Where There's Smoke….

August 7, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - You may put out a lot of fires every day, but odds are the public doesn't recognize it.

Instead – and once again (see Firefighters among Most Prestigious Occupations ) – the annual Harris Poll measuring public perceptions of 23 professions and occupations found that the most prestigious profession is “firefighter”, with more than half (57%) saying that that position has “very great prestige.”

Of course, plan sponsors (and those that support them) wear a lot of hats – and surely there are parts of your day where you feel that your focus should place you among the top five prestigious professions, including “scientist” (56% say very great prestige), doctor (53% – though this is down 6% from last year), nurse (52%) and teacher (also 52%).

The Harris Poll first asked this question, but with a shorter list of occupations, in 1977. The biggest change since then has been a 23 point increase (from 29% to 52%) in those who believe teachers have very great prestige.

Pedastal Push?

Three occupations – and two of that top five – have lost substantial ground since 1977, according to Harris:

  • Scientist, down ten points to 56%
  • Doctor, down 15 points to 53%
  • Lawyer, down 12 points to 24%

In case you were wondering, 28% said members of Congress rated very high prestige, up 2 points from a year ago, despite their slumping poll numbers, while business executives were cited as very prestigious by a mere 17%, though that was up 3 points from last year’s survey).

On the other hand, when it comes to some of those functions that support plan sponsors, when you look at the professions seen as having "hardly any" or only "some" prestige, the public once again put stock broker and banker in the bottom five, with just 10% saying that the former has great prestige, and 15% the latter. Despite the recent turmoil in the financial markets, bankers improved considerably from last year - when the profession registered 10%.

Bankers weren't the only profession to enjoy a significant gains. Compared with a year ago, engineers, were up ten points to 40%, actors were up seven points to 16%, architects were now cited by 28% (up 5 points), and union leaders also shot up to 18%, a gain of five points.

Oh - and did I mention that journalists also shot up five points??! (1)

This year's survey was conducted by telephone between July 8 and 13, 2008, by Harris Interactive among a nationwide sample of 1,010 U.S. adults.


(1) albeit only to 18%

align="center"> PRESTIGE OF 23 PROFESSIONS AND OCCUPATIONS

align="center">"I am going to read off a number of different occupations. For each, would you tell me if you feel it is an occupation of very great prestige, considerable prestige, some prestige or hardly any prestige at all?"

