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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

Occupational psychology
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Industrial & organizational psychology

Occupational status or occupational prestige (also known as job prestige, job status) refers to the consensual nature of rating a job based on the collective belief of its worthiness.


Job prestige did not become a fully developed concept until 1947 when the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), under the leadership of Cecil C. North, conducted a survey which held questions regarding age, education, and income in regard to the prestige of certain jobs. This was the first time job prestige had ever been researched, measured, and taught. Duncan's Socioeconomic Index (DSI) became one of the most important outcomes of this survey, as it gave various occupational categories different scores based on the surveys results as well as the result of the 1950 Census of Population. During the 1960s the NORC did a second generation of surveys which became the basis for the socioeconomic status score until the 1980s as well as the foundation for Trieman's International Prestige Scale in 1977. Out of these surveys and research job prestige has been defined in various ways. Some definitions include:

  • The consensual nature of rating a job based on the collective belief of its worthiness.
  • Prestigue is the measurement of the "desirability" of an occupation in terms of socioeconomic rewards.
  • Prestige reflects factual, scientific knowledge about the material rewards attached to certain occupations.

However, depending on whom you ask, the definitions can change. many equate job prestige in terms of money, while others base it on education, and a third group bases it on how much a person's job helps society.

Calculating Occupational Prestige in America

In the past studies have shown that education was a major factor in calculating job prestige, but some claim that is no longer the case. [How to reference and link to summary or text] It used to be that having a college degree automatically meant you would probably attain a prestigious job as well. Researchers argue that this is no longer the case[How to reference and link to summary or text], for college acceptance two decades ago was much lower than it is today. Since there were fewer graduates the competition for very prestigious jobs was low. Today so many students graduate from well established colleges that there simply are not enough jobs of exceedingly high prestige to go around.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Also, prestige used to be based on age, wealth and education, and today a great factor in the calculation of occupational prestige is how a certain job helps humanity.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Currently, in America, the highest ranking jobs belong to firemen, doctors, scientists, nurses and teacher.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Lower ranking jobs include journalists, accountants, real esate agents and stock brokers who are all in the lower 8%.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Military officials and police officers tend to sit somewhere in the middle of the ladder.[How to reference and link to summary or text] According to, the following are what American's view as the most and least prestigious jobs.

  • Teachers have risen from 29 to 47%.
  • Lawyers have dropped from 26 to 18%.
  • Scientists have dropped from 66 to 56%, but still remain one of the more prestigious occupations.
  • Doctors have dropped from 41 to 36%.
  • Priests have also dropped from 41 to 36%.
  • Business Executives have dropped from 18 to 15%.
  • Athletes have dropped from 26 to 23%.

During the 1960s through the 1980s job prestige was calculated in a variety of different ways. People were given index cards with about 100 or so jobs listed on them and had to rank them from most to least prestigious. This ranking system was known as placing jobs in a "ladder of social standing." Another method they used in this time period was to have the respondents rank jobs on a "horizontal ruler" using specific guidelines such as estimated income, the freedom said job allowed, and how interesting the job was. No matter what the method the outcomes were generally the same. Today, a common way of calculating prestige is the "North-Hatt" study were respondents are asked to reveal whether they think a job puts a person in five different categories, from "excellent standing" to "poor standing" to "I don't know." This method might seem a little general, but the results it provided seemed to be the same as the study from the 60's to the 80's.

See also


  • Klaczynski, Paul A. "Sociocultural Myths and Occupational Attainment: Educational Influences on Adolescents' Perceptions of Social Status." Youth and Society, 1991, 22, 4, June, 448-467.
  • "In U.S., Women's Weight Gain Brings Loss of Income, Job Prestige, Study Finds." Health & Medicine Weekly, 2005, June. Retrieved March 9, 2006, from NewRx database.
  • Schooler, C., & Schoenbach, C. (1994, September). "Social Class, Occupational Status, Occupational Self-Direction, and Job Income: A Cross-National Examination. Sociological Forum." Academic Search Premier database, 1994, September 431-459.
  • "Firemen, Doctors, Scientists, Nurses and Teachers Top List as 'Most Prestigious Occupations,' According to Latest Harris Poll; Journalists, accountants, real estate agents and stockbrokers are at the bottom of the list." PR Newswire US. Rochester, NY, 2005.
  • Ollivier. "Too much money off other people's backs': status in late modern societies". The Canadian journal of sociology. 2000 vol:25 iss:4 pg:441 -470.

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