Doctors, Military Officers, Firefighters, and Scientists Seen as Among America’s Most Prestigious Occupations

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – September 10, 2014 – When shown a list of occupations and asked how much prestige each job possesses, doctors top the Harris Poll’s list, with 88% of U.S. adults considering it to have either a great deal of prestige (45%) or to have prestige (44%).

    After doctors, the rest of the top ten occupations seen as prestigious include military officers (78%), firefighters (76%), scientists (76%), nurses (70%), engineers (69%), police officers (66%), priests/ministers/clergy (62%), architects (62%), and athletes (60%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,537 adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014.

    Meanwhile, there are five occupations Americans are somewhat divided on:

    • Member of Congress: 52% more prestigious vs. 48% less prestigious
    • Entertainer: 53% more prestigious vs. 47% less prestigious
    • Actors: 55% more prestigious vs. 45% less prestigious
    • Farmer: 45% more prestigious vs. 55% less prestigious
    • Journalist: 45% more prestigious vs. 55% less prestigious

    Real estate broker/agent is the profession with the highest percentage of adults considering it to have less prestige (73%), with 50% feeling it does not have that much prestige and 24% believing it has no prestige at all. The other occupations majorities of Americans consider either to have not that much prestige or to be not prestigious at all are union leaders (65%), stockbrokers & bankers (62%), and accountants (60%).

    When broken down by generations, it seems as though younger adults are more inclined to place a high value on fame as it relates to an occupation’s prestige.

    • While strong majorities of Millennials (18-37) and members of Generation X (38-49) believe it is prestigious to be an athlete (66% and 63%, respectively), Baby Boomers (50-68) and Matures (69+) are less convinced (56% and 52% respectively).
    • When it comes to actors and entertainers, the results are similar: 62% of Millennials, 60% of Gen Xers, and 52% of Baby Boomers believe actor is a prestigious occupation; and 57% of Millennials, 59% of Gen Xers, and 51% of Baby Boomers feel being an entertainer is prestigious. Meanwhile, only 36% of Matures believe that a being either an actor or entertainer is a prestigious occupation.


    Professions Americans would encourage a child to consider pursuing

    Interestingly, when asked if they would encourage a child to pursue these same occupations as a future profession, the push to become a doctor (91%) loses by a small margin to encouragement to become an engineer (93%) and ties with the support given to becoming a scientist (91%); nursing (90%) and architecture (88%) also come close behind. Strong majorities would also encourage children to become teachers (81%), accountants (78%), firefighters (77%), business executives (74%), lawyers (69%), and military officers (65%).

    Americans are more split on whether children should be encouraged to become real estate brokers/agents (52% would encourage, 48% would not) and stockbrokers (46% would encourage, 54% would not). Meanwhile, the four occupations which majorities of Americans would discourage a child from pursuing are union leader (66%), actor (59%), member of Congress (59%), and entertainer (58%).

    Consistent with industries’ perceived prestige, Millennials are significantly more likely than older generations of adults to encourage children to pursue careers in the limelight:

    • Athlete (65% Millennials vs. 56% Gen Xers, 53% Baby Boomers, 49% Matures)
    • Entertainer (53% Millennials, 43% Gen Xers, 37% Baby Boomers vs. 25% Matures)
    • Actor (55% Millennials, 42% Gen Xers, 36% Baby Boomers vs. 19% Matures)

    While Millennials appear more likely to encourage children towards stardom, Matures seem to be more likely to encourage children to pursue other roles:

    • Priest/Minister/Clergy (56% Millennials, 50% Gen Xers, 58% Baby Boomers vs. 68% Matures)
    • Military officer (60% Millennials, 61% Gen Xers, 67% Baby Boomers vs. 79% Matures)


    Popular, though less prestigious, pursuits

    When looking at the results of this survey, there is a distinct gap between how prestigious adults consider many professions to be and whether they would encourage a child to pursue them. The largest percentage point difference between perceived prestige and likelihood to recommend – 38 points – exists between the 40% of Americans who consider accounting prestigious and the 78% who would encourage a child to become an accountant.