align="center"> Very Great Prestige

align="center"> ConsiderablePrestige

align="center"> Some Prestige

align="center"> Hardly Any Prestige At All

align="center"> Not Sure/Refused

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

Firefighter

align="center">57

align="center">26

align="center">14

align="center">3

align="center">*

Scientist

align="center">56

align="center">24

align="center">15

align="center">4

align="center">*

Doctor

align="center">53

align="center">28

align="center">14

align="center">3

align="center">2

Nurse

align="center">52

align="center">23

align="center">18

align="center">6

align="center">*

Teacher

align="center">52

align="center">22

align="center">21

align="center">4

align="center">*

Military officer

align="center">46

align="center">24

align="center">20

align="center">8

align="center">2

Police officer

align="center">46

align="center">25

align="center">22

align="center">7

align="center">*

Farmer

align="center">41

align="center">20

align="center">25

align="center">12

align="center">1

Priest/Minister/Clergy

align="center">40

align="center">25

align="center">23

align="center">11

align="center">*

Engineer

align="center">40

align="center">27

align="center">26

align="center">5

align="center">2

Member of Congress

align="center">28

align="center">24

align="center">31

align="center">15

align="center">1

Architect

align="center">28

align="center">30

align="center">34

align="center">7

align="center">1

Lawyer

align="center">24

align="center">21

align="center">39

align="center">15

align="center">1

Athlete

align="center">20

align="center">17

align="center">41

align="center">20

align="center">2

Journalist

align="center">18

align="center">24

align="center">40

align="center">17

align="center">2

Union Leader

align="center">18

align="center">17

align="center">38

align="center">25

align="center">2

Business executive

align="center">17

align="center">24

align="center">44

align="center">14

align="center">1

Actor

align="center">16

align="center">11

align="center">40

align="center">32

align="center">1

Entertainer

align="center">15

align="center">16

align="center">41

align="center">27

align="center">2

Accountant

align="center">15

align="center">22

align="center">46

align="center">15

align="center">1

Banker

align="center">15

align="center">21

align="center">49

align="center">15

align="center">*

Stockbroker

align="center">10

align="center">18

align="center">42

align="center">26

align="center">4

Real estate agent/broker

align="center">6

align="center">10

align="center">49

align="center">34

align="center">2

*Less Than 0.5%

align="center"> 31-YEAR TREND FOR "VERY GREAT" PRESTIGE

align="center">"I am going to read off a number of different occupations. For each, would you tell me if you feel it is an occupation of very great prestige, considerable prestige, some prestige or hardly any prestige at all?"

