Careers That Hollywood Over-Hypes


A look at five careers that the big screen has over-hyped - and five that might deserve more of a close-up.

By Terence Loose

Throw a hundred million dollar budget, a makeup and wardrobe department, and some soft lighting at pretty much any job and it's going to look good.

Case in point: Who didn't come out of "Night at the Museum" not wanting to work the graveyard shift as a security guard?

Of course, the reality is you'll earn minimum wage and are more likely to go crazy of boredom sooner than you'll meet a beautiful historical figure while saving the planet.

The bottom line is, you don't want to let what you see on film dictate your career decisions.

To help you determine career fact from fiction, we investigated some of the careers Hollywood has over-hyped - and some that haven't been given their due.

Keep reading for five reel hype jobs, and five real life careers that should get a close-up.

Over-Hyped Career #1: Investment Banker

Remember Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street" and his "Greed is good" mantra? Well, it certainly was for Wall Street giant Gekko, who wheels around in limos, watches South Hampton sunrises, buys and sells precious art pieces like trading cards, and makes more money in a day than most of us see in a lifetime.

Back to Reality: First, we should note that Gekko does end up in jail. So there's that. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, most investment bankers enjoy less South Hampton sunrises than long days in the office, since according to the U.S. Department of Labor, they work long hours.

The Department of Labor also says these people travel extensively, especially to other countries. All that for an average annual salary, according to the Department of Labor, of $72,060 - slightly less than Mr. Gekko.

But if we haven't scared you away yet, here's what you'll need to do to start prepping for this type of work. Aside from needing a bachelor's degree, per the Department, investment bankers must also pass a series of exams to obtain a license with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Click to Find the Right Bachelor's Degree Program.

Under-Hyped Career #1: Accountant

Oscar Wallace in "The Untouchables", Itzhak Stern in "Schindler's List", Albert Brennaman in "Hitch". There's an unimpressive threesome. Wallace is a four-eyed pansy who gets dissed for most of the film. Stern is literally an outcast. And Brennaman can't get a girl to save his life.

Real Life: Wallace took down Al Capone, Stern helped to save hundreds of lives, and Brennaman married a beauty. And the first two actually happened in real life! Beat that, Gekko. Plus, accountant is a job that's in high demand, according to Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and writer of's Guide to Human Resources. She also says it's a career that offers a lot of flexibility in work hours and pays well. The average annual salary per the U.S. Department of Labor: $62,850.

If this type of gig sounds more up your alley, know this: Most accountant positions also require at least a bachelor's degree, according to the Department of Labor. As for exams, luckily there's only one - and it's only necessary if you're shooting for Certified Public Accountant, says the Department.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program Now.

Over-Hyped Career #2: Chef

Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis. Watch the Food Network for a few hours and you'd think being a chef was equivalent to being born into royalty. The kitchen is always clean and cool, there's ample elbow room, you cook what you want - and it's smiles, everyone, smiles.

Back to Reality: Ever seen a real restaurant kitchen? Call us crazy, but it looks hot and stressful in there, with a lot of sharp and dangerous tools. And we're not alone. The U.S. Department of Labor says many executive chefs work 12-hour days, describing kitchens as "hot, crowded and filled with potential dangers." Considering that, the only smiles probably come at the end of your shift. Oh, and the average chef's salary according to the Department of Labor? A very un-Giada-like $42,350.

But if it's your dream to whip up meals for hungry clientele, you may want to consider going back to school to start prepping. According to the Department, a growing number of chefs receive formal training at places like community colleges, technical schools, or culinary arts schools.

Click to Find the Right Culinary Arts Program Now.

Under-Hyped Career #2: Restaurant Manager

Talk about under-hyped; we actually couldn't come up with any restaurant managers portrayed in movies. At least no memorable ones.

Real Life: Let's start with the fact that restaurant managers are out of the hot, crowded, and dangerous kitchen a lot of the time. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, they're pulling down an average of $48,110 a year - nearly $6,000 more than the chef sweating it out with the sharp stuff. To be fair, the Department of Labor does note a downside: possible long hours and dealing with unhappy customers. No mention of knives though.

So what can you do to prepare for a career as a restaurant manager? Some postsecondary education is increasingly preferred, says the Department. And here's another reason to consider furthering your education. Many food service management companies and restaurant chains recruit management trainees from college hospitality or food service management programs, according to the Department.

Click to Find the Right Restaurant Management Program Now.

Over-Hyped Career #3: Attorney

"Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal" made it look fun and quirky to be a lawyer. Classic actors like Gregory Peck ("To Kill a Mockingbird") and Raymond Burr ("Perry Mason") made it look noble and classy. And then there's Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in "A Few Good Men", who made law sexy. Who wouldn't want to be a lawyer?

