Paralegal: An Underrated Job?

Paralegals and legal assistants make an average annual income of $47,000, and over the past three years the average unemployment rate in the field has been just 3.1%. The job is also relatively low-stress, involves little contact with the public, and doesn’t require employees to breathe in toxic fumes or lift loads of 50 lbs. or more. Those factors land paralegal in the number one spot on’s new list of most underrated jobs. Second on the list: accountant, with an average income of $60,000 and an average three-year unemployment rate of 4.8%. Loan officer ranks third, with income of $55,000 and a three-year unemployment rate of 4.4%.

Each January CareerCast, the three-year-old Carlsbad, Calif. jobs website, releases a list of America’s ten best and ten worst jobs after evaluating 200 professions using five core criteria: pay, hiring outlook, work environment, stress and physical demands. (My colleague Jacquelyn Smith covered the last best and worst lists here.) T
he data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and an array of private compensation surveys, trade association studies and state statistics. (A CareerCast team did the number crunching that resulted in the compensation and unemployment figures above.)

This year, with unemployment persistently high and pressure on politicians to improve the jobs picture, Tony Lee, CareerCast’s publisher, says he and his team figured it was time to tap its vast data pool and release a list of jobs that may be unglamorous but that have better than average employment rates and incomes. While they don’t pay the six- or seven-figure compensation of hedge fund managers or heart surgeons, these underrated jobs allow workers to enjoy a decent standard of living and a relatively bright employment outlook. “We tried to come up with a list that’s relevant to most working people,” says Lee