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My List Of The Top 5 Most Overrated Careers and Jobs

Published 6/19/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

It's not easy finding the right career path in life. Many of our own perceptions on what makes a good profession is shaped and sometimes even warped by the views of our family, friends, and perhaps most significantly, by the media's relentless spin. There are many jobs out there that may look attractive and rewarding on TV, but reality often pours cold water over hyped up expectations.

It's interesting to me how if you asked any little kid what they wanted to be when they grew up, almost all would respond with answers like doctor, lawyer, hip hop rapper, or even President of the United States. Unfortunately for those little kids, the great majority of them will never fulfill their childhood dreams or live up to the great but unrealistic expectations they envisioned due to their personal circumstances. People pick jobs and careers for many reasons, but their choices are often shaped by their own hyped views regarding what is hot and what is not, and frequently fraught with inaccuracies. Unfortunately, during the high school and college years, the media greatly reinforces the naive and misguided mystique that surrounds certain professions to the detriment of future entrants into the work force. Oftentimes the hype of certain careers tend to greatly exceed the lucrativeness and fulfillment potential of reality.

The job market and popular careers choices have changed greatly over the years and what was once perhaps lucrative no longer is. Here's my list of what I believe are the top 5 most overrated careers and professions. I'm sure there are many people who are happy and content in the following careers and perhaps enjoy professional and personal success, but I think there are also many of those in the following fields that feel they have been misled down the primrose path to frustration and work dissatisfaction. These conclusions are based on my own personal views, and gleaned from views expressed in books, online articles, websites, blogs, and through my interactions with friends from all walks of life and professions. For more relevant input and insight, take a look at U.S. News and World Report's own list of the most overrated careers. While their list is more comprehensive and generally applicable, mine is more focused on my own personal and unique experiences.

The Five Most Overrated Careers, Jobs, and Professions In My Opinion:

1) Attorney - Don't get me started about lawyers, law school, and the legal profession. I don't have too many good things to say about the whole business of becoming a lawyer and the realities of working as one. I'm an attorney myself, but I'm currently trying to get out of the profession completely and enter the work from home online business for myself. I find the whole legal career path to be an unforgiving and personally unfulfilling line of work.

Unfortunately for new legal field entrants, they don't usually realize the market for lawyers is extremely saturated until it is too late, and are already in too deep. Currently, there are already too many lawyers everywhere and even more on the way. These days it is very, very, very easy to become an attorney. Saddled with poor grades or terrible LSAT standardized test scores? No problem. There are more than 4 whopping tiers of law schools that continue to expand in size every year. There's a guaranteed spot on the student roster for every wannabe or lackluster student who wants to play the lawyer card. These days, anyone can apply to law school to become a lawyer because there are no strict educational prerequisites involved. As an insider, I can assure you - there is absolutely nothing special about lawyers and the skills and training they allegedly possess - they are a dime a dozen. Unless you graduated from a top ten ranking law school or entered a difficult legal niche field such as tax or patent law, you better get used to a meager and unrewarding professional life. My advice is to stay away from law school and to do anything else but that.

Like many who decided to enter law school, I originally applied out of mere default and lack of educational options at the time. After all, I wasn't much of a math or science person, and studying business seemed to be too general and broad of a choice at the time. Why not attend law school and become a high priced lawyer and make millions of dollars a year by taking on high profile and exciting celebrity cases, I thought? Why not invest myself into a career that will allow me to not only become rich, but utilize my skills to help uphold justice and assist people who need legal representation? After all, lawyers spend their days honorably debating before judges in prestigious court room settings before trial juries and television crews right? Wrong!

The legal profession is the most grossly distorted career choice in the history of careers. Thanks to the overzealous and over-hyped glory and glitz of Hollywood media productions, most of the public's view of the legal profession is framed and distorted by entertainment inspired sources such as TV shows of past and present like Ally McBeal, JAG, The Practice, and Law and Order, and popular court room drama filled movies like A Few Good Men. The truth and reality is that the vast majority of lawyers rarely ever see the inside of a court room, working as paper pushing transactional attorneys instead. The ones that do apply their craft in the court room, known as litigation work, still spend the vast bulk of their time and efforts stuffed in their offices before a computer screen, typing away and performing grueling and monotonous research and writing. The work is tedious, stressful, time consuming, and frequently unrewarding.

