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Survey names nursing as the most rewarding profession

Survey names nursing as the most rewarding profession - Ciphr

Being a nurse is seen to be the most meaningful and rewarding profession in the UK, according to a new poll.

The survey of 1,000 workers, conducted by HR and payroll software provider Ciphr, revealed some interesting findings on the types of careers that people consider to be rewarding, with nearly 220 different jobs cited – ranging from vet to accountant and cybersecurity specialist to HR manager.

As expected, many (71%) respondents share a common view that public service roles offer the most fulfilling work and make a positive contribution to society – whether that’s in medicine (the top choice for 45% of those surveyed), education (13%), social care (9%), or law enforcement (4%).

Careers working with, and caring for, animals are also a popular choice (7%), as are jobs in the IT sector (4%).

Nurses, doctors, and teachers were ranked the most rewarding of all the caring professions – despite well-publicised concerns over falling real pay and staff shortages.

One respondent described nurses as the “backbone of the health service”, giving an example of how they “hold your hand when you are sick and provide comfort in really dark times”. While another praised the difficult work that nurses do and the “invaluable” support that they provide to families.

Other respondents admired doctors for their “life-changing skills” and explained how they could improve the “lives of people in an amazing way” every day.

Teachers were also singled out by many respondents for their dedication to “shaping the lives of the next generation”, and “helping young people achieve the best of their abilities”.

Notably, very few respondents mentioned the wages of these three, predominantly public sector, jobs – choosing to focus instead on the many benefits that nurses, doctors, and teachers provide to others (the non-monetary rewards of the work itself).

What do nurses earn? According to the latest* annual salary estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average median pay for full-time nursing professionals is £37,255. For doctors (generalist medical practitioners), it’s £43,514, and teachers earn £40,671.

Indeed, many of the occupations that feature in the top 20, such as being a carer or a midwife (ranked fifth and sixth respectively) aren’t known for their huge salaries – implying that financial reward isn’t regarded as the main motivator when it comes to jobs that help other people.

Seventh on the list, and the highest non-caring related role (depending on your point of view), is IT professional. Given how much of our daily life in and out of work now relies on tech to varying degrees, it’s not surprising that people who gave this response view it as a “useful” and “meaningful career” choice.

Rounding out the top 10 are three jobs that all strive to make a tangible difference in the lives of others by empowering and supporting vulnerable people, the broader community, and the natural world around us: charity worker, support worker, and social worker (ranked joint-eighth and 10th respectively).

Top 20 jobs that people think are the most meaningful and rewarding (average salary where available):

1             Nurse (£37,255)
2             Doctor (£43,514)
3             Teacher (£40,671)
4             Medical professional (£39,653)
5             Care worker (£21,523)
6             Midwife (£40,563)
7             IT professional (£46,732)
=8           Charity worker (£42,516)
=8           Support worker (£27,936)
10           Social worker (£39,053)
11           Police officer (£44,211)
12           Working for the NHS (—)
13           Lawyer (£48,580)
14           Vet (£44,489)
=15        Animal care worker (£21,372)
=15        Manager (—)
17           Working with animals (—)
=18        Customer service manager (£32,861)
=18        Firefighter (£36,979)
=20        Education professional (£40,878)
=20        Paramedic (£49,909)
=20        Professional footballer (—)

Some of the careers that narrowly missed a spot in the top 20 include accountant, engineer, therapist, pilot, researcher, retail professional, software engineer, and writer.

Jobs included in the women’s top 10 most rewarding jobs (but not the men’s top 10) include midwife, support worker, social worker, charity worker, and animal care worker. In comparison, jobs listed in the men’s top 10 (and not the women’s top 10) include IT professional, manager, police officer, working for the NHS, and professional footballer.

Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says:

“We all have an idea of what makes a job feel meaningful and rewarding to us. What’s interesting about this research is the breadth of jobs that people feel fit that description. And that’s because rewarding can be read in many ways. A job can be fulfilling, worthwhile, and satisfying for numerous different reasons.

“The most popular rewarding jobs named in Ciphr’s top 20 do have a universal attribute: nearly all these roles help and benefit others in some way, which makes the world we live in that bit better and brighter.

“But, that obviously doesn’t mean that other career paths are any less meaningful or important. People rarely have just one tick-box to fill to make a job feel rewarding to them – there are always a variety of factors that make the difference between an okay job and a great one. Especially if we’re talking about their own job – or a job they aspire to.

“For some people, a rewarding job is linked to engaging work, it’s a job that challenges them, where they have flexibility and variety in their tasks, the right amount of responsibility perhaps, a reasonable workload so they can achieve targets and goals, good learning and development opportunities, or a role that enables them to follow their passion and do something they are good at and feel valued doing. While other peoples’ idea of rewarding is more money, or better benefits and incentives. It’s whatever will help people feel more fulfilled in their daily role.

“It’s worth remembering, that if you’re not happy in your role and you don’t feel fulfilled by your job, then it’s time to speak with your manager and see what changes may need to be made. While switching jobs can work, there might be a simpler – and less extreme – way to improve your work situation.

“From an employer’s perspective, it’s in an organisation’s interest to understand what they can do to help their people to feel more fulfilled and rewarded in their roles, and make changes where possible when they are not. Put simply, happy, engaged employees are good for morale, good for productivity, and are more likely to stay with you for longer.”

Ciphr conducted an online survey of 1,000 employed UK adults in June 2023. Respondents were asked to name the first job(s) that came to mind when they thought of a meaningful / rewarding career. Most (86%) people provided qualitative responses to briefly explain their choice.

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