How Prestigious Is Your Job?

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US News has an article on The Most (and Least) Prestigious Careers using data from a Harris Interactive poll:


The article notes that the least prestigious jobs tend to be higher paying than many of the more prestigious jobs. I did find it amusing that “real estate agent” was on the bottom of the list, even below “actor” and “accountant”. Are people grouchy about their house value dropping or what?

Personally I don’t really place prestige very high on my list of important factors in choosing a job… I usually just tell most people I do “stuff with computers” and they just nod and move onto something else. But here’s a good time give a shout-out to my friend Tom who just graduated from Fire(fighter) Academy!

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  1. This is a great survey. We pay firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers absolutely nothing, and we fork over quite a bit for actors, entertainers, and brokers (stock and real, provide no value).

    People should put their money where their mouth is just once.

    I believe this survey is more along the lines of….”I’m really happy someone ELSE is doing it because I sure as hell wouldn’t”.

    Pay = prestige

  2. Ted Valentine says

    I’m in waste management consulting. Is that prestigious enough?

  3. Excellent points, Keith. Its almost inverse – the less pay the more prestigious. As an attorney, I’m surprised not to find myself in the bottom ten. Maybe we’re at 11.


    What kind of people did they poll? The whole list is whacked and way off base. It’s one thing if a certain job (like attorneys or even business executives) have negative associations, but nevertheless, those occupations are still very prestigious, deserving to be near the top of the prestigious list.


  5. i saw this awhile back and wondered if it were true. While firefighters are definitely honorable, it doesn’t seem like the average person consideres it a prestigious job. Perhaps I’m mistaken in my definition of prestige

  6. Drew Miller says

    I think this poll is a combination of people not knowing what “prestige” means and people trying to answer in a way that makes them sound like good upstanding citizens.

  7. I don’t think it’s as much a matter of home value that puts real estate brokers at the bottom of the list as it is that I think people think that any schlub can be one if they just pass a test and most of them only sell a couple houses a year.

  8. Farmers are prestigious?

    I think prestige is a substitute for pay… Most employers know the trick of handing out psychic pay – Bigger office, new title, more reports… same paycheck.

    I think society does the same thing.

  9. Shocking that politician isn’t on the least list.

  10. Sorry, that poll doesn’t make sense.
    They should publish the *exact* questions that were asked of the respondents.

    In my opinion, the only thing they got right on the “most prestigious” is scientist, doctor, military officer (high ranking), and perhaps engineer.

    The “least prestigious” they got dead on with realtor and accountant. But the other eight listed? No way. Those are dream careers, and most people who aren’t working as one of those professionals WISH they were.

  11. I agree with Drew Miller and Robert…. I thought maybe I don’t know what prestigious means… things that make you go hmmm :/

  12. Oh I almost forgot… Politicians should’ve at least in my opinion beat out Real Estate Brokers.

  13. Haha. Yeah. I find discussing my line of work with non-technical people is a conversation killer. I just tell them, I “do stuff with computers” or I’m a computer programmer and try to move on to other topics.

    Hmm.. may be I’m not phrasing or pitching it correctly. 🙂
    But, then again, I’m not trying to sell anything. Hahaha.

  14. Well, if you studied computer science — do you consider yourself a scientist or an engineer? I guess I’ll go with 2 rather than 10 ;>. And this poll is VERY hokey, come on. Doctor, Lawyer, yes, Scientist maybe Engineer somewhere on the top ten. Accountants are highly regarded, as are Stock Brokers, and Journalists are admired. Athletes are practically worshipped. The list of the left is more like ‘honorable jobs’. The list on the right are people we may or may not trust, though there are plenty of very honorable people in those professions too.

  15. Steve Austin says

    none: high ranking military officers should be at the same place in your list as politicians — the prestige in the military goes to non-commissioned officers generally, aircraft pilots (whether commissioned or non-commissioned), special operators (of all ranks), and combat veterans.

  16. I think Car Salesmen / Car Sales people belong among the lowest prestigious jobs. They tell way too many lies just to scam you out of your measly savings.

  17. They don’t call them brokers for nothing. After dealing with a broker, you will most likely be broke.

  18. You made the comment about real estate broker’s prestige being related to the drop in home prices.

    Look at the list, they were at the bottom in 2003 when prices were going up.

    I think people just realize that RE brokers are some of most self centered people there are with virtually no concern for buyers or sellers.

    Read “Freakenmoics”

  19. Freakonomics also included (supposedly prestigious) teachers who encouraged students to cheat on standardized tests so they could benefit monetarily.

