Degree regret? The top 10 degrees that lead to the most stressful jobs

most stressful jobs
Some jobs come with high stress levels that could lead to depression and many feeling burnt out. Source: Sandy Huffaker/AFP

It’s common for most of us to think we are working the most stressful jobs in the world.

Naturally, we put in time, effort and energy — trying our best in what seems like a tough economy in a tough world.

But a lesser-known reason for us struggling through what we feel is the most stressful jobs in the world could be due to one factor: lack of foresight.

We didn’t know what we were getting into.

As students, we had hoped to earn degrees so that they may land us good jobs. The problem with university, however, is it doesn’t give us a full picture of what those will be like.

What our 20-year-old selves defined as a good job is based on a limited understanding of what the job entails — especially its downsides and challenges.

We knew that lawyers lead intense schedules but we’ve never experienced being in a firm, where everyone was feeling the pressure and that their stress was contagious.

We thought that stress is just a temporary feeling you get when meeting deadlines. But we don’t know that stress can stay on longer, and cause our high blood pressure and heart disease.

We thought studying design lets our creativity run free. But working in advertising meant the opposite — following client instructions may be ok to your good-girl sister but not you, a free spirit.

We also wanted to change the world but didn’t know that having lives depend on you is so high-stakes and so stressful.

Pursuing a degree versus living the degree as a professional are two different worlds.

Everyone’s transition to work is unique, as are our reactions to stress.

However, by considering their work environment and responsibilities, some degrees are known to lead to more challenging careers.

Below are the 10 degrees that lead to the most stressful jobs in the world:

most stressful jobs

Working as a surgeon is known to be the most stressful job in the world. Source: Alexis Huguet/AFP

10 degrees that lead to the most stressful jobs:

1. Bachelor of Surgery

Medicine is well-known as one of the, if not the hardest degree in the world.

Little surprise then that one of its most popular career options, i.e. a surgeon — is also known as one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

Even the process of becoming a surgeon is stressful. Not only does it take years of studying and specialising, but becoming a surgeon includes memorising a lot of information and theories. 

Once they’ve qualified, surgeons are then responsible for the lives of their patients. Unlike office workers who can delete wrongly worded email, there is no room for mistakes in their daily work.

You can’t delete a death. Or having to tell a family that you couldn’t save their loved ones.

Unexpected surprises also add to the high-stress level that comes with this job.

Often, surgeons do not know what they are dealing with until they open the patient up. Surgeons have to be ready to make critical decisions on the spot. 

Working in this field involves long shifts and spending hours on your feet, which can take a physical toll as well.

Passion is necessary to thrive in one of the most stressful jobs in the world — if that sounds like you, here are some of the top universities where you can earn a bachelor’s in surgery: 

  • Johns Hopkins University, US
  • Harvard University, US
  • University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
nursing schools

Although nursing is considered one of the most stressful jobs, it is also one of the noblest. Source: Theo Rouby/AFP

2. Bachelor 0f Nursing

A Bachelor 0f Nursing aims to prepare nurses for entry-level professional practice. The best part about pursuing this career is that nurses are currently in demand.

The nurse demand is predicted to increase by 6% by 2031, ensuring aspiring nurses will find employment post-graduation. 

However, keep in mind that nursing is one of the most stressful jobs, and many have reported feeling burnt out. 

Long hours on back-to-back days and having to be available any time of the day can take a toll on nurses. 

Still interested? Gain your nursing qualification from one of these universities:

  • University of Pennsylvania, US
  • King’s College London, UK
  • Johns Hopkins University, US
most stressful jobs

Anthony Bourdain discussed the stressful environment that chefs face behind kitchen doors in his book “Kitchen Confidential.” Source: Dylan Rives/AFP

3. Bachelor of Culinary Arts 

A Bachelor of Culinary Arts can lead to many jobs, from event catering, kitchen management, and hospitality to nutrition consulting, cafeteria administration, and even owning a restaurant.

While you will enjoy eating delicious food, the role of a chef is extremely stressful. If you have watched any of Gordon Ramsay’s shows, you know how challenging it can be working in a kitchen. 

These high-stress levels are due to working in a hot, chaotic, busy and demanding kitchen where you are expected to cook orders to perfection and as fast as you can.

You’ll spill hot liquid and misplace knives, sometimes even on your own skin. It’s all part and parcel of being in the food industry, even for top chefs.

If this is exciting to you, become a professional chef by gaining skills from one of these institutions:

  • Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, US
  • Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France
  • Culinary Arts Academy, Switzerland

4. Bachelor of Economics 

A Bachelor of Economics is an unlikely contender in this list of most stressful jobs.

This degree provides you with the skills to understand how decisions are made, how markets work and how economic forces drive social systems.

What’s so stressful about that?

The challenge comes with the application of your knowledge from this degree.

With this degree, you are deemed equipped to make better decisions and solve more problems.

And one of the most stressful jobs that you can pursue with this degree is working as a sales manager. 

As a sales manager, you are constantly under pressure to always improve sales and increase profit.

They usually work full time and may work additional hours over the weekend and on holidays.

Eternal growth isn’t possible, but that’s what most shareholders want. This means a sales manager is constantly chasing after what seems like the impossible.

