Occupational Prestige definition

Occupational prestige refers to the public perception of an individual’s social standing based on their professional position, rather than any unique personal attributes the individual holds.

The careers that attract the greatest occupational prestige may change over time depending on external events. Public perception of the integrity of an industry can alter the prestige associated with a particular profession.

One of the interesting points in occupational prestige research is the method individuals use to rank careers. Some use the degree to which they would like the job themselves, for example, while others use the amount of scientific or specialist knowledge the individual needs to have to hold the position.

According to the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and based on their own research in 1989, the top five positions with the greatest occupational prestige are: chief executive, a manager in medicine or health, architects and aerospace engineers.

In 2007, a Harris poll found that occupational prestige is linked to the position’s effect on societal welfare; teachers, firefighters and scientists therefore ranked ahead of bankers and entertainers.