On the big screen, some professions capture the imagination through their portrayals of fame and fortune. But perception doesn't always match reality. Years of difficult training, finding steady work and racking up exorbitant amounts of student debt are some of the drawbacks associated with jobs in the fields of entertainment, law and medicine.
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Let's take a closer look at why some of these jobs aren't so ideal.
Actor/Actress: For a spot in the limelight, no formal education is needed, but it's becoming more common for stage actors to earn a bachelor's degree in theater. If you decide to self-train, it may take years before you solidify your acting skills enough to get a casting callback. Acting can be physically demanding as well. Heat from lights or donning a heavy costume can make for an uncomfortable time on a set. Lastly, be prepared for critics to bash the work you've poured your heart and soul into.
What it pays: While the average salary for actors is a healthy $62,000 a year, according to SimplyHired.com, finding steady work can prevent you from building and sustaining a career. Jesse Eisenberg, star of "Zombieland" and "The Social Network" told BlackBook magazine that while becoming an actor is a great profession to pursue for escaping academics, it's also an "awful business ... where every job ends in the procurement of other jobs."
Professional Athlete: Professional athletes wow spectators with their supreme talents. But for those not naturally gifted, it can take years to fully develop athletic skills, either through high school and college athletics or private lessons. And as the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out, the odds of successfully making the leap to professional sports is, to put it charitably, slim. "In major sports, such as baseball and football, only about 1 in 5,000 high school athletes become professionals in these sports," according to the BLS.
What it pays: If you're lucky enough to make it, don't expect Tiger Woods or Lebron James-type money. The average salary for athletes is $45,000, though it varies greatly by industry and experience, among other factors. If you do end up with a salary that runs into the millions, be aware of the trappings that follow it. As ESPN's 2012 documentary "Broke" tragically showed, poor judgment on matters such as romantic relationships, investments and drugs left formerly rich athletes, including Mike Tyson and Curt Schilling, with empty bank accounts.
Musician and Singer. For a band like the Beatles, reaching the pinnacle of their profession didn't prevent internal strife and bitter feelings in their rocky final years. As a solo act, you may not have the burden of dealing with group politics, but that doesn't exclude possible entanglements with other strong personalities like controlling producers and record executives who may have a drastically different vision of your career than you do.
What it pays: Salaries differ between the two, with musicians raking in an average of $31,000 and singers taking home $72,000, according to SimplyHired.com. "Many musicians and singers experience periods of unemployment," the BLS reports. To simultaneously pursue your passion and make ends meet, prepare to work another job or have a separate business venture on the side.
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Lawyer. After earning an undergraduate degree, plan on three years of law school, followed by the bar exam, a daunting test on state laws and ethical standards. Despite passing those educational hurdles, lawyers must still keep up with legal developments affecting their practices. In 2011, 45 states required lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every one or three years. Also, keep in mind that the market for lawyers is not expected to boom over the next decade. As the BLS notes, job growth for the profession is expected to reach only 6.9 percent by 2020, which is lower than other occupations.
What it pays: Financially, attorneys tend to do well: In 2012, lawyers made an average salary of $130,880, according to the BLS. But you have to factor in the education costs, as 2012 law school students graduated with an average debt of $108,293.
Doctor: With a work schedule defined by long and irregular hours, physicians' personal lives are at the mercy of their careers. If you're on call, prepare for the possibility of being contacted by a patient during dinner with your family or a night out with your spouse. And if you plan on becoming a surgeon, you'll need a strong stomach for the routine sight of blood and an empathetic heart for delivering news about a lost loved one.
What it pays: With an average salary of $184,820, doctors were hardly pinching pennies last year. But the level of debt accumulated as a result of a grueling academic journey – undergraduate, medical school, internship, residency – can undermine financial gains. Including loans taken out for undergraduate degrees and excluding interest, the median debt for public and private medical school graduates was $170,000 in 2012. If you opt for forbearance during residency, your total repayment could reach $476,000 over the span of 25 years, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges.