The 25 Most Stressful Jobs in America: Is Yours on the List?

Man with his fingers to his temples, stressed.
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Can anyone truly say their job comes with zero stress?

For years I was a travel writer and editor, which often shows up on lists of the most-envied jobs, but even that supposed dream career came with stress aplenty. Deadlines, phone calls not returned, factual errors, incomplete information, delayed flights, taxis that didn’t show up, lost luggage, restaurant owners furious that their food received a subpar review … It was far from endless days of Caribbean beaches and four-star resorts. (Though I once knew a woman who reviewed honeymoon hotels for a bridal magazine; she might have had that dream job.)

Still, from paramedic to prison guard, there are some jobs for which stress is pretty much guaranteed with the paycheck. Career-information website Zippia.com crunched the numbers in 2017 to come up with its ranking of the most stressful jobs in America. The firm considered an array of factors, including the consequences of making an error, exposure to hazardous conditions, time pressures and time spent dealing with aggressive and unpleasant people.

Take a read, and if you know anyone who works in one of these fields, try to cut them some slack. We start with the job ranked 25th most stressful and climb to No. 1. If your stressful job isn’t on the list, assure yourself it’s probably No. 26.

25. Mechanics for mobile heavy equipment, except engines

Heavy equipment mechanic
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It’s tough enough to be a mechanic working on cars, but the pressure rises when the machines get bigger. These workers diagnose, adjust and repair giant construction equipment, everything from cranes to bulldozers.

24. Railroad brake, signal and switch operators

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It looked so mellow on Schoolhouse Rock’s “Conjunction Junction,” but in real life, these workers have to stay on track. Their jobs involve operating railroad track switches, coupling or uncoupling rolling stock in trains and signaling engineers.

23. Radiation therapists

Radiation therapist in control room.
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It makes sense that dealing with radiation and seriously ill patients is stressful business. These workers operate machines to deliver precisely calibrated radiation therapy to cancerous tumors. Serious, yes, but when the treatment works, it can shrink and remove cancer and give patients new life.

22. Phlebotomists

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They draw blood daily, but don’t call them vampires. Phlebotomists are trained to take patients’ blood for important medical testing. Since very few of us like needles, they’ve got to have a reassuring manner and a quick, smooth way of working.

21. Anesthesiologists

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If you need surgery, one of the vital members of your medical team is your anesthesiologist. The medicines they administer provide pain relief and sustain critical life functions while patients undergo everything from childbirth to brain surgery.

20. Pest control workers

Pest control professional
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Is something bugging you? Pest-control workers deal with those creepy infestations no one wants to think about, from cockroaches to bedbugs. If you’ve ever had a nightmare about spiders, you know why this job is stressful.

19. Explosives workers, ordnance handling experts and blasters

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When you think “stressful jobs,” anything dealing with explosives has to be right up there. These highly trained specialists place and detonate explosives to demolish or otherwise alter earth, rock and other materials. When your local stadium was imploded for a new one, they did the job. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of room for error.

18. Psychiatric technicians

Psychiatric situation.
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These professionals work with patients who have varying degrees and different kinds of mental-health issues, such as psychosis or dementia. In addition to medical knowledge, they need unwavering patience and understanding.

17. Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging and systems assemblers

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The next time you fly, give thanks for the people who ensure your plane was flightworthy. These workers fit, fasten and install parts on everything from the puddle-jumper you took to Grandma’s to space vehicles and missiles.

16. Respiratory therapy technicians

Respiratory procedure.
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When these workers are stressed, they’re likely to take a deep breath. They are medical workers who help patients with breathing problems under the guidance of a physician or therapist. If you have asthma or chronic bronchitis, you may know them well.

15. Elevator installers and repairers

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What goes up, must come down and, if it doesn’t, it falls to these workers to fix it. They repair, install, assemble and maintain everything from elevators and chairlifts to those cool moving walkways that save passengers time in airports.

14. Furnace, kiln, oven, drier and kettle operators and tenders

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These workers are literally playing with fire. The stress rises with the temperatures as they tend equipment that can emit incredible amounts of heat. Their specific jobs may include everything from boiling soap to drying lumber.

13. Police, fire and ambulance dispatchers

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When we call for help, it’s these folks who answer the phone. Stress makes sense with this job. Workers must stay calm while speaking to someone who may be having the worst day of their life, all the while ensuring the proper emergency units are dispatched to assist.

12. Service unit operators, oil, gas and mining

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It’s a complicated title for a complicated job. These workers operate oil and mining equipment, doing everything from increasing oil flow to removing obstructions from wells.

11. Transit and railroad police

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Public transit is a huge industry, and with it come many problems. Transit and railroad police have a varied slate of duties that include protecting the public, removing trespassers from transit property, and responding to theft reports and violent incidents.

10. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists

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We’ve all undergone medical tests that are handled by lab workers, but we seldom see most of the work they do. Once our samples of fluid or tissues are collected and we walk out of the doc’s office, these folks go to work completing the tests that determine what treatment we need. They may be the first to know you’re allergic to cats.

9. Rotary drill operators, oil and gas

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Zippia.com notes that most of these jobs are in Texas, to no one’s surprise. These workers use drills to remove underground oil and gas, take core samples and provide samples of previously unexplored areas to test for oil and gas. It’s the more realistic side of the business that made fictional J.R. Ewing of “Dallas” fame such a big shot.

8. Continuous mining machine operators

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Just the inclusion of the word “continuous” tells you this job’s stressful. These workers run the self-propelled machines that remove coal, metal, rock and sand from a mine face and then load it for removal.

7. Nurse anesthetists

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When you need a nurse anesthetist, you hope you land a great one, because no one wants to wake up during surgery. These nurses not only administer anesthesia, but also monitor a patient’s vital signs while they’re out, and take care of them as they recover from the anesthesia.

6. First-line supervisors of police and detectives

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We’ve seen this job depicted on TV, but the reality is a lot less glamorous. These workers supervise and coordinate the work of officers and detectives, plus guide and assist them as needed. And if the workers they oversee make a mistake, these supervisors are sure to hear about it.

5. Correctional officers and jailers

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These workers must guard inmates not only in their home institutions, but also when they’re in transit to court, a medical facility or another penal facility. They’re guards who can never let their own guard down.

4. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics

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When stressful jobs come to mind, the work of an EMT is probably right up there. These trained medical workers respond to medical emergencies, tend to injured people and then race the clock to get them to a hospital or other facility in time. It’s not nearly as easy as Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto made it look on 1970s hit “Emergency!

3. Hoist and winch operators

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This job description is just what it sounds like. These workers operate hoist and winch drums, and must start and stop them on demand to pull loads. Timeliness and accuracy are fundamental requirements.

2. Subway or streetcar operator

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It can be stressful taking subways and streetcars, so it’s really no wonder that being the one person making sure the transit systems run on time can be even more demanding.

1. First-line supervisors of correctional officers

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Correctional officers themselves showed up lower down on the list, but it’s their bosses who grab the top spot. Not only must they maintain order and security inside penal institutions, they’re tasked with responding to major emergencies. At some jobs, an “emergency” might be a typo in a presentation made to the CEO. But here, we’re talking escapes and riots.

What factors do you think make a job stressful? What jobs would you add to this list? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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