I just came across a mind-boggling discrepancy on Forbes. They published two separate articles: one is a list of surprisingly low-paying jobs, and the other is a list of surprisingly high-paying jobs.  Both lists, compiled by the same writer, feature “Embalmer.”

In fact, the article entitled “10 Unusual Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well,” which was published in May 2013, states that an embalming career rakes in an average of $43,680. In February’s article, “13 Surprisingly Low-Paying Jobs,” embalming earns a mean annual income of $45,060. Ironically, that's higher than the “high-paying” figure quoted. They were published a mere three months apart, so it’s not as if the embalming market had swung wildly in one direction or the other. And they even use the same bleak-looking casket for their clickable photo gallery.

Low-paying and high-paying are relative terms. When presented with a random salary, we might not agree with one another. But the element of surprise should guarantee that a career stay on either one list or the other, as we weigh skill sets against one another. If a nuclear physicist only earned $40,000, we could probably agree that that was low-paying. Meanwhile, if pooper-scoopers earned an annual $40,000, we’d be shocked.

Forbes doesn’t have any idea what embalmers should be compensated. Do any of us? What does it take? Credentials, schooling, coordination, mental stamina, finesse? Without context, how do we determine the value of any career?  Maybe it makes an appearance in both lists because it sounds eccentric. Do you know anyone who embalms? I don’t. But by prefacing a stat with "Can you believe...?" it erases some of the thinking we must do for ourselves. And in either case, we are "surprised."

I read Forbes daily because they jump on trending business stories quite quickly. But that immediacy might also be its downfall.

Tags: Forbes, News, Embalming, High-paying, Low-paying, Embalmer, Unusual jobs