Teaching and social work are the most stressful jobs

Jan 17 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Teaching and social work are the most stressful professions in Britain, academics have concluded.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool collected data on stress levels from 25,352 employees working in 24 different occupations and ranked their averages according to two measures.

Teaching and social work appeared in the top three for both poor psychological wellbeing and physical ill health caused by stress.

The researchers suggested that "emotional labour" involving face-to-face or telephone contact with clients, and sometimes the suppressing of emotions, was a central factor in what makes a job stressful.

Other professions also found to involve high levels of stress were ambulance service employees, call centre staff, prison officers, clerical and administrative staff and police officers.


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I totally agree with the statement that teaching and social work are the most stressful jobs. I am a teacher, and I can attest to the fact that most teachers not only work 12 hour days, but they wear 12 different hats, so to speak. We are curriculum developers, disciplinarians, instructors, counselors, parents, policemen, actors, friends, and so much more to our kids. Some people might think that race car drivers or firefighters have more stressful jobs, but that's a totally different kind of stress (more of a risk-related stress that is probably part of the appeal of the job) whereas with teachers, a lot of what we do deals with emotions. Emotional stress just kills you; by the end of the day I feel like I have been run over by a truck. Also, teachers are given more work than they can possibly do, which is bound to be frustrating. Most people get into education to make a difference, but they are bogged down by paperwork, legislation, high workloads, and people who just don't care. It is very difficult to get people to change, which is what teaching is often about. Sometimes I feel like I'm just continually running full speed into a wall. True, teaching can sometimes be rewarding, but those rewards are few and far-between. I know that I just sound like another embittered educator, but there's a reason so many teachers are bitter. We are asked to do the impossible and then we are criticized for our efforts. We are threatened, abused, mistreated, derided, and overworked, yet the public still somehow sees us as lazy and incompetent. What we are really seeing are the effects of a society where everyone else is to blame but ourselves. If your child isn't learning, is it more likely to be because you never read to him when he was younger, never took the time to properly discipline him, and let him watch TV 8 hours a day, or is it because his teacher is 'out to get him'? Everyone wants to blame the teachers, when we are doing everything we can to help our students. The amount of pressure that we are under is enormous. No wonder there is such a high turnover rate in this profession.


Response to Megan: Teaching is stressful, but not the most stressful. Yes you have many demands and wear many hats, but walk into corporate america some day. Average work week these days is 60 hrs and we dont get summers off, recess, 3 week christmas breaks, spring breaks and snow days. Walk into a sales job where you are the profit center of a company, or project manager position managing a team and mulit-million dollar budgets and deadlines. I can assure you the stresses are far greater than in education. Many people today cannot take vacation because of workloads. If they do they bring their laptop and find themselves on conference calls at their vacation resort while the family is down at the beach. Todays corporate world is getting out of control. Production is far outpacing wage increase while employee disgruntlement continues to rise.


I have worked both in corporate America and in the teaching field, and I can fully attest that I have never been so completely stressed out. I was seeing a psychiatrist at one point to help me deal with the stress, and she informed me that most of her clients are teachers. Moreover, a friend of mine had a stroke while teaching and after she recovered her doctor warned her to get out of teaching because he said most of his patients are teachers. Those who think other professions are more difficult have never spent any significant time in the classroom. Imagine a profession where you work literally 12 hours a day, have difficulting sleeping because your mind is constantly at work, and in return you have children who deride you, parents who blame you, and administrators who expect more and more and more and more. I hate to sound ungrateful, but the fact of the matter is that teaching is a profession in which their is little pay off for the work you do, and many days you walk away wondering if what you do matters, if anyone appreciates your hard work. We do get breaks, but those breaks are spent going to conferences, preparing new lessons, catching up on paper work. I am currently trying to make the leap back into corporate work after six years as an English teacher, so believe me, there is no stress like this stress. If you are a parent reading this, thank your child's teacher. Don't just call when you have a problem. Teachers work so hard and rarely does anyone ever have anything to say to them unless it is negative.


Social work without a doubt is the most stressful job! Most social worker's are carrying people's and society's problems on his/her shoulders. They listen to problems day in and day out. Again, like teaching it can be rewarding. The pay is absolutetly terrible! I will have a master's degree in May and I will be lucky to make $30, 000 or higher, meanwhile I'll have $50,000 worth of student loans. There aren't any SOCIAL WORK UNIONS, unlike teachers. No one has our back! We are treated with disrespect , and disgust. We are viewed as 'children snatchers'. Some social workers' have an extremely large case load and work long amounts of hours. Unlike teachers, we do not have summers off (unless we don't want pay for a couple of months). I haven't noticed any one talk about the stress of this profession, and I think it is because we don't even have the energy; we are just suppossed to advocate for our clients. I just have to have hope, though. A little hope that society will place a higher value on all kinds of people facing all kinds of situations. Our society mainly values entertainment. Actors, musicians, athletes make millions and millions of $$ while we can't pay social workers enough money to do very important jobs like fight hunger, battling child abuse, and so on and so forth. I going to keep my head up high, and focus on making a difference. Meanwhile I pray for changes, even if I don't see it in my lifetime.

burned out social worker PA

While I agree that teaching and the corporate world may be very stressful, I must say that being in Law Enforcement is probably the most stressful career out there. Everything you do is analized and re-analized, while you may only have a split second to make your decision. The pay is very low. You are basically a moving target at all times. There is also the fact that your 'office' is usually on the side of a busy roadway. Nothing like working an accident or conducting a traffic stop when some idiot comes blowing through at about 60-70 MPH. Being in Law Enforcement you truly deal with the worst of the worst and some very unspeakable scenes. My hat's off to Fire Fighters and EMS workers as well. Their job is not much different, just not getting shot at near as often.


