The 5 Most (and Least) Honest Jobs

When businesses or individuals are thought to be honest and ethical, society often roots for them. Many of us are happy to see instances in which people act morally and ethically, and in which they are still successful without compromising their values.

We as a society seem to have formed perceptions of what we deem to be ethical and what is not. We’ve come to associate certain occupations with honesty and integrity, and others with greed or business practices that are designed to entice people into spending or wasting.

Graphic: Erika Rawes/Data source: Gallup

Five most “honest” professions

Gallup recently polled a random sample of 805 adults older than 18 from across the country between December 8 and 11. The results, which you can see in the chart above, show that out of the 11 professions included in this year’s poll, these are the jobs that the highest portion of Americans see as having high honesty and ethical standards:

  1. Nurses: The survey found that 80% of people feel that nurses have either “high” or “very high” honesty and ethical standards.
  2. Medical doctors: 65%
  3. Pharmacists: 65%
  4. Police officers: 48%
  5. Clergy: 46%

The “honesty list” seems to contain jobs that involve civil service, caring for others, or saving lives. You may notice how three out of the top five jobs are in the medical field, and nurses top the list as the profession Americans view as the most honest.

Since 1999, when nurses were first included in the poll as a choice, they have topped the list almost every year. The only year they were not No. 1 on the list was in the December 2001 list, when firefighters were included. U.S. military were also included in the 2001 list, and they ranked high, as well. But “nurse” is a profession that seems to have consistent public admiration, and since 2005, at least four out of five Americans (80%) have agreed that “nurse” is an honest occupation overall.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Five least “honest” professions 

On the other hand, the Gallup poll found that these jobs ranked lowest among the 11 included professions in regards to how Americans view their honesty:

  1. Lawyers: Twenty-one percent of survey respondents feel lawyers have high or very high honesty and ethical standards, and 35% would call their standards “low” or “very low.”
  2. Business executives: Only 17% said they feel business executives have high/very high honesty and ethical standards, while 32% said they feel their standards are low/very low.
  3. Advertising practitioners: Ten percent said they think advertising practitioners have high/very high honesty standards, and 42% pegged their standards as low/very low.
  4. Car salespeople: Eight percent of respondents agreed that car salespeople have high/very high honesty and ethical standards, while 45% said they feel their standards are low/very low.
  5. Members of Congress: Members of Congress ranked dead last on the list, with 61% of respondents pegging their honesty and ethical standards as low or very low, and only 7% saying they believe Congress members have high or very high standards. This is a slight improvement from last year’s survey, when 66% of Americans rated Congress’s honesty as low/very low.

Keep in mind that there are only a set amount of professions on the list that respondents can choose from each year. Americans feel that this year, these are the least honest professions among those listed — but not necessarily the least honest professions overall.

Some of the jobs on the “least honest” list seem to be ones that people associate with personal monetary gain, as opposed to altruism. These are of course only perceptions, however.

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