10 Best and Worst Jobs for Work-Life Balance


Between work and personal responsibilities, achieving work-life balance can be difficult. In a perfect world, the demands of your job and personal life would be balanced. That means you wouldn’t have to miss your child’s baseball game or neglect your personal to-do lists.

According to staffing and employment agency Robert Half, the majority of professionals enjoy a better work-life balance today than they did a few years ago. However, some careers make reaching the perfect work-life balance tougher than others. Click through to see which jobs to consider — and which ones to avoid — if you want to have a better work-life balance.

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The 10 Worst Jobs for Work-Life Balance

You’d be hard-pressed to find any job that doesn’t sometimes take up your personal time. However, some jobs are notorious for it. The following are some of the worst jobs for work-life balance because they often involve overtime or out-of-the-ordinary working hours. Some even take workers away from their family and friends for long stretches of time.

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10. Marketing Specialist

Median salary: $70,620

The work never seems to end at some jobs. That’s certainly true for careers within the marketing and creative industries. Marketing and creative professionals have to keep pace with an industry that’s evolving quickly, which can consume a lot of time, said Brett Good, senior district president with Robert Half.

“The creative industry, in general, is not a 9-to-5 profession,” Good said. “People often put in long hours during campaign launches and other busy periods.”

If you’re looking for more balance in these industries, try to find jobs that can be done remotely or on a freelance basis. These positions might include graphic designer, copywriter or proofreader, which offer a better balance, according to Good.

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9. Lawyer

Median salary: $139,880

A career at a major law firm usually means working a lot of overtime, after hours, weekends and even missing out on significant life events, such as a family vacation or school play.

“Whether lawyers are just starting out or have worked their way up the law firm career ladder, it can be difficult to achieve work-life balance due to the pressure of meeting billable hours requirements and the immediate demands of clients or caseloads,” Good said.

The industry is looking up for lawyers, however. According to Good, law firms are offering more programs, such as flex-time, reduced schedules and telecommuting to help their employees achieve greater work-life balance.

“Some law firms are offering non partnership-track positions — career associate or staff attorney, to name a couple — that require less travel, lower billable hours targets and no staff management or business development requirements,” he said.

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8. Surgeon

Median salary: $252,910

You’ll certainly make a lot of money in this high-paying career, but it will come with a price.

Working as a surgeon involves the care of patients in possible life-and-death situations. Burnout is very common because of the demands of the job and the inability to not turn off the surgeon “switch.” In many instances, surgeons take their work home with them and often are on call for surgery.

A better option might be to practice family medicine. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, these professionals report a positive balance between career and home. The annual salary for family and general practitioners is $200,810, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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7. Pharmacist

Median salary: $120,270

Trying to get on the same page with family and friends could be difficult for those working in pharmacy. Pharmacists often have to work night hours, weekends and holidays, especially those working in a hospital or in a retail pharmacy that is open around the clock.

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Forget being home for dinner or catching the kids before bedtime if you’re one of the pharmacists who works one of these less-than-appealing shifts. To improve your work-life balance, try to work for a pharmacy that isn’t open 24 hours a day. You also can pursue another pharmaceutical route and work for companies like Johnson & Johnson or Eli Lilly, which offer a positive work-life balance, according to Glassdoor.

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6. Business Executives

Median salary: $126,950

Being the head honcho can be synonymous with power, as you have final say over everything. However, power has no influence over work-life balance in many instances.

You would think it would be the opposite, but moving up the career ladder could mean additional stress and responsibilities and less time for yourself and family. There might be a feeling of needing to do more or be the problem solver, which can make it hard to step away.

In recent years, major players in large companies have made headlines for stepping down from their positions to spend more time with their families. For example, Google’s former senior vice president and chief financial officer Patrick Pichette stepped down from his position in 2015.

If you want a management-style role, Glassdoor ranked strategy manager and social media manager as two management positions with a good work-life balance in its 2016 report.

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5. Retail Sales

Median salary: $27,180

When you apply for a retail position, you’re basically volunteering to work unfavorable hours. If you work for a major retailer, expect to see night, weekend and holiday hours on your schedule.

Finding balance between work and personal time might become a little challenging, especially around the holidays. In fact, many employers limit retail sales workers’ use of vacation time during the holiday season from November through January, according to the Department of Labor.

According to Monster, working long hours is standard procedure for many retail professionals, whether as a sales associate or store manager. You might have better hours working for a locally owned store.

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4. Tour Guide

Median salary: $28,100

Vacationing for a living might sound like a dream come true. After all, you’re getting paid to see the world. If only the travel industry were as glamorous as it sounds, particularly when it comes to your personal time.

