my students are doing, but in my situation it's totally on me with very little outside pressure; a problem I have control over doesn't cause me much stress), but this year is a totally different story due to a couple of the above factors.

I imagine it's the same for lots of people. (I will say, though, that summers are very, VERY low-stress.)
posted by Huck500 at 1:27 PM on January 5, 2013


Least Stressful Job of 2013: Forbes writer

Most Stressful Job of 2013: Forbes writer whose work gets read by people who know something about the subject.

Next, Susan Adams will tell you why your parenting style is wrong.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


A slightly different take: Top 10 Occupations to Most Likely Attract Psychopaths with journalism in at #6
posted by Lanark at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wuah ha ha I have a Most Stressful Job. Where is my prize? There better be prizes, Forbes.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 1:36 PM on January 5, 2013


No, no, no. Stress was thought of as something that chief executives got. But it isn't. It's something their underlings get.

The more independent action you have, the less someone else determines your fate, the higher up the pecking order, the greater your status, the nearer the top of the hierarchy - the LOWER your stress.

The more you have to do what you're told, that you lose out to people above you, that your future is dependent on the whims of others - the HIGHER your stress.

The Ecology of Stress:
The worst work-related stress, Pickering says, is caused by jobs that offer people little power over their daily activities. “It’s the control that seems to matter the most,” he notes. “You might have a lot of work, but if you’re able to control the rate at which you have to deal with it, you’re okay. It’s when you feel helpless that it gets bad. You drop into a depressed state. You have much higher cortisol levels.”

This sets up a hierarchy of stress: You get hit much harder than your boss. Sure, the high-priced lawyers and Wall Street boys may feel like they’re getting killed by stress—and sometimes, if they’re not in control of their work flow, they are. But they can compensate with roomy apartments, vacations to the Cayman Islands, and hot-stone massage treatments. Far worse off are people in low-paying, low-status jobs.
posted by alasdair at 1:47 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think drill press operator would be a very stressful job for me, personally.

I'd probably spend most of my work day thinking "Today's the day I don't drill my hand. Today's the day I don't drill my hand. Today's the day I don...argh! Dammit!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:51 PM on January 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Forbes' article (together with the accompanying information and photographic treatment) seems to be largely cribbed from Careercast's 2012 list - here are their least stressful jobs of 2012 for example - and the most stressful. College professor seems to have snuck in there to replace furniture upholsterer while the latter was napping.
posted by rongorongo at 1:52 PM on January 5, 2013


I would think any job where you work doesn't carry over into the next day would be the least stressful, but outside of the service industry, I can't think of any. And I'm sure other aspects of a service industry job make up the difference, starting with the wages.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2013


rongorongo: "College professor seems to have snuck in there to replace furniture upholsterer while the latter was napping."

Story of my freakin' life. Those damned furniture upholsterers get to nap while I end up doing their work for them.
posted by Superplin at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there's no question that academia is stressful now - if you can even get a job. But it wasn't always thus. I'm acquainted with a cohort of professors who got their degrees in the late sixties and got tenure in the seventies at a second-tier state college. Their lives have been enviable - high-prestige jobs in a place with a low cost of living, not to mention lifetime benefits negotiated in a much more generous time. And the "publish or perish" thing doesn't really apply as much at that level, and they really did take summers off to travel or relax - unless they chose to teach extra courses for extra money. One of these folks (whom I happen to be related to) strongly encouraged me to go for a philosophy Ph.D. in the early nineties, under the illusion that I would graduate and get myself a life as nice as his. All I can say is thank goodness I didn't - the people my age who went that route ended up just as unemployable as they were after undergrad, only six or seven years older.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:05 PM on January 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it working long hours? Is it having people yell at you? Is it that any mistakes you make have severe consequences?

How about all three, along with a clueless yet micro-managing boss who also keeps trying to force through 24/7/365 unpaid on-call? Sigh.

Some days, getting shot at seems like it'd be a nice break. At least you get to shoot back.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2013


Whatever to these chumps. I'll take anyone doing temp work and looking for a permanent role anywhere to outstress anything listed in this article. Take all the same stress you'd get at a real job, throw away ANY benefits, time off, sick days, etc.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My heart goes out to those poor, put-upon corporate executives, pulling down high six figure or seven figure salaries, able to retire after putting in long hours for five years. It's a stressful job, putting pressure on your minions to do more with less, cutting costs by laying off entire departments, taking a large bonus because of the amount of "capital expense" you've saved over the course of the year, and yelling at people.

This is as ignorant and cliched as assuming professors have it easy.
posted by smoke at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just popped in to say that I was in grad school with the author of the "Real Look at Being a Professor..." link. I read her blog post yesterday and couldn't even bring myself to read the Forbes piece.

