Which occupations are seen as most, least prestigious?

RP news wires, Noria Corporation

Firefighters, doctors, and nurses are seen as prestigious occupations by U.S. adults, while business executives, stockbrokers and real estate agents are seen at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to having prestigious occupations.

These are some of the results of the annual Harris Poll measuring public perceptions of 23 professions and occupations, conducted by telephone between July 5 and 11 by Harris Interactive among a nationwide sample of 1,020 U.S. adults.

Six occupations are perceived to have "very great" prestige by at least half of all adults - firefighters (63 percent), doctors (58 percent), nurses (55 percent), scientists (54 percent), teachers (52 percent) and military officers (51 percent). They are followed by police officers (43 percent) and priests/ministers/clergymen (40 percent).

By way of contrast, the list includes nine occupations which are perceived by less than 20 percent of adults to have "very great" prestige, with one of these under 10 percent. The lowest ratings for "very great prestige" go to real estate brokers (6 percent), stockbrokers (11 percent), business executives (11 percent), actors (12 percent), union leaders (12 percent), journalists (12 percent) bankers (17 percent), accountants (17 percent), and entertainers (18 percent).

This year, farmers were included on the list of occupations for the first time. Just over one-third of adults (36 percent) say that farming is an occupation of very great prestige, while 15 percent say it has hardly any prestige at all.

There are three occupations that are perceived by one-quarter or more of adults to have "hardly any prestige at all." These include union leaders (25 percent), real estate brokers (32 percent) and actors (37 percent).

Changes over the last quarter-century

Harris Interactive has been asking about the prestige of different professions and occupations since 1977. Over the 29 years since then, there have been some interesting changes:

  * Those who see teachers as having "very great" prestige has risen 23
    points from 29 to 52 percent.
  * Those who say lawyers have "very great" prestige has fallen 15 points,
    from 36 to 21 percent.
  * Scientists have fallen 12 points from 66 to 54 percent.
  * Business executives have fallen seven points from 18 to 11 percent.
  * Doctors have fallen three points from 61 to 58 percent.
  * Athletes have also fallen three points from 26 to 23 percent.

Teachers are the only occupation, among the 11 tracked since 1977, to see a rise in prestige.

  Changes since last year
  * Firefighters have risen seven points from 56 to 63 percent. Over the
    past two years, they have risen a total of 15 points from 48 to 63
    percent.
  * Nurses have risen five points from 50 to 55 percent.
  * Teachers have risen five points from 31 to 26 percent.

                                 TABLE 1

PRESTIGE OF 23 PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS "I am going to read off a number of different occupations. For each, would you tell me if you feel it is an occupation of very great prestige, considerable prestige, some prestige or hardly any prestige at all?"

         "

  Base: All Adults

                                                            Hardly
                             Very                            Any      Not
                             Great   Considerable  Some    Prestige   Sure/
                            Prestige  Prestige    Prestige  At All   Refused
                                %          %         %        %         %
  Firefighter                  63         23        11        3         -
  Doctor                       58         30        10        1         1
  Nurse                        55         24        17        4         -
  Scientist                    54         26        15        4         *
  Teacher                      52         22        20        6         *
  Military officer             51         30        16        3         1
  Police officer               43         26        26        4         1
  Priest/Minister/Clergyman    40         28        24        7         1
  Farmer                       36         21        26       15         1
  Engineer                     34         35        26        4         1
  Member of Congress           28         23        31       17         1
  Architect                    27         24        33       19         1
  Athlete                      23         24        33       19         1
  Lawyer                       21         23        36       20         *
  Entertainer                  18         23        37       22         *
  Accountant                   17         30        40       11         1
  Banker                       17         29        43       11         1
  Journalist                   16         27        41       16         *
  Union Leader                 12         21        38       25         3
  Actor                        12         13        37       37         1
  Business executive           11         30        43       15         1
  Stockbroker                  11         25        42       22         1
  Real estate agent/broker      6         17        44       32         1


                                 TABLE 2

29-YEAR TREND FOR "VERY GREAT" PRESTIGE "I am going to read off a number of different occupations. For each, would you tell me if you feel it is an occupation of very great prestige, considerable prestige, some prestige or hardly any prestige at all?"

         "

  Base: All Adults

                                        1977 1982 1992 1997 1998 2000 2001
                                           %    %    %    %    %    %    %
  Firefighter***                          NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA
  Doctor                                  61   55   50   52   61   61   61
  Nurse                                   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA
  Scientist                               66   59   57   51   55   56   53
  Teacher                                 29   28   41   49   53   53   54
  Military officer                        NA   22   32   29   34   42   40
  Police Officer **                       NA   NA   34   36   41   38   37
  Priest/Minister/ Clergyman              41   42   38   45   46   45   43
  Farmer                                  NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA
  Engineer                                34   30   37   32   34   32   36
  Member of Congress                      NA   NA   24   23   25   33   24
  Architect                               NA   NA   NA   NA   26   26   28
  Athlete                                 26   20   18   21   20   21   22
  Lawyer                                  36   30   25   19   23   21   18
  Entertainer                             18   16   17   18   19   21   20
  Accountant                              NA   13   14   18   17   14   15
  Banker                                  17   17   17   15   18   15   16
  Journalist                              17   16   15   15   15   16   18
  Union leader                            NA   NA   12   14   16   16   17
  Actor                                   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA
  Business executive**                    18   16   19   16   18   15   12
  Stockbroker                             NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA
  Real estate broker/agent                NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA   NA

                                                                     Changes
                                                                      since
                                        2002  2003  2004  2005  2006  1977
                                           %     %     %     %     %    %
  Firefighter***                          NA    55    48    56    63   NA
  Doctor                                  50    52    52    54    58   -3
  Nurse                                   NA    47    44    50    55   NA
  Scientist                               51    57    52    56    54  -12
  Teacher                                 47    49    48    47    52   23
  Military officer                        47    46    47    49    51   NA
  Police Officer **                       40    42    40    40    43   NA
  Priest/Minister/ Clergyman              36    38    32    36    40   -1
  Farmer                                  NA    NA    NA    NA    36   NA
  Engineer                                34    28    29    34    34    0
  Member of Congress                      27    30    31    26    28   NA
  Architect                               27    24    20    27    27   NA
  Athlete                                 21    17    21    23    23   -3
  Lawyer                                  15    17    17    18    21  -15
  Entertainer                             19    17    16    18    18    0
  Accountant                              13    15    10    13    17   NA
  Banker                                  15    14    15    15    17    0
  Journalist                              19    15    14    14    16   -1
  Union leader                            14    15    16    15    12   NA
  Actor                                   NA    13    16    16    12   NA
  Business executive**                    18    18    19    15    11   -7
  Stockbroker                             NA     8    10     8    11   NA
  Real estate broker/agent                NA     6     5     9     6   NA

  *   No trend; NA not asked

  **  In surveys prior to 2001 we used the words "policeman" (now changed to
      "police officer") and businessman (now changed to "business
      executive") which may account for the changes from 2001 to 2002.

  *** In surveys prior to 2006, we used the word "fireman" (now changed to
      firefighter) which may account for some of the changes from 2005 to
      2006.

Subscribe to Reliable Plant


About the Author