Think your dream job is all glamour and prestige? You may want to think again.
On the hit TV dramas "ER," "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," says Dr. Katharine Brooks, director of liberal arts career services for the University of Texas at Austin. "Work/life balance is also an important issue."
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 seven overrated professions and the alternatives that could prove to be a better option.
Overrated Career #1 - Teacher
Average Annual Salary: $54,330*
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: Education Leadership
Postsecondary education administration is one option to look into if you want to get into the field, but don't want to actually teach. Administrators are usually responsible for supervising areas such as student affairs or admissions and can be found at colleges, universities, and more. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in a variety of fields, like accounting, marketing, or social work could be enough for entry-level posts, but higher positions usually require a master's or doctorate degree in education. It may require more school, but the average pay ($83,710*) isn't bad.
Overrated Career #2 - Chef
Average Annual Salary: $44,780*
The Fantasy: "Television, cookbooks, culinary schools, etc. all contribute to this disillusion that being a chef is glamorous, that all we do is concoct recipes and fanciful dishes," says Lisa Nakamura, a Wash. chef who runs her own eatery called Allium on Orcas Island.
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: Restaurant Management
Restaurant management is an area that allows you to be a part of the industry without actually working over a hot stovetop. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average annual salary ($52,220*) is higher for food service managers, and managers could complete hospitality or food service management programs in as little as two years.
Overrated Career #3 - CEO
Average Annual Salary: $173,350*
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: Chief executive positions are competitive to get and stressful to keep due to the pressure to succeed. Long hours and travel are also common, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Career Alternative for CEOs: Sales Rep
Look into a sales rep position for a chance at a decent wage ($60,430 to $84,360* depending on what you're selling) and more regular 40-hour weeks than CEOs, according to the Department of Labor.
There are no formal education requirements for sales reps, but some positions require a bachelor's degree with subjects like marketing, economics, and communications offering a good background for students interested in the field.
Overrated Career #4 - Lawyer
Average Annual Salary: $129,440*
The Fantasy: What you see is different than what you get when it comes to law professions. "Lawyers are always wealthy and powerful and conducting fascinating investigations and trials on TV," says Brooks, explaining the fantasy.
The Reality: "The reality of the job is that much of it involves writing tedious documents, a constant pressure of deadlines, challenging consequences for making a mistake or missing a deadline, and pressure for billable hours," says Brooks.
Career Alternative for Lawyers: Paralegal
Paralegals, assistants that help lawyers with the details of their jobs, might not get the same adoration as their bosses, but the career comes with a more regular 40-hour workweek and fewer years spent in school - since most paralegal hopefuls have either an associate's degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies, according to the Department of Labor. The average annual salary ($49,640*) isn't bad either.
Overrated Career #5 - Doctor
Average Annual Salary: $180,870*
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: Don't get us wrong, there are definitely sexy docs out there saving lives, but there's more to this career that an hour-long TV program just can't cover. Physicians also work long, irregular hours (frequently upwards of 50 hours per week), and while on call they could find themselves dealing with patients' concerns over the phone and making emergency visits to hospitals or nursing homes, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Career Alternative for Doctors: Registered Nursing (RN)
If you want to treat and educate patients about various medical conditions, 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 or associate's degree in nursing, which could be completed in as little as two to three years, 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 average annual salary ($67,720*) isn't too shabby either.
*Average annual salaries are taken from the U.S. Department of Labor's May 2010 occupational employment statistics.
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