Lots and lots of jobs are stressful. Why does everything have to be a competition? How about trying to find ways to make everyone's working lives less stressful? How about that, Forbes?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've always felt that being a research professor was really about trying to do three full time jobs at once:
teaching
grant writing
research

with a part time job on the side: committees and other administrative stuff.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:41 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a graduate student whose life is a steady stream of reading and writing that I feel kind of guilty I haven't already completed, punctuated by long stints of time isolated in the rain forest in Cote d'Ivoire, and who doesn't see this sort of thing letting up if I ever make it to professor, my two favorite assertions in that article were "At the end of the day, people in these professions can leave their work behind, and their hours tend to be the traditional nine to five," and "Working conditions tend to be cozy and civilized and there are minimal travel demands."
posted by ChuraChura at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is as ignorant and cliched as assuming professors have it easy.

it may have been partially a joke but i am not sure
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2013


ABOUT ME
Since Forbes hired me in 1995 to write a legal column, I've taken advantage of the great freedom the magazine grants its staff, to pursue stories about everything from books to billionaires. I've chased South Africa's first black billionaire through a Cape Town shopping mall while admirers flocked around him, climbed inside the hidden chamber in the home of an antiquarian arms and armor dealer atop San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, and sipped Chateau Latour with one of Picasso's grandsons in the Venice art museum of French tycoon François Pinault.


Harsh.
posted by ovvl at 2:51 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lipstick Thespian: Whatever to these chumps. I'll take anyone doing temp work and looking for a permanent role anywhere to outstress anything listed in this article. Take all the same stress you'd get at a real job, throw away ANY benefits, time off, sick days, etc.

That's actually one of the things that infuriated so many people about this article; it did not take into account the many temporary, often part-time professors/instructors (US term: adjuncts; Canadian term: sessionals) who make up a large part of the North American college and university system. The number of adjuncts/sessionals is growing because it costs colleges and universities so much less to employ them. These people usually have no or limited benefits and no job security. In some institutions they are paid less even on a per course basis than their permanent counterparts.

I know people who teach part-time at two or sometimes three different institutions to cobble together a living wage. They have no guarantee of a job the following semester, and they have service industry jobs or do office temp work in the summer if they can't get hired to teach in the summer semester.

And you're right: the worst part is you still have all the job responsibility and accompanying stress on top of the commuting between jobs, employment insecurity, low pay, and lack of benefits.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:02 PM on January 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Forbes' article (together with the accompanying information and photographic treatment) seems to be largely cribbed from Careercast's 2012 list

This is admitted in the author's response to the critical comments and in the addendum. It's very strongly suggested in the original article, too.
posted by asnider at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2013


Academic work is unique in that it's hard on both introverts and extroverts. It features both public speaking in front of an audience of 20-100 people several times a week and many hours spent alone in the library or the lab. Certainly not the most stressful job in the world, but guaranteed not to be stress free for anyone.

Not to make this competitive, but...that isn't unique. Pretty much every professional job is like that.
posted by threeants at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2013


....sipped Chateau Latour with one of Picasso's grandsons in the Venice art museum of French tycoon François Pinault.

To be sure, Picasso had like a million grand kids. I was briefly in art school with one of them!
posted by kaibutsu at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2013


Forbes' article (together with the accompanying information and photographic treatment) seems to be largely cribbed from Careercast's 2012 list

Actually, it seems to be entirely cribbed from the 2013 version of the Careercast list.
posted by klausness at 4:15 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not just ask people how much they experience job-related stress, comparing that as well to job satisfaction? Or would that be too obvious?

Also, LOLZ at claiming that someone earning $23,000 has a low stress life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:35 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus the median income for a taxi driver is $22,000? That's awful.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:00 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cripes, like anyone who writes for Forbes, that pit of fawning neo-liberal tripe, would even know what work is like.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2013


I think of my job (EFL at a junior high school) as insanely stressful. Strangely, the only non-stressful part of it, for me, is when I'm in the classroom. Everything else about the job, the 60-70 weeks, meetings, planning lessons, then needing to defend choices made in planning from people who, though they've had the lesson plans for a week, just read them five minutes before class and want to make changes, and all the other fun that goes with it. Of course, teaching English in Asia is a joke job, as lists like these tell us.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:42 PM on January 5, 2013


Who do I have to garotte to exchange one of those "most stressful jobs" for "stay-at-home-mother of two preschoolers"?
*Gnaws own arm off*
posted by Catch at 5:44 PM on January 5, 2013


Really? No physicians? Surgeons?
posted by legospaceman at 6:48 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's Forbes. Of course they have a disdain for "ivory tower" academia and education.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2013


To anyone curious about this general topic, more or less "how people feel about the work they do" I cannot recommend Stud Terkel's Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do enough. Full disclosure: I'm actually reading it now and am about 7/8th through, so maybe the last 1/8th is horrible but I strongly doubt it. It's based on interviews from early 70's so a lot has changed, but that's an interesting thing in itself. He interviews people from seamstresses to cab drivers to salesmen to prostitutes to newspaper delivery boys etc. etc. (it's 640 pages so he covers quite a bit of ground). Too bad there's not a modern journalist doing something equivalent, and instead we get stuff like the linked article. Closest thing that comes to mind might be Barbara Ehrenreich or maybe Morgan Spurlock occasionally, but I think Terkel comes across as a lot less biased (not that bias is always a bad thing, I'm just sayin').
posted by mingo_clambake at 10:30 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


According to the article, lab techs very rarely have to work outside 9-5 hours.

