Life’s Work: The World’s Most Respected Professions

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More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the wake of mass layoffs and downsizing as businesses liquidate and collapse or are forced to shut down as the government desperately attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Millions of Americans will suffer the impacts of this economic crisis for generations to come.

Headlines in the crisis have been dominated by mind boggling facts and figures but there is, in fact, a more insightful narrative that ought also to be written: that of the essential worker. The American public’s overdue recognition of the workers whose labour is the force behind our health and well being — grocers, cashiers, nursing assistants, farmworkers, caregivers, delivery drivers — has sparked new conversations about economic dignity and what it means to work a “respectable profession.”

Today, we’re confronted by a longer term question than that of the crisis itself: what, after all, constitutes a respectable profession?

1.    Medical Practitioners

Topping this list of the world’s most respected professions, are, in a move unlikely to surprise anyone, doctors. There’s a reason mothers world over dream of sending their children off to medical school, and it’s not just because the average primary care physician takes home roughly $6.5 million in income over the course of a lifetime. It’s because of the prestige; the respect; the admiration. Doctors swear an oath to spend their lives engaged in the prevention of illness and the healing of the sick. Being a doctor entails navigating the experiences, feelings, and perceptions of people in what are often moments of unparalleled pain, anxiety and fear.

2.    Teachers

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to have been taught by a truly inspired teacher, one that loved the subject matter, whose love was apparent in their teaching — you’re unlikely to ever forget them, and you know why they’re one of the world’s most respected professions 2020. Teaching is a demanding job: do it well, and your students will have learnt that it’s possible to enjoy, even love learning, do it poorly and you’ll likely have permanently neutered some warm part of their curiosity. Teachers get us while we’re young and malleable, still discovering the world in bits and pieces, and their influence extends well beyond that one classroom, into the future.

3.    Fireman

We’ve all of us wanted to be firemen (or women!) at one point or the other, just like we’ve all of us wanted to be astronauts. Maybe it’s the snazzy headgear, or the appeal of riding a bright-red fire engine down the street or maybe it’s knowing that they spend their careers risking their lives in order to save others that lends them their heroic appeal. Whatever the case, firemen are indubitably our most admired public servants and a predictable contender for the world’s most respected professions 2020!Courageous; valiant; brave: firemen are real life superheroes.

4.    Scientist

Scientists work diligently to understand the mysteries of the universe. And of course, there are big mysteries and little ones and some of them are certainly of the unsolvable variety, but scientists go on trying. Their job description is to be, well, curious. There’s a hundred different sorts of scientists — one for each sort of mystery — botanists for plants and physicists for physics and biologists for everything that lives and breathes and astronomers for the vast and ever-expanding universe, there are at least as many scientists as there are questions. And it’s their job to answer them.

5.    Lawyers

Now this one’s a doozy. Lawyers have alternately been presented as slime-y, rapacious sleazeballs intent on making a dollar or attractive, polished, high-flying professionals waging a war against injustice in a court of law. Which depiction is the truer one? It’s altogether impossible to know. But one thing’s for certain: lawyers are both begrudgingly feared and respected. They’re keepers of the social order.

6.    Care Assistant

Equal parts therapist, nurse and housekeeper, care assistants have long been denied the respect they should be accorded. Essential but underpaid and undervalued, care assistants perform the oft-overlooked task of assisting the elderly or disabled with everyday tasks that they can’t manage independently. An average day might consist of anything from helping with bathing, dressing and going to the toilet to managing bill paying, shopping and travelling. But for workers in these health jobs, wages are so abysmal that nearly 20% of care workers live in poverty and more than 40% are reliant on public assistance. For one of the world’s most respected professions in the USA, we should be deeply ashamed of ourselves.

7.    Engineers

If you’ve crossed a bridge at some point without falling to your death, remember to thank an engineer! Engineers do magic (math-gic) on the regular: they plan, design and construct our cities, build particle accelerators and even work hard at launching things into space a la NASA. When we talk about the wonders of modern living, we should really be thanking engineers for their continued commitment to, well, building stuff! From the towering skyscraper you live in, to the car you drive and even the satellites orbiting you in space — engineering is everywhere, and it’s not just one of the world’s most respected professions in the USA.

What’s In A Profession?

Most respectable professions are respectable because of the social worth they confer — but how do you account for the true worth of different jobs to society? And by doing so, can we finally ditch the antiquated, classists notion that certain traditional jobs are better than other ones? All labour has dignity; we cannot expect a service and simultaneously degrade whomever is providing it for us. The janitor mopping a hospital after everyone’s left is just as valuable, and just as deserving of our respect (and a living wage!) as the doctors and surgeons and nurses also working in it are.

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