Millennials are more likely than their elders to equate fame and celebrity with prestige.
Maybe Lou Gehrig’s mother was on to something. In the classic film, “Pride of the Yankees,” Lou’s immigrant mother is determined that her son become an engineer like his Uncle Otto rather than a baseball player. According to a recent Harris poll, a significant majority of Americans might agree with her. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they would encourage their children to become engineers.
This is a slightly higher percentage than those would nudge their children in the direction of becoming doctors or scientists (91 percent each), nurses (90 percent) or pursuing a career in architecture (88 percent).
Bankrate.com recently ranked engineering at the highest-paying college major with a median starting salary between $51,700-$97,900. Seven of the top highest-paying college majors are in the engineering fields with petroleum, chemical, electrical, materials science and aerospace engineering occupying the top five slots, the Bankrate survey found.
But the Harris poll respondents do not necessarily equate a high paycheck with prestige. When asked which professions they consider to be the most prestigious, nine out of ten cited were in the business of helping others and several are not necessarily known for their big paydays.
Doctors top the list of professions Americans perceive to be prestigious (88 percent), followed by:
- Military officer (78 percent)
- Firefighter (76 percent)
- Scientist (76 percent)
- Nurse (70 percent)
- Engineer (69 percent)
- Police officer (66 percent)
- Clergy member (62 percent)
- Architect (62 percent)
- Athlete (60 percent)
Americans are divided on five occupations as to whether they are prestigious or not:
- Members of Congress (52 percent more prestigious vs. 48 percent less)
- Entertainer (53 percent vs. 47 percent)
- Actors (55 percent vs. 45 percent)
- Farmer (45 percent vs. 55 percent)
- Journalist (45 percent vs. 55 percent)
Millennial respondents to the Harris poll placed a higher premium on fame and celebrity than their elder counterparts. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials said that being an athlete is prestigious vs. 56 percent of Gen Xers, 53 percent of Baby Boomers and 49 percent of seniors. They were likewise more inclined to consider entertainers and actors to be prestigious occupations.
While only 40 percent of respondents consider accountant to be a prestigious profession, nearly eight-in-ten (78 percent) said they would encourage a child to become one.
The highest percentage of respondents (66 percent) said they would not encourage a child to become a union leader, followed by an actor (59 percent), member of Congress (59 percent), entertainer (58 percent) and stockbroker (54 percent).
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.