It’s also a highly competitive job, as you must always follow leads, no matter what time of day.

The following universities offer Bachelor of Economics degrees:

  • Harvard University, US
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US
  • Stanford University, US

5. Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

Bachelor of Electrical Engineering is one of the most popular engineering majors, attracting many students every year. 

However, not many students choose to pursue a career as an electrical engineer once they graduate, as it is one of the most stressful jobs. 

Electrical engineers are responsible for troubleshooting and resolving issues to ensure each company’s system, device, and component operates effectively.

You’re always under pressure to solve such problems and to do it quick — even if the solution may be light years away.

Interested? Study at one of the best universities for electrical engineering: 

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US
  • Stanford University, US
  • University of California, Berkeley, US
most stressful jobs

Working as a lawyer comes with many sleepless nights when working on a case. Source: Bertrand Guay/AFP

6. Bachelor of Law

A law degree is one of the most versatile university degrees one can have. With this qualification in hand, you can choose many different career pathways. 

Practice is one of the most stressful jobs for a law graduate for two reasons: billable hours.

Many lawyers work more than 40 hours a week. Why sleep when you can bring more money to the firm by billing another eight hours to a client?

Many young lawyers often find themselves working 16-hour days — they’re sold a dream that they need to do this for five to eight years, before becoming a partner with unimaginable riches.

The culture doesn’t help either. Stress is encouraged, even exalted. A young lawyer is expected to enjoy  negotiating contracts, overseeing mergers and acquisitions, defending or prosecuting crimes, settling disputes, and buying and selling property.

Resilience is necessary if this is the profession you seek. Here are the best universities in the world to gain a law degree:

  • Stanford University, US
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • University of Cambridge, UK

7. Bachelor in Finance 

As a financial analyst, you will examine financial data and guide businesses on investment opportunities. 

Though not the most stressful job, the role of a financial analyst does involve working long hours, never-ending deadlines and unhappy clients – especially when the market takes a turn for the worst. 

Investment banking is a highly competitive industry, and those in this line must constantly keep on top of business and market trends.

These translate to very long hours, ranging from 60 to over 100 hours per week, depending on the company and the deals at hand.

A 2021 Working Conditions Survey by Goldman Sachs found that first-year investment banking analysts work more than 95 hours per week on average.

The pay, however, is generous. The most junior investment bankers reportedly get a US$110,000 annual base salary, according to a 2021 report.

Sold? Get a Bachelor in Finance from one of these universities:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US
  • London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  • Harvard University, US
most stressful jobs

Pilots undergo high levels of stress as they are responsible for the lives of those onboard their flights. Source: Damir Sencar/AFP

8. Bachelor in Aviation

A Bachelor in Aviation prepares you for many jobs — the most popular being a pilot. 

Although generously compensated, with the chance to see the world and fly one of the most advanced machinery in the sky, piloting is one of the most stressful jobs today.

Imagine having the lives of hundreds of passengers and crew in your hands.

Aside from that, pilots also have to deal with changes in their schedules. Sure, you will be able to enjoy visiting many countries but dealing with the time difference can increase stress levels. 

There is no 9-to-5 and you may never understand how the rest of the world live.

If this sounds like something you can handle, here are some top universities to consider:

  • University of New South Wales, Australia 
  • Purdue University, US
  • Global Aviation, Greece
most stressful jobs

Mental health counsellors have to be available 24/7 for their patients. Source: Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP

9. Bachelor of Psychology 

A Bachelor of Psychology often conjures up images of a therapist sitting on couches — which sounds pretty comfortable so what makes it one of the most stressful jobs?

It’s what’s sitting on the opposite end of the couch: the patient. 

Although it’s the patient who’s dealing with trauma, psychologists and therapists deal with secondary trauma too.

This refers to the emotional duress that results from hearing about someone else’s traumatic experiences.

They are also always on call to work late nights and weekends as and when your patients need you. 

With so little known about how our minds work, this presents another challenge to Bachelor of Psychology graduates.

Your field is not as advanced as medicine — many of the solutions have yet to be discovered. Yet, your client needs help now.

However, despite the high-stress levels, helping others through difficult times can be rewarding. 

Choose from one of these universities to kickstart your career:

  • Stanford University, US
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Princeton University, US
most stressful jobs

Teaching involves high levels of stress as teachers are always on their feet dealing with children. Source: Manjunath Kiran/AFP

10. Bachelor of Education

A Bachelor of Education will prepare you with the knowledge and skills for a career as a teacher. 

While many argue that a career as a teacher is easy, especially with all the holidays they get, this is actually one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

Teachers are responsible for shaping and nurturing the minds of young people. Meaning that the outcome of the future generations lies in the hands of teachers

That responsibility aside, teachers also have to endure long working hours to mark papers and set lesson plans. 

The stress levels are even more for special needs teachers who have to deal with a variety of different personalities and needs, which could also include disruptive students. 

Being a special needs teacher requires a lot of patience and the ability to stay calm in stressful situations. 

Up for the challenge? Choose from one of these universities to pursue a degree in teaching:

  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Stanford University, US
  • University of Melbourne, Australia