Here are some of the top-voted responses:
1. "Anything in modern-day publishing. How many television shows and movies must I watch where the plucky young upstart graduates from college and gets a job at the magazine or newspaper of their choice and is respected and can make a living? In reality, the pay sucks, and you're in constant danger of being laid off (when your pub folds, usually).
"It's usually a pretty corporate environment where you're tasked with multiple jobs for little hope of advancement. The names high up on the mastheads are usually those of rich people, and it's because they started off rich and could afford to stay in the industry."
"The thing that killed it as a career for me wasn't the low pay or the high stress; it's the fact that lean budgets mean that you now do everything. No more photographers, editors, sub-editors, and web managers. That's all you now. And they then cut half the journalists. The end result is you're working at such a pace that even when you do have a good story to work on, you don't have the time and resources to actually do it well."
2. "Working on a film. If you're crew, it sucks. Long, long hours for what seems like very, very slow progress on the picture, lots of standing around waiting, etc. You arrive well before everyone else and leave after everyone else. If this is an indie production, you also may have to beg for/chase down your pay at the end of each week. Oh, and when the film wraps, you're now unemployed."
"A friend of mine works as a special effects makeup artist and is currently on set in the middle of a desert. She hasn't seen her husband in six months. When she's working locally, her hours are wild. She's sometimes up at 4 a.m. and gets back in the early hours of the next day, only to sleep for maybe three hours, and then she's back on set. And she always has to go to these desolate locations, which can be dangerous. Plus, when the shoot's over, she's unemployed, and there's no monthly salary she can rely on. Luckily, she has a husband with a solid job who can take care of things during those off times, but it just seems super stressful. I guess it's good that it's her dream job, but no one can really prepare you for that kind of lifestyle."
3. "Video game development. People think it's all about creativity and making something cool and fun, when the reality is it's a lot of bullshit. Treat 'em like shit, use 'em like toilet paper."
"AAA game development is where hope, happiness, and creativity go to die. You're burned at both ends, wrung out of every ounce of joy you have ever had. And management doesn't care because they open their door, and there are a thousand kids willing to fight a bare-knuckle brawl JUST for the interview. So why should management care about you?
Source: Worked for a AAA GameDev company. I will never go back to that life ever again."
4. "Archaeologist, specifically field archaeology. 99% of the time, you find absolutely nothing. It's often physically demanding (sometimes grueling), and the pay is shit. There are no benefits, you have to constantly travel, there's very little stability, I could go on. In spite of all the bullshit, I still love being an archaeologist and don't really wanna do anything else for a living, but I can't universally recommend this job to everyone in good faith."
"Yep, I was a shovel-bum for several years in the Southwest US. I was fortunate that I worked on mostly interesting sites where we found quite a bit, and I got to spend time outdoors in some gorgeous landscapes. But I only lasted so long due to living out of shitty hotel rooms and not making enough to afford a permanent apartment. I couldn't have a pet, friends, or SO outside work. Alcohol abuse was rampant and celebrated. One coworker did the math and figured out we didn't make enough to afford enough food to replenish the expended energy each day.
But I don't want to discourage anyone who is interested in the field because it's very important work and so undervalued. If you're okay with a long-term transient lifestyle and low pay, you'll probably do fine."
5. "Chef/cook. Shit pay. Toxic work environment. Shitty hot working conditions. Megalomaniac/incompetent management and owners. Long shitty hours. Working every weekend and every holiday. The only people you will see regularly are your coworkers. And many people descend into alcoholism or drug abuse to cope. Most people get into it because they're passionate about it, and most bosses will take advantage of this.
"I spent 10 years in this field. I walked away with nothing other than the knowledge I gained, and then had to reenter the workforce at the bottom at the age of 30. Been out five years now; started making more money and working less hours within a year. I wish I'd left sooner."
"This one I wholeheartedly agree with. I was in the kitchen for years because I loved food and learning to cook new things all the time. Then the burnout happened real quick. Overworked and underpaid. It started taking my sanity and definitely led to copious amounts of drinking and shit."
6. "Construction. You always see it portrayed in the media as some tall, dark, and handsome, thirtysomething, brooding man covered in tattoos and just enough oil to look rugged but not greasy. He's taming an elephant-sized jackhammer with naught but his veiny forearms and bulging muscles.
