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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

13 Low-Stress Jobs That Pay Really Well in 2023

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Bailey Zelena; skynesher/Getty Images

There’s no such thing as a perfect, stress-free job; every occupation, role, and career path will require dealing with some amount of on-the-job stress. But there are definitely some jobs that tend to be less stressful than others.

And the good news? Just because a job offers a low level of stress doesn’t mean it delivers a small paycheck. There are a variety of low-stress jobs that pay a lot—and can help you establish a thriving, lucrative career.

So if you’ve been wondering how to get a high-paying job that doesn’t make you feel like ripping out your hair on a daily basis, you’ve come to the right place.

Defining “low stress” and “high pay”

Before we jump into a few of the lower-stress careers that pay well, let’s quickly cover how we’re defining those terms—and how to best make sense of the data.

Let’s start with stress. We’re defining “low stress” as any occupation that scores a 80 or below on O*NET's stress tolerance ratings, which measure the extent to which “accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations” is part of the job—and many of the jobs on this list even score 70 or below.

All of these jobs make a lot of money, bringing in over $75,000 a year—for reference, the median household income in the United States was $70,784 in 2021, the most recent year with available data.

Of course, it’s also important to consider what would make a better-paying job low-stress for you. “For example, one person may prefer and thrive with a high level of ambiguity in their work, while another might find lack of clear direction stressful,” says Nicolle Merrill, future of work expert and author of Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots.

Your work environment also plays a role in how stressed you feel at work. “Working in a large organization like a Fortune 500 company offers a different experience compared to working in a nonprofit, startup, small business, or university setting,” Merrill says.

Even if you pick a decent-paying job that is generally low stress, if you hold that role in a stressful environment or toxic workplace, chances are your day-to-day experience will be stressful, too. “For example, startups are fast-paced. Often your tasks will go beyond the scope of your actual job. You will wear many hats,” Merrill says. “So a software developer working at a startup will work at a more intense pace than one working in a university setting. Even though a software developer is considered a low-stress, high-paying job, the organizational context matters.”

Talking to people who work in the role and industry or company you’re considering will help you get a better idea of what the day-to-day experience of the job is really like—which can help you make a more informed decision about whether that role is the right fit for you.

While many of these low-stress, high-paying jobs require advanced education (optometrist, political scientist, and statistician, for example), there are a number of others you can break into with a bachelor’s degree and some hustle (software developer, technical writer, and environmental restoration planner).

Here are more than a dozen jobs that make good money:

1. Actuary

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 70

Median salary: $105,900

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 21%

Actuaries use math, statistics, and more to analyze financial risk. Typically, actuaries work for insurance companies and help develop models to predict the financial risk and economic cost of various situations, including natural disasters, accidents, and illnesses. Actuaries need a bachelor’s degree in math or a related field—and in order to become certified to practice, they need to pass a series of exams.

Find actuary jobs on The Muse

2. Technical writer

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 69

Median salary: $78,060

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 6%

Technical writers specialize in writing complex technical copy, including instruction manuals, journal articles, and other documentation. While an educational background in computers, technology, or engineering is often helpful, a degree isn’t necessarily required; if you can write about technical issues with authority and clarity, you can be a technical writer.

Find technical writer jobs on The Muse

3. Software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 73

Median salary (as of 2021): $109,020

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 25%

Software developers write and develop applications and systems that run on computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Software quality assurance analysts and testers are devs focused on checking these programs for usability, functionality, bugs, and vulnerabilities. Often called software engineers, devs, QA analysts, and testers can be self-employed or work directly with a brand or corporation. While many software developers have a bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, it’s not required; many developers teach themselves to code or leverage alternative programs (like coding bootcamps) to develop their programming skills. 

