Monday, November 30, 2009

Stressful careers that pay badly

High stress and a meager paycheck are just another day at the office. Here are some of the most overworked and underpaid professions out there.

1. Social Worker

Median pay: $43,200
% who say their job is stressful: 72%

Social workers step in when everyone else steps aside to help people and families in vulnerable situations. They provide patients with education and counseling, advise care givers and make referrals for other services. And with social workers in short supply and programs underfunded, few must juggle the work of many, while reaping little reward.

Just ask Heather Griffith, a social worker who works with children in intensive foster care in Boston: "You're getting paid $12 an hour and kids are screaming at you, telling you that you are just in it for the money and you're just like, really?"

2. Special Events Coordinator

Median pay: $35,900
% who say their job is stressful: 75%

Planning a major event or party is a ton of work, and can easily turn into a real circus if you don't hire a pro to pull it all together.

"My colleague was throwing a circus-themed event, and one hour before the event started, Peanut the elephant died in the ballroom," said Anne Giapapas, a special events coordinator in San Luis Obispo, Calif. "Without time to move the elephant, they threw a tarp over Peanut and made it look like a circus tent. No one even knew what was underneath during the event."

But the elephant in the room may be the least of a special events coordinator's troubles. Juggling vendors, collecting payments, shepherding guests and taking on bridezillas is just another day at the office.

3. Probation/Parole Officer

Median pay: $38,400
% who say their job is stressful: 58%

Looking for a challenging and stimulating work environment? How about working with convicted felons? Keeping ex-cons in line is certainly no easy task, but the work can be rewarding. Probation or parole officers help parolees and probationers get back on their feet, with everything from rehabilitation plans to education and employment arrangements.

But it's not just about helping people. A lot of former felons end up doing repeat performances or skipping town. Their probation officers need to track them down, testify in court and help decide whether to throw them back in the slammer. It's no surprise that some "clients" can direct anger toward their POs.

"I once was in the middle of a hostage incident" said Don Meyer, chief probation officer of Sacramento County, Calif. "I didn't sleep for two days after that. It makes you think, man, I might be better at computers."

4. News Reporter

Median pay: $32,900
% who say their job is stressful: 62%

Every minute is another deadline for those who report and write the news. While racing against the clock, reporters gather data, conduct interviews and analyze their findings all before writing about major events for a newspaper, magazine, radio show or television program.

5. Music Ministry Director

Median pay: $40,800
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

You may not think of people who plan, direct and conduct performances for religious services as being under a particularly high amount of stress. But they also choose the appropriate psalm or hymn for every wedding and funeral -- only some of the most important events in a family's life. And those stressful situations can create some demanding clients.

"Every now and then you'll get a strange request," said Dan Fenn, Music Ministry Director at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minn. "A couple of years ago I got a request to play the Beer Barrel Polka at a funeral. You have to ask yourself, is this appropriate for a worship service?"

6. Membership Manager

Median pay: $42,600
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

You know the guy who calls you during dinner to ask why you let your membership lapse? Well it turns out he's not thrilled about bugging you at home either. Reaching out to existing and former members of museums, fitness centers and health clubs in order to meet sales goals is not an easy way to make a living. The callers have to deal with insults, hang ups, and other bad reactions to the unwelcome calls. Plus, they often work long or odd hours so they can catch people at home.

"It's a numbers game and you have to get calls out, and it definitely entails rejection," said Cathy Gambino, a regional sales manager of Equinox in southern California. "Sometimes you just can't break people down."

7. Fundraiser

Median pay: $42,700
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

No matter the cause, asking people to part with their money is not easy. And it doesn't just happen at cocktail parties. Fundraisers are hitting the pavement between galas, meeting with donors, writing grant proposals, and overseeing outreach campaigns and running events.

"It takes time to raise money and the uncertainly and the constant effort go with the trade," said one fundraiser for Harvard University. Add in a recession and their job gets even more difficult. But fundraisers must persevere in order to keep worthy charities and non-profit organizations running.

8. Commercial Photographer

Median pay: $43,600
% who say their job is stressful: 100%

The job may sound glamorous, but commercial photographers, who capture models, merchandise and landscapes for books, advertisements and catalogs, have to contend with long days, picky personalities and demanding deadlines -- sometimes withstanding precarious positions just to get that perfect shot.

"One time I was doing a portrait of two guys who owned a construction company. The next thing I knew I was standing on this little catwalk under the Throgs Neck bridge [in New York City], dangling above the water because it gave me this great angle," said Gale Zucker, a photographer from Branford, Conn.

9. Assisted Living Director

Median pay: $46,000
% who say their job is stressful: 67%

The hardest part of caring for elderly or disabled adults in assisted living is not just coordinating meals and activities, or overseeing care and cleanliness, but also meeting residents' every need, even if that means playing the roll of concierge on occasion.

"Our oldest resident is 101," said Kathleen Smith, the director of Silverado Senior Living in Escondido, Calif. "She comes down at least once a week to make sure she's paid her bill and see if she needs reservations for dinner because she thinks she's at a hotel."

1 comment:

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