Top Five Most Overrated Careers

Most Overrated Careers
Top Five Most Overrated Careers

Think your dream job is all glamour and prestige? You may want to think again.

By Chelsea Lin
Last updated on 7/8/2014

On the hit TV dramas "House," and "Grey's Anatomy," being a doctor is all about white coats, intrigue, and getting busy in the on-call rooms.

Sounds glamorous, right?

What TV doesn't show you are the huge bills from all those years of medical school, grueling work shifts, and the pressures of having a literally life-or-death responsibility in your hands.

Unfortunately, doctors are just one of many careers you might consider overrated once you learn about their gritty reality.

"While most people focus first on salary or prestige, it's more important to focus on how you will spend your days, and who you will be surrounded by on your job," Katharine Brooks, director of liberal arts career services for the University of Texas at Austin. "Work/life balance is also an important issue."

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Worried the career you're considering may be more of a nightmare than a dream job? Before you make any career decisions, take a look at these five overrated professions and the alternatives that could prove to be much better options.

Overrated Career #1: Elementary School Teacher

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Median Annual Salary: $53,390*

The Fantasy: Two words: summer vacation. Oh, and work days that end at 3 p.m. Plus, the obvious reward of shaping young lives.

The Reality: "Teaching, while rewarding, can involve difficult students and parents and lots of pressure related to test scores, not to mention tighter restrictions on lesson plans," says Brooks. There's also the potential for violence in schools and stress due to workload. Sadly those short days at school sometimes turn into long nights of grading papers.

Career Alternative for Teachers:Elementary, Middle, or High School Principal

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Elementary, middle, or high school principal is one option to look into if you want to get into the field, but don't want to actually be in the classroom "trenches." Principals are usually responsible for supervising areas such as school activities and operations, disciplining students and overseeing schedules. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, schools mostly require principals in elementary, middle, and high schools to have a master's degree in education administration or leadership. It may require more school, but the median annual salary for education administrators in elementary and secondary school, ($88,380*) isn't bad.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Education Leadership Program for You.

Overrated Career #2: Chef

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Median Annual Salary: $42,490*

The Fantasy: "Television, cookbooks, culinary schools, etc. all contribute to this illusion that being a chef is glamorous, that all we do is concoct recipes and fanciful dishes," says Lisa Nakamura, a Washington chef famous for her handcrafted gnocchi.

The Reality: "There is little attention to the nitty-gritty business aspect of being a chef, of running a kitchen," Nakamura says. Other less-than-glamorous facets of the business could include setting schedules, placing orders, and dealing with cranky customers' demands.

Career Alternative for Chefs: Food Service Management

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Food service management is an area that allows you to be a part of the industry without actually working over a hot stovetop, as the U.S. Department of Labor says these professionals are responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing the activities of a department or organization that serves food and beverages. According to the Department of Labor, the median annual salary ($48,080*) is also higher for food service managers than for chefs. The Department says that while a bachelor's degree is not required, certain national or regional restaurant chains and food service companies do recruit management trainees from college hospitality or food service management programs.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Hospitality Management Program for You.

Overrated Career #3: Chief Executive

Median Annual Salary: $171,610*

The Fantasy: If the world has learned anything from Donald Trump, it's that money and prestige (and television deals...and real estate) come in spades when you're at the top of the suit-wearing, martini-drinking professional food chain.

The Reality: Top executive positions, of which chief executives make up 14 percent,are stressful due to the extreme pressure to succeed. Long hours and travel are also common, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Career Alternative for Chief Executives: Human Resources Manager

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Look into a human resources management position. The median annual salary for this occupation is ($100,800*). These workers plan, coordinate and direct administrative functions for an organization, which is a lot of responsibility, but most work during regular business hours, according to the Department of Labor.

A bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration is usually needed for this position.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program for You.

Overrated Career #5: Physician or surgeon

Median Annual Salary: Greater than or equal to $90 per hour or $187,199 per year.*

The Fantasy: As mentioned, TV fans love a medical drama, so public perception of this glamorized profession is influenced by shows filled with sexy docs saving lives and being showered with admiration.

The Reality: Many physicians work irregular, long, and overnight hours and may need to be on call for emergency visits, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They may make a lot of money, but when do they have time to spend it?

Career Alternative for Doctors: Registered Nurse(RN)

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If you want to treat and educate patients with various medical conditions, which registered nurses do, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, without the lifestyle that comes with actual physician work, you might want to consider a career in registered nursing (RN).

RNs are only required to have a diploma from an approved nursing program or an associate's degree in nursing, although some may pursue a bachelor of science in nursing, according to the Department of Labor. From there, aspiring RNs need to pass a national licensing exam. When compared to the eight plus years of post-high school education required for doctors, prepping for an RN career might seem like a breeze, and the median annual salary ($66,220*) isn't too shabby either.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Registered Nursing Program for You.

Once you've found your dream career, you'll want to nurture it and make it grow. According to, a comprehensive research and rating site for students interested in online degrees and courses, having a plan, honing your skills, and networking are a few of the ways experts say you can grow and maintain your career of interest.

* Median annual salaries are taken from the U.S. Department of Labor's May 2012 occupational employment statistics.

Chloe West also contributed to this article by updating the information on 7/8/2014

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