In the working arena, lawyers often have to deal with the frustrating aspects of working with ungrateful and belligerent clients who refuse to pay or ignore the advice and suggestions of their own counsel. For small law firm attorneys, the average salary almost always falls well short of media inspired dramatization. Most of my friends who graduated from top 50 law schools ended up with massive student loans of more than $100,000 and winded up in mere $50,000 a year lawyer jobs for many years. For those who find themselves working at higher paying big firm positions, the hours are insanely taxing and terribly destructive for those trying to balance a family and social life as well. Being forced to work 80-100 or more hours a week as a big firm associate is not unusual as many are pressed into strict billable hour requirements. The need to pay off massive student loans often force many new attorney recruits into lifelong professional servitude, whereby they are compelled to sacrifice their lives, their health, and their own happiness for an unattainable dream of work and play balance in the legal profession. For every Johnny Cochran, Mark Geragos, or Gloria Allred personalities on cable TV, there are thousands of struggling attorneys out there saddled with massive student loans, wondering why they chose to enter such a saturated and unhappy field to begin with. My advice - go be a dentist or something. There's a lot of money in that racket and the barriers to entry are much higher, making the health care field a much more prestigious and balanced choice.

2) Real Estate Agent - Thanks to the array of house flipping shows on television that suddenly sprouted in the last few years, everyone and their uncle now thinks they can and should become a real estate agent. During the last few years, I've seen nearly all of my friends in some fashion or another try to dabble in the real estate market and try their luck in helping others buy and sell homes. Many went on to take the easy breezy real estate exam and obtain their real estate license.

Unfortunately the ease and simplicity of entering the real estate field is one of the key causes of the real estate profession's current decline (that, and the real estate housing bubble). Because it's so easy to become a certified real estate agent, the barriers to entry are very low. As a result, real estate agents are everywhere and there is not enough real estate business to go around. Especially in this real estate downturn, agents are finding themselves faced with dwindling business opportunities and diminishing commission fees. Furthermore, with the growth of online housing listing sites like Zillow and Yahoo Real Estate, and the surging popularity of do it yourself resources, the importance of having a real estate agent will continue to decline and gradually phase out. With the growth of online real estate blogs and finance sites, it's getting much easier for ordinary people to buy and sell their own house or property without the assistance of a professional real estate agent.

3) Chef - Here's another overrated career field that has fallen prey to the reckless glamorization committed by television media. Thanks to foreign import culinary shows like Iron Chef, American cooking related programs on the Food Network like Rachel Ray, and the popularity of reality competition shows like Bravo channel's America's Top Chef, every aspiring amateur chef out there thinks he or she can strike it big as a future professional chef to the rich and famous.

I used to date this girl who was a pharmacy student. She had a passion for food and was on the verge of dumping her pharmacy school studies to pursue her lofty dream of becoming a famous television cooking personality or working as a future top chef at a five star restaurant somewhere. Fortunately for her, she discovered early on how little entry level chefs really made and abandoned her unrealistic pursuits for a more stable career as a pharmacist. The reality is that most chefs are mere assembly line cooks, churning out the same concoctions over and over, chopping and dicing away in a hot and sweaty kitchen in the back of some restaurant for hours and hours. Frequently, the work hours extend into the weekends and late evenings, depriving them of much of their extracurricular quality of life.

