Happiest Jobs for College Graduates
You can get one of the 15 happiest jobs on our list with an undergraduate or graduate degree. We've included links to corresponding degree program pages to detail what's required to qualify for a job and advance in your career. The jobs we've listed scored at least a 4.0 on CareerExplorer's job satisfaction scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least satisfied and 5 being the most satisfied. Where available, the salary and job growth information we provide comes from the Occupational Information Network OnLine (O*NET), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. When unavailable on O*NET, we've utilized other reputable sources, as noted below.
Keep in mind that this information broadly represents an occupation and doesn't consider specific company cultures or job security potential, which can also play a key role in employee happiness and satisfaction.
A cardiothoracic surgeon is a type of surgeon specializing in operating on structures in the chest cavity, such as the heart, lungs, esophagus, and bony tissues. They also diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in these areas. Beyond the skills obtained in medical school, cardiothoracic surgeons' other skills include reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision making, and monitoring. The median annual salary for a cardiothoracic surgeon may be higher than what we've listed, depending on the facility and location.
If you desire to keep others heart-healthy, you can also consider becoming a cardiologist to join others who express high job satisfaction (4.2) within their field. They don't usually perform surgery but work with cardiothoracic surgeons to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions and diseases.
Talk Show Hosts
A talk show host performs a similar role to that of an on-camera broadcast journalist, news reporter, or news analyst. They interview celebrities and other news-worthy individuals often in front of a live studio audience — Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon are notable talk show hosts, to name a few. Talk show hosts are curious, investigative, artistic, enterprising, and personable. Salaries may be higher than noted above due to notoriety and popularity.
Sports broadcasters also report high job satisfaction (4.1) and may be a good career option if you like sports and being in front of the camera. They often interview athletes and have camaraderie with other on-air personalities as well.
A film director ensures actors interpret their characters and storylines as intended to ensure a screenplay's visual and artistic integrity is maintained. In addition, they oversee casting and control the production design and all creative elements. Film directors have extensive technical knowledge of Adobe graphics, music, and video software and knowledge of telecommunications, computers, electronics, and administration and management.
Similarly, filmmakers and cinematographers also report high job satisfaction (4.1).
Food critics are in a very niche field, but do work that's similar to news analysts, reporters, and journalists. With a love of food and restaurants — these "foodies," as they are sometimes known — share their culinary adventures and explorations with others by critiquing their experiences. Food critics work independently or for newspapers, magazines, websites, news shows, and other media outlets. They have a command of the English language, reading, actively listening, and writing.
With a similar educational background and skill set, authors also report experiencing high job satisfaction (4.1). Many food critics eventually write books and freelance.
Music producers and directors assist musicians with the production of digital and audio recordings while maintaining their artistic integrity and vision. In addition, they often guide musicians throughout their careers as tastes and demands change. Music producers usually have a solid technical background in music editing software and computers. They also think creatively, excel at building relationships, and know the fine arts.
If you are looking for a more creative job within the music industry, consider becoming a composer and writing music and lyrics to experience similar high job satisfaction (4.2).
Sports Medicine Physicians
Sports medicine physicians work with athletes to prevent, diagnose, and treat sports injuries. They are often present during sporting events and activities in case an emergency requires an immediate response. Sports medicine physicians need skills similar to any physician, including reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision making, and monitoring.
Surgeons perform surgery and other invasive medical procedures to treat patients. They perform responsibilities similar to that of a physician, including ordering tests and reviewing the results, consulting with their peers on complex cases, updating medical records, addressing patient concerns, and providing after-care advice. Aside from surgical and clinical skills, surgeons must also demonstrate reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision-making, and patient monitoring.
Specialty surgery careers reporting high job satisfaction include neurosurgeons (4.1) specializing in surgeries on the nervous system, including the brain and spine, and plastic surgeons (4.1) performing surgeries to address an individual's aesthetics and appearance.
Video Game Designers
A video game designer creates the characters and character biographies, storylines, role-play mechanics, and the main design and documentation of video games. Their skills include programming, active listening, critical thinking, problem-solving, reading comprehension, math, design, and communications. They must also understand human psychology to create a game's characters and anticipate how they'll behave. Software engineers and developers can also use their know-how to design video games.
Other high-satisfaction jobs within the video game industry include that of video game creative director (4.5) and video game producer (4.1).
A gynecologist is a specialty physician who works with women and prevents, diagnoses, and treats conditions affecting their reproductive health. Some also study obstetrics to provide pregnancy and childbirth-related care. Gynecologists must develop skills in human biology and anatomy, psychology, and patient care, along with their clinical skills during medical school and residency.
