Which Professionals Are Prone to Burnout?

Mary Gormandy White
Police Officer at Work

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a type of job stress in which you might feel physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. You might also question your career choice and the value of your contribution at work. While anyone can experience job burnout, there are some occupations where burnout tends to occur at a higher rate than others.

Ten Occupations with High Burnout Rates

1. Physician

The American Medical Association estimates that almost 50 percent of physicians experience symptoms of serious job burnout, attributed in part due to the demands and stress of patient care, long hours and increasing administrative burdens associated with practicing medicine. The occurrence of burnout symptoms is much more common in the specialties of emergency medicine, family physicians and internists.

2. Nurse

Burnout is also common in the nursing profession. A Journal of American Medical Association article attributes high burnout among nurses to high nurse-to-patient ratios, while Science Daily attributes burnout to the long shifts often required in this occupation.

3. Social Worker

According to Compassion Fatigue by Tracy C. Wharton, M.Ed., MFT, the painful realities that social workers face on a daily basis as a result of working with clients spills over into their personal lives. This can result in burnout related to the experience of personal distress and a condition described by the National Institutes of Health as Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) syndrome.

4. Teacher

According to THE Journal, teaching "has the highest burnout rate of any public service job," attributed at least in part to problems with working conditions and access to technology. THE Journal cites studies that indicate that the occurrence of burnout may be worse among the youngest teachers, with teachers under the age of 30 choosing to leave the profession at a rate 51 percent higher than those who are older.

5. School Principal

The National Association of Elementary School Principals indicates that principal burnout is on the rise. As many as 75 percent of elementary school principals experience serious symptoms of stress associated with the ongoing and constant pressures of their jobs.

6. Attorney

According to an article in Law Practice Magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association, burnout among attorneys tends to be higher than in many other professions. Burnout among attorneys may result from the nature of working in a field that focuses on problems as well as extreme competitiveness for clients and among associates.

7. Police Officer

According to Officer.com, burnout is not uncommon among police officers. Working in this field requires dealing with high-risk, high-stress situations, paired with a hectic lifestyle where professionals are exposed to the worst of human nature on an ongoing basis. Burnout often impacts those police officers who were the most committed to their professions in the beginning.

8. Public Accounting

According to Monster.com's Ledger Link, burnout is a widely recognized problem in the field of public accounting. Professionals in this field juggle heavy client loads and are often required to deal with frequent business travel along with crazy tax season schedules and quarterly filing deadlines throughout the year, factors that lead to prolonged periods of stress and exhaustion.

9. Fast Food

Burnout is not limited to occupations that require a significant amount of training and preparation prior to entering the field. Market Watch, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, indicates that the low pay and monotonous tasks associated with working in the fast food industry leads to extremely high turnover among employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, turnover is one of the major indicators and potential predictors of occupational burnout. Job-related depression is another key indicator of burnout, a condition that Dr. Deborah Serani says is high among fast food workers.

10. Retail

Turnover also tends to be quite high among retail workers. The same MarketWatch article that discussed turnover among fast food workers also indicates that turnover for non-managerial retail jobs runs about 60 percent among full time workers and 110 percent (meaning that, on average, ten percent of positions have to be filled twice in a single year) among part-timers. A Monster.com article attributes retail turnover to an environment where employees do not feel valued by management and are treated as if they are expendable.

Burnout Is a Widespread Problem

These are not the only professions where burnout is possible but rather a few examples of career fields where burnout seems to be fairly common. According to an October 2012 USA Today article, workplace burnout is up across the board, partly due to economic conditions but largely related to the work environment and the nature of the work itself. Anyone can experience burnout regardless of occupation when they have elevated stress levels, work long hours, become exhausted and feel unappreciated or devalued.

Which Professionals Are Prone to Burnout?