align="center"> 1977

align="center"> 1982

align="center"> 1992

align="center"> 1997

align="center"> 1998

align="center"> 2000

align="center"> 2001

align="center"> 2002

align="center"> 2003

align="center"> 2004

align="center"> 2005

align="center"> 2006

align="center"> 2007

align="center"> 2008

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

Firefighter***

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">55

align="center">48

align="center">56

align="center">63

align="center">61

align="center">57

Scientist

align="center">66

align="center">59

align="center">57

align="center">51

align="center">55

align="center">56

align="center">53

align="center">51

align="center">57

align="center">52

align="center">56

align="center">54

align="center">54

align="center">56

Doctor

align="center">61

align="center">55

align="center">50

align="center">52

align="center">61

align="center">61

align="center">61

align="center">50

align="center">52

align="center">52

align="center">54

align="center">58

align="center">52

align="center">53

Nurse

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">47

align="center">44

align="center">50

align="center">55

align="center">50

align="center">52

Teacher

align="center">29

align="center">28

align="center">41

align="center">49

align="center">53

align="center">53

align="center">54

align="center">47

align="center">49

align="center">48

align="center">47

align="center">52

align="center">54

align="center">52

Military officer

align="center">NA

align="center">22

align="center">32

align="center">29

align="center">34

align="center">42

align="center">40

align="center">47

align="center">46

align="center">47

align="center">49

align="center">51

align="center">52

align="center">46

Police Officer **

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">34

align="center">36

align="center">41

align="center">38

align="center">37

align="center">40

align="center">42

align="center">40

align="center">40

align="center">43

align="center">46

align="center">46

Farmer

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">36

align="center">41

align="center">41

Priest/Minister/ Clergy****

align="center">41

align="center">42

align="center">38

align="center">45

align="center">46

align="center">45

align="center">43

align="center">36

align="center">38

align="center">32

align="center">36

align="center">40

align="center">42

align="center">40

Engineer

align="center">34

align="center">30

align="center">37

align="center">32

align="center">34

align="center">32

align="center">36

align="center">34

align="center">28

align="center">29

align="center">34

align="center">34

align="center">30

align="center">40

Member of Congress

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">24

align="center">23

align="center">25

align="center">33

align="center">24

align="center">27

align="center">30

align="center">31

align="center">26

align="center">28

align="center">26

align="center">28

Architect

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">26

align="center">26

align="center">28

align="center">27

align="center">24

align="center">20

align="center">27

align="center">27

align="center">23

align="center">28

Lawyer

align="center">36

align="center">30

align="center">25

align="center">19

align="center">23

align="center">21

align="center">18

align="center">15

align="center">17

align="center">17

align="center">18

align="center">21

align="center">22

align="center">24

Athlete

align="center">26

align="center">20

align="center">18

align="center">21

align="center">20

align="center">21

align="center">22

align="center">21

align="center">17

align="center">21

align="center">23

align="center">23

align="center">16

align="center">20

Journalist

align="center">17

align="center">16

align="center">15

align="center">15

align="center">15

align="center">16

align="center">18

align="center">19

align="center">15

align="center">14

align="center">14

align="center">16

align="center">13

align="center">18

Union leader

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">12

align="center">14

align="center">16

align="center">16

align="center">17

align="center">14

align="center">15

align="center">16

align="center">15

align="center">12

align="center">13

align="center">18

Business executive**

align="center">18

align="center">16

align="center">19

align="center">16

align="center">18

align="center">15

align="center">12

align="center">18

align="center">18

align="center">19

align="center">15

align="center">11

align="center">14

align="center">17

Actor

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">13

align="center">16

align="center">16

align="center">12

align="center">9

align="center">16

Entertainer

align="center">18

align="center">16

align="center">17

align="center">18

align="center">19

align="center">21

align="center">20

align="center">19

align="center">17

align="center">16

align="center">18

align="center">18

align="center">12

align="center">15

Accountant

align="center">NA

align="center">13

align="center">14

align="center">18

align="center">17

align="center">14

align="center">15

align="center">13

align="center">15

align="center">10

align="center">13

align="center">17

align="center">11

align="center">15

Banker

align="center">17

align="center">17

align="center">17

align="center">15

align="center">18

align="center">15

align="center">16

align="center">15

align="center">14

align="center">15

align="center">15

align="center">17

align="center">10

align="center">15

Stockbroker

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">8

align="center">10

align="center">8

align="center">11

align="center">12

align="center">10

Real estate broker/agent

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">NA

align="center">6

align="center">5

align="center">9

align="center">6

align="center">5

align="center">6

* No trend; NA not asked

** In surveys prior to 2001 Harris used the words "policeman" (now changed to "police officer") and businessman (now changed to "business executive") which may account for the changes from 2001 to 2002.

***In surveys prior to 2006, Harris used the word "fireman" (now changed to firefighter) which may account for some of the changes from 2005 to 2006.

****In surveys prior to 2007, Harris used the word "clergyman" now changed to clergy which many account for some of the changes from 2006 to 2007.

align="center"> CHANGES FOR "VERY GREAT" PRESTIGE

align="center">"I am going to read off a number of different occupations. For each, would you tell me if you feel it is an occupation of very great prestige, considerable prestige, some prestige or hardly any prestige at all?"

align="center"> 2008 Totalfor Very GreatPrestige

align="center"> Changes since 1977

align="center"> Changes since last year

align="center">%

align="center">%

align="center">%

Firefighter

align="center">57

align="center">NA

align="center">-4

Scientist

align="center">56

align="center">-10

align="center">+2

Doctor

align="center">53

align="center">-15

align="center">-6

Nurse

align="center">52

align="center">NA

align="center">+2

Teacher

align="center">52

align="center">+23

align="center">-2

Military officer

align="center">46

align="center">NA

align="center">-6

Police Officer

align="center">46

align="center">NA

align="center">0

Farmer

align="center">41

align="center">NA

align="center">0

Priest/Minister/Clergy

align="center">40

align="center">-1

align="center">-2

Engineer

align="center">40

align="center">+6

align="center">+10

Member of Congress

align="center">28

align="center">NA

align="center">+2

Architect

align="center">28

align="center">NA

align="center">+5

Lawyer

align="center">24

align="center">-12

align="center">+2

Athlete

align="center">20

align="center">-6

align="center">+4

Journalist

align="center">18

align="center">+1

align="center">+5

Union leader

align="center">18

align="center">NA

align="center">+5

Business executive

align="center">17

align="center">-1

align="center">+3

Actor

align="center">16

align="center">NA

align="center">+7

Entertainer

align="center">15

align="center">-3

align="center">+3

Accountant

align="center">15

align="center">NA

align="center">+4

Banker

align="center">15

align="center">-2

align="center">+5

Stockbroker

align="center">10

align="center">NA

align="center">-2

Real estate broker/agent

align="center">6

align="center">NA

align="center">+1

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