According to the American General Social Surveys* (GSS) carried out between 1998 and 2006, the top 10 careers which provide the most job satisfaction are as follows:
The question asked was 'On the whole, how satisfied are you with the work you do - would you say you are very satisfied, moderately satisfied, a little dissatisfied, or very satisfied?'
The mean score ranges from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 4 (very satisfied).
The same surveys also asked about general happiness:
The question asked was 'Taken all together, how would you say things are these days -would you say you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?'
The mean score ranges from 1 (not too happy) to 3 (very happy).
This reveals that the most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching, and protecting others as well as the creative pursuits. Since people's feelings about their work usually have a significant impact on their general happiness, it's not surprising that some of the same professions appear in the Top 10 for general happiness too.
It's interesting that the clergy appear top of both tables, suggesting that finding meaning in your work is a crucial part of both job satisfaction and happiness. Psychologists Judge, Thoresen, Bono and Patton (2001) have shown that job satisfaction and performance are correlated. According to Wrzesniewski (2003), if jobs which give people meaning (for example because they make a contribution to the wider world) are linked to high job satisfaction, and job satisfaction is linked to work performance, people who find meaning in their work are more likely to perform better than those who don't. So it's in the interests of all organisations to help employees create meaning in their work.
Incidentally, the bottom occupation for job satisfaction in this survey was roofing, which unfortunately was 2nd bottom for general happiness too- only 25% of roofers said they were very satisfied with their jobs and only 14% were very happy...
*The General Social Survey which has been conducted since 1972, collects basic information from across the United States in order to monitor social trends. The GSS is based on interviews of randomly selected people who represent a scientifically accurate cross section of Americans. A total of 27,587 people were interviewed for the job satisfaction and happiness section of the survey.
My thanks to Rochelle Melander for this information.