Is this some sort of a parallel universe thing?
posted by Acheman at 4:00 AM on January 6, 2013


You might enjoy this book, mingo.
posted by box at 5:25 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to note that the first most stressful job actually annoyed me. I'm enlisted, but I don't presume that my job is as stressful as certain other enlisted members (such as those who actually have to shoot people and those who work 12 hour shifts up to their elbows in grease and grime). It's still quite stressful -because- of my enlistment, but I wish the article hadn't painted all enlisted with the same brush. At the end of the day, my job is still just a desk job, despite feeling like I have quite a lack of control over a majority of my life.

/end concern-rant
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:14 AM on January 6, 2013


Studs Terkel is pretty much awesome.
posted by maryr at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the rebuttal:

"The median salary in this little fluff piece puts what professors make at over $60,000 per year. Silly story. The reality is that in most disciplines, a freshly minted Ph.D. is going to be making $45,000-$55,000 per year (depending on geographic location and field)."

I hate to be that person here, but confusing (perhaps intentionally) starting salary and median salary is itself pretty misleading. The real shame of that stat is that the median salary of the actual pool of instructors is going to be much lower, if we acknowledge that around half of college classes are taught by non-tenure-track faculty (from grad students to part-timers to short-term contracts, and so on). I remember another article I read a few years ago that listed the median salary of professors as >$100K. How? By only counting full professors at R1 schools as "professors." As I explained to someone who asked me about it at the time, this was a bit like polling the full partners at DC and NYC's bigger firms, and then telling someone in the Cedar Rapids public defenders' office that they make seven figures.

And yet for all the junk in that article, all the "you get summers off!" junk I hear in person, it really is a mind-meltingly awesome job. People just hate (and envy) it for lots of false reasons.
posted by el_lupino at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2013


Pain scales.

This is a thing I have learned.

Doesn't matter how rich, how poor, how blessed, how cursed.

Pain scales.
posted by effugas at 10:13 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]



Hmm I recently quit the most stressful job that I have ever had and I've had a lot of jobs in my life. This job, was supposed to be just a job I did to earn some extra money and get out of the house. The main part of the job itself was easy and something I enjoyed but holy crap, the boss and the work environment he created. It put every job where I thought their were bad things and stress well down on the stress scale. Even in jobs I found trying at the time, jobs considered to be 'professional' I never experienced anything close to this.

I spent several months navigating it's ups and downs and doing my best to find humor in the situation and brush things off. I made it into a game to get through it like I was in a competition with myself with what I could handle. It got to the point where no amount of self talk and commiserating with other employees would slough off enough of the stress to keep from experience physical symptoms of stress and constantly thinking about it. My whole life, even when not work was about this damn job. Might sound like hyperbole but the experience started cutting to the soul. I found the view of myself and my self worth suffering.

Luckily I was in a positions that I wouldn't be destitute if I quit though I had to get through a whole lot of 'quitting equals failure' type thinking. Around here getting another job at this time of year if pretty near impossible. I felt so bad and still feel bad for those who didn't have the choice because they depended on the income to live. I actually felt guilty for leaving them there.

So Forbes can suck it with their 'professional' rankings of stress. lol She should try working at my old job and see what stress on the job can be like.

Waitressing at XXXXX restaurant. One of the ultimate stressful jobs!
posted by Jalliah at 7:14 AM on January 7, 2013


I just find the "university professor" to be so weirdly broad. A genetics professor doing biomed research (and teaching, advising etc.) in a medical school is going to have a very very different job than an English professor doing research (teaching, advising) in a liberal arts college.
posted by gaspode at 8:58 AM on January 7, 2013


You could say the same thing about "lawyer," or many other professions.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2013


When I went through the slideshows I was struck by the fact that basically all of the photos in the "Most Stressful Jobs" list were of men (often looking "rugged and manly"), except maybe for one that included a women's hands, while 8 out of the 10 "Least Stressful Jobs" were women, sometimes including a whole audience of women. I can't help but wonder if there's a subconscious message there...
posted by daelin at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Heres another linkbait article by Forbes citing some crappy career website listing the happiest and unhappiest cites to work in.

Unhappiest city in America? Boulder, CO
posted by jpdoane at 11:15 AM on January 17, 2013


The legalized pot oughta fix that.
posted by maryr at 8:56 PM on January 17, 2013


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