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The Top 5 Most Trusted...

The Top 5 Most Trusted Professions

Willie Nelson may have once pleaded with mothers to raise their children into doctors and lawyers and such, but these days, those professions are fighting to maintain their respectability against an often shaky public perception. What made the cut as the most trusted professions and who’s on the verge of losing our respect?

Attorneys, journalists, medical professionals — these are the kinds of professions many have long expected a little more out of, particularly when it comes to trust. Most people working in such positions today understand that level of responsibility and say they work hard to honor it. But they are not always considered among the most trusted professions, according to a 2009 poll. 

The Most Trusted Professions

1. Firefighters
A 2009 poll conducted by market research institute GfK found that firefighters ranked as the most trusted profession in Europe and the United States with 92 percent of respondents fining them trustworthy. Perhaps it’s all in the job description—being required to step into the face of danger every time you head out for an assignment is not just admirable, it’s downright heroic.

2. Teachers
In the same GfK poll that lauded firefighters, teachers ranked second with 83 percent. It’s a good sign considering that the people responsible for crafting the minds of our children are deemed trustworthy.

“I think every teacher recognizes that they are part of a trusted profession—that parents trust them to do the best they can for their child, that their principals trust them to do their best to prepare (students) for the next grade level,” said Samantha Solic, a sixth-grade English teacher from North Carolina.  “And I think teachers take that trust pretty seriously … trying to teach the children as if they were their own.”

3. Doctors/Nurses
Medical professionals, postal workers, and those serving in the armed forces tied for third place with 81 percent polled pulling for each profession in the Gfk poll, which makes sense considering the amount responsibility each job holds. With doctors and nurses, these are the professionals literally entrusted with people’s lives, so one better believe in what they do and how they conduct themselves. The rising costs of healthcare are getting their fair share of attention these days, but the public doesn’t seem to hold that issue against the doctors and nurses who are just trying to do their jobs.

4. Postal Workers
More than just about delivering your mail on time, postal workers are the people who filter and ensure the delivery of everything from that package and paychecks to tax returns and magazine subscriptions, all which could reveal a lot about you if put into the wrong hands. They may not always get the glory they deserve, but they should certainly take pride in being ranked among the top five trustworthy careers.

5. Armed Forces
If medical professionals operate to save lives, those in the military put their own on the line for everyone else. Almost everyone is on high alert today over fears of terrorism following the nightmare that was 9/11 and the military is the frontline defense against these acts. The men and women of the Armed Forces work tirelessly for one goal—to protect their country and those who live in it. And just as with law enforcement and firefighters, their job teeters on the dangerous side daily, all in an effort to uphold their country’s respective rights. That kind of dedication should warrant nothing but respect.

And Among the Least Trusted Professions …

If there’s any profession that has found it difficult to regain their trustworthy reputation, it’s attorneys. A mere 47 percent of the GfK poll favored lawyers, signifying a big gap between Atticus Finch and Kenneth Starr, which most lawyers will admit.

“There’s a lot of responsibility to do my job well and in a way that develops trust from clients and colleagues, and even opposing clients and their attorneys,” said Naoki Kaneko, an attorney based in San Francisco. “There are plenty of stories about lawyers gone bad out there, but based on my experiences, I think that’s the exception.  

The sheer power of the media is in itself intimidating, especially when most people flat out depend on their ability to deliver the truth. Unfortunately media credibility has shaken out to just 41 percent among those polled. But those who try to do right by their work will tell you that such a blanket assessment is unfair and inaccurate. 

“That trust is harder to come by these days, but earning it is still pretty rewarding. Many people, I think, still can distinguish good, diligent reporting from the lazy kind that just re-circulates rumor or smudges the line between reporting and commentary,” said John Simerman, a reporter with the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, CA. His recent assignments have included work on the Jaycee Dugard case.

“I wouldn’t expect to be trusted just because of the job or where I work,” Simerman said. “But it’s good for people to be educated news consumers—to question what they hear, read, or see. I do see journalistic standards sagging. A lot of that has to do with keeping up with the lower threshold on the Internet as far as what’s fair game to publish. Who could blame people for questioning what’s legit?”

They may build careers on being civil servants on behalf of the people, but politicians rank the absolute lowest, with a scant 18 percent of those polled saying they trust their elected officials. For every George Washington, there’s a Richard Nixon or Rod Blagojevich or Larry Craig and so on. Politicians of every party affiliation have literally spent years watering down their reputation for decades with scandal after scandal, making it difficult to trust their sincerity and honesty. At this point, it’s going to take a lot more than the power of the people to resuscitate the trust of the public.

It’s tough to live up to standards set long ago by professional pioneers who came from very different times. And with the state of the economy and the constant attention turned on companies like major banks and insurance giants that have proven to be dishonest failures, it’s easy to understand why the public has become ever more jaded. But even in today’s society, most of these professionals realize that reaffirming the public’s faith in their work is just another part of the job.

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