In terms of stress levels, it's surprising how some desk jobs stack up.



NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- If the goal of life is indeed the pursuit of happiness, we should all strive to avoid the causes of anxiety in our daily lives. While stress can and does come at us from a number of angles, most people probably point to their jobs as the primary source of stress, since the struggle to be financially comfortable and day-to-day reality of some jobs mean we spend the majority of our days on edge.

Some people (psychologists?) may be drawn to life's dirty drama, but for the rest of us who prefer to avoid stress, job Web site CareerCast crunched the numbers on 11 metrics to determine which jobs came with the most inherent anxiety for the average employee. In terms of stress levels, it's surprising how some desk jobs stack up.

Using CareerCast's stress scores (see the methodology here), we took a look at the top 10 and what makes them so stressful:

10. Taxi Driver
Stress score: 46.25
Average income: $22,440
Anyone behind the wheel of a car in a traffic jam knows driving can be stressful. So driving for a living must be extraordinarily stressful -- passengers in a rush will blame the driver for traffic, and just a little bit of reckless driving can cause severe bodily harm to anyone inside the vehicle. Drivers must be alert, so a 12-hour driving shift must be quite taxing mentally. Add that to the taxi driver's low average income (a hair more than the $22,113 poverty line for a family of four in the U.S.) and it's no surprise the job ranks as the 10th-most stressful.

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9. Photojournalist
Stress score: 47.09
Average income: $40,000
Photojournalists catalog history from the front lines, a reality that frequently puts them squarely in harm's way. Their work is invaluable though -- Tim Hetherington, a British photojournalist who was killed covering the war in Libya last year, produced an Oscar-nominated documentary, Restrepo, about a group of soldiers at war in Afghanistan in 2010.

8. Corporate executive
Stress score: 47.41
Average income: $165,830
Most people probably won't shed too many tears over the stressful life of a corporate executive, a job that comes with significant financial rewards despite the anxiety it causes. It's said money can't buy happiness though, and that seems to be true of the corporate executive, who must balance the needs of investors with the needs of the customer while keeping costs as low as possible throughout.

7. Public relations executive
Stress score: 47.56
Average income: $91,810
Public relations executives have a very clear mission at work, which is to make their clients look good, but the media scrutiny that seems to intensify every year means many are on permanent damage control. And that is stressful. Just imagine being the PR representative of any presidential candidate during primary season or any financial firm during the ongoing Occupy movement and think how you would put a good face on the latest round of corporate bonuses.

6. Event coordinator
Stress score: 49.85
Average income: $45,260
Event coordinators may not have the most glorious of titles, but the job is without a doubt one of the most stressful there is. Responsible for juggling a thousand tasks, budgets, plans and backup plans, the event coordinator typically works on highly visible occasions with absolutely immovable deadlines. The cruel irony of it all is that the best event coordinators are completely invisible -- when done right, an event just flows along smoothly without hiccups.

5. Police officer
Stress score: 53.63
Average income: $53,540
Police work is stressful under any conditions, since the balance between keeping the peace and serving the public is sometimes not entirely clear. Recent public protests in cities throughout the U.S. have thrust officers of the law into an uncomfortable spotlight as instances of perceived brutality make some lapses in judgment into a public and problematic affair.

4. Military general
Stress score: 55.17
Average income: $196,300
The highest income of any position on this list does not take the stress away from military generals. In addition to making decisions that could result in fellow Americans losing their lives, they must fight a PR battle as well to make sure their soldiers are acting in the country's best interests. The recent scandal over a leaked video of Marines desecrating the bodies of Afghan victims is just one example of the taxing situations that may cross the top brass' desk.

3. Airline pilot
Stress score: 59.58
Average income: $103,210
Physical stress is an undeniable side effect of the high-flying lifestyle of a commercial pilot. Jet lag, stale air and all manner of strange dangers and diseases in foreign cities (and some foreign foods) mean pilots can have a hard time finding rest. It's no wonder, then, that pilots' complaints played a role in American Airlines'(:AMR) recent bankruptcy filing.

2. Firefighter
Stress score: 60.26
Average income: $45,250
With tightened public budgets leading to cuts in services such as fire and police departments, firefighters throughout the country are being asked to do more with less. That means the stakes have only gotten higher for a job that already faces life-threatening situations multiple times a day for relatively little pay.

1. Enlisted soldier
Stress score: 84.61
Average income: $35,580
No other job comes close to matching the "high stress, low pay" reality of the modern enlisted soldier, the most stressful job in the country this year. True, scores of troops are coming home from the Middle East this year, but the many that remain will face a shrinking budget and empowered enemy. With a stress score that beats the second-place position by more than 20 points, the enlisted soldier is certainly in for a stressful year.



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