Least stressful job of 2013: writing for Forbes

Jan 04 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

This morning I was alerted to a Forbes piece written by Susan Adams on the Least Stressful Jobs of 2013. Number one on the list? University Professor. Susan has some amazing insights as to why this is such a cushy job:

University professors have a lot less stress than most of us. Unless they teach summer school, they are off between May and September and they enjoy long breaks during the school year, including a month over Christmas and New Year’s and another chunk of time in the spring. Even when school is in session they don’t spend too many hours in the classroom. For tenure-track professors, there is some pressure to publish books and articles, but deadlines are few. Working conditions tend to be cozy and civilized and there are minimal travel demands, except perhaps a non-mandatory conference or two. As for compensation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for professors is $62,000, not a huge amount of money but enough to live on, especially in a university town.

Word. I mean, I know I spend my summers lounging on the porch drinking bourbon, you? And how you folks at Columbia, UCLA or Boston University liking those cheap college towns you live in?

I'm not saying that University Professor is one of the most stressful jobs out there, but if you're going to call something cushy, it would help to understand what you are talking about. You know what's stressful? Fact-checking and research. Those are stressful activities that Susan clearly eschews at all costs. In fact, when you can just randomly make shit up about jobs you only know from bad movies, that seems like a pretty cushy job too. Let's see what Susan does in her job:

Since Forbes hired me in 1995 to write a legal column, I’ve taken advantage of the great freedom the magazine grants its staff, to pursue stories about everything from books to billionaires. I’ve chased South Africa’s first black billionaire through a Cape Town shopping mall while admirers flocked around him, climbed inside the hidden chamber in the home of an antiquarian arms and armor dealer atop San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, and sipped Chateau Latour with one of Picasso’s grandsons in the Venice art museum of French tycoon François Pinault. I’ve edited the magazine’s Lifestyle section and opinion pieces by the likes of John Bogle and Gordon Bethune. As deputy leadership editor, these days I mostly write about careers and corporate social responsibility. I got my job at Forbes through a brilliant libertarian economist, Susan Lee, whom I used to put on television at MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Before that I covered law and lawyers for journalistic stickler, harsh taskmaster and the best teacher a young reporter could have had, Steven Brill.

Sounds killer. Who could take the time to even begin to learn about the basis of a story with all that going on?

33 responses so far

  • Bashir says:

    I agree the author clearly has no idea what she's talking about. The methodology used to make that list is here: http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/jobs-rated-most-and-least-stressful-2013-methodology

    I can see how professor wouldn't get a high rating, it's not physically hazardous the way being a firefighter is, or an EMT could be. Stressful probably isn't the best word given the methods.

  • Dr Becca says:

    Wow. Wowowowow. I kind of hate everything about this person.

    1. "the likes of..." - does that mean I'm supposed to have heard of those people?
    2. "everything from books to billionaires" Um, we're still in the B's, here--not much of a range, really.
    3. Readily admits that she was given her job through an inside connection, as if this is something to be proud of.

    Can you imagine if academic blurbs were written like this? We should have a contest.

  • leigh says:

    hmm. i like doc becca's idea...

    About Me

    Since beginning my scientific career in 20XX I have had the great opportunity to work at very high levels of responsibility for not a lot of money. I have handled chemicals from amphetamine to xanax (and probably something that starts with Z too but hey) and we'll leave the professional relevance of my handling these compounds up to you to decide. I've published the non-negative results of my studies as widely as Reviewer 3 would permit, and traveled the likes of San Diego to Washington, DC for fancy conferences where I schmooze with scientific BSDs at socials and drink cheapass open-bar wine. As someone in [my career position], I've spent an inordinate amount of time writing to fund my own salary, but these days I also spend my time training for whatever job I'll maybe have next year. My humble origins include working for My Graduate School Mentor's Name, who intellectually whipped my ass and for which I am grateful, but really I am just writing this sentence to drop a name.

  • Dr Wrasse says:

    I started in the rough and tumble world of private school undergrad but got "real world experience" by going to a State school for my masters (gasp, I know!). Then I got the fuck out of that and went back to private school to finish my graduate work. Now I have the cushy academic life where I get to develop five new courses my first year while simultaneously cleaning up the messes that my predecessor so lovingly left for me.

    In my copious free time, I work, and live in a rent controlled building which is still out of my price range. I think I have a family, or at least there are a bunch of other people living in my house, several of who call me daddy. If they are, then I'm glad I get free tuition because I'm for shit sure not going to be able to pay for them to go to school when they grow up.

