While the job of biologist takes top overall honors in the latest edition of the "Jobs Rated Almanac," employment as a cowboy ranked a lowly 248th out of the 250 jobs reviewed.
Cowboys are paid about $31,000 a year on average, have limited prospects for advancement and face some of the greatest physical demands, according to the listing, which ranks jobs in a variety of categories. Only the physically demanding and low-paying work of the fisherman and the lumberjack ranked lower.
Biologists, in comparison, make an average of more than $92,000 a year and have the best future prospects, sparked in large part by the completion of the human gene map and last year's anthrax scare, according to the book's editor, Les Krantz.
"This book is about the real, honest-to-God, no-fooling-around workaday week," said Krantz, whose own job, publication editor, was ranked 31st overall. It also gives people an opportunity to learn "everything you wanted to ask about your friends' and neighbors' jobs," he said.
Begun in 1988, the sixth edition of the list was to be released Friday. In previous editions, the top spots have gone to actuary and financial planner, Nos. 2 and 3 this time.
Krantz uses statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the census, professional organizations and telephone surveys in ranking 250 jobs - some of them uncommon, such as roustabout (No. 239) and stevedore (No. 241), two jobs involving working on and loading ships. The jobs are ranked according to six variables: income, stress, physical demands, potential growth, job security and work environment.
The new edition's top 10 overall jobs were rounded out by computer systems analyst, accountant, software engineer, meteorologist, paralegal assistant, statistician and astronomer.
Completing the bottom 10 were roofer, farmer, construction worker, taxi driver, seaman and ironworker.
Some of the highest paid jobs are coupled with high stress and a poor work environment. The office of president has the fifth highest pay at $400,000, but is ranked 175th because it has the worst work environment and the highest level of stress, Krantz said.
Professional athletes also have the potential for high pay and a lot of time off, but their job comes with substantial stress, limited security and heavy physical demands. Other high-stress, physically demanding jobs, such as police officer and firefighter, come with moderate pay and poor work environments.
Krantz said the side-by-side comparison of jobs can make some people think twice about what they think they'd like to do for a living.
For those who prefer to avoid stress altogether, musical instrument repair ranks easiest on the nerves, edging out florist and medical records technician.
And if money is the object, nothing tops stardom in the National Basketball Association, which can bring an average-earner more than $4.5 million a year. That's more than double the No. 2 and 3 big-money jobs: Major League Baseball player and National Football League athlete.