4) Full Time Blogger Or Online Entrepreneur - This is one hits close to home for me, but I have mixed feelings on those that choose to blog as a full time profession. While I personally receive a decent amount of passive income from my finance blog and do pretty well for myself through my efforts to make money online blogging, the vast majority of bloggers out there will probably never fulfill their full time blogging income aspirations. While it's good to pursue one's dream of working from home and never having to put on that suit and tie and "work for the man" any longer, the reality is that blogging full time is difficult, time consuming and requires substantial discipline, especially in the early stages when online advertisement and affiliate income motivation are hard to come by. The lack of commentary participation and the lack of traffic and feedback by readers can quickly cause the average aspiring blogger to lose hope early on. It takes a certain focused and dedicated individual to successfully develop his or her web based pipe dream into a full fledged online Internet marketing empire.

The path to future passive income riches definitely crosses through the Internet and through search engines like Google, but the path is fraught with competition and lonely times. It is possible to make some decent side income on the web, but the vast majority will never reach the online income needed to sustain a full time blogging position. That's just reality. For the masses who think it's easy to slap up a simple make money online Wordpress blog and generate millions of hits instantly, resulting in substantial Google Adsense revenue, they are wrong. It easy to start out as a part time blogger as the barriers to entry are very low, but it's hard to make a true full time living out of it.

5) Teacher - Working as a teacher is one of the noblest and most honorable jobs out there, but in terms of financial and perhaps even personal rewards, it is sorely lacking. Like stay at home moms, teachers are grossly underpaid for their efforts and the invaluable influence and steerage they have on the next generation of children and students. The thought of being allowed to take entire summers off as a teacher may be tempting, but the reality is that most teachers work during the off season as well - performing summer school work, tutoring, or volunteering their time for education related endeavors. For those that wind up teaching toddlers or grade school students, working as a teacher is akin to working as a full time babysitter. Not only do you have to teach the students something productive, but you also have to deal with their crazy behaviors, emotional outbursts, rebellious attitudes, and sometimes even violent propensities.

I have quite a few female friends who work as junior high and public high school teachers and they frequently seem worn out and utterly exhausted due to their jobs. While most enjoy their work somewhat, many are frustrated at the bureaucracy and the governmental policies that hinder their ability to truly make a difference in the lives of students as a whole. Many of my female teacher friends frequently gripe and complain about the inefficient aftermath of the No Child Left Behind Act and how the governmental policy has forced many of them to waste their time and limited efforts and resources on so-called "hopeless students". These teachers want to make a difference and help promising students grow to their full potentials, but many of them find their hands hopelessly bound by standardized guideline requirements and expectations. Instead of being able to help gifted and talented students grow to the best of their abilities by giving them the educational attention they need to advance, much of the No Child Left Behind Act efforts are spent trying to discipline and reform issue prone students who refuse to learn at the same speed and pace as classmates in the same age group. Clearly, it's a broken policy that demands major reform.

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21 Responses to “My List Of The Top 5 Most Overrated Careers and Jobs” 

  1. KMC says:

    You had me agreeing until the last one. Teachers have two very good financial advantages - collective bargaining and state pensions. Teachers are one of the few remaining professions (along with other government workers) with defined benefit retirement plans. And those can never be taken away. Only 18% of workers are in that situation.

  2. Mrs. Micah says:

    I know I've never wanted to be a lawyer or real estate agent. Seems like way too much work, even if you do make good money. Chef...only at home. I do like playing chef, dicing food, etc. But I knew a guy who was a chef and couldn't make a living doing it. Teacher occasionally. But then I came to my senses. ;)

    Like you, the blogger one strikes close to home. But the longer I do this, the more I realize that I definitely don't want to be a full-time blogger. Professional blogger, yes...full-time, no. I think there's a distinction, in how we write and how we do our sites, compared to casual bloggers. Fortunately, blogging is part of what's helping me figure out what I DO want to do. So I'm grateful for this little turn in my life. :)

  3. Andys says:

    Great article and I really enjoyed reading it. I liked the part about blogging, close to home as well, and the line you had "It takes a certain focused and dedicated individual to successfully develop his or her web based pipe dream", is very true. I have finally come to the realization, as per Mrs Micah's comment, that this will never be a full time thing for me. I need to focus of the "real" job to reach my career and financial goals. I enjoy blogging and will continue to do so, its just that I shouldn't expect instant riches from it like so many other MMO blogs write about.

