The Best and Worst Jobs for Work-Life Balance

Early Career Oct 18 The Best and Worst Jobs for Work-Life Balance

When it comes to picking a career, it’s not all about money. Everyone has a threshold where the salary they make just isn’t worth the stress, uncertainty and long hours their job demands. We all need a balance between our work and our personal life.

With some careers, achieving that harmony is easy – with others it’s nearly impossible. Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst of both worlds.

Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance

Dental Hygienist

Most people dread going to the dentist, but for dental hygienists going to work is a dream. The median salary is $72,000 and full-time staffers never work more than 45 hours a week. If they’re lucky enough to work for an office that’s closed on Fridays, they can take advantage of three-day weekends year-round.

CareerCast once ranked dental hygienists as one of the least stressful jobs in America. What’s more, it’s a highly in-demand job – the Bureau of Labor Statistics is currently predicting almost 20% job growth over the next ten years.

A booming industry, high average salary and you only need an associate’s degree? Sign me up.

Corporate Recruiter

Because many corporate recruiters can work remotely, this job snagged a few top spots in the 2016 lists of best jobs for work-life balance. A recruiter’s job is to match their clients with a position that fulfills their needs. This work can be done anywhere and many choose to work virtually.

Sometimes a recruiter will have to answer phone calls outside of normal business hours, but overall they’re still available to chaperone field trips, hang out with friends or travel often.


Data Scientist

When most people think of jobs in Silicon Valley, they imagine long nights spent writing code and living with your coworkers.

But some high-tech jobs are great for work-life balance, including data scientist. A data scientist is a worker who examines raw data to draw conclusions that will help their business grow. A survey from Glassdoor found that data scientists rank third for work-life balance, with a 4 out of 5 rating.

Data scientists have a median salary of $112,000, which is fairly high for a gig where you can leave at 5 p.m. every day. They’re also in the top five for “most job openings,” so if you’re looking for a steady job with plenty of time for family, consider joining this field.

Some data scientists do work long hours, so be aware this great lifestyle depends on whichever company you work for.

Worst Jobs for Work-Life Balance


Whether you’re a newspaper reporter or a TV broadcaster, you’re probably in one of the worst fields in the country for work-life balance. Not only do journalists routinely earn low salaries, they also have to work holidays and respond to breaking news as soon as it happens.

Think about every tragedy you’ve ever witnessed. A journalist had to be there to report that. When I was a newspaper reporter, I had to cover murder scenes, homicide trials and other disasters. I worked weekends, holidays and late nights. Once I had to go to the emergency room and my boss’s response was, “But who’s going to cover for you?”

To make matters worse, traditional media is on the decline. Job opportunities are increasingly hard to come by, and the future of the industry is bleak by any standards.


Teachers often seem to be the most undervalued profession in society. The pay is low, the hours are long and sometimes there’s little respect from students and parents alike. When it comes to work-life balance, teaching is one of the worst professions imaginable.

Emily Guy Birken, author of “End Financial Stress Now,” said her four years teaching high school English were “the most stressful and hardest” of her life. Every day she’d teach until the early afternoon and then spend several hours grading and planning lessons. On the weekends, she’d spend 6-8 hours a day doing the same.

She’s not alone. Teachers all around the world are leaving the profession in droves, citing too many hours and too little pay.

“This kind of stress is untenable, and I worry very much about the future of American education if my experience of chewing up idealistic young teachers and spitting them out continues,” she said.

Public Accountant

When I was a kid, my mom got her Masters in Accounting and started working as a public accountant. I was so proud of her, but tax season was always confusing. Suddenly, she started coming home late and some days I didn’t see her at all.

Such is the life of a public accountant, where 80-hour work weeks are common during tax season. Women with families frequently leave the industry for private accounting jobs, which are less rigorous.


Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three.

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