    The other top gaps between prestige and recommendations exist for the following professions:

    • Architect: 26-point gap (62% prestige vs. 88% would encourage)
    • Real estate broker/agent: 25-point gap (27% prestige vs. 52% would encourage)
    • Engineer: 24-point gap (69% prestige vs. 93% would encourage)
    • Teacher: 21-point gap (60% prestige vs. 81% would encourage)
    • Banker: 21-point gap (38% prestige vs. 59% would encourage)
    • Nurse: 20-point gap (70% prestige vs. 90% would encourage)

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    TABLE 1a

    PRESTIGE OF 23 PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS

    Summary Grid

    Below is a list of occupations. For each how, if at all, prestigious do you find the occupation?

    Base: All adults

    MORE PRESTIGE (NET)

    Has a great deal of prestige

    Has prestige

    LESS PRESTIGE (NET)

    Has not that much prestige

    Not at all prestigious

    Doctor

    %

    88

    45

    44

    12

    8

    4

    Military officer

    %

    78

    34

    44

    22

    16

    6

    Firefighter

    %

    76

    32

    44

    24

    17

    6

    Scientist

    %

    76

    30

    46

    24

    19

    5

    Nurse

    %

    70

    24

    46

    30

    23

    7

    Engineer

    %

    69

    18

    52

    31

    24

    7

    Police officer

    %

    66

    21

    44

    34

    25

    10

    Priest/Minister/Clergy

    %

    62

    21

    41

    38

    26

    12

    Architect

    %

    62

    13

    49

    38

    29

    9

    Athlete

    %

    60

    23

    38

    40

    25

    15

    Teacher

    %

    60

    21

    40

    40

    30

    10

    Lawyer

    %

    60

    16

    44

    40

    26

    15

    Business executive

    %

    58

    13

    45

    42

    30

    12

    Actor

    %

    55

    20

    35

    45

    27

    18

    Entertainer

    %

    53

    18

    35

    47

    29

    19

    Member of Congress

    %

    52

    16

    37

    48

    24

    24

    Farmer

    %

    45

    14

    31

    55

    33

    22

    Journalist

    %

    45

    7

    38

    55

    40

    16

    Accountant

    %

    40

    6

    34

    60

    43

    17

    Banker

    %

    38

    5

    33

    62

    42

    19

    Stockbroker

    %

    38

    6

    31

    62

    41

    21

    Union leader

    %

    35

    7

    28

    65

    38

    27

    Real estate broker/agent

    %

    27

    4

    23

    73

    50

    24

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 1b

    PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS SEEN AS PRESTIGIOUS (NET)

    By Generation

    Below is a list of occupations. For each how, if at all, prestigious do you find the occupation?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Millennials
    , (18-37)

    Generation X
    , (38-49)

    Baby Boomers
    , (50-68)

    Matures
    , (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Doctor

    88

    84

    86

    91

    96

    Military officer

    78

    73

    74

    81

    89

    Firefighter

    76

    74

    73

    80

    81

    Scientist

    76

    78

    70

    77

    78

    Nurse

    70

    63

    64

    75

    82

    Engineer

    69

    74

    64

    68

    69

    Police officer

    66

    61

    57

    72

    76

    Priest/Minister/Clergy

    62

    56

    55

    66

    80

    Architect

    62

    64

    58

    61

    64

    Athlete

    60

    66

    63

    56

    52

    Teacher

    60

    57

    54

    64

    73

    Lawyer

    60

    69

    60

    52

    54

    Business executive

    58

    61

    58

    56

    58

    Actor

    55

    62

    60

    52

    36

    Entertainer

    53

    57

    59

    51

    36

    Member of Congress

    52

    62

    53

    44

    48

    Farmer

    45

    42

    44

    48

    51

    Journalist

    45

    47

    40

    46

    44

    Accountant

    40

    43

    36

    40

    41

    Banker

    38

    39

    34

    39

    44

    Stockbroker

    38

    44

    38

    35

    29

    Union leader

    35

    40

    34

    34

    27

    Real estate broker/agent

    27

    35

    27

    23

    16

     

    TABLE 2a

    WOULD/WOULDN’T ENCOURAGE A CHILD TO PURSUE FOR 23 PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS

    Now, thinking of the same list of occupations, which ones you would suggest a child think about as a future profession and which one you would discourage them from pursuing?

