20 Jobs That Are (Much) Better or Worse Than You Thought

Updated: June 17, 2009

If you're looking for a career change or are just interested in what other kinds of jobs are out there, start investigating the job market by taking a look at this list of 20 jobs that are either much better or much worse than you might have thought. Don't end up in an even more stressful, unrewarding job than the one you just left because you were harboring false expectations about the life a doctor or a CEO supposedly leads. At the same time, try searching outside of the box by giving freelancing or tattoo artistry a chance. You just might discover your true calling.

10 Jobs That Are Worse Than You Thought

The glitz and glamour of these 10 jobs overshadow the disadvantages of long hours, minimal recognition and high-stress environments. Think twice before you set up an interview for one of the following jobs.

  1. President of the United States: OK, so even if you wanted to be the next president of the United States, you probably wouldn't get elected. But ever since elementary school, hasn't every kid dreamed of one day becoming the leader of the free world? If you're still envisioning yourself at the podium, you might need a serious reality check. World leaders get very little sleep and are blamed for every negative trend in security, taxes, the economy and health care. Plus, they almost never have a day to themselves for their entire term. Sure, you get to travel the world and have access to the best food, doctors, airplanes and exercise equipment around, but is it all worth it if you don't have time to enjoy it?
  2. CEO: CEOs are awarded huge salaries, attend great parties, work in a big office all to themselves and earn respect in their field from co-workers, business partners and even competitors. But just like the president of the United States (although on a lesser scale), CEOs represent their companies in the public eye and are forced to accept the blame and responsibility for whatever goes wrong in their business. CEOs may also get special perks like trips on a private jet or invitations to extravagant parties, but they also sacrifice time with family and friends in the name of work.
  3. Spy: A sexy spy might make a great Halloween costume, but unless you're seriously ready to dodge real (not plastic) bullets and are willing to sacrifice your identity for a mission no one will ever hear about, enlisting in the CIA to get your kicks isn't a good idea. Officers take a pledge of confidentiality that goes way beyond sharing trade secrets with competitors: Your entire identity is fake, and even if you manage to pull off a blockbuster-worthy performance on your next mission, you won't receive any recognition for it. In addition to jetting off to other parts of the world and keeping your life a secret from friends and family, spies can find themselves in extremely dangerous situations involving prison time, assassins or worse.
  4. Artist: The romantic ideal of an artist's life includes sipping lattes, napping often and creating wonderful masterpieces, whether in print, on stage or on the canvas. However, most artists could barely afford a latte and have to perform "sellout" jobs in order to support themselves until said masterpieces are complete. An artist must be completely devoted to his or her craft before settling on this frustrating, though sometimes rewarding, career.
  5. Public-Relations Executive: Throwing fabulous parties, schmoozing with the media and hanging out with high-profile clients is all in a day's work for the fabulous public-relations executive, is it not? It is not. While some public-relations firms specialize in event planning, many executives find themselves begging newspapers and magazines for a few lines of copy and a photograph, crafting editorials for clients, and basically trying to satisfy everyone at once. The cherry on top? Public-relations executives get almost no recognition for their overtime: All of the praise goes directly to the client.
  6. Doctor: While clever physicians can find niche opportunities to keep them active in research, teaching and treating patients in specialized fields, U.S. News & World Report maintains that these days, "doctors are spending less time than ever with patients and more on paperwork." Besides continually working overtime, as well as "trying to care for noncompliant patients" and chronically ill patients, doctors must also be vigilant against malpractice suits, hospital scandals affecting their practice and more.
  7. Personal Assistant: Can you imagine what it's like to be Lindsay Lohan's personal assistant? Besides Lindsay's car-chasing escapade involving the mother of her personal assistant just before being arrested for a DUI, the personal assistants of celebrities have likely seen it all. From babysitting to shopping (not always as glamorous as it sounds) to car maintenance, we the daily chores that an assistant has to dignify quickly overwhelm any initial starstruck fantasies.
  8. Professional Athlete: How great would it be to play the same game you loved as a 10th-grader professionally? Professional athletes can make anywhere from six-figure salaries to tens of millions of dollars thanks to advertising deals, promotional events, tours and everything in between. The downside to being a professional athlete, however, is that your bankable status is as unstable as you are trendy. Brett Favre aside, most athletes are booted out of the industry as soon as they sustain too many injuries or reach a certain age. Consider your career ruined if a scandal breaks out, and frequent trades mean that you'll have to uproot your family and say goodbye to friends all too often.
  9. Attorney: If you see yourself bustling around the big city fighting for justice and digging up clues like the lawyers crafted by Hollywood, take into consideration that U.S. News & World Report also rates attorneys as one of the most overrated careers of 2008. While "a legal career promises prestige, money, and the chance to use the law to make a difference in society," attorneys are often overwhelmed by loads of paperwork and hours of overtime spent on seemingly frivolous cases.
  10. Restaurant Owner: Sure, your friends think that you make a mean shrimp creole, but will the critics and the general public? Opening your own restaurant requires more than great recipes: You need a team of devoted, generous investors; a loyal following of customers; and an ample, clean space to serve your food. Besides struggling to attract stellar reviews and an enthusiastic crowd, restaurant owners sacrifice weekends and prime-time evening hours, when their presence is needed at the restaurant.

