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Fall 2003 Vol. 47, Number 3

As seen on TV: Reality vs. fantasy in occupational portrayals on the small screen

Watch television for clues about working, and you might be entertained. But watch TV to make career decisions, and you might not be ready for prime time.


What television presents isnít always true to life.
TVís image of the American workplace is a prime example.

In the TV world of work, many occupations donít exist. And those that do are frequently exciting, even when theyíre shown as sidelines, symbols, or stereotypes. Still, television can be occupationally instructional.

This article separates fact from fiction by exploring how occupations are presented on television. It discusses the occupational portrayals most often shown on TV: those in the healthcare, crimefighting and crimesolving, and legal fields.

Keep reading to learn what television gets right, what itís not showing, and what is fantastically unrealistic. The last section directs you to sources of career information that are more reliable than the small screen.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: February 27, 2004