Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2017

Health professionals continue domination with Nurses most highly regarded again; followed by Doctors and Pharmacists


  •  June 07 2017
  • Finding No. 7244
  • Topic: Press Release Public Opinion
  • Country: Australia


Health professionals have continued their domination of Australia’s most highly regarded professions with 94% of Australians (up 2% from 2016) rating Nurses ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ‘ethics and honesty’. Nurses have topped the annual survey for 23 years running since being included for the first time in 1994.

Health professionals are clustered near the top with Nurses followed by Doctors on 89% (up 3%), Pharmacists on 84% (down 2%) and Dentists on 79% (up 4%). Only School Teachers on 81% (up 4%) and Engineers on 80% (up 2%) prevent a clean sweep at the top for health-related professionals.

Of all 30 professions surveyed in 2017 sixteen decreased in regards to ethics and honesty while twelve professions increased and only two professions were unchanged according to the Roy Morgan survey conducted in the last week of May with 648 Australians.


Nurses on top but Doctors, Pharmacists and Dentists all rated very highly.

Nurses have been rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ by 94% of Australians in 2017, up 2% from 2016. Nurses have been rated as Australia’s most trusted profession in every year they’ve been included in the survey and have rated at least 90% in each of the last seven years. No other profession has ever rated higher than 89%.

For the fifth straight year Doctors have finished second to their colleagues with 89% of Australians rating Doctors ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty, an improvement of 3% on 2016.

Pharmacists were the odd health-related profession out in 2017 with a slight decline to 84%, being the only negative movement for any of the surveyed health-related professions, down 2%.

However, that was still enough to leave Dentists ‘bringing up the rear’ of the four professions, rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ by 79% of Australians – up 4% on 2016. It was 1989 when Dentists were last rated above any other health profession: Dentists 65% cf. Doctors 62% (1989 result).


School Teachers preferred to University Lecturers for 37th straight survey

School Teachers have once again topped University Lecturers for their ethics and honesty – a feat they have accomplished in every Image of Professions survey since first being conducted over 40 years ago in 1976.

A substantial majority of 81% of Australians rated School Teachers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty – up 4% from 2016 and a new record high for the profession.

In contrast 66% of Australians rated University Lecturers ‘very high’ or ‘high’, down 2% from 2016. The gap of 15% between the two professions is considerably larger than their closest ever result in 1988 when only 2% separated them: School Teachers 55% cf. University Lecturers 53%.


Engineers rated far ahead of Business Executives and Real Estate Agents

Engineers have increased to a new record high for their ‘ethics and honesty’ – up 2% to 80% in 2017 which puts them fifth overall and ahead of other professions in business-related fields.

Directors of Public Companies on 25% (down 1%) and Business Executives on 18% (down 2%) are both mid-ranged in the overall result, but well ahead of Real Estate Agents who have equalled their record low rating of 7% (down 3%) and perennial cellar-dwellers Car Salesmen on 4% (unchanged).

Car Salesmen have been the lowest rated profession in every year the survey has been conducted since 1976.


Police hit record high in wake of increased terrorist incidents

The image of Police has never been better in Australia with a record high 76% of Australians now rating Police ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty. The rating for police is up 4% from 2016 and up 21% since 1997 when only 55% of respondents rated Police highly or very highly.

Police are rated just ahead of those who sit in judgment of the people Police apprehend with High Court Judges on 74% (up 3%) and State Supreme Court Judges on 71% (up 1%). Both sets of justices are slightly below their record high rating of 75% which they both achieved in 2011.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Lawyers who bring up the rear of the professions in the legal field with 35% of Australians rating Lawyers as ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty – unchanged from a year ago, but well down from their record high rating of 44% in 1984.


Accountants, Bank Managers and Financial Planners streets ahead of Insurance Brokers and Stockbrokers

Despite a fall in their rating for ethics and honesty this year Accountants have once again retained their lead as the most admired financial-related profession with 50% (down 1%) of Australians rating Accountants ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty. Accountants have now been the preferred financial-related profession for 26 years since 1991.

Bank Managers improved their standing by 3% this year with 33% of Australians now rating their ethics and honesty ‘very high’ or ‘high’. The improvement for Bank Managers came despite the recent Federal Budget levying a new tax on Australia’s largest banks which was announced only two weeks before this survey was conducted.

The ethics and honesty of Financial Planners has been remarkably consistent since being introduced to the survey for the first time in 2010 with 25% of Australians rating Financial Planners ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty, down 2% from 2016.

However two familiar professions continue to be on the nose with Australians – only 11% of Australians (down 3%) now rate Stockbrokers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty and even fewer, just 10%, rate Insurance Brokers ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for their ethics and honesty, down 1% from a year ago.