    Good point that they were also at the bottom in 2003, though.

    Real estate agents are salespeople, so I can understand the lack of prestige. The vast majority of sales positions require very little formal training. Still, I found it curious that they get picked on so much over other sales positions like stockbrokers.

  20. I’m surprised politician isn’t on that list, too. It should be there, along with lobbyist.

    “I usually just tell most people I do ?stuff with computers? and they just nod and move onto something else.”

    Thanks for the tip. I’m always caught off guard and tell them my actual job title..

  21. I read over that article and something about the fact they surveyed only 1,010 adults bothers me. How is it possible for them to generalize to the entire US population from only this small sample? As a psychology, almost grad, I’d say this incomplete research. All they say is that they surveyed adults. We need more demographic information for this. I’d be willing to say that teenagers would put actors, athletes, and entertainers at the top of the prestige list. However, they might disagree with putting police and teachers at the top.

    I suppose you can also argue that those adults were selected randomly and so on and are only generalized for adults. But we need to know from which groups and even then…, I’m just saying they need to survey a much bigger sample to get an accurate representation of how people see jobs from different demographics and points of view, not just these 1,010 adults. It bothers me that they say this is a list of prestigious/not prestigious jobs in the US. I say it’s the list of prestigious/not prestigious jobs that these 1,010 people like and/or dislike.

  22. I think they took this article from Popular Science… August issue…

  23. I just got a $5000 raise! It’s a 12.5% increase! I am so happy! 🙂 However, I have an idea. Why don’t you post on average salaries for some professions?

  24. The sample size definitely isn’t large enough to make this survey relevant. Plus people have “prestigious” professions mixed up with “admirable” professions, or as Keith said, jobs we are happy to have someone else do.

  25. Well, I can speak first hand on many of the listed professions. And in many ways I believe that timing can be everything. I have been a firefighter – however, it was pre-9/11 (1984-94) and in truth, people were interested, but would was it deemed prestigious, nope. At the same time I was a professional actor back then (as I still am) – and people were much more intrigued by my SAG card and stories on the set – however that was before the latest Lindsay Lohan bunch of “Hollywood Types” that dominate the news cycles and perceptions of that field. Now, along the way – I was also a University Professor for 7 years – and let me tell you… that’s what got the babes :)… I am not sure why, but it did. Perhaps it’s because I was a very young professor (32) or who knows – but in all in all I found that if I said I was a teacher, no big reaction – but professor… eyes twinkled. Never mind the average teacher attained tenure far easier and many made far more money… go figure…

  26. yay! I’m still being taught for my degree, but once I’m done I’ll be #2/3, scientist! That makes me happy. I didn’t think we had much prestige.

  27. [quote]keith Says:
    August 31st, 2007 at 6:15 am

    This is a great survey. We pay firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers absolutely nothing, and we fork over quite a bit for actors, entertainers, and brokers (stock and real, provide no value).[/quote]

    Actually, teachers, nurses, and officers are paid nicely….sometimes not in monetary terms, but other benefits.

    I have several friends who are teachers in the suburbs of Long Island, NY who make about 100k/yr. They teach junior high and high school.

    Nurses make about 60-70k but only work 3-4 days/wk, and they easily hit 100k working an extra shift every week. So yes, they get paid really well also.

    Police officers average 50-65k/yr, but get mad benefits. They go to the hospital for even scratching their arm or have a minor knee sprain (where they are still able to walk and run after the sprain) on the job, and scam from 1-4 wks off as “sick leave” or what I consider additional paid vacation.

    Firefighters get the shortest end of the stick imo.

  28. Yes, SOME teachers. Not teachers in Texas that make 22K and need part-time jobs.

    A pre-K teacher in a private school in LI or NYC gets 31K w/ a masters degree. Police officers making 32K starting in NYC is pathetic. A nurse in an elderly facility makes 9-12/hour. Give me a break that you can defend that.

    They do get nice pensions (And can retire @ 55 w/ 25 years of experience) & fantastic health insurance, but those are metropolitian areas, and outside the NYC area, it’s a LOT harder.

  29. I doubt lobbyists were an option.

    I’m also surprised that military placed so high, since we’re in the middle of an unpopular war.

    I’m in property management–we run a couple office buildings (well, our parents company runs hundreds). Does that count as real-estate agent? I hope not.

  30. Seems like the discussion went to $$$ really fast. One thing for all to think about, 9/11.

    GOD bless all, alive & gone.

