Firefighters among Most Prestigious Occupations

August 1, 2007 ( - Firefighters, scientists and teachers are seen as the most prestigious occupations by U.S. adults, while bankers, actors and real estate agents are the least prestigious occupations, according to a new poll.

The Harris Poll survey found that six occupations are perceived to have “very great” prestige by at least half of all adults – firefighters (61%), scientists (54%), teachers (54%), doctors (52%), military officers (52%), and nurses (50%), according to a news release. They are followed by police officers (46%), priests/ministers/clergy (42%) and farmers (41%).

The news release said that 10 occupations are perceived by less than 20% of adults to have “very great” prestige, with two of these under 10%. The lowest ratings for “very great prestige” go to real estate brokers (5%), actors (9%), bankers (10%), accountants (11%), entertainers (12%), stockbrokers (12%), union leaders (13%), journalists (13%), business executives (14%) and athletes (16%).

There are five occupations that are perceived by one-quarter or more of adults to have “hardly any prestige at all.” These include stockbrokers (25%), union leaders (30%), entertainers (31%), real estate brokers (34%) and actors (38%).

According to the announcement, Harris Interactive has been asking about the prestige of different professions and occupations since 1977. Over the 30 years:

  • Those who see teachers as having “very great” prestige has risen 25 points from 29% to 54%;
  • Those who say lawyers have “very great” prestige has fallen 14 points, from 36% to 22%;
  • Scientistshave fallen 12 points from 66% to 54%;
  • Athleteshave fallen ten points from 26% to 16%;
  • Doctorshave fallen nine points from 61% to 52%;
  • Bankershave fallen seven points from 17% to 10%;
  • Entertainershave fallen six points from 18% to 12%.
  • Teachers are the only occupation, among the 11 tracked since 1977, to see a large rise in prestige; priests/ministers/clergy have seen a one point rise since 1977.

The annual Harris Poll measuring public perceptions of 23 professions and occupations was conducted by telephone between July 10 and 16, 2007 among a nationwide sample of 1,010 U.S. adults. About half of these adults were asked about each occupation.