    I don't think teaching as a profession is over rated - just under paid and over worked. Teachers shape the lives of our future generations and should be paid better.

  4. Chad @ Sentient Money says:

    I would add accountant to that list. Talk about an unfulfilling profession. Basically, if you can with stand complete boredom it's the right profession for you.

  5. Raymond says:

    Just for the record, I forgot to include one terribly overrated profession that was recently brought to my attention - corporate consulting! * smacks forward * How could I have left that one out! Corporate consulting is basically permanent temping.

  6. JHS says:

    I was reading your comments about lawyers and wondering how you became so bitter, but, fortunately for me, you answered the question for me in this sentence: "I originally applied out of mere default and lack of educational options at the time." And then you cemented my understanding of your career choice with this sentence: "Why not attend law school and become a high priced lawyer and make millions of dollars a year by taking on high profile and exciting celebrity cases, I thought?" And then to compare yourself to people like Gloria "Is there a camera focused on me?" Allred . . . well, let's just say that I could write a book. And believe me, I have been encouraged to do so.

    Not ALL lawyers come to the profession in such a lackluster, unfocused fashion. It might be more beneficial to write an article about how one should choose a profession. You might encourage your readers to research the various types of legal practice available as career choices, interview real lawyers, ask to shadow a lawyer for a day or two, attend legal career fairs/days, meet with a few local judges and get their perspectives, visit several different law schools -- preferably in different tiers -- and discuss the academic requirements, job placement services available, etc. Someone considering law school should investigate financial aid options, primarily scholarships.

    I'm sorry that your career as an attorney has turned out not to be rewarding. Obviously, it is the wrong career for you.

    But your generalizations about other attorneys and the legal profession as a whole are unfair, unfounded, and do a great disservice to your readers, especially those who are contemplating a legal career.

    It is possible to be called to the practice of law in precisely the same way that folks are drawn or called to other professions. I know because I have written about the fact that I was, simply put, born to be a lawyer.

    My experiences are far different than yours and I encourage anyone seriously considering the practice of law to do the requisite research before jumping in with both feet.

    If your readers want to read about law from an entirely different perspective, I invite them to peruse some of the articles on my site: (link)

    If they want to learn about what it is like to be called to a profession and follow one's destiny in a manner that allows you to truly make a difference, they can check out (link) or (link).

  7. Raymond says:

    JHS,

    I stand by my negative comments completely (100%) but I know there are indeed many out there that enjoy the practice of law. However, it's not for me and the vast majority of young attorneys (friends of mine) I know intimately. I know very, very few young attorneys who are truly satisfied with their jobs. Those who entered the legal profession before the recent decade and before the recent severe saturation have had it much easier.

    It's not being bitter, but a realization that I made a misguided choice in life that I need to rectify now. Despite a desire to perform hard work, an initially fresh and eager outlook, and despite the job resources available, certain professions and careers are inherently broken due to societal issues at large. The supply of lawyers is drastically outpacing the work available. There is something seriously wrong when an attorney, a few years out of law school, and saddled with $100,000 in student loans has to take on a 70 hour per week legal position, earning only $40,000 a year in a major city, and still has to fight off other new attorney applicants who are willing to work for much less.

    I just don't want people falling into the same misguided trap that I did. JHS, I respect your views greatly, but I don't think you have taken a look at the entry level attorney job market situation in the last 5 years. It's abysmal.

  8. JHS says:

    Raymond:

    I applaud your willingness to acknowledge that you "made a misguided choice in life that [you] need to rectify now" and taking responsibility for your own actions.

    The profession is not "inherently broken," but there are problems just as there are with any profession.

    Much of what you describe about the conditions for new lawyers is accurate, however, there are vast regional variations so your generalizations are not helpful to a coherent, focused discussion about how to rectify matters.