"In reality, he's a 56-year-old divorcé with bad knees, a midlife crisis, and a beer belly, nursing a Coors Light hangover on a Wednesday morning. He gives zero shits about detaching his sweat-soaked balls from the inside of his thigh mid-conversation because fuck it. It's 8 a.m. and already 98° out, and he's got another six hours of this shit before he can drag his withered body back into his 14-year-old pickup truck and fight to stay awake for the 2.5-hour drive home."
7. "In order to have a shot at dancing ballet professionally, you have to train your entire life. Once you make it, you'll be paid so little that you'll share lodging with a half dozen other dancers since you make less than a server at a casual dining restaurant. And even then, the odds of still being a professional dancer after 30 are almost nil. If you want to stay in the field, you basically have to move into teaching, which tends to pay so poorly that you'll need to find a second job.
"Between the diet, the stress, and the hours and hours of practice every week for hundreds of weeks in a row — practice spent doing things that a competent doctor would suggest you avoid such as bearing your full weight on single hyper-extended joints — you destroy your body in the process. That is, after all, what ends a career before you exit your 20s: You literally can't do it anymore.
"Source: Married a former professional ballerina."
8. "I've spent nine seasons working in Antarctica, both as a graduate student and now full-time academic/researcher. Everyone I tell immediately gets excited and says something like, 'That must be SO awesome! I would LOVE to do that!' But for this kind of work, the novelty and 'cool' factor wear off after a couple of days, and the remaining two to three months of the work is absolutely brutal. You are constantly cold, hungry, dirty, and exhausted. Small cuts and abrasions don't heal properly, your fingers crack and bleed daily, you are constantly getting frost nip, and no matter how many socks and feet warmers you wear, you toes never get warm. It's organized misery in service of science.
"I definitely love what I do, remote field work, and the science that comes with it. But living out of a literal tent atop the Antarctic ice sheet for up to six months, not getting showers, always covered in a film of sticky sunblock, and always being cold and exhausted is REALLY, REALLY hard and not at all glamorous. I'm a sentimental guy and have taken thousands of amazing landscape and scenic photos from my deployments, but I never over-romanticize the work when talking to people (especially prospective grad students)."
9. "Teacher. Fantasy: I'm gonna change the world one student at a time. Reality: poor-paying zoo."
"I taught middle and high school for five years, and I can't fucking watch teacher movies anymore. There has never been a single one that portrays this profession for the dawn-to-dusk, thankless, underpaid siege that it is.
"Sure, everyone agrees that kids can be tough, and that the pay is low, but nobody talks about the hopelessly stupid admin, the hostile or neglectful parents, or how you'll be expected to spend unlimited amounts of your own money to supply your own classroom. Your education classes in college don't mention the power dynamics that make discipline impossible, they don't tell you how to deal with the textbook of psychological issues your students will bring with them to school, and they don't have shit to say about how volatile local and national politics will constantly threaten your career.
"And the best part is that if you're lucky enough to not be murdered by one of your own students, your reward is to be blamed by society for anything that is deemed to be wrong with the generation of children you taught."
10. "Veterinary medicine. Fantasy: I get to work with puppies and kittens. Reality: A 3-month-old kitten died in my care. I've seen so much gore, blood, and neglect. I've sent animals home with invasive cancers because family couldn't afford treatment. I've been the only comfort shelter animals knew before they left this world. It is a specific and exhausting kind of pain, and it isn't really talked about enough."
"Agree. The two worst bits to vet med:
1) The emotional blackmail. 'If you loved animals, you'd treat Fluffy for his multicentric cancer and heart failure for $5.'
2) The number of people won't accept that death is coming and putting their animal to sleep is the best thing for their animal rather than letting them suffer."
11. "Everyone used to think it was awesome that I worked in live sports TV. 70% of the people I worked with were miserable pricks with over-inflated egos, and then there were the athletes..."
12. "Museum jobs. Fantasy is that you're working at a really cool place, with cool people, with decent pay. Reality is you work at a really cool place, with lots of older assholes who get paid decent money while the younger generation gets paid like crap and has zero career advancement options until the older generation retires/dies. Add in internal staff and donor politics, and you have a place ripe with resentment."
"I saw a job listing recently that was basically an assistant for a museum director. The job consisted of setting up exhibitions, occasionally cleaning, filing paperwork, etc. It required a bachelor's degree in art history or a similar major and paid less than $20 bucks an hour. Excuse the fuck out of me?"
