"Be a Doctor" Is the Most Common Career Advice

by Lydia Saad

Nursing still perceived as a woman's job

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The fact that "Take Your Daughter to Work" day -- launched by the Ms. Foundation for Women in 1993 as a way to boost girls' self-esteem and expand their horizons -- has now become "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day speaks to modern society's insistence on gender equality in the workplace. It's the same demand that got Harvard University's president in trouble earlier this year when he implied that men and women might not have identical aptitudes for the hard sciences.

A recent Gallup Poll finds that, compared with 1950 -- when Americans differentiated between men and women in assigning career options -- there is great similarity today in the occupations people believe would be good for young men and for young women to pursue. Americans think both young men and young women would be well advised to enter a medical field, with "be a doctor" the single most frequently occurring advice for both genders.

The April 18-21 Gallup Poll includes two open-ended questions asking respondents to name the kind of work or career they would recommend if a young man or young woman came to them for advice.

M.D. Stands for Most Desirable Career

As youngsters join their parents at work on Thursday for this year's "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day, the most common career advice Americans have for young men and women is that they become doctors. One in five Americans say this would be their choice for young women, and 17% choose it for young men.

Medicine was also the leading choice when Gallup first asked this question -- focused only on young men -- in 1949. At that time, 28% said it would be the best career, and that level held through 1973. When the question about careers for young women was first asked in 1950, only 2% recommended that they become doctors, but that figure has gradually climbed to where it is today.

 

Trend in the Percentage Advising Young People to Become Doctors

 

 

2005

2001

1998

1985

1973

1967

1953

1950

1949

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Recommended for young men

17

12

8

8

28

30

29

29

28

Recommended for young women

20

15

11

7

--

--

--

2

--

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to recommend that young people pursue an M.D. About one-quarter of women recommend medicine for young men as well as for young women. In contrast, only 11%-14% of men say they would tell a young man or young woman to become a doctor.

 

Percentage Advising Young People to Become Doctors, by Gender
April 2005

 

Men

Women

 

%

%

Recommended for young men

11

22

Recommended for young women

14

25

In addition to medicine, the top five careers chosen for young men include computers (11%), a trade or industrial job (8%), business or sales (8%), and technology/electronics (8%).

 

Top Five Careers Recommended for Young Men
April 2005

 

 

%

Doctor/Medical field

17

Computers

11

Trades/Industrial/Blue collar

8

Business/Self-employed/Sales

8

Technology/Electronics

8

The "top five" list for young women is slightly different. As with young men, medicine, computers, and business are in the top five recommendations, but the list for women includes nursing and teaching, rather than trade and technology careers.

 

Top Five Careers Recommended for Young Women
April 2005

 

%

Doctor/Medical field

20

Nursing

13

Teaching

9

Computers

8

Business/Self-employed/Sales

6

Only four years ago, the computer field edged out medicine as the most widely recommended occupation. In fact, computers reigned on this list from 1985 through 2001 -- a period spanning both the introduction of computer technology as a field and the dot-com boom in the late 1990s. But since the dot-com boom went bust and there has been a substantial move to outsource computer jobs abroad, the percentage of Americans mentioning computers has dropped by about half.

 

Trend in the Percentage Advising Young People to Go Into Computers

 

 

2005

2001

1998

1985

1950

 

%

%

%

%

%

Recommended for young men

11

18

19

27

--

Recommended for young women

8

16

16

22

--

Another profession that has lost much favor is engineering. At its peak in 1953, one in five Americans recommended engineering as a profession for young men. Today that figure is only 5%. It has never been a very popular choice for young women.

 

Trend in Percentage Advising Young People to Go Into Engineering

 

 

2005

2001

1998

1985

1973

1967

1953

1950

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Recommended for young men

5

2

2

6

13

14

20

16

Recommended for young women

3

1

1

2

--

--

--

0

Occupations Where Gender Bias Persists

Despite some slight differences in the rank order of occupations, the only substantial difference in the recommended professions for young men and young women is the percentage mentioning nursing. Whereas 13% say they would advise young women to enter nursing, less than one-half of one percent mention this for young men.

Much smaller, though statistically significant, differences are seen for teaching as a profession (more likely to be chosen for women), as well as computers, technology/electronics, and trades/industrial jobs (all more likely to be chosen for men).

Occupations With Gender Differences
April 2005

 


Recommended
for young
men


Recommended
 for young
women

Difference
(men minus
women)

 

%

%

%

Nursing

*

13

-13

Teaching

5

9

-4

Technology/Electronics

8

5

+3

Computers

11

8

+3

Trades/Industrial/Blue collar

8

2

+6

* Less than 0.5%

 

Combining the mentions of all technical jobs (including computers, technology/electronics, and engineering) provides even stronger evidence that young men are more likely to be associated with these sorts of jobs than are young women (24% vs. 16%).

The slight tendency for teaching to be seen as a female profession is almost entirely due to women being more likely to recommend this line of work to young women. Whereas about equal percentages of women and men recommend teaching as a profession to young men (5% and 4%, respectively), women are much more likely than men to recommend teaching as a profession to young women (12% vs. 5%).

Generational Change

Gallup's career advice trend indicates that a few professions historically associated with women have gone the way of poodle skirts. In 1950, 8% of Americans recommended home economics to young women, 8% recommended secretarial/clerical jobs, 4% mentioned dressmaking or fashion, and 4% mentioned being an airline stewardess. Today, only 2% of Americans mention secretarial work, and less than one half of one percent recommend any of the others as professions for young women.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 18-21, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

17. Supposing a young man came to you for advice on choosing a line of work or career. What kind of work or career would you recommend?

 

 

Apr
18-
21,
2005

Mar
26-
28,
2001

Nov
20-
22,
1998

May
17-
20,
1985

1973

1967

1953

1950

1949

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Doctor/Medical field

17

12

8

8

28

30

29

29

28

Computers

11

18

19

27

--

--

--

--

--

Trades/Industrial/Blue collar

8

4

--

5

--

--

--

--

--

Business/Self-employed/Sales

8

9

7

7

10

8

7

8

8

Technology/Electronics

8

10

3

6

--

--

--

--

--

Engineering

5

2

2

6

13

14

20

16

14

Teaching

5

3

4

2

10

12

5

5

7

Construction

3

3

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Lawyer/Attorney

2

3

3

3

14

9

6

8

7

Military

2

3

2

4

--

--

--

--

--

Social work/Something with people/Helping others

2

2

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Banking/Finance

2

--

--

--

2

1

2

4

4

Government career

1

1

--

1

5

8

3

6

7

Professional/Managerial

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Office type work/White collar

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Mechanic

1

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Police officer

1

1

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Ministry/Clergy

*

1

--

--

7

8

7

7

7

Stay home

*

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

--

Dentist

*

--

--

*

7

4

6

4

4

Veterinarian

--

--

--

--

--

2

3

2

2

                   

Something he likes/Depends on the person/Finish school

14

11

15

--

--

--

--

--

--

                   

Other

1

4

20

14

--

2

4

5

--

NOTHING (vol.)

--

--

2

--

--

--

--

--

--

ANYTHING (vol.)

--

--

3

--

--

--

--

--

--

                   

No opinion

7

12

10

17

5

2

8

5

2

                   

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) = Volunteered response

18. Supposing a young woman came to you for advice on choosing a line of work or career. What kind of work or career would you recommend?

 

 

Apr
18-
21,
2005

Mar
26-
28,
2001

Nov
20-
22,
1998

May
17-
20,
1985

1950

 

%

%

%

%

%

Doctor/Medical field

20

15

11

7

2

Nursing

13

7

4

9

28

Teaching

9

6

7

4

16

Computers

8

16

16

22

--

Business/Self-employed/Sales

6

8

5

8

--

Technology/Electronics

5

8

2

3

--

Social work/Something
with people/Helping others

3

2

2

--

7

Engineering

3

1

1

2

--

Trades/Industrial/Blue collar

2

--

--

--

--

Secretary/Clerical

2

2

3

6

8

Banking/Finance

2

--

--

--

--

Lawyer/Attorney

2

3

2

3

--

Government career

1

1

--

1

--

Professional/Managerial

1

--

--

--

--

Military

1

1

--

1

--

Stay home/Homemaker/Wife/Mother

1

2

2

--

--

Police officer

*

--

--

--

--

Modeling

*

--

--

--

2

Beautician

--

--

--

--

2

Dept. store sales clerk

--

--

--

--

1

Dietician/Home economics

--

--

--

--

8

Dressmaker/Fashions

--

--

--

--

4

Journalism

--

--

--

--

3

Librarian

--

--

--

--

2

Musician

--

--

--

--

2

Actress

--

--

--

--

3

Airline stewardess

--

--

--

--

4

           

Something she likes/Depends on
the person/Finish school

12

13

15

--

--

           

Other

3

5

14

17

3

NOTHING (vol.)

--

--

2

--

--

ANYTHING (vol.)

--

--

3

--

--

           

No opinion

6

10

11

17

5

           

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) = Volunteered response


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/16048/Be-Doctor-Most-Common-Career-Advice.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
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