    Yes, I am well aware of the entry level job market situation in my area. I work with student interns who keep me abreast of current conditions. They are graduating from the best schools with debt well in excess of $100,000 -- closer to $150-160k in many instances -- and jobs are not plentiful. However, they do not start at $40k per year and there are many opportunities for those who graduate from excellent schools with good grades. (I do not recommend that anyone attend a non-ABA school.) Many are starting at well over $100,000/year. Do they have to work hard for that money? Yes. Are they jobs, for the most part, that I would ever be remotely interested in? NO. I did not start out in a library reviewing contracts, waiting 7 years or more to get my shot at a courtroom. But I graduated from a top-notch school, paid back the student loans, and found a good job in a firm where my prior experience as an accountant was valued & I was allowed to take on many responsibilities immediately.

    Opportunities exist, but, as with anything else, the individual looking for that opportunity has to be diligent, focused, and informed.

    Moreover, the best route is to thoroughly research where those opportunities are and, more importantly, whether working in a particularly profession is compatible with one's skills, abilities, and interests.

  9. MZ Cap says:

    Martin Seligman, the guy who started the field of Positive Psychology, says in his book "Learned Optimism" that lawyers as a group are the least happy people because they are really in the business of imagining the worst possible scenario and finding faults. Lawyers excel when they are good at finding faults. Just imagine working with a bunch of very smart people who are very good at finding faults, you can understand why they are not happy.

  10. Raymond says:

    It's hard to disagree with the proposition that lawyers, while profession driven and perhaps successful in the worldly sense, tend to be more than not, miserable individuals with rather unhappy lives.

    As a part time lawyer myself, I don't derive any real pleasure from my line of legal work - preferring to get my life's joys from familial, relational, and hobbyist pursuits. The whole corrupted and profit driven business of law schools and law firms certainly exacerbates the social problems as well.

  11. JHS says:

    More unfounded generalizations! And such unfair ones, to boot.

    I work with a delightful bunch of folks and, I assure you, we are very happy people. We love our jobs and do not view our work as "finding faults." Rather, I am a truth-seeker and, as an officer of the court, charged with responsibility for making sure that I present the information I find in good faith so that justice can be done. I practice employment law and it is endlessly fascinating because it involves the actions of human beings and their motivations.

    Again, I strongly urge your readers not to take negative comments posted here at face value, as they are NOT representative of all lawyers's feelings, activities or goals.

    I spent the first 15 years of my career handling civil rights cases (harassment, discrimination, retaliation). I am proud of the work I've done and will always consider myself a civil rights attorney, even though I am now on the labor side. Why? Because at the end of the day, it is all about what is RIGHT and assuring that justice is done.

  12. nikkita shukla says:

    hellow sir
    I am CS student,i would like to know about the demand for CS at present and future in the market and about salary package

  13. Raymond says:

    Nikkita,

    Well, you're in luck. Computer science and technology based jobs are still in hot demand. While all employment positions across all sectors are being hit hard by the current economic slump, health related (physician and nursing jobs) and computer related positions are doing relatively and comparatively well.

    There is currently a healthy supply of computer jobs for the applicants out there. The downside is that you may have to compete with slightly more qualified individuals vying for more entry level positions. The salary package for computer jobs varies greatly depending on industry, experience, and geographical location. But I would think $50,000 minimum is very possible in most cases.

    But if you can, I'd advise you to get a few more years of advanced computer training and certifications to beef up your resume. While computer science applicants have it easier in this market than others, job pickings are not as great as they were a few years ago. Your best bet is to stay in school and ride this recession out for a few more years if possible.

  14. the truth... says:

    I agree with the attorney part and that was the only part I wanted to read, since I am in law school. But what can a person with a JD do ? (besides law)...I am in too deep to quit now (only one year away from graduating and I might as well get my law degree). but I want to make a transition. I am interested in an alternative career? any opinions

  15. Raymond says:

    Start a blog and try to find a way to generate a living online? The internet is the biggest occupational frontier we have right now...so much of it remains untapped...

    I hope you are attending a top tier law school....if not, well...good luck on the job hunt.