13. "Musician. Show up at a club at 5 p.m., unload, set up, mic check, wait hours for the show to start, get shitty bar food or local fast food, and play to a half-empty room. Then, tear down, load into vehicles, hopefully get paid enough to cover expenses, leave the club at 3 a.m. covered in sweat and physically exhausted, and drive to another location or shitty hotel. Lather, rinse, and repeat. It's a grind for 99% of the musicians out there."
"People think it's all glamorous because they see the pop stars, music videos, and award shows. Truth is, it's blood, sweat, tears, stress, lack of sleep, a lot of inappropriate behavior, drugs, and alcohol. Then maybe once or twice a year, you get a perk of going to an award show with free food and a chance to say hi to some celebs. You're never really off the clock, and the pay is terrible pretty much across the board unless you're in the 1%."
14. "Dolphin trainer/marine biologist at an aquarium. I never did it myself, but I used to work at one and was friends with them. Yeah, swimming with dolphins and playing with otters and penguins is fun. But that is, like, 5% of their day. A lot of cutting up fish, medical exams, and other shit. Now in fairness, I don't think most of them think it sucks, but it's a lot more romanticized than the reality."
"As an aquarist, part of my job involves working with interns. I actively discourage them from entering the field. Low pay and few open jobs are your future. Not only are we doing the food prep (two-plus hours/day), we are also responsible for cleaning our public areas (one hour). The kicker is that the job requires a BS or BA. Makes no sense as the schools teach them nothing useful, and we have to train them to do the job."
15. "Doctor. Fantasy: I make lots of money; everyone respects me. Reality: I watch people die every day, work exhausting 12-hour shifts, and have crippling depression and multiple addictions."
"As a doctor, I can’t stress this enough:
1) A lot of shifts. Mainly to cover for perpetual staff shortages. Night shifts are the worst and take several days to recover from. Your family and social life go to shit.
2) The constant threat of litigation or complaints for even the most innocuous things. The worst is when staff itself puts complaints without addressing the issue at hand.
3) Seeing sick people daily does affect you. Seeing them die does, too. Seeing the young die is the worst; it’s heartbreaking. And even worse is telling the relatives they are going to or have died. It’s not easy even after the hundredth or thousandth time of doing it.
4) Hospital administration red tape, politics, and bureaucracy. Every hospital has garbled policy to suit its needs. The administration of a hospital is best described as overconfident, crisis-riddled incompetence."
16. "I'm an event planner, and almost everyone's reaction when I tell them is 'Oh, that's so fun!' I think people assume that event planners just pick out bouquets and attend parties. In reality, it's a fairly stressful job that doesn't typically pay super well, and the schedule can be erratic. Planners spend way more time dealing with people's egos than they do at the bar with the guests. They're always thinking about stuff like audio/video equipment and trash cans, and worrying about things totally out of their control — a freak snowstorm in the country the speaker is flying in from, a celebrity panelist deciding to pick their nose during a presentation, or a massive power outage."
"It can be fulfilling and lucrative, but incredibly stressful, too. I blame Hallmark Christmas movies for romanticizing it. The plot of every other movie features an adorable event planner who has to choose between planning a career-defining corporate Christmas party or reuniting with her high school boyfriend. Sure, you may see her speaking with one caterer or ordering florals, but somehow, she still has time for sleigh rides and tree trimming? Bullshit."
17. "Being a therapist. Too many people I've met get into the field thinking it's how they saw it on TV: affluent, white collar, have your own office, warm slow-pace environment where you get to sit on a nice comfy couch and be like, 'Let's talk about your feelings.' That's only if you get to private practice, which they don't tell you is like running your own small business. The reality is you get out of grad school, get your first job working at a community mental health facility because they are the only ones who will hire you with a limited license and no experience — making less than $40k/year if you're lucky.
"Then, you get put in a walk-in closet of an office, where they dump a 100-client case load on you the first day, followed by your first client who says, 'Fuck you, you're my seventh different person I've had here. Nobody cares about me.' Yeah, people go into $100k of debt for that.
I'm a therapist myself, and I love what I do, but it takes years to get past all the shitty parts to find your place in the field. Needless to say, many don't survive the baptism by fire and either become burnt out, jaded, or leave the field altogether."
18. "I did lifeguarding for a while when I was a teen (this is now 30-plus years ago). It's a tough job. It seems 'glamorous' — you get paid to tan all day long. Couldn't be further from the truth! It requires training (I needed my lifeguarding certification as well as my first aid and CPR certifications). It is mentally taxing — you need to be 'on' whenever you're guarding. Drowning is often silent (unlike what you see on TV), and you really need to be observant. There are also a lot of parents who can't or won't watch their own children, which is frustrating; too many parents FAR underestimate how dangerous water can be."
"I used to work as a lifeguard, most boring job in my life. Worked at an indoor pool year-round, just watching people. Even if you only worked four hours, it felt like an eternity. Really bad if you were the only worker there as you were screwed if you need to use the bathroom. Happened once and had to shut the pool down because no other lifeguard was there. Worked as a guard for, like, five years and never had to save anyone thankfully. The most action I had to deal with was cleaning up poop from the pool or kicking people out for repeated violations. Got paid $7.25 to start and $7.55 at the end. Got a gym membership out of it for free, but one wrong move, and you could get sued for more than you would ever make there."
19. "Pilot. You think cruising through the sky is fun? That you'll get to see the world? Nope. You're tired, sleep at overcrowded lodges near the airport with no time to see anything interesting, barely see your family, and it's mind-numbingly boring. But should something go wrong, you need to be on full alert within milliseconds. And you're almost certainly significantly underpaid."
20. "Lawyer. Number of historic, life-changing, precedent-setting cases participated in: 0. Number of angry, self-entitled, abusive clients wanting to screw each other over: 842. Number of pages of paperwork that’s sucked up my free time and social life: 84,836."
"Agreed. As a family law attorney, you see the worst shit. People squabbling over pots and pans, using kids as cannon fodder in the emotional battlefield, and clients giving you grief when you make them pay the bill. Glad I got out."
21. "Most (not all) jobs in the environmental sector. Pay is usually quite low, and you tend to work in very ugly places like landfills and contaminated sites. You are expected to get jobs done in half the time you really need with as few resources as possible. And if you are consulting for other companies, nobody really wants to be working with you to 'save the environment' — they generally are trying to barely meet some regulations."
"I'm an engineer but ended up working with environmental scientists on some things, and those guys are always making jokes about how we're all paid like shit because we work for the government. I laugh along, but I am definitely not paid like shit. I figured this was just something people said. But our salaries are public record, so after the fourth or fifth time having these conversations with the people from environmental, I looked theirs up. They made a third to a half of what I make, and I am not the highest paid engineer in this place. The worst part was that these people were not new hires. They'd been working as long as I have. I cannot imagine how poorly paid they were as recent grads."
22. "I'm a tattoo artist. You work constantly; you're either tattooing or designing for the next client. This includes often staying up until early morning, drawing constantly. I'll often only 'clock out' after a 12-16 hour day. You work weekends and generally have Mondays off, which means your social life suffers immensely. Also, it's a very hard industry to get into. You'll work for free for years as an apprentice learning as you go while having to make a plan for food, rent, etc. with no free time. It seems to be changing a bit, but it's not hard to find countless stories about how badly you can be treated as an apprentice. For a long time, it was considered a right of passage to earn your way in and weed out the 'weak.'
"Your lower back will be in constant pain. You will generally work as an independent contractor and have no job security or health insurance. You'll be expected to forever make custom artwork for clients who often have a very clear image of what they want but have trouble conveying it to you. For the hours put in for a finished customized piece, after shop and equipment cuts, you're not making nearly as much as people like to think based on hourly rates.
"And an infuriating part of the job now is social media relevancy. Most clients are secured online these days. You constantly have to feed the social media machine new content, which means putting in more work during your down time to have stuff to post."
23. "Architect. You think you’ll be designing big, fancy, iconic buildings. But warehouses, Walmarts, strip malls, and shit-box apartments all need architects, and that’s probably what you’ll end up doing."
24. And finally, "Librarian. You tell someone what your career is, and instantly they say, 'I’d love a job where I could read all day.' Or they say what a lifesaver their high school librarian was because they let them avoid being bullied by staying there for lunch. Yeah, you know how many books I read on the clock? Zero. It’s mostly filled with impromptu social work, plumbing emergencies, administering Narcan, locating parents who think you are a babysitter, and pleading for more funds for staff/programming/collections.
"All the while, you're fending off people who think they are doing the community a favor by banning, hiding, or losing any book they deem 'immoral.' All for the nice starting salary of $40k or less. With a master's degree."
Do you have an often-glamorized job that actually sucks in reality? LMK in the comments below!
Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.