This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 19, 2009

Prestigious Occupations and the Future

Recent research from Harris Interactive highlights those occupations most and least-respected in our society. For the second year in a row, the most prestigious occupation among those over 1000 adults surveyed was "Firefighter". An astounding 62 percent of respondents attributed "very great prestige" to people in this occupation, up five points from its score last year. Second, third, and fourth with 57, 56, and 54 percent were "Scientist", "Doctor", and "Nurse", respectively. Rounding out the top six most prestigious occupations were "Teacher" and "Military Officer" that both scored 51 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum were "Real estate agent/broker" at five percent, "Accountant" at eleven percent, "Stock Broker" at 13 percent and "Actor" at 15percent. The later was a surprise, given the worship that we see of celebrities and their adoration by the media and fans. Between 65 and 80 percents of adults said that that these occupations have "hardly any" or only "some" prestige.

Moreover, a larger number of people this year than last had greater respect for some of the occupations as being "very prestigious". These positions included "Business executive", up six points to 23 percent and "Military office", up five points to 51 percent. At the same time, two occupations lost prestige from last year's results: "Farmer" down five points to 36 percent and "Accountant" down four points to 11 percent.

Interestingly, these findings also reveal that the American public does not equate money and fame with prestige.

The implications for attracting young people into the prestigious professions are exciting---for those organizations looking to attract young people to be firefighters, scientists, healthcare professionals, and even the military. The not-so-good news for the real estate and accounting industries is that they will have a harder selling job to do.

Our advice: start early. In particular, these less-prestigious industries need to begin exposing elementary school children to their occupations. They will need to offer internships to high school students and promote their industries and the good work they do. Otherwise, we can expect serious shortages in the number of young people interested in pursuing these careers.


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