Overrated occupations?

Daniel Bukszpan, writing for CNBC (via Yahoo! News, here), reports on CareerCast.com‘s list of 12 overrated jobs. Here’s the reasoning behind the list:

Despite the public perception of some of these jobs as impressive and rewarding, some have less-than-stellar salaries and frankly lousy hiring prospects. Others come with so much on-the-job stress that the six-figure income barely seems worth it, particularly when the work involves the safety and well-being of others.

And here’s the dirty dozen, which may stir up some debate:

  • Advertising account executive
  • Flight attendant
  • Photojournalists
  • Real estate agent
  • Stockbroker
  • Architect
  • Attorney
  • Commercial airline pilot
  • Psychiatrist
  • Physician
  • Surgeon
  • Senior corporate executive

Check out the full article for the explanations for including each job on the list.

Signs of the times

Work-life balance, job stress, the current economy, and the cost of higher education figure into the list: Three jobs are in healthcare and require an M.D. Also, becoming an attorney requires three years of law school (four if attending part-time) to earn a J.D., often at a high price tag.

In addition, speaking from my own interests, these are two occupational areas (healthcare and law) where workplace bullying is quite common, although, concededly, more often than not the doctors and lawyers are aggressors more than targets.

It’s noteworthy that seemingly glamorous “fly the world” jobs of commercial airline pilot and flight attendant make the list. The airline biz isn’t what it used to be; during the past decade, salary & benefit cuts and airplanes packed with stressed out passengers have become the norm.

Tougher related inquiries: If these jobs aren’t so great, then what fields do we recommend for people who are looking to make a career or vocational switch? Where are the good jobs with decent pay and working conditions? These are hard questions in the age of the Great Recession.

5 responses

  1. As to flight attendants and pilots, there’s also the issue of personal safety. Not the safest workplace, as they go; even before 9/11. And these employees often work very long days, somewhat as truck drivers used to do. In addition, though I don’t know about the flight attendants, I’ve been told that commercial pilots aren’t paid anything for their time if a flight is cancelled after they’ve “arrived at work”, even when they wait forever and everything’s grounded for the night, or if the flight they’re supposed to take up never leaves, nor does another flight handed to them after that on the same day. That’s why they used to sit on the tarmac forever waiting for takeoff clearance, even in brutally high or low temperatures when climate-control systems were off because the engine wasn’t running. (Happily, legislation was passed to limit how long a flight had to wait before the passengers were liberated to explore alternative means of transportation.) Many pilots fly in cockpits that are uncomfortably tight for someone of their height, etc., and many attendants work in tight quarters both preparing and serving drinks and meals — as well, in the case of the latter, as having to repeatedly face the same abusive passenger/s in the course of a given flight. No wonder that male flight attendant who was abused by a passenger, then chose to quit on the spur of the moment — grabbing a cold can of beer and sliding down the parked plane’s escape chute — got all that publicity! And as to doctors and surgeons — both physicians, of course — saving others can come at a very high cost. Two conscientious, compassionate doctors I know well actually went through medical school and residency twice! One switched from cardiac surgery to anesthesiology, the other from thoracic surgery to ear, nose and throat surgery. Each felt that was her/his only shot at regaining some vestige of a family life; luckily, both moves seem to been worth it.

  2. PS I am floored that social workers are not listed: though state-licensed professionals, they earn peanuts despite having spent two years in grad school. They spend incredible amounts of time on paperwork and bureaucratic following-up because their support staffs are very limited. Plus, regulations require them to document the social-services value or potential value of any care they offer or deliver. They are the first and principle “line of defense” in times of emotional trauma and distress, the ones listening sympathetically, offering consolation and insights, helping people plan what to do next, etc. (Much like the clergy — Christian or otherwise — many of whom should be declared national heroes.) They help people cope with protracted, hopeless situations like a loved one’s illness or betrayal. Admittedly, they don’t have the malpractice bills and risk-exposure of psychiatrists, who for their part strive to offer care in this most-neglected, stigmatized, under-researched area of medicine. “Mental” and “emotional” health and illness are horrendous misnomers, after all. Isn’t the brain an anatomical organ? Every physiologically-measured form of documentation shows that mental or emotional illness is the result of structural, chemical and/or electronic malfunctions, or of some combination thereof. Yet in so many areas, we know little of how to repair or reverse the damage. Funding for research is lamentably low, and pharmaceutical firms reap the benefits of NIH grants to our leading public, private and university-based hospitals and medical schools. On top of that, citizens here pay far, far more for American-developed and -manufactured pharmaceutical products than citizens elsewhere, even those on the far side of the globe. Medicaid and Medicare don’t even use their clout as volume buyers to help our elderly and infirm. Only the “best” schools below the college/university or graduate level explore psychology at all, and then it’s treated as an elective, or a brief discussion or lecture during one class session. With the social cost of psychiatric and psychological care, our social workers (i.e., licensed social workers), psychiatrists AND psychologists all deserve tremendous credit.

  3. I have tremendous respect for all in health care and interventional professions, & would choose to be a physician all over again – stress, malpractice, insurance issues, paperwork, legislative confusion all disappear in the eyes of a grateful patient. Triple that feeling when traveling to poor countries to provide aide! Without wanting to sound critical of those on Wall Street, I probably would have made more money and slept better hours going to B-School, but do not regret a minute!

    • Be careful, Doc Bob! In my experience, a service provider willing to work under difficult conditions for the sheer joy of delivering services to those who most need them (and have difficulty accessing them) makes a great target for workplace bullying! Your focus is on the patient and not on the structure that allows you the honour of doing such work makes you vulnerable.

  4. As to the good jobs, IT is still suffering a national shortage of qualified workers. Programming tends to happen in soul-crushing cubicles, but it beats unemployment.

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