Who, in your mind, has the more prestigious job -- a teacher or a lawyer? Perhaps surprisingly, a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive reveals that 48% of those surveyed cited teaching as prestigious, while just 17% cited law. At the top of the list are scientists, at 52%, and near the bottom you'll find real estate brokers or agents, at 5%. Poor old stockbrokers and accountants, at 10%, fare significantly worse than members of Congress (31%) and business executives (19%). Others near the top include physicians (52%), firefighters (48%), military officers (47%), nurses (44%), police officers (40%), and clergy (32%).
Most of these professions have seen their prestige levels fall over the years, sometimes markedly so. That's likely been due to scandals surrounding various jobs -- you can probably think of recent journalism blunders, accounting fiascos, and scandals surrounding religious leaders, for example. Lawyer jokes on TV might have helped push that profession's prestige down from 36% in 1977 to today's 17%. The numbers for clergy have fallen from 41% to 32%, athletes from 26% to 21%, and journalists from 17% to 14%. One profession with increased prestige is teaching.
This kind of survey has implications more important than you might suspect. Prestige plays a role not only in the eyes of the outside viewer, but also in the self-image of those in each given profession. Those who believe that their jobs hold low prestige will likely be unhappier at their work and perhaps less effective at it. For this reason, many companies work hard to boost the self-esteem of their employees. Here are a few examples from a recent USA Today article:
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selection Best Buy
Convenience stores get joked about on late-night TV and on shows such as The Simpsons, so 7-Eleven
Also according to the USA Today article, a Conference Board survey revealed that "17% of those making less than $15,000 a year say they are very satisfied with their jobs, vs. 14% of those who make more than $50,000 a year." So it's not all about money.
If you're not in a job you love, or at least feel good about, start thinking about other careers that might get you more fired up. A change might be worth it.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.