Ranking Occupational Prestige

Want a prestigious person in your ad? Try a firefighter. In a Harris Poll last month that asked respondents to rate the prestige of nearly two dozen occupations, firefighter got the highest “very great prestige” vote, at 57 percent. Close behind were scientist (56 percent), doctor (53 percent), nurse (52 percent) and teacher (52 percent). Filling out the top 10: military officer (46 percent), police officer (46 percent), farmer (41 percent), priest/minister/clergy (40 percent) and engineer (40 percent).

At rock bottom in the poll’s prestige standings was real estate agent/broker, with just 6 percent of respondents saying this profession holds very great prestige. Faring a bit less badly were stockbroker (10 percent) and banker, accountant and entertainer (15 percent apiece). Whether because of or despite the country’s obsession with Hollywood celebrities, just 16 percent of respondents said the profession of actor has very great prestige. Even lawyer (24 percent) and member of Congress (28 percent) fared better than that.

Still, actor is one of the job categories whose stock has risen since last year’s Harris Poll on this topic. It’s up seven percentage points. The biggest gain since last year was for engineer, up 10 points. The biggest losers were military officer and doctor (down six percentage points apiece), though they still stand high in the overall rankings.