Careers for Calm People

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Get the low-down on low-stress careers with career information expert, Laurence Shatkin.

By Jennifer Berry    

Ever get anxious on the drive to work because you know it's going to be a stressful day? Is that stress affecting your health or your sleep?

Every job is bound to have some stress, but routinely stressful jobs can make life much harder - and not only from 9 to 5. Take it from Laurence Shatkin, career information expert and author of the book "150 Best Low-Stress Jobs."

"Stress on the job can affect your health, contributing to medical problems like heart disease and ulcers," says Shatkin. He adds that "stress often goes up with level of pay, so people are willing to take on more stress for a higher paying job."

But not every good paycheck has to come at the expense of your nerves.

In fact, with the right education and preparation, you could make the switch to a low-stress career before you know it.

Career #1 - Computer Systems Analyst

Do you enjoy working with computers but want to find a mellow career in the tech field? It might be a good idea to consider pursuing a career as a computer systems analyst.

As a computer systems analyst, you may find yourself designing and developing new computer systems to help your company conduct business and operate more efficiently, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. You might also oversee the implementation of the hardware and software that go into the computer systems you design.

Low-stress factors: "Yes, there can be situations where there is pressure to get something out by a deadline," Shatkin says of computer systems analyst. "But in general you are not dealing with life-and-death decisions."

He adds, "Either the program runs or it doesn't run. There is a tangible outcome to the work they perform." And that can help eliminate the stress of wondering if you're doing a good job or not.

How to prepare for this career: Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree in a technical field (like computer science, information science, or engineering), according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right IT Program for You.

Average salary: $81,250*


Career #2 - Insurance Underwriter

If you're a detail-oriented person who prefers not working with the public, consider a career as an insurance underwriter.

Insurance underwriters are usually the main link between insurance carriers and insurance agents, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As an insurance underwriter, you might write policies that cover the risk of car accidents, property damage, illness, or other occurrences. You may also analyze insurance applications to figure out whether to issue policies and what premiums to charge.

Low-stress factors: While insurance underwriters may experience a lot of time pressure, Shatkin says they don't have to make important decisions that have a big impact on people or organizations.Another general low-stress feature of this job: "insurance underwriters are not dealing with the public," notes Shatkin.

How to prepare for this career: According to the Department of Labor, most large insurance companies prefer insurance-related experience or college graduates who have a bachelor's degree in business administration or finance.

Click to Find the Right Business Program for You.

Average salary: $65,220*


Career #3 - Bookkeeper

If you enjoy working with numbers but don't want the stress of being solely responsible for a company's books, consider pursuing a career as a bookkeeper.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, bookkeepers often update and maintain accounting records for an organization. Daily duties might include preparing bank deposits, handling payroll, preparing invoices, or keeping track of overdue accounts.

Low-stress factors: "Bookkeepers' or file clerks' jobs tend to be less stressful than accountants," Shatkin says. "The decisions bookkeepers make have less impact than the decisions accountants make, which means less stress on the job."

How to prepare for this career: Most prospective bookkeepers need to have at least a high school diploma, though an associate's degree in business or accounting is required for some bookkeeping positions, notes the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program for You.

Average salary: $35,340*


Career #4 - Fitness Trainer

Do you love to battle stress by going on a run or doing laps at a pool? You might want to consider pursuing a career as a fitness trainer.

As a fitness instructor, you might lead individuals or groups in cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some of your daily tasks might include helping clients set and reach fitness goals, keeping records of your client's progress, and advising your clients how to live healthier lives.

Low-stress factors: "Fitness trainers deal with people on a day-to-day basis - which could be stressful," Shatkin says. "However the nature of their work - exercising - is itself a great way to work off tension. Getting exercise helps us battle stress."

How to prepare for this career: Most employers require instructors to be certified, according to the Department of Labor, and an increasing number of employers want their workers to have a bachelor's degree in a health or fitness related field, like exercise science or physical education.

Click to Find the Right Fitness Program for You.

Average salary: $35,920*


Career #5 - Massage Therapist

Do you love retreating to a spa to relax? Consider pursuing a career as a massage therapist and you might be able to spend your days surrounded by relaxation.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as a massage therapist, you may manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body to treat painful ailments, sooth tired or overworked muscles, or rehabilitate sports injuries.

Low-stress factors: "If you work as a massage therapist, the whole point of your job is to get people to relax," Shatkin says. "That means you don't have to worry about turning clients around fast, like you might in other occupations."

You also might be able to enjoy everything you do to promote a calm and stress-free environment for your clients, whether it's low-light or soothing music.

How to prepare for this career: If you're interested in pursuing a career as a massage therapist, you might want to consider a massage therapy program that can help you prepare to get certified, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Massage Therapy Program for You.

Average salary: $39,770*


Career #6 - Medical Records Technician

Are you looking for a job in the booming field of health that won't make you want to pull your hair out? Consider pursuing a job as a medical records technician.

Medical records technician are often responsible for organizing and managing patients' health information and communicating with doctors to clarify diagnoses or get additional information, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. Your duties might also include ensuring the quality, accuracy, and security of the health information you manage.

Low-stress factors: "Jobs in the health field are booming right now," Shatkin says. "Unfortunately, a lot of them are fairly stressful. But one job in the health care industry that's not as stressful is medical records technician." Shatkin adds that the job is low stress in large part because you don't have to take it home with you.

Echoing this, medical records technicians also landed the number one spot on the "The 10 Least Stressful Jobs of 2012," an annual ranking by CareerCast, a job search portal.

How to prepare for this career: According to the Department of Labor, many employers look for technicians who have a Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) credential. An associate's degree is a usual credential.

Click to Find the Right Medical Records Technology Program for You.

Average salary: $35,010*


Career #7 - Archivist, Curator, or Museum Technician

If you love art, antiquities, or the preservation of culture, this might be the low-stress option for you.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, archivists, curators, and museum technicians could work for a museum, government, zoo, or college. Daily duties might include preserving important objects and documents, arranging, cataloguing, and exhibiting collections, and acquiring valuable items for storage or display.

Lower stress factors: "Archivists, curators, and museum technicians work in the academic field but often don't have the same level of stress as a professor," Shatkin says. "They are behind the scenes, doing their work without necessarily having to deal with students."

How to prepare for this career: According to the Department of Labor, most employers prefer archivist hopefuls to have a graduate degree in history or library science. Most museums require curators to have a master's degree in the museum's respective specialty, whether it's art, history, archaeology, or museum studies. Similarly, museum technicians usually need a bachelor's degree relevant to the museum's specialty, as well as preparation in museum studies or experience working in museums.

Average salary (Archivist): $49,190*
Average salary (Curator): $53,160*
Average salary (Museum Technician): $41,940*


*All average salary information is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics.


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