According to Dylan Gallagher, owner of the San Francisco tour company Orange Sky Adventures, a tour guide’s work-life balance is tough.

“Although we are seeing the incredible destinations of America, for a lot of our year, we spend [it] on the road, away from family and friends,” he said.

That means not always being there for family. You also run into the possibility of never having enough time to plan your own vacation with those who you wish to spend it with. If you don’t want to travel, consider a job as a travel booking agent at a location close to home.

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3. Restaurant and Beverage

Cook median salary: $24,370

Supervisors of cooks and servers median salary: $36,340

Server median salary: $24,490

Forget a 9-to-5 workday in the restaurant and beverage scene. You can bet you’ll work nights and weekends and will be picking up others’ shifts, whether you’re a manager, cook or server.

It’s hard to plan or even create any type of social life when your schedule is seldom the same. Say goodbye to your old life filled with people who work normal hours. Instead, you’ll find your free time meshes better with those working in the business.

According to the Department of Labor, restaurant managers often work more than 40 hours per week, as well as on short notice, including evenings, weekends and holidays. While night and weekend schedules can be ideal for those looking to supplement income with a side job, it’s not what most people want as their main source of income.

For a position with better balance, consider becoming a manager of institutional foodservice facilities in schools, factories or office buildings, as they typically work traditional hours.

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2. Reporter

Median salary: $49,770

If there’s one thing you learn early on about the news business, it’s this: Expect to be worked to the bones. The world doesn’t just go to sleep when you’re off the clock. News will break whenever and wherever, which is why reporter is one of the worst jobs for work-life balance.

Broadcast news reporters, in particular, might have it bad. According to the Department of Labor, these professionals might work additional hours or change shifts to follow breaking or developing stories. You can expect to work nights and weekends or have overnight stays if the story requires it. So, making any type of outside-of-work commitment can be challenging.

You will find a better balance between both worlds in a different side of the communications industry, such as public relations.


1. Truck Driver

Median salary: $43,590

Being a truck driver might come with the thrill of the open road and exploration of new places, but the work can be very demanding and lonely. What’s more, a truck driver’s work is incredibly sedentary, and it doesn’t leave much time for exercise or the ability to follow a proper diet.

Drivers often spend weeks on the road isolated from families and friends, more so than any other occupation, said Jake Tully, head of the creative department at TruckDrivingJobs.com.

“Over-the-road trucking jobs can pay very well and provide a steady job for those willing to take them on, but many drivers find it difficult to establish any sort of personal life in their time off, other than resting up for the next haul or some limited interaction with those around them,” Tully said.

If spending more time around home is your priority, consider being a local-delivery or short-haul driver instead.

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The 10 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance

Many of the best jobs for work-life balance have a few key features in common, including the ability to work part time and make your own schedule. Even those that don’t allow for such freedoms don’t typically involve working outside of a normal schedule.

If you’re looking to get a new job to restore work-life balance, consider the following professions.

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10. Fitness Instructor

Median salary: $42,780

What’s better than making time for your own well-being and helping others strive for the same? Knowing you have one of the best jobs for work-life balance.

Forbes ranked group fitness instructors as one of the best careers for work-life balance, citing a flexible schedule and free membership to work out.

According to the Department of Labor, you might have to work nights, weekends or even holidays to lead a group fitness class or a personal-trainer session. Working independently can give you more choice. You can also choose to work just part time in the field, only committing to what you want to take on.

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9. Cosmetology

Hairstylist median salary: $29,600

Manicurist median salary: $24,330

As anyone can attest, a really good haircut can make you feel great about yourself. Helping others look their best, from hair to nails, could offer a balanced lifestyle.

Although these professionals can work nights and weekends, schedules depend on the business and clientele. If you’re working at a salon that serves the after hours business crowd, then expect your schedule to mirror that. If your salon’s primary customers are stay-at-home moms or work-from-home professionals, however, the daytime could be your busiest.

According to the Department of Labor, most hairdressers work 40-hour weeks, although some do work part time, which adds flexibility. Working as a nail tech, particularly at hair salons, might be an attractive choice for those seeking an even better work-life balance.

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8. Office and Administrative Support

Median salary: $37,260

The office and administrative support industry includes many professions, such as information clerks, receptionists and secretaries. Generally, these individuals can find reasonable work-life balance.

Some administrative jobs are more conducive to flexible hours and remote-work arrangements than others, according to Good. It all depends on the particular business and type of position.