  • KK PhD says:

    That article is a joke. I just created an account at Forbes solely to comment on it, but then the top comments, seemingly from other academics, are pretty comprehensive and insightful. At least she thanks the commenters and admits ignorance-- she says based her article entirely on "research done by CareerCast."

    I honestly can't get behind bashing the authors character for writing an uninformed article. Bash the article or the magazine, sure, but her lifestyle choices..?

  • KK PhD says:

    ...by lifestyle choices I mean "being a human being who chose a career writing about other human beings"

  • Dr Becca says:

    Since Devastatingly Prestigious University took a chance on a barista back in 1999, I've taken advantage of the opportunities having DPU's name on my diploma has afforded me, conducting post-doctoral work everywhere from Washington Heights to Greenwich Village. I've ridden in an elevator with a Nobel Laureate, been on the list at the SfN Emory party, and sipped a Sazerac at Commander's Palace in New Orleans not five feet from Karl Deisseroth. My work has been cited by the likes of authors who publish in Nature and Neuron. As an Assistant Professor, these days I mostly oversee my students as they bring my small but probably brilliant ideas to reality.

  • becca says:

    Hahaha! Most trollable profession of all time: University professor

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Hahaha! Most trollable profession of all time: University professor

    No wai! #postdocs

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I honestly can't get behind bashing the authors character for writing an uninformed article. Bash the article or the magazine, sure, but her lifestyle choices..?

    If accusing someone of being lazy and not doing any type of fact checking as a journalist is bashing someone's character, then I am comfortable with that.

  • BrunaLab says:

    Thanks for pointing to this. As you might expect, she's getting flamed in the comments. Worth reading!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Indeed. I can summarize her every response here so people don't have to waste their time:

    "Thanks for the detailed comment. It is clear you work a lot, and striking! It's not my fault I wrote this, though, because I cut a pasted everything from CareerCast and assumed it was fact. It's what I do."

  • me says:

    can we sue susan adams and Forbes for libel?!!! it's got to be quite damaging to have cushy congressional leaders read about money and lazy university professors before going into committees that determine funding rates?!

    on a side note, im surprised that none of the comments actually informed susan that these are generally soft-money positions...

  • KK PhD says:

    Hehe, fair enough. I'm ok with saying "Your writing is bad and you should feel bad."

    I love to imagine some lazy undergrad reading this article and thinking becoming a university professor is the job for them because, as she says, little stress and summers off.

    Besides, a PhD is a total breeze, right?

  • dr24hours says:

    As the privileged son of generations of Ivy League graduates, I bravely forged my own path, attending a top-20 private university entirely outside the Ivy League. As a graduate student, I developed a debilitating alcohol dependency which lingered beyond graduation. Luckily, as an academic, my chosen career path was compatible with constant inebriation.

    Today, I mostly sit quietly waiting for time to pass while my uncitable papers negotiate the review process of unreadable journals.

  • Lady Day says:

    'None of the salaries for these professions top $100,000 and some are quite low, like seamstress/tailor with a median salary of just $26,000 and hair stylist, at $22,500, according to BLS numbers. But compensation was just one of the things CareerCast measured.

    Though hair stylists make the lowest salary on the list, they are among the happiest, says Lee. Their colleagues and clients tend to become friends and they get lots of positive feedback and thanks for their work. “With a lot of these jobs, you’re getting warm fuzzies as you work,” he notes.'


  • Alex says:

    This is, like, totally the easiest job evar! We don't have to read and critique poorly-written things submitted by ignorant and lazy people who couldn't be bothered to do more than paraphrase a single website that they read right before the deadline. We don't have to provide guidance to poor lost souls like that, or try to get them to do better. So our job is super-easy.

    (Yes, I am in a STEM discipline, but I still have to grade writing assignments.)

    Seriously, though, given how poorly-trained Susan Adams is, maybe her professors were just a bunch of slackers. We should go talk to them and be all "Dude, seriously? You actually gave her a diploma?"

  • [...] yes. We have all been effectively trolled by Susan Adams this morning and it is certainly easy, as I did already in the comments, to remark that writing for [...]

  • Pascale says:

    Yeah, I'm a prof in academic medicine. This means that I work all year (because the patients do not get better for the traditional school vacations), teach a bunch of different students, try to do some research, and generate enough money to cover my share of my section's expenses. Yes, I make more than your typical college prof (AKA my father), but a whole lot less than my private practice colleagues. I have seen the stress of both types of academic careers.