Back to Reality: Hope you can handle the truth, because it's not as sparkly as the cinematic versions. Not only does the U.S. Department of Labor note that many attorneys work long hours, Heathfield says that attorneys are in for some tough times. "There are too many of them and companies are starting to find less expensive ways to handle legal issues," she says. The Department of Labor also sees a decrease in jobs, projecting a mere 10 percent growth rate from 2010 to 2020 (the average for all professions is 14 percent).

If you still want to pursue a career as an attorney, we hope you like studying. It usually takes four years of undergraduate study followed by three years of law school to get to this position, says the Department. Plus, you'll have to pass the bar exam to be licensed in your state - which is necessary to obtain practicing lawyer status.

Click to Find the Right Bachelor's Degree Program.

Under-Hyped Career #3: Paralegal

There have actually been some pretty cool - and sexy - examples of paralegals in movies and on TV. Check out Meghan Markle in TV's slick hit "Suits," or the iconic smile of Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich". But here's the thing, they generally all want to be lawyers. As if being a paralegal is second class.

Real Life: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, paralegals do things like investigate legal cases, conduct research on relevant laws, regulations, and legal articles, and write reports to help lawyers prepare for trials - all with years less schooling. As a bonus, the Department of Labor expects job growth for paralegals to be 18 percent for 2010 to 2020. Oh, and when's the last time someone told you a scumbag paralegal joke?

Getting back to the "years less schooling" detail we know drew your eye...most paralegals have an associate's degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies, according to the Department. Who can object to that?

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Program Now.

Over-Hyped Career #4: Architect

Gary Cooper ("The Fountainhead") and Keanu Reeves ("The Lake House") certainly make being an architect easy on the eyes. You'd think they confer you with a head of thick, jet black hair, and a disarming smile with your architecture degree.

Back to Reality: Unfortunately, that's far from the truth. In fact, you might want to ask for directions to the unemployment line instead. Why? According to a 2012 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce called "Hard Times: Not all College Degrees Are Created Equal," of all unemployment rates among recent graduates, architecture majors had the highest at 13.9 percent. But hey, at least you can design a nice house - even if you might not qualify for a mortgage.

If you have your heart set on this line of work, here's what you'll need to know about prepping. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are three main steps: completing a professional degree in architecture, gaining work experience through an internship, and finally, passing the Architect Registration Exam to be licensed in your state.

Under-Hyped Career #4: Property Manager

Okay, so next to Keanu and Cooper, the title of property manager certainly doesn't have a lot to be desired. We'll give you that. But don't let the cliché of a greasy guy in a tank top, chomping a cigar while taking out the trash fool you. This could be a practical choice to bring home the rent. Yours, that is.

Real Life: If you read the U.S. Department of Labor's description, a property manager's day sounds like a refreshing mix of low-pressure tasks. These might include everything from showing properties to prospective renters and collecting rents, to preparing budgets and arranging for repairs and trash removal, says the Department of Labor.

And if you can see yourself as a property manager, the Department says that many employers prefer to hire college graduates for these types of positions. It also notes that knowledge of property management is required.

Click to Find the Right Management Program Now.

Over-Hyped Career #5: Broker

Bud Fox, again in "Wall Street", lives the life. In a matter of weeks, he bounds up the income ladder to rub elbows with billionaires and rub cheeks with leggy Daryl Hannah. Yes, he certainly had the life - right up until he got arrested. That was kind of a bad day.

Back to Reality: Whether or not you get arrested is pretty much up to you, and yes, you could score a client as wealthy as Gordon Gekko who allows for six-digit commissions. You probably also have just as good of a chance at winning the lottery. That's because in reality, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, brokers work long hours under stressful conditions, and their managers are usually "demanding." Gee, sign me up.

Still find being a broker intriguing? The Department of Labor says that a bachelor's degree is required for entry-level jobs. But before you can set foot on the trading floor as a seller or buyer, you'll have to pass a series of exams to register with FINRA - the same organization that investment bankers register with - according to the Department.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program Now.

Under-Hyped Career #5: Personal Financial Advisor

We can't think of a movie or TV show that gave any screen time to a personal financial advisor. But that's sort of the point. These people just don't have the pizzazz that the phone-juggling, risk-taking brokers do.

Real Life: What personal financial advisors do seem to have is pretty good annual salaries; on average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, $66,580. Like brokers, they follow and recommend stocks to clients. But they also assess clients' financial goals and help them achieve those goals by doing everything from giving tax advice to selling insurance. And as a bonus, Heathfield says this is also a career that allows for a very flexible schedule much of the time, while being more and more in demand - thanks to retiring baby boomers needing financial planning.

If this career sounds ideal, you'll want to earn a bachelor's degree. According to the Department of Labor, that's usually what these advisors have. And while no specific major is required, the Department considers certain degrees - like finance, accounting, business, math, or law - to be good preparation. The Department also notes that if you plan to directly buy or sell stocks, bonds, or other services, you'll most likely need the right licenses to do so.

Click to Find the Right Finance Program Now.

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