A woman sits at a work meeting and smiles at her cowokers, indicating she believes she has one of the most fulfilling jobs.
A woman sits at a work meeting and smiles at her cowokers, indicating she believes she has one of the most fulfilling jobs.

The 20 Most Fulfilling Jobs + The Psychology Behind Them

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We are often told to follow our dreams and look for the most fulfilling jobs that will give us a sense of purpose and stability. However, there’s a lot to consider when facing millions of potential career opportunities — in fact, there were more than 10 million job openings in the final quarter of 2021 alone. Understanding what makes a job fulfilling in the first place can help you choose your most fulfilling career.

From things like salary to your professional background and genuine interests, there are many elements that factor into feeling like you have a truly satisfying job. Keep reading to learn about some of the main pillars of satisfying work, as well as some of the most fulfilling jobs that are currently on the market. Because there’s nothing better than being able to get ready for work each day with an honest smile on your face.

What Makes Up a Fulfilling Career?

 

A graphic explains the importance of finding fulfilling work and how learning about most fulfilling jobs can be helpful for you.

With the average person working around 260 days out of the year, it’s understandable that workers want to enjoy the profession they are committing a great deal of their lives to. Not only do the following aspects grant professionals a positive state of mind throughout their career, but they have other clear psychological benefits, as well.

Sense of Purpose

Seeing as though 97% of people feel more engaged at work when they feel like they have a purpose for being there, it is fair to say that people want to do work that they feel matters and gets them excited in the morning. Some could find this by teaching small children or working for a nonprofit that aids the homeless. Nevertheless, knowing the work you do makes a significant difference could provide a sense of purpose and motivation.

Upsides Outweigh the Downsides

There’s no way of getting around work feeling like, well, work. Some parts may be frustrating — like longer commutes and limited parking spaces — but as long as the good aspects outweigh the bad, you can consider that a satisfying job.

A good rule of thumb is to never take a job that appears to add stress to your life. Certain company perks may be attractive at face value, but they won’t stand a chance when compared to the headaches a difficult position may bring on. Nowadays,1 out of 3 employees is willing to quit to prioritize their mental health. 

Intellectual Challenges

Having a job that challenges you intellectually can have incredible psychological benefits. In fact, previous studies have linked positions that challenge workers to potentially lowering the risk of different cognitive issues and/or diseases like Alzheimers and Dementia.

Additionally, people who want to move up the corporate ladder can do so by taking on more complex responsibilities in the workplace. Having a job that provides a definitive growth plan and what it takes to progress during onboarding is a golden opportunity for mental stimulation. A good company will want to see their employees reach their full potential.

Healthy Work-Life Balance

The ability to forget about your job when you leave the office should be a reality for everyone. With a 21% increase in employee burnout over the last year, it also appears that it is more of a necessity than ever. Feeling overworked can cause job dissatisfaction — and, sadly,50% of workers felt that way this past year. Finding a job that allows you to prioritize your wellbeing and the things you love is essential to a fulfilling work life.

Structured Career Growth

Reports indicate that 34% of people believe that they have to find a new employer in order to obtain advancement opportunities. This is why it is extremely important to discuss your professional goals during the interview process. Ensuring you know where you’re headed within a company will allow you to ensure your personal goals align with those created by your employer.

Positive Relationships

51% of people surveyed quit within the last year because they didn't feel a sense of belonging — proving that having a positive work environment can go a long way in making jobs enjoyable. Teams that both support and celebrate each other's wins can maintain a sense of camaraderie and morale that can help make your job feel incredibly rewarding.

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The 20 Most Fulfilling Jobs of 2022

Combined with data from Mint’s salary tool, we’ve put together a list of some of the most fulfilling jobs that allow people to feel good about what they’re doing day in and day out. Plus, feel free to explore the salary tool to find any positions that you don't see here, as there could be more than one career that may pique your interests as you research.

1. Firefighter

A woman firefighter stands on the firetruck steps and smiles while looking ahead, indicating she considers her job as one of the most fulfilling jobs.

  • Median Salary: $62,000
  • Education Requirements: High school diploma

Firefighters provide a necessary service to the public by responding to fires and other emergencies to save the lives of everyday citizens. This profession, though dangerous, can be rewarding because of the sense of purpose one feels after working with their crew to stop a potentially harmful situation. The positive relationships you can form with your crew members can also make this job a rewarding one. Knowing you're working with a team that has your back can make all the difference in risky situations.

