Business Columns & Blogs

What makes a ‘best’ job best for you?

A recent report said new dentists are graduating with as much as $400,000 in student loan debt and then face another $500,000 cost to acquire a dental practice.

Who would want to start a career with that kind of financial pressure? What does that say for the future of dentistry?

But I had barely moved from reading those figures when a missive from U.S. News & World Report ranked the top job of 2017 as – you guessed it – dentist.

The publication, an authority on rankings of all kinds, said it evaluated job growth potential, work-life balance, pay and stress level to produce the ratings. For dentists, I assume, established practices held greater sway than debt-burdened new entries.

The most notable thing about the “best” rankings, though, was that dentistry and other medical occupations fill the top ranks. Eight of the 10 “best” are medical jobs. On the top 100 list, about half are in health care. After dentist, the top jobs were: nurse practitioner, physician assistant, statistician, orthodontist, nurse anesthetist, pediatrician, computer systems analyst, obstetrician/gynecologist and oral/maxillofacial surgeon.

Most of the medical jobs also land on a separate best-paying list. But what happened to the stress component? If you believe that money isn’t everything, how could you discount the pressures of having lives in your hands?

That’s why such ratings are interesting but certainly not a guideline for career choice. Professions should be planned for because of passion, interest, intellect and other motivators that aren’t necessarily quantifiable. It’s laughable that someone would take on the educational and financial pressures of medical school because the end result pays well.

And don’t discount one’s ability to handle stress. You must understand a job’s stress – and know something about yourself – before embarking on a career path. In my own world of newspaper journalism, I’ve seen the brutal wearing down of individuals who weren’t suited to daily deadlines, editors and reader response.

Would you apply to be a zoo attendant if you’re afraid of animals? Would you major in finance if you hate math? If you don’t focus on your strengths, your job stress will explode.

Another best-jobs rating, this one by the job search portal of, zeroed in on the stress factor. After factoring in pay, growth outlook and security, its 10 least-stressful jobs for 2017 were: diagnostic medical sonographer, compliance officer, hair stylist, audiologist, tenured university professor, medical records technician, jeweler, operations research analyst, pharmacy technician and medical laboratory technician.

Any best-of list is open to debate. For some, high pay may ease the stress factor. I personally wouldn’t care to be the one who finds cancerous masses in patients. My role – newspaper reporter – is on all of the 10 most-stressful or worst jobs lists, but that’s OK. It’s a fit for me.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star., 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford,