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Do you have a desirable job?
Times photo: Brenda Steurer Jessica Seffrood works in her office at Duxstad, Vale & Bestul law offices in Monroe. A paralegal is one of the best jobs to have, according to recent rankings.
MONROE - Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life, Confucius once said.

The ancient Chinese philosopher's words may be true, at least in theory, but anyone who ever has held a job knows any position has its advantages and disadvantages. The key to a happy work life may be finding a job where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

So which professions are the best, the ones in which the good outweighs the bad?, a new job search site, evaluated 200 different professions and ranked them from best to worst. Criteria used to rank jobs were environment, income, stress, physical demands and employment outlook. Data used in the comparison came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and trade associations.

If you're a mathematician, you've got it made: ranked those who cipher for a living as the best profession. Actuaries, who determine the financial impact of risks and probabilities, came in second best. The remaining top 10 professions, in order, are: Statistician, biologist, software engineer, computer system analyst, historian, sociologist, industrial designer and accountant.

Local dairy farmers may or may not be surprised to learn their job came in second to last on the ranking. But at least those toiling to earn a buck milking cows can console themselves that lumberjacks, who with a dangerous work environment, low pay and poor employment outlook, came in dead last.

Other occupations in the worst 10 were, from third-worst to tenth-worst: taxi driver, seaman, EMT, roofer, garbage collector, welder, roustabout (an unskilled laborer, traditionally used for traveling circus workers or oil rig workers), and ironworker.

Locals with professions on the list weighed in with their impressions. Jobs are listed with the ranking, from best to worst, out of 200.


Jessica Seffrood speaks enthusiastically about her profession as a legal secretary at Duxstad, Vale & Bestul law offices in Monroe.

"I'm very lucky," she said. "I have a career, rather than a job. I personally find it very rewarding."

Seffrood said while she's technically a legal secretary, she's also referred to as a paralegal. The difference between the two, she explained, really depends on whom you ask.

In her job, Seffrood independently creates documents and letters. A paralegal probably would do more legal research.

"I'm always writing letters. But I've never had one day be the same," she said. One day she may take a phone call from a client that's easy to resolve, but the next day she may take a phone call that ends up taking a full day.

Seffrood has a two-year associate degree as a legal secretary and been at her job eight years. She considers the job outlook strong for her profession.

"People can cut back on a lot of things, but people will always need lawyers," she said. "We're not a vacation home."


Dan Perdue has been working in trash collection for the City of Monroe for about five and a half years. It's a job that has its up and downs.

On the plus side, there's stability - "people will always have garbage," he said.

Perdue initially applied for the job because the hours were good: He typically works 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. "It's not bad paying," he said, and the city offers good health insurance.

Not being stuck in an office all day is a blessing and a curse.

"I get to work outside," he said. "At the same time, I have to work outside."

Each season has its own challenges. In winter, city crews have to deal with piled up snow and ice. "We're crawling over snowbanks" to collect bags of garbage and recyclables. To stay warm, workers have to wear extra layers which can be cumbersome.

But at least winter means fewer odors emitting from garbage bags. Hot and humid weather not only is uncomfortable to be working outside in, it also yields intensely foul smells and maggots.

Yes, it really can be gross.

"Picking up rotten meat is absolutely disgusting," Perdue said. Dog droppings also are particularly offensive. Even experienced garbage collectors can come close to gagging sometimes, he said.

"You have to have a strong stomach," he said.

There are more dangers than people realize, too. To get garbage bags into the truck, workers have to lift bags to about shoulder level. It's a lot of repetitive motion and is physically demanding. While crews try to use proper lifting techniques, injuries can happen. Perdue himself injured his back on the job last year.

Traffic also is problematic. Most people don't realize how dangerous it is for city crews. Perdue said workers come close to being sideswiped by motorists on a regular basis.

Working in garbage collection for the city does offer some variation. In the summer, when part-time help is hired, permanent workers are rotated off garbage and recyclable collection. On days trash and recyclable collection ends early, Perdue and his coworkers take care of other tasks, such as vehicle maintenance, and plow snow in the winter.

All in all, collecting garbage could be worse.

"It's not a bad job," he said. "I don't hate it."


It may be a "bad" job, but Rob Treuthardt enjoys the variety that comes with running his 100-cow dairy farm just south of Monroe.

"I like having a lot of different things to do," he said. For him, the variety of tasks that come with being a small business owner, coupled with taking care of livestock, is a definite an advantage over having to do the same job over and over again.

Being a farmer also gave him the opportunity to be around his children, Jeremy and Emily, as they were growing up. "When the kids were younger I got to spend time with them. I was able to be with them in the morning before they went to school," he said.

Small farmers such as Treuthardt have faced increasing financial pressures over the years, making it harder for them to remain in business. Widely fluctuating milk prices can cause a lot of uncertainty, and therefore stress, for dairy farmers. Treuthardt was featured earlier this week in a story about declining milk prices. He pointed out that to remain profitable, farmers must continually find ways to stay profitable.

But it remains his career of choice.

"I do enjoy my job," he said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here."


In an era of corporate downsizing, accountants actually have a bright job outlook.

"The job outlook is unlimited," said Dick Lindemann, a certified public accountant who owns his own accounting business in downtown Monroe. There's a continual stream of tax reform and legislation. That makes it difficult for individuals to do their own tax returns, and hence increases the need for professional assistance.

It's a never-ending process. "The only constant we can count on is further change," he said.

That constant change may be good for business, but it creates a lot of stress.

"The stress level is extremely high," Lindemann said of his profession. Serving clients in the tri-state area, he must deal with different state tax codes. There also are various interpretations of tax codes, further complicating the job. "It's not black and white," he said. "People need us, but it can be overwhelming."

On the plus side of the ledger, the pay is good, office environments generally are clean and safe, and the job doesn't have physical restrictions.

But you can't discount the toll being an accountant can take, either.

"The mental demands are so stressful and so compressed into a short period of time we call tax season, you become physically tired," he said.

That aside, Lindemann said he would recommend the field to any potential accounting students. Thanks to the "financial shenanigans" that have plagued Wall Street, there's a particular demand for those interested in doing a little sleuthing.

"The hottest segment of accounting right now is forensics, going into fraudulent areas and determining who would be fault," he said.