Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Children aspire to be nurses, not bankers


According to a recent survey, which asked young children what they want to be when they grow up, it found they aspire to be teachers, vets or footballers. Some aspire to be firefighters, others pop stars. Nursing came eighth on the list just ahead of archaeologist and dancer.

I hope someone, somewhere wants to be an archaeologist and a dancer. I don’t think 10 year olds should close down their options too early. A dancing archaeologist is an American TV series waiting to happen.

Children chose very visible jobs that exhibit human qualities like kindness, bravery and intelligence. In third place came footballer. But I think it is quite telling that the list is made up of jobs once considered vocational.
It is also quite telling that 10 year olds do not aspire to work in public relations, advertising, communications, marketing or ventriloquism. Partly this is because these jobs are not visible to children and partly it is because these jobs are fundamentally pointless to a child. And some grown ups. They see nurses, firefighters and police officers doing what they do in the world and it makes sense of work.

‘Children who stuck to their guns and became police officers, nurses and vets are our success stories. Plenty fall by the wayside and become estate agents’

Children don’t aspire to be bankers, corporate lawyers or accountants until they have learnt about life’s disappointments.Call it realism all you like, but realism to a child is compromise dressed up as a disappointed grown up.

Arguably, those children who stuck to their guns and became police officers, nurses and vets are our success stories. Plenty fall by the wayside; they become retailers of luxury goods, jugglers, estate agents and we hope they are happy but for those children who realise their dreams… well, you can’t help but admire them can you?

Of course, with the realisation of these dreams comes great responsibility and little financial reward. By the time they are grown up they have worked this out but not been diverted into something pointless. They have value in their lives, and fulfilment, satisfaction - maybe that is why they are the ones being targeted by less successful, embittered and unfulfilled people now - politicians to be precise.

When they attack public services, they attack the best of us, our aspirations toward greater civilisation. Our drive toward doing good. And what fascinates me is the language and logic being invented to justify such destructiveness.

My current favourite? Nurses having a moral duty to save money for the NHS. What nonsense. Nurses have a moral duty to deliver excellent care, to drive up standards and make sure they do not waste money - but a duty to save money? At what cost?

What’s more, I think these things are said to reframe the way we think about what we do. To think of it as unnecessary and superfluous. It implies that healthcare should be grateful for the gift of funding rather than expect the right of investment.

This isn’t economic policy, it is rampant ideology with the momentum that comes with new government. I think it’s ugly and sad. More tellingly, I wonder what politicians want our children to aspire to.

Special offer

Registered users of can get a discount on Mark’s new book, ‘Gabriel’s Angel’.

Click here for details.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Ooh, I wanted to be an Archaeologist! Okay, actually I wanted to be Indiana Jones, but that led to my interest in the subject!

    I agree that a lot of people as children want to be part of something, want to be one of the roles they see that embodies the virtues they recognise such as caring, heroism, these roles make sense because they have meaning.

    A lot of us do carry this through into adulthood and we still aspire to those careers that have meaning, where we can make a difference, help people.

    But the problem is that many of us realise that these public services (police, military, Nursing, etc) will sh*t on us from a great height just for trying to be part of something meaningful. They will drag us down, mire us in a sea of beauracracy then throw us out with the rubbish when they have used us up.

    Many people realise this earlier, and develop a 'well sod you I'll look after myself attitude' because they see the value they would have in their lives as not worth the many sacrifices that are expected of us.

    That is why many people begin to change their aspirations as they grow older. They want to look after themselves, and who can blame them?

    However I do agree that public services and those that aspire to them should be seen in a much higher esteem by society than they are now. I agree that funding should be protected, seen as an essential part of the budget rather than something that can be tinkered with, and I think that the jobs themselves should bring greater rewards, greater status and ask less personal sacrifices of those who choose to work in them. Maybe then those aspirations most of us had as children would not be left by the wayside for a role where we can simply help ourselves.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I wish I'd not bowed to peer pressure and did what I wanted to do years ago.
    My family were predominantly in nursing, so guess what? I should be one too!!!!
    If I'd rebelled more, I'd be a very successful (and very wealthy) vet now, with my own small animal practice, looking towards retiring when I'm 50; not struggling in a broken business (the nhs) on low pay, and having to see my retirement plans grow further away with each year. DAMN!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • let's be proud of what we do without putting others down! children don't understand what economists or politicians do - it doesn't mean they're ALL a waste of space. Even estate agents have their place in the world and the economy.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Now now, Anonymous | 11-Jul-2010 3:15 pm let's not get carried away eh? Estate agents don't have a place anywhere.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'd rather of been a banker. Nursing in the NHS is rubbish - apart from the patients who I like to have a natter with. I'd never let my children do this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I know exactly what Kaycee and Anonymous | 11-Jul-2010 8:00 pm mean.

    We all went into Nursing for I'm guessing pretty much the same reasons, and we all had that sense of responsibility and duty that leads to public service; and yes I can imagine at some point we were all pretty proud of the status and the role that the job gave to us on a personal level.

    However, like I said earlier, there comes a time, sooner or later, when everyone realises that it is not enough. We do not want to be martyrs for a cause. We just want to live a nice, comfortable life with our families, be able to pay the bills and not be so stressed that it affects our health. In that respect I think we all wish we had of ignored our instincts and been bankers.

    The jobs out there that bring in a decent salary for little work and little responsibility compared to public service, may very well not have the status or meaning that our jobs do (bankers cannot say they made a difference or saved a life for example), but it does lead to a better life, better pay, better lifestyles and working conditions, less stress and less sacrifice.

    We must have been insane to choose a life in public service.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Yeah all very well Mike. What I meant to say that if I was going to be worked like a dog then at least a nice salary would of been some compensation. Bankers work like slaves; really. But the company recognizes the enormous sacrifices they make with bonus schemes and pampering. I've had one single appraisal in ten years. The writings been on the wall for a long time.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 12-Jul-2010 10:18 pm, exactly anonymous. That is what I meant earlier when I said all the sacrifices we make, the hours we put in, etc should be better rewarded, as they would be in the private sector.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Martin Gray

    Actually I wanted to be a soldier, which I did, but then transferred to the RAMC to train and qualify as a SRN. Seems I picked two of the worst paid jobs going in terms of pay and conditions - DOH!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Don't worry Martin, you're not the only one! I went from being cannon fodder in the Infantry to being cannon fodder as a Nurse, not much difference really! Ha! Oh well.

    At least it's been more interesting than sitting behind a desk.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs