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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A workday for the average employed American consists of about 7.7 hours sleeping and 8.8 hours working. That leaves only seven-and-a-half hours out of the day for anything else.

It also means if you're working a job that sucks the soul out of you, the majority of your waking life can be spent in misery or clock-watching limbo.

Suffice it to say, finding a meaningful job matters.

But what is a meaningful job? A new survey by the salary and job tracking website Payscale might have the answer. The company gathered data from 454 careers on subjects like stress level, compensation and if employees felt their job made the world a better place.

Take a look at the ten most and ten least meaningful jobs and their average salary:

Most meaningful:

  • 1. Clergy ($45,000)
  • 2. Religious activities and education directors ($35,900)
  • 3. Surgeons ($299,600)
  • 4. Elementary/secondary education administrators ($75,900)
  • 5. Chiropractors ($58,700)
  • 6. Firefighters ($43,500)
  • 7. Radiation therapists ($69,800)
  • 8. Speech-language pathologists ($66,200)
  • 9. Managers of fire fighting and prevention workers ($69,400)
  • 10. Anesthesiologists ($291,300)

Least meaningful:

  • 1. Fast food cooks ($17,300)
  • 2. Fashion designers ($51,200)
  • 3. Gaming supervisors ($45,000)
  • 4. Model makers, metal and plastic ($51,900)
  • 5. Restaurant, lounge, coffee shop hosts and hostesses ($19,100)
  • 6. Prepress technicians & workers ($38,300)
  • 7. Job printers ($47,900)
  • 8. Dining room, cafeteria and bartender helpers: ($19,000)
  • 9. Printing machine operators ($35,300)
  • 10. Fabric & apparel patternmakers ($51,400)

What's It all Mean?

Just because a clergy member finds deep meaning in his work doesn't mean you make a break from your cubicle to the nearest seminary school. And just because someone else finds a job meaningful doesn't mean you necessarily will.

"Most people have a limited range of jobs they would find meaningful," says Michael Steger, an associate professor who teaches at and runs the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life at Colorado State University. He believes every industry can hold meaning for the right employee, so long as the job isn't "inherently demeaning" like for sweatshop workers.

Cash Does Not Rule Everything

Big bucks don't mean big meaning. According to Katie Bardaro, lead economist at PayScale, the survey shows "no strong correlation between meaning and compensation."

Steger agrees. While there have been no comprehensive national studies yet, Steger's own studies and research found a small but "not very strong correlation" between salary and meaning, he says.

It makes sense that 88% of fast food cooks making $17,000 a year don't find their job meaningful. But the majority of fashion designers surveyed, who make three times a fast food cook's salary, found their job just as meaningless. Mid-career lawyers, who make about $90,000 a year, expressed tepid meaning in their jobs, with only 40% reporting their work was meaningful.

It also seems to matter more what you think than what the outside world thinks.

Take for example, CEOs. They scored 74% in job meaning (and make an average of $124,600 a year) despite their less-than stellar reputation.

"CEOs tend to have a high meaning, and some people can argue that's true—but in today's world, people like to hate on CEOs," said Bardaro. "If you ask the average person on the street, they wouldn't agree."

Other careers went the opposite way. Only 52% of pilots, copilots and flight engineers reported high job meaning, even though those are the people who keep us safe in the air.

Ideally, there needs to be congruence between one's private life and his work. "You probably can't be someone who says, 'the meaning of my life is to help the poor,' and run a check cashing company exploiting the poor," says Steger. There also has to be a feeling the work contributes to society in a positive way.

Changing Values

Having a meaningful job also depends on what motivates the worker — and that appears to be changing with the next generation.

The newest workforce generation, the Millennials, have shown a tendency to value meaning over money more than previous generations. According to a study by McGraw-Hill Education, 73% of college Millennials polled said they would rather have a job they loved instead of a job that paid well.

If that's the case and money isn't a concern, the education and social sector fields could be a good fit. Education administrators, kindergarten school teachers, school counselors, mental health counselors and substance abuse counselors all reported meaningful work.

Want meaning and money? Look into medicine. Many medical profession workers reported a high satisfaction rate with a high income — physical therapists, epidemiologists, therapists, psychiatrists and podiatrists all seemed to find meaning in their work.

But if you aren't really concerned with the world and just want to do your own thing with a decent paycheck? Consider a job in the technology field. The pay is good, and there's usually not much in the way of 'giving back.'

While hopeful Millennials may not be clamoring for jobs without meaning, those priorities could change when the student loans and monthly bills start rolling in.

--Written by Craig Donofrio for MainStreet