However, if you want to maximize your work-life balance, Good recommends temporary and part-time administrative positions, which can offer flexibility in your start and end times and project length.

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7. Education

Elementary and middle school teachers median salary: $59,270

Who wouldn’t want summers off to catch their breath? When you’re in education, you can expect to be at school when students are present, although you might have to grade papers or make lesson plans at night or on weekends.

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You still have the teacher workdays or the occasional parent-teacher meetings to attend, but you can expect the same schedule from day-to-day.

If you want the most flexibility, consider substitute teaching. In fact, Glassdoor gave it a 3.9 out of 5 in work-life balance appeal. The trade-off, of course, would be salary.

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6. Logistician

Median salary: $77,810

Supply-chain management can offer work-life flexibility. Glassdoor gave a supply-chain manager position a 4.3 ranking on its best work-life balance list.

The job entails the oversight of bringing products or services to a customer. According to the Department of Labor, individuals typically enjoy normal business hours, although overtime might be required occasionally to meet demands.

If you want a bit more control over your schedule, consider becoming a management analyst, which entails consulting businesses on ways to improve their efficiency. According to the Department of Labor, these professionals can decide when, where and how much they work.

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5. Finance and Accounting

Accountant median salary: $76,730

Being an accountant might sound like a boring job, but it pays well and is one of the best jobs for work-life balance.

Robert Half Management Resources found in its research that the majority of finance and accounting professionals are satisfied with their work-life balance. Many of the factions of these industries have implemented changes in recent years to support their employees’ efforts to achieve greater balance, Good said.

“Accounting and finance employers more commonly offer flexible scheduling options, remote-work arrangements and additional vacation,” he said.

Still, the world of finance and accounting is not perfect at times. Typically, these professionals experience spikes in work level, especially around tax season, which could throw off work-balance.

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4. Real Estate

Median salary: $59,360

It’s possible to have it all as a real estate agent. You can plan your schedule around family activities and your specific needs, if you choose.

Although you might have to work the occasional evenings and weekends for showings, you generally have a say in when you work. According to the Department of Labor, many of these professionals are self-employed, and one in five work part time. If you want to go all in, you could have long workdays, however.

When it comes to big real estate companies, consider Coldwell Banker. The company has been ranked as one of the best companies for work-life balance, according to Forbes.

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3. Engineer

Research engineer median salary: $84,232

Electrical engineer median salary: $98,620

Materials engineer median salary: $97,050

If you’re looking for an occupation that delivers on pay and quality of life, consider one in the engineering field. Glassdoor ranks many engineering jobs among the best jobs, including data, software, electrical and research engineering.

Research engineer, in particular, made Glassdoor’s list of best work-life balance jobs, scoring a 3.9 rating. These individuals generally work in an office or laboratory analyzing processes and conducting experiments.

According to ENGINEERING.com, a website for engineering news, many engineers have lives outside of work and are well-rounded individuals. Women, especially, should consider becoming engineers, as it is among the highest-paying jobs for women.

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2. Human Resources/Recruiter

Median salary: $59,180

If there’s one thing human resources professionals should get right it’s work-life balance. After all, they’re the ones at the forefront of introducing and updating policies and benefits that impact work-life balance and should set an example, according to Good.

“Most HR positions have standard work hours,” he said. “But there are aspects of the profession, such as recruiting, that can take place outside the normal 9-to-5 schedule.”

Given technological advances, recruiters can work from nearly anywhere and at any time. In Glassdoor’s annual report, corporate recruiters ranked the highest for work-life balance, with a 4.1 rating out of 5. If you’re a people person, this career could be for you.

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1. Technology

Mobile developer median salary: $78,232

With employment estimated to grow much faster than average and one of the best work-life balance scenarios, working in tech industry can be your best bet. According to Good, many technology professionals can see benefits when it comes to work-life balance, especially as it relates to flexible arrangements.

“The tech industry lends itself to remote working and adaptable hours, which can certainly contribute to feeling able to strike a healthy balance between work and personal life,” Good said.

There are roles, though, that require office presence, so not all tech jobs are created equal, said Good. He suggests roles in development, such as web and mobile development, which tend to allow for more flexibility.

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Slowing or Declining Temporary Job Market

Temporary staffing companies tend to be the first businesses to witness growth after a downturn, reports Fast Company. Thus, when the hiring of temporary employees slows or outright declines, it can be a warning signal of an economic downturn.

You could argue that a decline in temporary jobs could indicate a transition to full-time jobs. But take note that decreases in the employment of temporary workers are usually related to cost-cutting measures.

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