I have to echo the previous thoughts. When we examine "prestige," it is a socially constructed element, and something that is contingent on the perception of an external force. Obviously, money has a great deal to do with this. It is not the defining element, but salary and the perception of a high level of prestige is contingent on how much one makes or how much it is believed one makes. I think that another element that enters into the notion of "prestige" is the amount of power or perceived power that is associated with a particular job. An attorney is seen as a "prestigious" position because of the power within the legal system that such an occupation carries. A college professor is seen as "prestigious" because it is perceived to be the pinnacle of intellectual power. I think that these elements play a large role in how an occupation is seen as prestigious. With all of this said, I can only stress that I think individuals have to determine for themselves what they find appealing or enticing about professions. The issue of "prestige" has to be something resolved on a personal level because if one solely went on social acceptances and expectations many doors might be closed and the ones opened might not be the ones that should be entered.
In my opinion, what makes an occupation prestigious is whether most people think that it would be really difficult to do that job well. In other words, if it is something that people think that just anyone can do (working at McDonalds, teaching history) it is not a very high prestige position. If it is something that is seen as more difficult (being a lawyer or a doctor), it is more prestigious.
I think that you also have to take into account whether the occupation fits with what a society values. Our society in the US, for example, values money and personal initiative. Therefore, entrpreneurs and business leaders are given lots of prestige while people like professors (especially in areas that don't produce things that make money) are not.
Prestige associated with an occupation or a job may be defined in several different ways: For example, it may refer to different things like worthiness, desirability in terms of socioeconomic rewards, or factual knowledge about rewards attached to a job or occupation.
The characteristis that a person will use to assess the prestige of a job will depend on the person's perception of prestige. Most people use a combination of the following traits associated with an occupation to form an opinion about its prestige.
- earning and other physical rewards associated with the occupation.
- Extent of education required to qualify for the occupation.
- Contribution made to the good of the society.
- Some job, such as those of teachers, are traditionally considered to be more respectable.