August 7, 2009


War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
--- John F Kennedy

Just because you're trusted doesn't mean you warrant prestige. Neither does fame or wealth. This shows in a new Harris Poll released this week. The results might surprise you.

For brevity, we'll lump the 23 professions and occupations together and call them professions.

HarrisInteractive separates Very Great Prestige from Considerable Prestige. Here we'll combine them into a single category called Prestigious. This simplification may cause the results to differ from the published poll.

The Most Prestigious Professions
Here are the five most prestigious professions, starting at the top
  1. Doctor (84%)
  2. Firefighter (83%)
  3. Scientist (79%)
  4. tie: Nurse or Military Officer (78%)
  5. Teacher (73%)
We place high value on caregivers (doctors and nurses), protectors (firefighters and military officers) and teachers (teachers). Why are scientists ranked so high? Maybe we love lab coats?

Let's now turn to the bottom of the list.

The Least Prestigious Professions

There can be no prestige without mystery, for familiarity breeds contempt.
--- Charles de Gaulle
At the bottom of the prestigious professions, we find
  1. real estate agent/broker (19%)
  2. stockbroker (24%)
  3. 4-way tie: accountant, actor, entertainer, union leader
You might be surprised to see accountants listed here. They are the most trusted financial advisors. While valuable, they have as little prestige as a union leader. Actors and entertainers can achieve great fame or great wealth but they don't save lives the way doctors and firefighters can (except in the movies).

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