Find software developer, quality assurance analyst, and tester jobs on The Muse

4. Art director

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 69

Median salary: $100,890

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 4%

Art directors are responsible for leading the artistic vision, direction, strategy, and team of a project, like a magazine, new product launch, or film or television project. Art directors can work in a variety of settings and capacities; some are self-employed, some work for an advertising agency or PR firm, and some are employed directly by brands or editorial publications. Most art directors have a bachelor’s degree in an art-related field and extensive experience working in a hands-on artistic role (for example, as a graphic designer or photographer).

Find art director jobs on The Muse

5. Economist

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 64

Median salary: $105,630

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 6%

Economists conduct research, collect and analyze data, and explore issues related to economics and economic policy. They may be independently employed or work for the government or a university, and because of their expertise, many economists also author books, papers, and articles on economics. The majority of economists have an advanced degree (a master’s or more typically a PhD), but some entry-level positions are available with a bachelor’s degree.

Find economist jobs on The Muse

6. Chemical engineer

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 61

Median salary: $105,550

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 14%

Chemical engineers apply a variety of sciences—including chemistry, biology, and physics—to solve problems related to the production and use of a variety of products, including food, drugs, energy, and chemicals. Chemical engineers can work in a laboratory, office, or manufacturing setting (or split their time among those). Candidates need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering to get started in the field—and because employers want experienced chemical engineers, it’s particularly important to get some internship or co-op experience under their belt.

Find chemical engineer jobs on The Muse

7. Environmental restoration planners

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 69

Median salary: $76,530

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 4-7%

Environmental restoration planners conduct research—both in the lab and out in the field—to solve issues related to the environment and public health. They can work in the public or private sector. For example, they may be employed by the government to make sure businesses are compliant with environmental regulations or they may be employed by a business to clean up contaminated sites or strategize ways to lower their carbon footprint. Environmental restoration planners need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions—typically in natural or environmental sciences.

Find environmental restoration planner jobs on The Muse

8. Statistician

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 64

Median salary: $95,570

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 33%

Statisticians are all about the numbers. They collect and analyze data and use it to solve practical, real-world problems—whether that’s in agriculture, business, or another field. While most statisticians have either a master’s or doctorate degree in mathematics or statistics, there are some more entry-level positions available for folks with a bachelor’s degree.

Find statistician jobs on The Muse

9. Operations research analyst

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 61

Median salary: $82,360

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 23%

Operations research analysts use data collection, analysis, and modeling to help companies identify and solve problems within their organization. While entry-level positions are available for candidates with a bachelor’s degree, many companies look to hire operations research analysts with an advanced degree and/or a good amount of experience.

Find operations research analyst jobs on The Muse

10. Political scientist

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 68

Median salary: $122,510

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 6%

Political scientists research political systems, trends, policies, issues, elections, and governments. In addition to conducting research, political scientists may also work as policy analysts for the government, independent political groups, or think tanks. They might also teach political science at the university level. Political scientists typically hold a PhD in political science or public administration.

Find political scientist jobs on The Muse

11. Audiologist

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 75

Median salary: $78,950

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 10%

Audiologists specialize in the ear, working with people who have hearing and balance issues and/or conducting related research. They frequently work in health or school settings. In addition to finishing an undergraduate program, audiologists complete a doctoral degree and need a license to practice (requirements vary by state).

Find audiologist jobs on The Muse

12. Optometrist

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 78

Median salary: $124,300

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 10%

Optometrists are doctors that specialize in all things eye-related, including diagnosing and treating visual problems, diseases, and injuries. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, optometrists must complete a four-year Doctor of Optometry (OD) program and gain licensure in the state where they wish to practice before they can start treating patients.

Find optometrist jobs on The Muse

13. Marine engineers and naval architects

O*NET Stress Tolerance Rating: 71

Median salary: $93,370

Projected growth between 2021 and 2031: 4%

Marine engineers and naval architects design, build, maintain, and repair ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, sailboats, barges, buoys, tankers, and more. While most have a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering and/or naval architecture, some may have a related engineering degree (like structural, mechanical, or electrical).

Find marine engineer and naval architect jobs on The Muse

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