  16. Lawyer says:

    You should have put Pharmacy on your list as well. People go into that job simply because it's a relatively quick way to make good money, not because they think they will enjoy the career. Most are not very satisfied when they realize all they do is fill pill bottles all day, and have to keep up with the trillions of new drugs coming out. If socialized health care is passed generic drugs will become more common, and as drug prices decline, so will the salaries of pharmacists. I can easily see them going from 100k a year to 50k, which is more what they deserve. I'm sorry, but I have a beef with them as they are not only overpaid, but now they want the title of doctor, which they don't deserve. When they are required to get a phd, and defend a dissertation of a thesis that they created in front of a panel of experts in their field, then I will call them doctor. An English or History professor with a phd is much more of a real doctor than any pharmacist. I know a girl with half a brain that just got into pharmacy school and she's only a sophomore in college. She won't even have a real bachelors degree when she's done but she'll be a pharmacist! What a joke.

  17. Raymond says:

    Lawyer,

    Yeah I always found it odd that pharmacist degrees don't require a BA or BS degree to obtain. How can one seriously consider a pharmacy degree a doctorate degree then? From what I know about the pharmacy profession (especially after having dated a pharmacy student before), pharmacists make a decent amount of money right off the bat after their 4 years of pharmacy school, particularly if they go into retail which means they are working at CVS or Rite Aid and filling out pill bottles. However, pharmacists have very limited upside in their professions...their salaries start hard and fast, but the income ceiling is rather low. Thoughts?

  18. Oh Good God Have Mercy says:

    Don't go to law school. Unless you know exactly what you are doing. Realize that $100K debt comes out to at the very least a 10 year payback period. Most of the lawyers I know and have encountered are the biggest and most miserable sacks of human flesh that you could ever know. The only happy law graduate I know was fortunate enough to find a teaching position at a graduate-level Executive MBA program. A semi-happy lawyer I know works as an attorney for Uncle Sam. The rest of the lawyers I know, older, younger, newly graduated etc, are miserable. None of them are even close to being happy in life. Depression, suicide, divorce, neuroses, addictions etc. Go to abovethelaw or auto-admit and read the people's comments and see if you would ever want to work with these people. Of the 5 people I know who were married when they started law school, only 1 person is still married, 2 years out of school. The rest are now divorced. Does this tell you something?

    One of my former classmates is a drug addict and an alcoholic. Another guy started taking prescription-strength sleeping pills before he quit his firm job. Another pays for prostitutes and does drugs on a regular basis. All tier 1 graduates, some of whom now clock in over $100K per year. Is the money really producing any satisfaction, fulfillment or happiness for these people? Not really. One guy enlisted a psychologist who said flat out, lawyers on a whole are the least happy professionals. Does this tell you something?

    Even a tax professor, during prospective student day told me that most of these incoming students have no idea what they are getting themselves into. In so many words she was telling me to get out and go away while I still had the chance. Did I listen to her wisdom? Nope. Should I have listened to her wisdom? Probably. 2 years out of school and I have had a whopping total of 4 months work experience. I have gone on interviews and turned down in favor recent college graduates. Did I mention these were entry-level positions where the interviewers told me that the skills are all learned on the job? Again, does this tell you something?

  19. Raymond says:

    Oh Good God have Mercy:

    You won't get any disagreement from me. Lawyers suck! And I'm a lawyer myself... Lawyers are definitely not a happy bunch

    The legal profession really needs a good exposing. Prospective law students need to be fully informed about the ramifications of their decisions to attend law school. Jobs are not as plentiful as they may appear and the profession is utterly saturated with an abundance of aspiring young attorneys with little to no experience to speak of.

  20. sb says:

    a job? i am leaving that search in googles hands, they are rated #1 in the world. think about that fact then figure out where to work? applying for google is out of the question since google dont need RNs however they search better than any other engine, by 12p I think a job pro I will be. Thanks all you bright minded googlers, all those 0s behind the 1 hasnt raised a question yet? great! see ya

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