The Most Rewarding Jobs in America for 2023

By Alene Laney · January 03, 2023 · 7 minute read

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The Most Rewarding Jobs in America for 2023

You’ve probably heard that life is too short to spend time on unfulfilling work. While any job can be rewarding, some jobs are inherently better than others. If you need to make a change — and you’re looking for something more fulfilling than a paycheck — we have some ideas.

First we’ll consider the criteria that make a job rewarding, before jumping into our curated list of the most rewarding jobs in America.

Rewarding Jobs, Defined

What exactly is a rewarding job? After all, everyone will define a rewarding job differently. Some folks enjoy being around people, while others appreciate the ability to engage in deep work alone. Some people are looking specifically for work-at-home gigs, while others are looking for the highest paying jobs.

We think that a rewarding career should help you feel accomplished and fulfilled. We break down additional elements below.

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Common Characteristics of Rewarding Jobs

The Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to advancing upward mobility and equity with research and data, lists five key factors of a good job.

•   Livable wages. Earning a livable wage means you earn enough money to cover your basic needs. It’s tied to your health, financial security, and even your children’s success. Livable wages make you feel secure. Rewarding jobs should offer a good entry level salary, and then…

•   Upward mobility and growth opportunities. Rewarding jobs allow workers to build on their skills and further their careers. More-experienced workers can feel satisfied knowing they receive competitive pay.

•   Workplace flexibility and schedule control. McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey revealed a flexible schedule is one of the top three reasons behind workers’ seeking a new job. Most workers (87%) offered flexible work take their employer up on the offer.

•   Benefits. Benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, and retirement plans contribute to a worker’s productivity as well as their health and well-being. Jobs with benefits help create a rewarding environment.

•   Working conditions and safety. For a job to be rewarding, a safe environment is essential.

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22 Most Rewarding Jobs in America for 2023

There are many jobs that have some or all of these characteristics. Below are 22 jobs that rated very high in a PayScale survey on job satisfaction. All salary figures are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

1. Kindergarten Teacher

National average salary: $61,820

Job satisfaction rate: 81%

Job description: Some of the most rewarding jobs are jobs helping people. While a career in education doesn’t usually add a lot of zeroes to your bank account, it’s incredibly rewarding to help kids and adults improve their skills and confidence through education. It can also be one of those jobs that pay off student loans through the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

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2. Postsecondary Teacher

National average salary: $79,640

Job satisfaction rate: 76%

Job description: These academic pros instruct and mentor students in various topics after high school. Until you reach professor status, check out our list of the best on-campus jobs.

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3. Clergy

National average salary: $57,230

Job satisfaction rate: 90%

Job description: Conduct religious services and direct activities to support worship of a spiritual nature.

4. Surgeon

National average salary: $297,800

Job satisfaction rate: 80%

Job description: Diagnose and treat injuries and illness with surgical procedures. This is one of the highest paying jobs on our list.

5. Family and General Practitioner

National average salary: $235,930

Job satisfaction rate: 78%

Job description: Provide preventative care to patients and refer them to specialists for further care.

6. Music Director and Composer

National average salary: $49,130

Job satisfaction rate: 80%

Job description: Lead musical performances; write and record music.

7. Epidemiologist

National average salary: $78,830

Job satisfaction rate: 77%

Job description: Investigate the course of a disease to protect public health. Help provide community education and public policy for diseases.

8. Physician Assistant

National average salary: $121,530

Job satisfaction rate: 78%

Job description: Treats patients under the supervision of a doctor. This role is one step below doctor and a step above nurse — similar to a nurse practitioner.

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9. Anesthesiologist

National average salary: $331,190

Job satisfaction rate: 83%

Job description: Administer and manage patient pain before, during, and after surgery. (We wonder if people who make this much would benefit from a good spending app.)

10. Speech-Language Pathologist

National average salary: $79,060

Job satisfaction rate: 79%

Job description: Evaluate and treat patients who have communication disorders.

11. Pediatrician

National average salary: $198,420

Job satisfaction rate: 89%

Job description: Provide preventative and diagnostic medical care for children.

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12. Psychiatrist

National average salary: $217,100

Job satisfaction rate: 88%

Job description: Primary mental health care providers who diagnose and treat patients.

13. Firefighter

National average salary: $50,700

Job satisfaction rate: 83%

Job description: Firefighters manage and extinguish fires to protect life and property. They also respond to other emergencies.

14. Education Administrator

National average salary: $102,650

Job satisfaction rate: 88%

Job description: Education administrators are responsible for the direction and implementation of school-related activities. They may hire staff, plan academic programs, attend meetings, and stay on top of any number of initiatives.

15. Dentist

National average salary: $163,220

Job satisfaction rate: 82%

Job description: Treat patients to prevent and repair tooth decay and oral health.

16. Forester

National average salary: $67,710

Job satisfaction rate: 85%

Job description: Foresters maintain the health of a forested ecosystem. They may track types and amounts of standing timber, plant new trees, and determine which trees need to be cut.

17. Cartographer and Photogrammetrist

National average salary: $68,900

Job satisfaction rate: 95%

Job description: Create digital and physical maps and charts from geographic data.

18. Rotary Drill Operator, Oil and Gas

National average salary: $61,840

Job satisfaction rate: 93%

Job description: Rotary drill operators control large-scale machines that extract oil and gas from the earth. It’s one of the few jobs that don’t require college on this list.

19. Emergency Management Director

National average salary: $76,730

Job satisfaction rate: 86%

Job description: Develop and implement plans in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster. Coordinate with local authorities and help lead when an event occurs.

20. Physicist

National average salary: $147,450

Job satisfaction rate: 77%

Job description: Study matter and energy. May develop scientific theories, conduct experiments, develop software, write papers, and present research at conferences.

21. Librarian

National average salary: $61,190

Job satisfaction rate: 81%

Job description: Help people find information in a library. Organize materials and create programs for public education. Although interaction with the public is a key part of this role, it still seems like the ultimate job for introverts.

22. Chief Executive

National average salary: $213,020

Job satisfaction rate: 88%

Job description: Executives plan and implement business activity and the overall direction of an organization. It is rewarding to see results from programs and teams you helped establish. If anyone can advise you how to ask for a signing bonus, it’s the CEO.

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The Takeaway

Whether you’re in the right job or looking for a new path, it’s helpful to know that some well-paying jobs are among the most rewarding. Our list was compiled with salary data from PayScale and job satisfaction data provided by the Bureau for Labor Statistics. The medical field has a strong presence, as does education. Some less expected rewarding jobs include music director, cartographer, clergy, and forrester. Cartographers have the highest job satisfaction on our list (who knew?), while anesthesiologists pull the highest salary.

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What is the highest paying job in 2022?

Physicians and other medical professionals dominate the BLS data of the highest paying occupations with an average salary over $208,000 per year. You may also be interested in our list of the highest paying trades.

What is the happiest career in the US?

According to a 2020 Gallup report on work, 89% of workers reported being at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs. What this means is job satisfaction is individual. While one person may feel happy teaching, another may despise it. It’s true that some people have a harder time than usual finding job satisfaction (may we suggest our list of jobs for antisocial people?), which is why persistence is key. A happy career is one that suits your personality, values, and lifestyle.

Which jobs are in most demand in the US?

Jobs in the medical field are in high demand and pay well. According to the BLS, nurse practitioners experienced the highest growth rate in 2021, with median pay over $120,680.

Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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