Other specialty physicians who report high job satisfaction include ophthalmologists (4.1) who treat conditions of the eyes and dermatologists (4.1) who treat skin conditions.
We've included information from the U.S. Senate, as the BLS does not report this data. A senator is an elected official that works at the center of a state's legislature to protect the rights of an individual state. While a state representative represents a district, a senator represents an entire state. Senators meet with constituents, discuss policy issues, and negotiate compromises before a bill hits the Senate floor. They are also empowered to conduct impeachment hearings, exercise advice and consent on treaties, and confirm or deny the appointment of ambassadors and judicial court justices. Qualifications include holding U.S. citizenship, being 30 years or older, and residing in the state you represent.
A zoo curator oversees the acquisition and maintenance of a zoo's animal collections. They manage exhibits, organize tasks related to animal care, perform research and conservation work, and educate visitors and staff. Zoo curators are generally investigative, enterprising, and conventional by nature. In addition to knowing about animals, they must also know about business management and administration.
Other animal-friendly careers where employees report high job satisfaction include mammalogists (4.2) — the study of mammals — zoologists (4.1) — the study of animals and wildlife in their natural habitats — and marine biologists (4.1) — the study of aquatic plants and animals.
Robotics engineers research, design, create, test, and maintain robotic equipment. Robotic equipment is used in several industries, such as warehousing, mechanics, and medicine. Therefore, in addition to numerous technical skills, including computer-aided design (CAD), analytical software, development environment software, and industrial control software skills, robotics engineers must also be comfortable with math, engineering, design, and mechanics.
We've included information about astronauts from NASA as the BLS does not provide data for this occupation. Astronauts are crew members who are part of NASA's Astronaut Corps and are bound to orbit the Earth or beyond. They may enter space for exploration and research or to repair and maintain spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station (ISS), or communication satellites. Hiring astronauts is very selective, as strict job requirements must be met. Only ten astronauts out of over 12,000 applicants were selected in 2021. According to NASA, any astronaut should have skills, including teamwork, leadership, cultural competency, self-care, and expeditionary skills — competencies that prepare astronauts for living and working together in space.
A coroner is an elected county official who determines an individual's cause of death within the jurisdiction. They also investigate suspicious deaths, monitor and collect evidence, interview witnesses and family members of the deceased, order autopsies, and complete death certificates. Coroners must know the law, medicine, and dentistry and be able to actively listen, write, communicate clearly, and think critically.
Sometimes, coroners receive additional training to become forensic pathologists — another highly satisfying job (4.2) — and work with law enforcement and other forensic specialists to perform autopsies to solve crimes and determine mysterious causes of death.
Craft artists do just what their name implies — they create arts and crafts to sell. They may employ various techniques, including welding, pottery-making, glass blowing, handweaving, or painting. Craft artists work with multiple materials, such as metal and iron, fabric, clay, or wood. Along with some formal training, craft artists need talent and passion to create. They understand design, production and processing, sales and marketing, and fine art through training and practice. While craft artists find their work gratifying, it doesn't always pay well. In fact, this is the only occupation on our list that makes less than the $45,760 median annual salary for all workers.
FAQs About the Happiest Jobs for College Graduates
What Careers Are the Happiest?
Some of the happiest careers include those in the video game industry, those working with animals, specialty physicians, surgeons, and craft artists.
What Jobs That Pay Well Are the Happiest?
Jobs in healthcare that are the happiest often come with a high salary, including sports medicine physicians, gynecologists, and surgeons, who all make a median salary of at least $200,000 annually.
What Are the Best Jobs for Work-life Balance?
Indeed has identified some of the best work-life balance jobs, including substitute teacher, marketing assistant, research technician, web designer, and lab technical assistant.
What Is the Most Fulfilling Job?
According to Intuit, the most fulfilling job is that of a firefighter. Others include dentists, physicians, surgeons, and clergy.
What Is the Unhappiest Job?
According to CareerExplorer, one of the unhappiest jobs is that of a food regulatory consultant, which requires a bachelor's degree in food science. These consultants' job happiness falls in the bottom 1% of all jobs.
While most individuals in the above careers experience high levels of job satisfaction, only you can determine how happy you will be. You may have a dream job in mind that didn't make this list that you are passionate about that can still bring you joy. We've created several career guides to help you explore other potentially fulfilling jobs.
It may also help to seek career advice from someone currently working in your field of interest to glean additional perspective and anecdotal information. However, the information we've provided above can help you begin to understand the factors potentially leading to career bliss and overall well-being.