    Base: All adults

    Would encourage a child to pursue

    Would discourage a child from pursuing

    Engineer

    %

    93

    7

    Doctor

    %

    91

    9

    Scientist

    %

    91

    9

    Nurse

    %

    90

    10

    Architect

    %

    88

    12

    Teacher

    %

    81

    19

    Accountant

    %

    78

    22

    Firefighter

    %

    77

    23

    Business executive

    %

    74

    26

    Lawyer

    %

    69

    31

    Military officer

    %

    65

    35

    Journalist

    %

    61

    39

    Police Officer

    %

    60

    40

    Banker

    %

    59

    41

    Farmer

    %

    58

    42

    Priest/Minister/Clergy

    %

    57

    43

    Athlete

    %

    57

    43

    Real estate broker/agent

    %

    52

    48

    Stockbroker

    %

    46

    54

    Entertainer

    %

    42

    58

    Member of Congress

    %

    41

    59

    Actor

    %

    41

    59

    Union Leader

    %

    34

    66

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 2b

    WOULD ENCOURAGE SUMMARY

    By Generation

    Now, thinking of the same list of occupations, which ones you would suggest a child think about as a future profession and which one you would discourage them from pursuing?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Millennials
    (18-37)

    Generation X
    (38-49)

    Baby Boomers
    (50-68)

    Matures
    (69+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Engineer

    93

    93

    93

    91

    94

    Doctor

    91

    90

    90

    92

    93

    Scientist

    91

    90

    90

    91

    93

    Nurse

    90

    88

    86

    92

    94

    Architect

    88

    87

    87

    89

    90

    Teacher

    81

    81

    78

    82

    88

    Accountant

    78

    79

    74

    79

    84

    Firefighter

    77

    76

    72

    80

    78

    Business executive

    74

    75

    75

    73

    70

    Lawyer

    69

    76

    67

    64

    68

    Military officer

    65

    60

    61

    67

    79

    Journalist

    61

    65

    58

    60

    56

    Police Officer

    60

    61

    56

    60

    66

    Banker

    59

    66

    56

    56

    56

    Farmer

    58

    57

    54

    61

    57

    Priest/Minister/Clergy

    57

    56

    50

    58

    68

    Athlete

    57

    65

    56

    53

    49

    Real estate broker/agent

    52

    57

    51

    52

    42

    Stockbroker

    46

    56

    44

    41

    40

    Entertainer

    42

    53

    43

    37

    25

    Member of Congress

    41

    52

    38

    37

    33

    Actor

    41

    55

    42

    36

    19

    Union Leader

    34

    46

    34

    27

    20

     

    TABLE 3

    PRESTIGE VS. WOULD ENCOURAGE A CHILD TO PURSUE

    Now, thinking of the same list of occupations, which ones you would suggest a child think about as a future profession and which one you would discourage them from pursuing?

    Base: All adults

     

    More Prestige
    (NET)

    Would Encourage a Child to Pursue

    % Points Difference

    Doctor

    %

    88

    91

    <3>

    Military officer

    %

    78

    65

    <13>

    Firefighter

    %

    76

    77

    <1>

    Scientist

    %

    76

    91

    <15>

    Nurse

    %

    70

    90

    <20>

    Engineer

    %

    69

    93

    <24>

    Police officer

    %

    66

    60

    <6>

    Priest/Minister/Clergy

    %

    62

    57

    <5>

    Architect

    %

    62

    88

    <26>

    Athlete

    %

    60

    57

    <3>

    Teacher

    %

    60

    81

    <21>

    Lawyer

    %

    60

    69

    <9>

    Business executive

    %

    58

    74

    <16>

    Actor

    %

    55

    41

    <14>

    Entertainer

    %

    53

    42

    <11>

    Member of Congress

    %

    52

    41

    <11>

    Farmer

    %

    45

    58

    <13>

    Journalist

    %

    45

    61

    <16>

    Accountant

    %

    40

    78

    <38>

    Banker

    %

    38

    59

    <21>

    Stockbroker

    %

    38

    46

    <8>

    Union leader

    %

    35

    34

    <1>

    Real estate broker/agent

    %

    27

    52

    <25>

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #85, September 10, 2014

    By Hannah Pollack, Harris Poll Research Analyst