    343, We will never forget………….Remember???

  31. I fail to understand why real estate brokers rank last in prestige and I agree that the occupations voted most prestigious are jobs most people do not want but deem honorable nonetheless. Let it be known that many sit for the petty number of classroom hours and exam required to obtain a real estate license but very, very few actually make a living. Those that do are smart, savvy business people whose sucess is highly dependent on referrals. Business people know that referrals are based on favorable and honest results hence the sweeping generalizations that describe real estate agents are hardly accurate unless part-timers that sell one property a year are included in this.

  32. I was just as confused with these poll numbers until I read your article. Now I understand why these results seem so abnormal. The meaning of the word PRESTIGIOUS is ambiguous. Clearly American’s definition of prestigious is not the same as the dictionary definition. However, considering less than 40% of American?s have college degrees, I guess this shouldn?t be that surprising.

  33. I have two masters and one PhD, I was a teacher, I couldn’t make a living..I am becoming a real state agent…at least I will make some money!!!

  34. What about radio personality? I think perhaps they just threw us into journalism.

  35. all i really want to know is how do electricians rank among prestigious jobs. it seems like those who work hard to get a 4 year degree are held in high in society but if you go into the work force and take a 4 year apprinticeship you slip through the cracks somehow. i think a lot of people don’t recognize the ammount of training and technical skill that is required to be able to do a job like this. these guys are the backbone of our economy and in my oppinion and i think they deserve a little something for what they do.

  36. This is a ridiculous list. The choices dominating the top of the list should be: surgeons, internists, executive officers, investment bankers and other investment professionals, corporate lawyers, certain kinds of professors, high-ranking military and government officials, management consultants, certain engineers, architects, certain research scientists, and so on. Curators, concert musicians, hell.

    Firefighters, police officers, nurses, farmers? Not a single one of these is prestigious. They’re admirable professions. So are masons, plumbers, HVAC guys, carpenters, welders, assembly linesmen, enlisted military personnel, and so on. These professions are and should be badges of pride, but not sources of cachet.

  37. I am a chemical & molecular engineer. How is teaching and farming more prestigious than that?

  38. salary + education + demand = prestige


  39. Well teachers have an education and it is always in a demand, but obviously not salary, but i’m sure you wouldn’t have been at chemical and molecular engineer if it weren’t for your teachers. Am I right? So lets not bash the teachers!

  40. That list of low prestigious careers is way off base man. No pun intended but shouldn’t the list be something like this:

    1. Used car salesmen
    2. Pimps
    3. Drug dealers
    4. Strippers
    5. Car salesmen
    6. Debt collectors
    7. Telemarketers
    8. Weathermen
    9. Roadside Wavers
    10. Super Market Customer Greeters

  41. DarkThinker says

    I believe the right column gathers people who are thought to make too much money with respect to their actual contribution to society. They mostly occupy positions that allow them to take small percentages over huge amounts of money… The fact is the system prizes more the capital than the actual work (which is the genuine added value).

    On the other hand, jobs in the left column give a lot but do not necessarily get highly paid in return. This survey is therefore mostly about fairness, or its perception at least.

  42. Well, if any of you remember 911 I don’t recall seeing any of those so called “Executives” in business suits running into those towers to save anyone. So in my opinion while everyone else is running away, firefighters are running “into” the fire to help!!!! So yes, I would say firefighters are #1 on the “prestigious” list! After all, they are first responders to every kind of emergency there is. They are under paid for what they do. If you ever have to call 911 lets just see who shows up first!!!

  43. takethemoneyandrun says

    The low prestige careers enforce the amount of cash they earn by ruthless means…the other professions do not. If a person wants more money than the next guy, then the person gets it!

  44. Some people are really bitter that their careers did not appear on the list and that is why it is hard for them to accept that people who save our lives, protect our country and educate the future generation, are amongst the most prestigious! I’m a registered neonatal ICU nurse and I don’t make 100k, so I don’t know where you get your facts Mike. Yes, we do work 3-4 times a week – but that’s only when we are working 12 hours shifts. Try staying on your feet constantly for 12 hours in an understaffed unit tending to premature babies then tell me that you are paid well…

  45. Why is it so hard to believe that people who save outr lives, protect us and educate future leaders are amongst the most prestigious?

    I am a professional neonatal ICU nurse and yes I do work 3-4 times a week . But mike, you try working 12-hour shifts in an understaffed unit tending to premature and sick babies and then tell me you are well-paid! We certainly do not make 100k…I don’t know where you got your facts.

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