10 Jobs That are Better Than You Thought

If you're ready for a career change, don't rule out any of these jobs just because you think that they might be too unstable, boring or common. From freelancer to consultant, several of these careers can become the key to a whole new lifestyle, full of job autonomy and creative opportunities.

  1. Freelancer: Freelancing can introduce a rewarding lifestyle for an individual who craves flexibility and creative freedom. While freelancers do the work that the customer requires, they manage to enjoy more autonomy in their jobs than most professionals. Along with the creative-spirit label, however, comes the unfair social stigma of being unstable or unable to find a "real" job. Freelance pay is often low, as the general outlook of companies that want to outsource is that anyone can write, design or program. If that were the case, though, why even hire a freelancer? The next time you enlist the talents of a freelancer, don't underestimate his or her talents.
  2. Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: While even the top makeup artists experience unstable careers, union strikes and less-than-desirable pay, they're sometimes able to manage an employer's budget and experiment with high-end products they wouldn't normally get to use themselves. Makeup artists and stylists are also encouraged to flex their own creative muscles to make the most of their products and try out new looks on the job. Working on big studio projects or on Broadway will allow you to get up close and personal with famous stars. If you're a stylist or a beautician with a celebrity clientele, why not link up with them for a business partnership à la Kate Hudson or Jessica Simpson?
  3. Librarian: U.S. News & World Report considers a job as a librarian a decidedly "underrated career." If you work for a school, you'll enjoy school holidays, but if not, the magazine still holds that "librarians' work hours are reasonable" overall.
  4. Cameraman: Cameramen (and camerawomen) for network TV stations like NBC can earn around $60,000 per year, though most in the industry probably make less. The perks? There is no dress code, you have the ability to manage your own equipment, and you can use your own expertise and creativity to figure out how to get the best shots. If you're really at the top of your game, the chance to shoot film for TV shows, movies and commercials with big stars is a possibility.
  5. Stay-at-Home Parent: True, stay-at-home parents don't make money based on their duties as an errand-runner, a babysitter or a dishwasher. Despite the study that found that stay-at-home moms would earn more than $131,000 annually if they got paid, publicizing the fact that you stay home all day with the kids and the chores won't get you the "ooohs and ahhhhs" that saying you're a doctor or a lawyer will. Special perks for stay-at-home parents that other professionals rarely enjoy include skipping the daily commute; not having to abide by dress codes; and avoiding tedious reports, evaluations and meetings.
  6. Consultant: Consultants often get to specialize in several different areas, including "working as a speaker, trainer, and writer as well as providing" basic industry information for their clients, according to Job Profiles. If you run your own consulting company or are a partner in a small firm, you may get to dictate your own hours, choose your own projects and work hard to build up a reputable profile in your field as a go-to industry expert. Once you're known around town, other opportunities could open up, like blogging, hosting seminars or even snagging book deals.
  7. School Psychologist: Just because you're not charging clients hundreds of dollars to sit on your swanky couch doesn't mean that you aren't sitting in a lucrative spot in your industry. U.S. News & World Report includes the school psychologist in its list of the Best Careers of 2008. The median national pay is $62,600 per year, and school psychologists get school holidays, including summers, off from work.
  8. Journalist: Low pay and minimal creative freedom (at least in your early days) often deter great writers from pursuing careers in journalism, and many instead opt for law school or graduate programs. The life of an experienced journalist, however, is not so bad: Travel opportunities are just around the corner, whether you report on the weather, politics or style trends. Getting to see your name in print is not only rewarding, it's the optimum branding mechanism for when you want to develop your career and explore other avenues later in life. Journalists are also some of the most informed members of society, as their job requires them to be the first to know about economic changes, the law and even community scandals.
  9. Nanny: The nanny appears on our list of the most underrated jobs not because it's actually the perfect career, but because many people still don't understand the heavy workload and long hours that nannies face. Thanks to the book-turned-film "The Nanny Diaries," college girls may now understand that getting any old job as a nanny isn't as easy as it sounds. Live-in nannies have it especially hard, as they are required to be arts and crafts experts, tutors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, counselors and more. Depending on their employers, nannies may also find it hard to have a personal life of their own, as last-minute meetings and parties come up, canceling the poor nanny's plans. On an up note, however, The New York Times reports that "as affluent employers have faced growing demands on their own time, many nannies are starting to oversee the parents' lives as diligently as they do (or once did) the children's. And some now say their work has almost as much potential for career development as that of the doctors, lawyers and bankers they work for." So you see, nannies don't just babysit.
  10. Tattoo Artist: Outside of the tattoo industry, tattoo artists don't get a whole lot of respect. Still regarded by some as a rebellious career choice in which hepatitis runs rampant, the tattoo industry is actually a legitimate, booming business that can turn into an enjoyable, lucrative career path. Most parlors don't open until the late morning or afternoon, and cable TV shows like "L.A. Ink" and "Inked," while not typical of most tattoo shops, have shown us the laid-back atmosphere where tattoo artists come to work. Talented artists can earn decent money, and conventions, guest-artist job openings and other events offer excellent opportunities for travel, career mobility and self-promotion.
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