    Only one phrase can explain my feelings: STFU

  • BrunaLab says:

    Hi all, the following is in a similar vein - an op-ed in the Washington Post set that off a similar frenzy


  • Mac says:

    It's a dumb-ass article for SO many reasons but just to add another - my job can be physically difficult and dangerous. My research involves field work which is physically taxing - it's a lot like being a farmer in terms of what actually happens. It's far from being a cop or firefighter but it's probably riskier than most office jobs. Researchers doing field work have died, others have been seriously injured or contracted pretty scary diseases, and smaller injuries are common. While this may be uncommon outside of my specific area in academia, I bet other fields face different issues (what risks do anthropologists face? or chemists?) and it highlights the issue with defining "professor" as a common job. There are common elements to the job (teaching, committees, ...) but the differences across fields based on the research mean that lumping them is just silly - like so much else in this article.

  • Joshua King says:

    This is now on the front page of Yahoo as well, in a slightly different form. This is really an unfortunate article. If we play on averages, I would wager that as a field ecologist, my average daily work is actually more physically demanding than that of a police officer or fireman. Certainly safer, but more physically demanding. And the Yahoo article also states that we get to choose our own classes and when to teach them. Hilarious. Throw in grant writing, creativity as a necessity, and managing personnel, etc. and this article couldn't be more fictional.

    But, actually this is really not good because the next time a Florida legislator has to make a decision about voting on University funding, this kind of article may float to the top of their awareness. We professors do need to do a better job of getting the word out about our jobs, as this nonsense clearly demonstrates.

  • Juniper says:

    Readily admits that she was given her job through an inside connection, as if this is something to be proud of.

    Somehow, I suspect that she doesn't think of it that way. Otherwise, why mention that her connection is a brilliant libertarian economist? Then again, maybe I shouldn't read a biography so glowingly unprofessional that it belongs on a personal blog instead of a journalistic website too closely.

    It's irresponsible of Adams to admit to doing no research for this article but refuse to retract it. That's the worst aspect of her article right now.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I retired in 1997, so things may be (I know they are.)different today. I used to say that being a professor is the best job there is. I was in charge of a lot of my time and could work as I wished. When I taught class, I had some input into what the class was, and the circumstances under which I taught it. I had classes, ichthyology, for example, which were unquestionably mine. I managed to find funding, but was not under great pressure to do so. I was able to spend an aggregate of three years doing field work in South and Central America, and uncounted time in the field in the USA. Just the five Saturday field trips during each of my ichthyology classes adds up, never mind the research.

    I've seined for piranhas at 2:00 AM, assisting a colleague doing his dissertation on piranha food habits. I've edged past a fer-de-lance sitting beside a jungle trail, poised to strike. This four hours or more away from the closest medical attention.

    While on academic year contract, one is paid for nine months of the year. Additional income comes from doing more work. I was on assignment every day the university was open during the academic year. It was closed for some nine days total.

    Given my Pollyanna view of the professorship, I did not understand colleagues who did not enjoy it.

  • bam294 says:

    I'm making out with you virtually right now. Can you feel the love?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    THAT'S what that unsettling feeling was!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I would like to thank the academy....

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  • [...] have no interest in countering the Forbes article, since so many others have already covered that ground effectively. But I do think the mistakes made were indicative of a [...]

  • gswonder says:

    LAZY Professors---exist---observed and defined!
    Are you kidding? Don't kid yourself that there are some BOZO and lazy professors---how about a Chair of a Department at a Private University in No. California----who has enough time off for three more jobs? New to the neighborhood and as observed by about 5-6 neighbors who shake their heads as we watch Professor Wonderful home 80% of the time doing gardening, carpentry and ???. What a shame to the profession and to real professors who work hard. A complete dishonest fraud-----oh, probably the TA doing the work while this one stays home. Arrogant and unfriendly and most likely a legend in his own mind, parents should be furious to pay hefty tuition fees (spread the word) to fund this clown's salary at this major university. A true RIP to the higher educational system. Oh, maybe we should believe he is doing "research" or writing another illustrious best seller book? This is a travesty-----observed by hard-working people--and if this fool every gets up out of bed at a decent time to even show up for a class.....this is the sad work ethic the students may be taught and the University delivers a paycheck to. Shame on this administration for not putting a hidden camera on this guy who maybe is on campus 5 hours/week.

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