I have been a teacher for over 30 years, and for the most part, I enjoy it thoroughly. But, it is a very stressful job. At my school, there is very little planning time. We are with the students the better part of an eight hour day. We even eat our lunch with them. I would welcome 10 minutes at my desk to eat my lunch in peace. Plus, the people working in corporate positions are getting paid a pretty penny for their jobs. My salary will never compare to yours! Our summers are filled with conferences, classes, and planning for the next year. The only thanks we ever receive is from our principal. A nice note of gratitude from a parent would make my day!


I live in the United States but I would have to agree with the statement. I would also add policework to the top of the list, too. I am a teacher and I cannot handle the stress involved. Between students with issues, parents who aren't parents, initiatives from the state, administrators who are also overworked, and the long hours grading and planning, I just can't take it anymore. I've been seeing a therapist and she says that most of her clients are teachers and police officers. While I've never been shot at, students have come in with knives and guns, there are constantly fights that I'm expected to break up. I try to separate my work and home life but I find myself thinking about school all the time ('What should I have done differently?' 'How can I get through to this student?' 'Maybe if I change the lesson this way, the students will learn better.'). And now my health is affected. I've been so stressed that now I have a chronic illness. It's time for me to move on, but I have tremendous respect for those who can persevere in this profession.

Megan NJ, USA

Social Work, hands down is the most stressful job on the planet. We are expected to solve the problems of our clients, have an extremely gigantic workload, have to make monthly visits with each client, court reports, documentation, and the list goes on and on and on.


And alas people will always fight about whose job is harder and how 'easy' teachers have it because they have summers and holidays 'off' And all the teachers laugh (or cry) because they know it is just another uneducated, incompetent and/or inconsiderate parent complaining about what they THINK they 'know' about the people that devote their entire lives to helping other people's children.

But as EVERY teacher (or family member/friend of a teacher!) knows, summers, holidays and ESPECIALLY RECESS (!!!) are never 'off'. You spend most if not the MAJORITY of this time planning lessons/classroom activities/ways to help other peoples children, taking a ridiculous amount of courses and professional development activities to improve how you teach so you can furthur help other peoples kids learn and function. Well, if you are lucky you may get a bathroom break at recess (LMAO that this is considered “time off”..) I stress the fact that we do this FOR OTHER PEOPLE because Corporate America, as our friend 'Jon' states isn't exactly in it for 'other people' or children! Unlike Corporate America, we don't think about PROFIT or MONEY - we got into the profession and stay in it to help other people.

And speaking about money, most parents can never believe that we buy most of the supplies for our classroom with money out of OUR OWN pocket (at least in Ontario)!! I know teachers that spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on classroom supplies and NECESSARY teaching aides from a VERY limiting salary because they truly just want the best for the children they care for and teach. Again, our choice because we CARE but not a fact many parents know.

Not to mention, when you look at your average 5 years (or MORE) of post secondary education that Teachers are required to complete, the pay simply does not match the educational requirements and workload compared to other professions (statistics also show this). Like most university grads, recent teachers college students are up to their eyeballs in average debt of $30-40,000, working on a $30,000 salary even after 5 years of university. Only 2 to 4 more years and we could have become Dentists, Lawyers or Doctors (Because God knows numerous Teachers have the intelligence, dedication, persistence and people skills for these MUCH higher paying professions)... but NOPE, we didn't pursue those paths because we just wanted to “help kids” and 'make a difference” ……

I should also state that I rarely if ever complain about this because I knew all these things when deciding to the profession. I knew what I was getting into before getting into it but my passion and love for children and teaching outweighed all the idiot parents on the planet (hard to believe isn't it fellow teachers?!). However, when people like Jon (above) decide to post snide comments and state uneducated, completely inaccurate facts about the teaching profession (i.e since when did teachers get 3 weeks 'off' during Christmas - try half of that in Ontario, which again is spent grading, planning and organizing lessons and activities) .. Well, that is when teachers feel the need to educate parents about what they ACTUALLY do for their kids (besides you know give them their entire lives....)

And people wonder why Statistics CONSISTENTLY show teaching as one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. A successful teacher can only laugh or they will burnout and/or experience mental health challenges/illness.

My best advice to teachers: Take time for yourself, DONT LET WHINING PARENTS get to you (they will NEVER understand what we do for their kids no matter what we say!) and invest in a very qualified, sympathic therapist. Who is likely a former teacher (mine is!!)


Anon Ottawa, Canada