According to CareerCast.com, a job search site that offers career advice and job ratings, Software Engineer ranks as The Best Job of 2011, putting it ahead of Mathematician and Actuary (which was Best Job of 2010) which take 2nd and 3rd places.
The factors taken into account in ranking 200 professions were: Environment, Income, Outlook, Stress and Physical Demands. As explained in its rating methodology, points are awarded for adverse conditions and so the lower the score the better. A reduction in stress factors such as Growth Potential and Competitiveness meant that in terms of Stress Software Engineer improved from 25th to 15th place overall.
Commenting on the factors that led to its top place CareerCast's Andrew Streiber wrote:
the strong performance of Software Engineer this year can be attributed to two emerging industries: web applications and cloud computing. A proliferation of companies making applications for smartphones and tablets, along with the push to develop "cloud" software hosted entirely online, has made the job market for Software Engineers broader and more diverse.
Of course the big problem is working out exactly what is meant by a "Software Engineer". The computing industry has never been particularly clear about what to call a programmer. The definition given in the survey is:
Researches, designs, develops and maintains software systems along with hardware development for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes.
which both covers a lot of ground and leaves a lot out.
Best job doesn't imply best paid.
In terms of Income Software Engineer ranked 23rd taking into account a Growth Potential of 140% between initial and final salary. The survey quotes a mid-level annual salary for a Software Engineer in America as $87,000.
So we have the best job - hey its low stress - but we might not get paid the top rates. It's odd isn't it that most of us probably don't realise just how lucky we are.