2. Dentist

  • Median Salary: $123,000
  • Education Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Dental school (four years)
    • Pass National Board Dental Examinations

Although you might have hated going to the dentist as a child, finding a job in dentistry could be the rewarding career you’re looking for. With the ability to diagnose and remedy problems related to the teeth and gums, you’ll be able to find a sense of fulfillment while forming long-lasting relationships with your clientele.

3. Physician

  • Median Salary: $152,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Medical school (four years)
    • Internship
    • Residency(three to eight years)

With the ability to accompany people through some of the best and worst times in their lives, becoming a physician could be an incredibly satisfying job for those interested in the medical field. From assisting families with sick loved ones to helping prepare younger couples for the birth of a newborn, physicians act as a valuable resource for those seeking medical assistance and advice. And with the responsibility of finding the right health solutions for your valued patients, you’ll find constant intellectual stimulation in your quest of learning the best ways to service your clients.

4. Surgeon

  • Median Salary: $154,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Medical school (four years)
    • Residency (three to seven years)
    • Obtain a state license

Having the task of saving and transforming lives on a daily basis, surgeons do gratifying work that they know makes a difference to those in need of help. For some, the bonds formed with vulnerable patients who hand over their trust could be the thing that makes all of the years of hard work and dedication worth it. Regardless of the reasoning, it must be great when you can walk away knowing that a person’s life changed for the better because of something you did for them.

5. Clergy

A clergyman, one of the most fulfilling jobs, talks to a Black woman in a church, indicating he’s helping her find purpose in life.

  • Median Salary: $41,000
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor's or Master’s degree (four-eight years)

By providing spiritual and moral guidance for members of their congregation, clergy are religious leaders who can help their peers live their lives with their faith in mind. They lead worship services and other religious programs meant to support people through their personal troubles. Clergy can find their sense of purpose in seeing their community live positive lives, incorporating the lessons and teachings brought to them with the hopes of bettering their own relationships and lifestyles.

6. Physical Therapist

  • Median Salary: $71,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program (two years)
    • Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination
    • Obtain license to practice

Professionals might view physical therapy as a rewarding career because you get to see patients make significant progress in improving their mobility. After forming meaningful relationships with clients, physical therapists have the pleasure and responsibility to help those who are injured or disabled reach recovery goals they set for themselves. Being a part of this process allows you to see not only their health improve but also their overall quality of life.

7. Teacher

  • Median Salary: $47,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor's and/or Master’s degree (four-eight years)
    • Obtain teaching license

Teachers get the pleasure of preparing today’s youth for their future. In addition to helping their students become well-rounded members of society, teachers can become a kind of mentor — someone that students can feel comfortable turning to if they cannot understand something inside or outside of the classroom. Some may also find a love for the work-life balance that may come with the role, as some might get the option of taking summers off to rejuvenate their mind for the next school year.

8. Mechanical Engineer

  • Median Salary: $77,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Graduate degree (recommended)
    • Industry certifications and experience

Mechanical engineers might find their jobs satisfying because they may be intellectually stimulated by the mathematics and physics problems they work with on a daily basis and are constantly given the opportunity to learn new ideas and concepts. From working in product design to the manufacturing of equipment, there are a lot of professional avenues to go down when it comes to mechanical engineering.

9. Veterinarian

  • Median Salary: $91,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (four years)

Those with a passion for animals may likely find becoming a veterinarian rewarding because of the constant work they get to do with the furry friends they love so much. Not only do you get to be there in case of an emergency, but you’ll likely get to treat them for the span of their lives, as pet owners like to stick with vets they know they can trust.

10. Police Officer

A police officer and two kids engage in a conversation and share smiles, indicating he has one of the most fulfilling jobs.

  • Median Salary: $64,000
  • Education Requirements:
    •  High School Diploma or GED certificate

Similar to firefighters, police officers can provide a beneficial service to the public. They work to keep order in our communities and respond if immediate threats arise. Not only that, but now more than ever, police officers are taking the time to develop stronger relationships with the communities they protect—all in an effort to establish a sense of trust and unity.

11. Paramedic

  • Median Salary: $54,500
  • Education Requirements
    • High school diploma or GED certificate
    • AHA Healthcare Provider or ARC Professional Rescuer certification.
    • Obtain EMT License.
    • Three months of full-time OR part-time experience at an EMS provider agency

Paramedics might find value in their career after discovering their genuine passion for medical care, which could inspire them to grow in the medical field — maybe even aspiring them to become a doctor or surgeon. As first responders in an event of an emergency, these medical professionals work tirelessly to get those injured to the hospitals that can provide the treatment they need. They also enjoy a much-needed stable work-life balance that encourages personal time due to the intense nature of their duties.

