My List Of The Top 5 Most Overrated Careers and Jobs
Published 6/19/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
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.