Regard for Public Servants outstrips respect for their Parliamentary bosses

Although views on Public Servants ethics and honesty fell this year those in the profession are rated clearly higher than their Parliamentary bosses with 37% of Australians rating the profession ‘very high’ or ‘high’ – down 2% on 2016.

Both Federal MPs and their State MP colleagues fell in 2017 – both professions retreated 1% to 16% and are now regarded below Union Leaders for the first time since 2013 when that year’s Federal Election resulted in the ejection of the second iteration of the Rudd Government.

Union Leaders improved their standing in 2017 with 17% of Australians now rating the profession ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty an improvement of 4% on 2016.


Public Opinion Pollsters clearly on top of the media professions

The past year may have seen a substantial amount of conjecture about the purported accuracy of public opinion polling and the Australian populace has delivered their verdict (of a sort) – Public Opinion Pollsters are clearly more highly regarded by Australians than the media people who report the results of these polls.

Just over a third of Australians (34%) rate Public Opinion Pollsters as having ‘very high’ or ‘high’ ethics and honesty, an improvement of 2% on 2016 and equal to the rating Public Opinion Pollsters held the first time they were included on the survey in 1995.

However, those tasked with relaying the results of polls to the general public have not fared as well with only 20% of Australians (up 1%) rating Newspaper Journalists ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ethics and honesty and 17% of Australians (down 1%) rating TV Reporters ‘very high’ or ‘high’.

However, these professions were themselves clearly ahead of Talk-back Radio Announcers who equalled their record low rating of 14% (down 5%) and Advertising People who also equaled their record low rating of only 5% (down 4%).


Ministers of Religion continue steady decline to new record low

When first introduced in 1996 Ministers of Religion were rated ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ‘ethics and honesty’ by 59% of respondents – enough for sixth place overall.

In 2017 Ministers of Religion have hit a new record low rating of only 34% for ethics and honesty, down 1% from a year ago. The considerable scandals experienced this century have clearly had a significant impact on the standing of the profession in the wider community. Ministers of Religion have now plunged to new record lows in six out of the last nine years.


Michele Levine, Chief Executive Officer, Roy Morgan Research says long-term trends have continued in 2017:

“Roy Morgan’s annual Image of Professions survey for 2017 shows 12 professions increasing their ratings for ‘ethics and honesty’ compared to a year ago, while 16 professions decreased and 2 professions were unchanged.

“For the 23rd survey in a row Nurses 94% (up 2% from 2016) have retained top spot ahead of several other medical professions including Doctors on a new record high of 89% (up 3%) and Pharmacists on 84% (down 2%).

“The recent improvements of the rating of Police – now at a record high 76% (up 4%), and up 11% over the past decade since 2007 – a larger long-term increase than any other profession may reflect the increasing importance of the profession in an age of heightened worries about terrorism.

“Views of Bank Managers also improved over the past year with 33% (up 3%) of Australians rating them ‘very high’ or ‘high’ for ‘ethics and honesty. The improvement for Bank Managers came despite the Government’s decision to impose a new tax on banks in this year’s Federal Budget delivered in early May.

“The biggest losers in 2017 were Talk-back Radio Announcers on 14% (down 5%) and at their equal record low rating first achieved in 2000, Stockbrokers on 11% (down 3%) and hitting a new record low and Advertising people on 5% (down 4%). Only Car Salesmen on 4% (unchanged) – a position they have held for over 30 years unchallenged as Australia’s least trusted profession – were lower.”

These are the main findings of a Roy Morgan telephone survey conducted on the nights of May 22-24, 2017, with 648 Australian men and women aged 14 and over.


Respondents were asked: “As I say different occupations, could you please say – from what you know or have heard – which rating best describes how you, yourself, would rate or score people in various occupations for honesty and ethical standards (Very High, High, Average, Low, Very Low)?”


Contact Roy Morgan directly for more details, Julian McCrann at (03) 9224 5365 or


Selected Professions across selected years.


1989 1996 2002 2017 Comment
Doctors 62% 72% 80% 89% All-time high in 2017
School teachers 57% 68% 79% 81% All-time high in 2017
Police 53% 55% 65% 76% All-time high in 2017
Ministers of Religion n/a 59% 48% 34% All-time low in 2017
Talk-back Radio Announcers 18% (1999)* 17% 14% Equal all-time low in 2017
Stockbrokers 18% 16% 14% 11% All-time low in 2017
Car Salesmen 4% 3% 3% 4% Last for 36 years in a row


*Talk-back Radio Announcers were first surveyed in 1999.

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