12. Pilot

  • Median Salary: $96,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate.

Those with a knack for adventure and seeing new places could consider becoming a pilot a fulfilling career choice.. Often paired with excellent upsides like employee benefits, such as insurance and retirement plans, accompanied with satisfying pay, these jobs offer the opportunity to discover new places while also having time to spend with friends and family at home.

13. Chief Executive Officer

  • Median Salary: $133,391
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (recommended)
    • Business and industry experience

Geared for people with a love of business, handling responsibilities, and intellectual challenges, becoming a chief executive could be incredibly rewarding. With the task of coordinating and directing company operations, you’ll be responsible for keeping projects and other initiatives running smoothly and achieving the goals created for the coming quarters.

14. Psychiatrist

  • Median Salary: $190,000
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Medical school (four years)
    • Obtain a license
    • Certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
    • Residency (four years)

Though sometimes seen as a tough profession to take on, psychiatrists do meaningful work by helping people with their mental health. This fulfilling career comes with important responsibilities, as clients come looking for advice on coping with personal and sensitive situations taking place in their lives. Psychiatrists might get a picture of their true purpose once patients begin to notice major strides in their progress on their own or finally develop a strong enough relationship with clients for growth to occur.

15. Nurse Practitioner

  • Median Salary: $98,000
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Medical school (four years)
    • Pass a National NP Board Certification Exam

Requiring fewer educational requirements than physicians, becoming a nurse practitioner could be a fulfilling career for those who have a passion for medicine and caring for others. They provide direct care to patients trying to remain physically and mentally healthy.

16. Software Developer

A man uses a wheelchair while sitting at his work desk during an online meeting. He smiles at the screen indicating he’s happy to have one of the most fulfilling jobs.

  • Median Salary: $103,000
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)

Typically paired with flexible hours and an ability to work remotely, software developer positions can be fulfilling for those with a passion for problem-solving and overcoming challenges and a love of independent work. And paired with the option of exploring industries spanning from healthcare and hospitality to business and marketing, you could help create products and software that makes the lives of everyday people easier.

17. Speech-Language Pathologist

  • Median Salary: $62,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Medical school (four years)

Speech-language pathologists may find fulfillment in their career by helping children learn how to communicate with others effectively by teaching them how to read and write. In other circumstances, they could also aid those who recently suffered a stroke to relearn some of the important speech and/or motor skills lost after the injury. You may face daily challenges that need to be overcome, but there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing that work pay off after remaining dedicated.

18. Marketing Professional

  • Median Salary: $79,000
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Graduate degree (recommended)
    • Industry certifications and experience

If you’re a creative individual who loves communicating with others and taking on complex projects, becoming a marketing professional may be the fulfilling career you’re looking for. With the opportunity to combine your skills, creativity, and expertise, you could help design and implement marketing campaigns for companies and products you are genuinely passionate about. Marketing managers have the opportunity to foster positive relationships with their coworkers in addition to using their talents to create beautiful material for clients.

19. Chef

  • Median Salary: $55,000
  • Education Requirements
    • High School Diploma or GED certificate

Having a natural interest in the culinary arts could be an indicator that pursuing a career as a chef might be one of the most fulfilling jobs for you. And after developing and honing your skills in the kitchen, you may quickly realize that there’s almost no better purpose than being able to fill tummies and put a smile on people’s faces.

20. Information Technology Manager

An IT manager, one of the most fulfilling jobs, points at the computer screen and guides her cowoker through a project.

  • Median Salary: $85,500
  • Education Requirements
    • Bachelor’s degree (four years)
    • Industry certifications and experience

Many companies depend on information systems to keep their daily business operations running smoothly, and IT managers support that specific effort. They are responsible for making sure that the systems used are constantly up to date and functioning properly. These professionals get satisfaction from knowing that their work is an essential part of their company’s success.

Now that you have a better idea of what a fulfilling job is and some concrete examples, you can go forth in your job search knowing you don’t have to choose between either prioritizing your financial goals or your happiness.

 

An infographic describes the psychology behind the most fulfilling jobs.

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Sources

BLS | Limeade | Modern Health | Mequilibrium| APA | Monster Jobs | McKinsey | Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation

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