Overrated Careers

These 13 careers have a mystique that outstrips their reality.

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It looks glamorous on TV. Or you've got an uncle who loves it. Or you heard you could earn a lot of money at it. People pick careers for many reasons, including some bad ones. So in addition to identifying the Best Careers for 2009, U.S. News has also highlighted 13 occupations with a mystique that exceeds reality.

This list is subjective, and, indeed, many people are happy in these careers. But our conclusions are derived from a review of books, articles, websites, forums, and blogs about people's experiences in careers, supplemented by confidential career coaching/counseling sessions with 2,800 clients over a 23-year period.

Two careers have been added to this year's list:

Farmer. There's growing interest in starting small, organic farms. Alas, it's a much more difficult row to hoe than many people imagine.

Professor. College classes extol the virtues of treating labor fairly, yet colleges hire a high percentage of instructors part time, paying even Ph.D. holders sub-middle-class wages, often with no benefits. Yet it's difficult to land those positions, let alone the supercompetitive tenure-track ones. The coup de grâce: The job is usually far less desirable than the public perceives it to be.

Two careers have been deleted from this year's list:

Clinical Psychologist. The 2008 Mental Health Parity Act promises to increase job opportunities for psychotherapists. In addition, the field is accelerating its move from traditional long-term therapy that explores the childhood roots of patients' angst to short-term, often more effective cognitive-behavioral approaches.

Real Estate Agent. The public is realizing that this job is no plum, especially in today's stalled housing market. So, while the career is getting ever less desirable, it no longer is overrated compared with its popular perception.

The overrated careers are: